28 March 2012

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards are located in the Breede River Valley, roughly midway between Worcester and Tulbagh.

The name is probably unfamiliar because they have only released a couple of vintages wine under their own label but you may have drunk wine made by others from their grapes, including Flagstones Writer’s Block Pinotage which has twice been a Pinotage Top 10 winner.

Silkbush was bought in 2000 by Californian Dave Jefferson and a consortium of American investors and comprehensively replanted by his South African partner, General Manager and viticulturist Anton Roos who lives on the farm.
Just before returning home from the Cape I visited Silkbush where Anton (pictured above)found time in his busy schedule to drive me up the mountain to the Pinotage vineyard. On the way he told me the farm covers 140ha of which 87ha are planted to vines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinotage are the most planted varieties and they also grow Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Pinotage vineyard is at the highest point of the farm at 730 metres, on the upper corner of the hillside.(arrowed in above picture) Mountains rise steeply beyond; one of them is Sybasberg which translates as Silkbush Mountain and gives its name to the farm. Looking over the vineyards, I could see the valley stretching out into the distance to mountains opposite. The sky was deep blue without a cloud with a raptor lazily circling above.

It is a most beautiful location and there is a guesthouse on the property that can be booked. It was originally intended for the investors but (it seems amazing to me), with the exception of Dave Jefferson, none have made the journey to this most beautiful of winelands.

The vineyard slope faces West-North-West and is always two degrees C cooler here than the valley floor. The soil is shale and quartzite. It is naturally loose and stays loose but there aren’t many nutrients so they don’t get vigorous vine growth.

Silkbush aim to harvest just seven tons per hectare. Quality is the driving factor so they remove half of the crop at 80% véraison. Leaving it this late maintains berry size.

Up to now Silkbush have concentrated on producing grapes for partner wineries but they have reserved some rows of the high Pinotage vineyard for themselves which they market under the Silkbush label in South Africa and export as Lions Drift Pinotage. Already Lions Drift is listed on Silversea Luxury Cruise Lines and American Airline’s Business Class.

I tasted the 2009 vintage. It has good dark red colour with an inviting nose. There is an explosion of ripe fruits on the palate, blackberry with damsons underneath. There’s a touch of oak, really nicely integrated, that leaves a trace of vanilla and a pleasant grip. This is a clean, fresh, modern fruit-forward Pinotage with a good fruit-acid balance of making it very food friendly. It’s great drinking now but I’d like to drink it in a couple of years to develop because I think it is going to be a stunner.

Silkbush don’t yet have their own wine making facilityry so the wine is made at Waboomsrivier, a stone’s throw away, under the auspices of Bennie Wannenburg who’s made many a prizewinning Pinotage. Great fruit, great winemaker, great wine.

Silkbush labels. Left is the Silkbush label for South Africa, on right is the export Lions Driftlabel.

24 March 2012

Te Awa 2003 Pinotage

Te Awa estate was founded in 1992 in Hawkes Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. Their vineyards grow on the famed Gimblett Gravels, which used to be the wide bed of the Ngaruroro River until it changed its course in 1876. The land was considered worthless for more than a century until some pioneers proved it was premium terroir for red wines. The ground comprises small flat pieces of grey gravel causing vine roots burrow deep down to find pockets of soil.

Te Awa’s 2003 Pinotage was dark black and opaque with bright red highlights where it caught the light. Spicy and crisp with deep tangy red berry fruits and a lingering finish. It was in excellent condition and ideal drinking showing again what fine Pinotage is made in New Zealand. Very more-ish and finished all too soon.


17 March 2012

Camberley 2005 and L'Avenir 2007

I decided to open some of my older wines. I stick them away to mature and time goes by faster than I imagine.

Camberley 2005 was first. I’d really enjoyed this wine before when I visited the winery in March 2007 – oh, gosh – was it really five years ago? I have drunk three bottles subsequently. This was the fourth, and my last, of this vintage. It was at that odd stage where it was tasting a bit faded and yet offered the possibility of hanging on and transforming into one of the soft sweet decades old Pinotages I’ve enjoyed. This one was a little porty, it's 15.5% abv showing. Enjoyable but I should have drunk it a year ago.

L’Avenir ‘Grand Vin’ 2007 was just perfect with a delicious balance of fruit and maturity. It’s from a single block of the oldest vines on the farm and had ten months in new French oak barrels. One of those wines that you pause to look at the glass because it is giving so much pleasure.


14 March 2012

Pinotage Number Plate

Pinotage takes pride of place on Loma Prieta's car number plates. The gold medal count of the California winery's 2010 Pinotage has reached six, exceeding the five golds won by their 2009.

03 March 2012

Kanonkop Pinotage 2010

I went to Kanonkop Estate as soon as I arrived in the Cape in January excited to taste their 2010 Pinotage, as I had tasted the 2009 in January the previous year. It seems to take six months for the wine to make it to England so I wanted the heads up. But the 2010 was not yet released.

The day before I left the Cape to fly home, owner Johann Krige kindly offered to open a bottle of the 2010. “I haven’t tasted it myself for some time,” he said.

Standing in the tasting room I was able to compare the just opened 2010 with the 2009 on the counter.

The 2010 is much in the style of 2009, but didn’t have the knockout appeal that the 2009 had at the same stage last year. 2010 was bright red and a bit more tannic, a bit leaner and not as soft rich and rounded as 2009 about of which I said “This is going to be a stunner.” It has potential and I’ll be buying some when it finally appears in my local wine shop, but if you have the chance, get some 2009 before they sell out.

Kanonkop didn’t release a 2009 vintage Black Label because the outstanding quality of the entire production meant there wasn’t a barrel that was superior enough to warrant a black label bottling, but there will be a 2010 Black Label.

The 2010 vintage was small following wind damage to vines in 2009 and this carried through to the 2011 vintage but production is back to normal levels with the 2012 vintage which was just about to happen.

Open top fermentation tanks at Kanonkop. Cleaned waiting for the arrival of the imminent 2012 vintage. The metal radiators in them carry cold water to conntrol fermentation temperatures.