31 July 2018

WoTM - Loma Prieta ‘Karma Vineyard’ Pinotage 2011

My WoTM for July is Loma Prieta ‘Karma Vineyard’ Lodi Pinotage 2011 – in memory of owner and winemaker Paul Kemp who died earlier this month.


Paul had bought surplus Pinotage grapes from another vineyard some years previously, made wine and fell in love with the variety, as did visitors to his winery where the wine swiftly sold out.

Paul increased production, buying in grapes from various California vineyards as well as planting Pinotage. It wasn’t long before he grafted over his Pinot Noir to Pinotage, and he was making three single vineyard wines from contracted growers as well as his own estate Pinotage.

By now Loma Prieta was the largest Pinotage producer in North America and subscribers signed up to Paul’s Pinotage Wine Club to ensure they received regular consignments of Pinotage.


Paul loved entering his Pinotage into competitions and his tasting room bottles were so covered with medals hanging form ribbons it was difficult to see what they were. Among the many awards was the American Wine Society Trophy for Best Red Wine in 2014 for Bodo’s Blend, an 80/20 blend of Pinotage and Petite Sirah.

Bodo is name of the magician seen flying on Loma Prieta labels, with the eponymous mountain in the background.

In 2016 Paul released the world’s first white Traditional Method sparkling Pinotage.

My wine of the month is a red I have aged, made with grapes sourced from the 8 acre Karma Vineyard in Lodi, planted in the 1990s.

Loma Prieta ‘Karma Vineyard’ Lodi Pinotage 2011 is showing signs of age, its colour faded from its intense garnet of youth to a paler red brick. Pinotage sweetness is to the front, the wine is lighter bodied and has thrown a lot of sediment. There’s some refreshing acidity that encourages another glass.

A delightful and classy wine, but if I had any more bottles left I’d drink them rather than keep them longer.

Cheers, Paul.


27 July 2018

Vin de Francois 10 Year Vertical in London

Off to London on a lovely Tuesday evening when the temperature is in the 30s. Thameslink, now on its second emergency timetable in as many months actually delivered a train, and on time.

La Chappelle entrance

Venue is La Chapelle in Spital Square in the City. There I renew acquaintances with François Naudé Senior and Junior sitting in the bar outside with a drink.

Francois Naude Junior

Francois Naude Senior

The duo are hosting a dinner with a vertical of each of the ten vintages of the legendary Vin de François. There are 12 of us, plus the two François and organiser and Vin de François fan Paul Plant.

We move upstairs to the table on the mezzanine floor. Its open sides look down on the main body of the restaurant which is packed with diners.

A flute of Champagne is poured, followed by a glass of François' own 'Nuts About' Chenin Blanc 2010. This aged white has a honeyed taste while being completely dry. “it's an entry level wine, with no barrel maturation intended for easy drinking,” says François Snr. He's pleased with the way it's aged. “2010 was the first vintage and it just gets better and better.”

François Jr explains that the tasting will show the wine in pairs and threes, due to the restaurant not having 10 glasses for each of us.

2007 and 2008 are the first to be poured.

The two François relate how the idea for Vin de François came about. “I wanted to make the best Pinotage in the world, from each vintage to show what the variety could do,” said François Sr. His inspiration was meeting Napa Valley winemaker Robert Mondavi who described the perfect wine as 'having the power of Pavarotti with the tenderness of a baby's bottom.'

Our location was hot and I thought the wines were served too warm. The 2008 was thinning and tasted alcohol hot, but this wasn't a fair taste as the wine should be cooler.

“2008 wasn't as good a year as 2007,” said François Sr.

2007 was the better wine, but it too was showing age and served too hot for a mature wine. I'd had my last bottle of 2007 in January 2017 and thought then that was time to drink up.

François Jr told how they had discussed how the wine should be marketed before deciding on selling it all on one night at an invitation only auction – a first for South Africa. Some cases are kept back: for charity, for the wine library and for the family. “I only get one case,” said François Jr.

The next three poured were:

2009 – sweet ripe fruit with an intense flavour but a short finish.

