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stirring the lees with james molesworth

South Africa: Day 7—More Time in the Sticks

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 14, 2007 5:01pm ET

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.

At Scali, the soils are granite and shale, along the lines of the koffieklip soils that I saw yesterday with Charles Back of Fairview Wines. The farm has been family-owned since 1877, but the current generation of de Waals didn't start bottling their own wines until ’99.

The winery produces a small amount of an exotic white—a rich, creamy, melon- and mineral-filled blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. In addition, they produce an admirably good Pinotage, loaded with raspberry and briar flavors, and a superb Syrah, with racy fruit, silky texture and a long minerally finish. It’s got that combination of New World fruit and Old World minerality that sets the top South African wines apart—the best of both worlds, so to speak. Small production here, but well worth the search.

Then it was another hour-plus drive east to Tulbagh, where young Chris Mullineux and his fiancée Andrea are minding the store at Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards. The vineyards are on pre-schist soils made from blonde-colored decomposed granite and shale, and are a dead ringer for some spots on Côte-Rôtie. The vines are managed organically, and the top red is a Syrah-Mourvèdre blend offering lilting violet, sanguine and black currant notes with a gorgeous mouthfeel.

 

The house at Scali Winery

 

There is also a line of wines made from purchased fruit that includes a white similar to the one from Scali—a Chenin, Viognier, Clairette blend with ripe, tropical flavor and round mouthfeel balanced by bright acidity. The reds include the Viktoria cuvée, a blend of Mourvedre, Cinsault, Cabernet and Syrah that features black fruit and a ripe, spicy finish, as well as a Syrah that offers pungent sage, iron and currant flavors and a long, alluring finish. Tulbagh's wines are now making their way into the US market, so they should become more accessible in the coming year.

Mullineux also makes a sweet wine from air-dried Chenin Blanc grapes, and he uses a solera system for each new release. The first release that I have already reviewed is made from a blend of the ’03, ’04 and ’05 vintages. We tasted that again alongside the current blend of ‘04 through ’06 vintages (still resting in barrel), and a blend of the four vintages (also sitting in barrel). If you have a sweet tooth for a dark marmalade, spice filled Tokay-styled wine, this is right up your alley.

 

Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards

 

On the road back to Stellenbosch, we skipped taking the straight and boring Huguenot tunnel for the more windy, mountain pass road instead. It affords a terrific view of the Paarl valley as you descend, plus you get to take the swtichbacks slowly to avoid the baboons sitting in the road.

I picked up an extra appointment today, stopping in Stellenbosch to see Carl Schultz at Hartenberg Estate. Schultz (whose brother is Rudi Schultz) is working with consultant Alberto Antonini to upgrade the wines at this 35,000-case-per-year winery which just started exporting wines to the U.S.

The top wines here, without question, are the Syrahs, including two vineyard-designated bottlings called Gravel Hill and The Stork. Schultz has increased vine density and is now using a year-round cover crop between rows to reduce vigor on his young vines, and it shows in the wines, which display rich, plush textures and loads of black fruit, graphite, licorice and mineral notes. If you like the modern-style of Syrah, then these wines are for you.

It’s another late night blog from Cape Town, and I will hit the road again tomorrow starting bright and early, with stops in Stellenbosch all day long. Until then...

Andrew Bernardo
Halifax, Nova Scotia —  March 14, 2007 6:53pm ET
James, thanks for taking the pictures. They give us a sense of place. Looking forward to reading what Stellenbosch has to offer.-AB
James Molesworth
March 15, 2007 11:43am ET
AB: Glad you're liking the photos. I'm a bit of an amateur with the camera, but this place is too stunning visually to not give it a try...
Dorns Wine Warehouse
Ft. Lauderdale, FL —  March 15, 2007 5:05pm ET
James,Glad to see you made it to Tulbach. We have both the TMV Viktoria and Syrah/Mourvedre en route to Florida.Cheers,The Wine Warehouse- Florida www.winewarehouses.com

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