The 2015 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Wines

Scores and tasting notes for 45 reds and whites in this year's auction
The 2015 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Wines
Stellenbosch is the premiere wine region of the Cape. (iStock)
Sep 30, 2015

Every year since 2007 I've tasted through the annual Cape Winemakers Guild auction wines. These wines are a result of the experimental and behind-the-scenes efforts of a cadre of South Africa's best winemakers. Taken individually, these wines are essentially one-offs, not meant for commercial release, and they're tough to find here in the States.

As a group, though, they represent the vibrant South African wine scene, with both young and old, male and female winemakers working with a range of grape varieties and a host of terroirs. The result is a dizzying display of diversity along with some exceptional quality.

Following are my notes on the wines, which were tasted non-blind. For more general background on the auction and the Cape Winemakers Guild you can reference my notes on last year's auction wines.

This year's auction will be held Oct. 3. Wines are listed in order tasted.


Nitída Sauvignon Blanc Durbanville Barrel Twenty Eight Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Bracing chive and flint. Steely, pure, long, with nice underlying richness. (90 points, non-blind)

Bartho Eksteen Sauvignon Blanc Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Vloekskoot Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Prominent clementine and tangerine notes but still racy and fresh with a long, straw-lined finish. (91, non-blind)

De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape Wooded Cape Winemakers Guild 2015
Piercing, with white asparagus, chive and flint notes. Long fleur de sel edged finish. Has a rich edge from the wood treatment but this is decidedly on the zippy herb side of the spectrum in terms of flavor. (92, non-blind)

Louis Nel A Thousand Kisses Deep Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2015
Bright and crunchy with engaging lime, lemon pulp and white peach flavors backed by a long jicama-edged finish. Deliciously pure. Sauvignon Blanc. (91, non-blind)

Lanner Hill Double Barrel White Cape Winemakers Guild Darling 2014
Bright clementine and orange blossom notes race along, backed by a fuller hint of citrus oil. Long, salted butter edge on the finish with a lovely echo of wet straw. Youthfully tight and should uncoil nicely. Sémillon. (91, non-blind)

Mullineux Sémillon Swartland The Gris Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Gorgeous, with white ginger, wet straw, creamed white peach, blanched almond and glazed clementine notes, all seamlessly carrying through, held together by sleek, well-embedded acidity. Mouthwatering, with superior range and length. (93, non-blind)

Cape Point Vineyards Auction Reserve Cape Winemakers Guild Cape Point 2014
Gorgeous yellow apple, white peach and straw flavors race along, underscored by salted butter and quinine on the finish. Pure and chiseled, but not without a flattering echo of brioche as well. Beautifully done. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. (93, non-blind)

A.A. Badenhorst Family Graniet-Berg Cape Winemakers Guild Swartland 2013
Lovely plump melon, green almond, fig and pear flavors glide along, lined with light butter and honeysuckle hints. Rich, but with a bitter almond note giving it needed spine through the finish. White Rhône lovers will dig this for sure. Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. (93, non-blind)

de Trafford Sijnn !uri Cape Winemakers Guild Malgas 2014
Ripe, broad and flattering in style, with layers of warmed brioche and butter amidst the creamed peach, pear and yellow apple fruit flavors. Hints of dried apricot and anise line the finish, which has nicely buried acidity for balance. Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. (92, non-blind)

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Swartland Trifecta Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Powerful style, with dried apricot, pineapple and peach flavors forming a large-scaled core, while straw, quince and honeysuckle add nuance through the finish. There's good buried minerality here, but this is clearly fruit-reliant and proud of it. (92, non-blind)

Miles Mossop Wines Chenin Blanc Swartland Saskia-Jo Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Rich and full, but managed to show lovely purity, with white peach, green almond and Cavaillon melon notes gliding through, gilded with light honeysuckle and quinine notes. Lovely. (92, non-blind)

Ataraxia Mountain Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Under the Gavel Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Gorgeous yellow apple and green fig flavors course through, lined with singed brioche, though the toasted hint is merely nuance as the bright fruit plays out. Long, mouthwatering matchstick-edged finish. Shows why you can never really knock Chardonnay for doing what it does best. (93, non-blind)

Paul Cluver Chardonnay Elgin The Wagon Trail Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Ripe, with pear, apple and melon notes, but more than adequately defined, with a lovely matchstick hint and a long, racy finish. (91, non-blind)

