I'm finally back in the office this week after my trip to South Africa. There's nothing like digging out from all those e-mails and messages that stack up while you're gone. Of course, I should consider myself lucky that I didn't have to dig out from the snowstorm that hit New York while I was enjoying the sunny Cape! I was still in a South African mood this past weekend with the family, so I opened up bottles of the 2003 and 2004 de Trafford Shiraz, which went great with a simple, roasted rack of lamb.
It’s a national holiday here today: Human Rights Day. It’s cooler than it’s been so far on my trip, and summer seems to be finally winding down here. To celebrate the holiday, I allowed myself to be a tourist for a day.
Walker Bay is about a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, past the well-known wine lands of Stellenbosch, and up over the Hottentot mountains (where a vista point along the road affords a dramatic view of False Bay).
Usually when I travel to a region for the first time, I meet with two, maybe three winemakers a day. Today I broke the rules and went for a lucky seven. My first stop was at De Toren , where winemaker Albie Koch has been turning out a consistently polished, outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon–based blend called Fusion V.
It’s Sunday, but no rest for me. First stop this morning was Meerlust , the historic estate that has been owned for over 250 years by the Myburgh family. It’s a gorgeous property, set off the main road as you head into Stellenbosch, with 400 hectares, 120 of which are under vine.
As I left my hotel this morning, I was greeted by some early-morning rain and high winds on the way to Stellenbosch—the first bad weather of the entire trip. It wasn’t all bad though: A huge double rainbow spread over the Cape Town as we drove out.
Today, I sandwiched visits to two small producers around one big producer—all family-owned. It’s always fun to mix appointments like this and see how different personalities find their own individual space in the wine industry.
My day typically starts out with a lively conversation with my driver, Havelin—politics, South African history, local etiquette, languages—you name it, we talk about it. I just roll out of bed, grab an apple on the way out the door, and off we go.
I traveled along more dusty, unpaved roads today as I headed up to see Willie and Tania de Waal at Scali Vineyards, in the Voor-Paardeberg region of Paarl. This small ward only got its designation in 2003, but with Scali and other wineries like Sadie Family in the neighborhood, you'll probably start hearing about it soon.
“You’ve seen enough of the fancy Stellenbosch side," quipped vintner Charles Back of Fairview Wines when he picked me up this morning. "So I thought I’d take you to see the ‘other side’ to see some real vineyards.
Today, I spent time with Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof and David Finlayson of Glen Carlou. Kent makes top-flight Cabernet, Syrah and Sémillon, while Finlayson produces excellent Cabernet, Syrah and Chardonnay.
Today, I spent the day with Jean Engelbrecht, a former commercial airline pilot turned vintner. Engelbrecht (who drives like he’s still flying jets) has become one of South Africa’s de facto ambassadors of wine, along with other high-profile vintners such as Charles Back, Mike Ratcliffe and Ken Forrester, who spend lots of time in the U.
Today was spent with Mike Ratcliffe, one of the Cape's young go-getters. He currently runs his family estate, Warwick , as well as Vilafonté , his joint venture with California winemaker Zelma Long. Warwick is on a nice saddle of land between the Kanonkop and Klapmutskop, two hills that stretch out from Stellenbosch.
Today started off with a tour of L’Ormarins estate, where Johann Rupert has taken charge of his family’s wine business, following after his late father and brother. Nestled in the warm Franschhoek valley, L’Ormarins sits beneath the majestic Drakenstein mountains, with sprawling horse pastures at the bottom part of the estate and vineyards carved out of the hillsides further up.
Well, I finally made it. In transit for two days, and not a hitch—that’s got to be a modern-day record for commercial air travel. After landing in Cape Town, I spent my first hour crawling through traffic on the way to my hotel.
Well, I’m off to South Africa. Marvin finally agreed to send me—probably because he got sick of me talking about it, and he just wanted me out of his hair for a few weeks! It’s been a while since a Wine Spectator editor made an official visit to the Cape—not since my colleague James Suckling was there shortly after apartheid ended in 1994.
I sat down this week with José and Rafael Guilisasti of Viñedos Emiliana in Chile. Emiliana is the organically run arm of Concha y Toro , best known for producing the $5 Walnut Crest line. The Guilisasti family owns a lot of vineyards—about 3,500 acres.
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