2010 – this was ripe and juicy, sweet and powerful and absolutely beautiful now.

2011 – this was closed and tight, not wanting to reveal itself. Will it open up in time or is this as good as it gets?

“2010 and 2011 were difficult vintages,” said François Sr.

François Jr said he was getting more involved in producing the wine. “Vin de François will continue,” said François Sr.“My son is also François so the name won't change, and his son is also François so we have two more generations to produce Vin de François.”

“I am not a winemaker,” said François Jr, “so I will involve the winemakers who make the barrels we select for our blend. We started involving them with the current vintage.”

The wines were coming fast, leaving little time to savour and discuss them. 2012 and 2013 were poured next.

2012 – was full bodied and mouth filling, but had alcohol heat on finish.

2013 – had a strange taste that I couldn't nail down. The MW next to me thought it was oxidised.

François Sr noted there had been bottle variation between this and the same wine poured at the weekend.

2014 – Was taut, with a sweetness.

2015 – This was delightful, with sweet bright fruits, soft tannins and beautiful drinking.

2016 – A younger version of the 2-15 offering the same sweet fruit and a lovely drinkability.

Did this last flight show better because the wines had, at our request, been cooled a little or because they were the youngest?

But the event wasn't over, François Sr served his luscious white dessert 'port' with tarte tatin.

My brief notes above are quite critical. I think Vin de François is a wonderful wine and I have been lucky enough to have owned six of the ten vintages, and to have drunk five of them: '07,08,09,10 and 15, but in good conditions. I think these wines weren't given a decent chance because they were served too warm. I have two bottles of the 2013, a vintage I have not tasted, so I must open one soon in view of the off bottle at this event.

My favourite two of the event were the 2010 vintage, which I had two in 2014 and have one left in my cellar, and the 2015 which I bought a case of at the 2017 auction and have nine left.

Many thanks to Paul Plant for organising the event and to François Naudé Jr and François Naudé Sr for shipping these 10 vintages from their cellar specially for the event and sharing their memories of this iconic wine.

Francois Naude and Peter May

26 July 2018

Pinotage Top 20 Finalists

The 20 finalists for 2018 Absa Pinotage Top 10 Competition are:

Absa Top 10 Pinotage Finalists
Allée Bleue Black Series Old Vine Pinotage 2016WO Piekenierskloof (Franschhoek cellar), Winemaker Van Zyl du Toit
Alvi’s Drift Reserve Verreaux Pinotage 2015WO Worcester, Winemaker Alvi van der Merwe
Badsberg Pinotage 2017WO Breedekloof, Winemaker Henri Swiegers
Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2015WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Anri Truter
Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2017WO Durbanville, Winemaker Thys Louw
Diemersdal Pinotage 2015WO Durbanville, Winemaker Thys Louw
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2016WO Paarl, Winemaker Anthony de Jager
Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2016WO Breedekloof (Somerset West cellar), Winemaker Gerhard Swart
Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2015WO Bottelary-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Danie Steytler
Kaapzicht Pinotage 2016WO Bottelary-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Danie Steytler
Kanonkop Pinotage 2013WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
Kanonkop Pinotage 2015WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2016WO Darling (Paarl cellar), Winemaker Izele van Blerk
Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage 2015WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Wynand Lategan
Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2016WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Danie van Tonder
Meerendal Heritage Block Single Vineyard Pinotage 2016WO Durbanville, Winemaker Liza Goodwin
Môreson The Widow Maker Pinotage 2015WO Stellenbosch (Franschhoek cellar), Winemaker Clayton Reabow
Môreson The Widow Maker Pinotage 2016WO Stellenbosch (Franschhoek cellar), Winemaker Clayton Reabow
Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2014WO Tulbagh, Winemaker Pierre Wahl
Wellington Wines Duke of Wellington Pinotage 2017WO Wellington, Winemaker Francois van Niekerk

From these will be chosen the Top 10 winners.
2018 saw a record number of 161 entries for the 22nd annual competition.  
The judges were 
  • Neil Ellis (proprietor of Neil Ellis Wines) chair
  • Nomonde Kubheka, wine educator 
  • Francois Haasbrook, wine maker 
  • Samarie Smith, wine writer  
  • Francois Rautenbach, wine buyer for Singita Premier Wine Direct.

