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stirring the lees with james molesworth

South Africa: Day 3

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 10, 2007 9:17am ET

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. I’ve liked their Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but the strength here is red blends based on Cabernet, Merlot and some Pinotage. Winemaker Louis Nel took over from Mike’s mom, Norma, starting in the 2002 vintage, and he’s doing a fine job producing concentrated (yet plush and elegant) reds with smoky hints, red and black fruits and nice minerally finishes.

At Vilafonté, the focus is also on red blends—a Merlot-dominated cuvée called Series M and a Cabernet-dominated cuvée called Series C. The Series C is bigger and more structured, but I find myself preferring the suave elegance of the Series M. I thought the wines took a nice step up in ’04, just their second year, and the ‘05s I tasted today continue that trend. And after tasting through a range of barrel samples of the ‘06s, this is clearly a winery on the rise.

Tonight, I’ll get some down time at a concert by Johnny Clegg. Never heard of him myself, but the locals tell me it’s quite the site ...

Jim Van Pelt
usa —  March 15, 2007 9:31pm ET
Wow! Two of my favorite wineries in SA, with the added bonus of Johnny Clegg.....I'm jealous! After visiting this past fall, my wife and I were more than a bit surprised at the high quality of SA's top wines. There seems to be a glimmer of hope that US distributors are starting to catch on. Hopefully, more will become available here in the US, saving me the trouble of going through airport pickups of imported cases. On the other hand, the prices are awfully good now..............!

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