Pro golfer Ernie Els has purchased a wine estate in order to create a permanent home for his highly rated Engelbrecht-Els, a joint venture with South African vintner Jean Engelbrecht of Rust en Vrede Wine Estate.
Els, a South Africa native, and fellow countryman Engelbrecht have acquired the Webersburg estate from the Weber family, located just one mile to the west of Rust En Vrede. Located in the Stellenbosch region, South Africa's top region for red wine production, the estate totals more than 95 acres of existing vineyards planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Shiraz. Engelbrecht is adding an additional 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Webersburg had been producing Cabernet Sauvignon under the supervision of recently retired Meerlust winemaker Giorgio dalla Cia, though those wines have not been imported into the United States.
The first two vintages of the Els-Engelbrecht Stellenbosch -- 2000 and 2001 -- both earned 93 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, among the highest-rated offerings from South Africa. The wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, is also one of the most expensive bottlings from the country, the 2001 retailing for $75. Annual production of the wine is currently about 2,400 cases, with plans to grow to around 12,000 cases.
"That's why we looked at this property, because it's the right size," said Engelbrecht about the acquisition.
The acquisition now gives the project and its head winemaker, Louis Strydom, complete control over its fruit source. The wine had been made from a combination of grapes purchased from the Webersburg estate and some Rust En Vrede crops.
There is a barrel-aging facility on the site, but no winery as of yet. Engelbrecht plans to build a winery facility in time for the 2005 harvest.
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