Seven wines in the Top 20 are from Stellenbosch cellars, with two of the others made in Franschhoek using grapes from Stellenbosch. Four  wineries each have  two wines in the 20: Diemersdal (Durbanville), Kaapzicht (Stellenbosch) Kanonkop (Stellenbosch) and Môreson (Franschhoek). 
The Top 10 winners will be announced on 15 August.

Also announced were the finalists for the Museum Class.

Museum Class Finalists
Grangehurst Pinotage 2008WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Jeremy Walker
Kanonkop Pinotage 2006WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
Lord Neethling Pinotage 2003Neethlingshof, WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker De Wet Viljoen
Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Pinotage 2008WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Warren Ellis
Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2008WO Tulbagh, Winemaker Pierre Wahl

20 July 2018

Pinotage and Ice Cream

"Wine experts will likely agree that pairing ice cream with wine is a challenge", says Mark DeWolf in Canada's Nova Scotia Halifax Herald

Courageously he goes ahead and finds Grinder Pinotage makes a match with chocolate ice cream. 

 Read his article here.

18 July 2018

Wine in soup bottles (8)

Daily Telegraph Crossword 28,793 in Tuesday 16 July 2018 edition had this clue for 18 Down:

18 Wine in soup bottles (8)

The answer is, as you've already guessed

Clue: Wine in soup bottles (8 letters)
Soup = potage 
 'in' is bottled, or enclosed thus
Wine = Pinotage

13 July 2018

Meerandal's Heritage Block First Certified Old Vine Pinotage

Meerendal Estate's Heritage Block was planted in 1955 and is one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in South Africa, and thus the world.

Many wines claim on their label that they are made from 'old vines' or 'vielles vignes', but South Africa is the only country where a regulatory authority certifies such claims.

Members of the Old Vine Project (OVP) can  put a Certified Heritage Vineyards seal on bottles of wine made from vineyards of 35 years or older, together with the planting date. This is a guarantee to the consumer of authentic wines grown according to the OVP viticultural and winemaking guidelines.

Meerendals Old Heritage Block is the first Pinotage to carry the certification seal. 

See here for my visit to the Heritage Block.

09 July 2018

RIP Paul Kemp - Loma Prieta

Paul Kemp, owner/winemaker of Loma Prieta winery perched on the hills above Santa Cruz, California, died at home on 1 July 2018  from complications following surgery.
Paul Kemp
Paul became enthused with Pinotage and bought fruit from Lodi and elsewhere in California and planted his own estate vineyard. 

His Pinotage was very much in demand in his tasting room –“People didn’t know the name of the grape,” he told me, “but when they taste the wine they love it.”

Paul started a Pinotage Wine Club, regularly supplying Pinotage to subscribers; it is the only wine club exclusively for Pinotage.

Such was the demand that he eventually grafted over his award winning Pinot Noir Estate vineyard to Pinotage.
Loma Prieta is North America’s largest producer of Pinotage, and in 2016 Paul created a sparkling white Pinotage, the world’s first.

Paul visited South Africa’s wineland’s in 2011 where he was hosted by The Pinotage Association. He reciprocated in 2013 when a group from the Pinotage Association visited California
Paul leaves behind wife Amy and sons Logan, Axel and Brandon.

Paul Bruce Kemp
3 September 1945 – 1 July 2018

For my video of Paul, taken in 2011 see

02 July 2018

RIP - Dennis Horton

Dennis Horton, owner of Horton Vineyards in Virginia, died on 21 June.

He brought Pinotage and many different varieties to trial in Virginia, some have subsequently become mainstays for the State, including Viognier and Petite Manseng. He also re-introduced Virginia's Norton Seedling i.e. Norton to Virginia
See https://www.washingtonpost.com

I met Dennis at his winery in September 2008 researching for my Pinotage book. Dennis was a fount of viticultural knowledge, a wine enthusiast, an amusing raconteur and generous with his time