Jordan Chardonnay Stellenbosch Auction Selection Cape Winemakers Guild 2014
Always distinctive for its pulls-no-punches style, as a butterscotch hint peeks in on intense apple, tart tartine, warm filo dough and ginger notes. Big and broad but with the cut to pull it off. (92, non-blind)

A.A. Badenhorst Family Muscat de Frontignan Swartland Geel-Kapel Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
For Jura fans, as this sports walnut, cider and powdered ginger aromas and flavors, with brisk, saline acidity adding an edgy feel. Has tropical and orchard fruit echoes but this is bone-dry, with a long, nervy finish. Distinctive and ambitious; just be forewarned. (90, non-blind)


Paradyskloof Pinot Noir Stellenbosch Vriesenhof Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Aims for the elegant, minerally style, with lightly tangy red cherry, blood orange and pomegranate fruit flavors lined with subtle rooibos tea, spice and stem hints; the stemmy echo gives the finish spine and texture. Available in magnum format only. (91, non-blind)

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Elgin Auction Selection Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Lovely mulled spice and sous bois hints underscore the core of cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, but this is hardly soft or laid back in feel, as racy acidity and a long, dried star anise note give it ample cut and energy through the finish. (92, non-blind)

De Grendel Pinot Noir Ceres Plateau Op Die Berg Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Ripe, juicy and engaging, with dark cherry and raspberry coulis flavors lined with anise and black tea. Nice, firm mineral edge holds the finish. (92, non-blind)

The Drift Mountain Farm Barbera Overberg Die Kans Vate Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Nice density for the variety, with loganberry and blackberry fruit pumping along, lined with ample anise and mint notes. Has a brambly edge, but a velvety feel takes over slowly through the finish. Amped up style but pulls it off. (89, non-blind)

Hartenberg Merlot Stellenbosch Auction Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Elegant and supple, with alluring mulled blackberry and black currant fruit lined with black tea, mint and sage notes. Has nice weight, while keeping a very caressing feel through the finish. (92, non-blind)

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2011
Alluring red currant, plum and bitter raspberry notes glide through, carried by substantial but silky tannins. Subtle singed savory and tobacco leaf hints add range on the finish. (92, non-blind)

Kaapzicht The Castle Auction Cape Winemakers Guild Bottelary 2012
Juicy, compact style, with tasty plum sauce, blackberry preserve and licorice snap notes carried by bramble-edged structure. (91, non-blind)

Jordan Sophia Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012
Has a distinctive savory edge, with red currant and bitter plum fruit flavors filling in quickly. Nice bright, iron-edged finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. (91, non-blind)

Kanonkop Paul Sauer Cape Winemakers Guild Simonsberg 2012
Beautifully rendered, with sleek, integrated structure that lets black tea, steeped black currant and plum coulis flavors play out against a backdrop of singed alder and sanguine notes. Long, alluring finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. (93, non-blind)

Strydom Paradigm Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012
Old-school feel, with tobacco, savory and olive notes framing a core of steeped blackberry and black currant fruit. Lots of bramble and singed cedar on the finish, where everything pulls together nicely. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (92, non-blind)

Louis Nel Living In The Past Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2010
Throwback style, with dark loam, charcoal and licorice root notes pumping along with dark currant, warmed fig and steeped plum fruit flavors. Charcoal edge really smolders through the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon. (92, non-blind)

Etienne Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch Auction Reserve Cape Winemakers Guild 2011
This sports bramble-edged flavors of red and black currant, licorice root and warmed tobacco leaf, with cedar-lined grip on the finish. Decidedly old school in feel, but with the fruit to match. (91, non-blind)

Tokara Tribute Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2011
Stylish, with mint and warm cocoa notes leading the way, backed by lightly mulled currant and plum fruit. A light loamy echo weaves through the finish, which has nice depth. Cabernet Sauvignon. (92, non-blind)

de Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Gorgeous savory and olive notes weave around a core of lush currant paste and fig sauce flavors. Loamy edge holds the finish, where extra tobacco and well-roasted cedar also chime in. Always makes me think of an aged Dunn Howell Mountain Cab, just with more harmonious structure. (92, non-blind)

Neil Ellis Rodanos Cape Winemakers Guild Jonkershoek-Groenekloof 2012
Bright, energetic Damson plum, red currant and raspberry fruit is liberally laced with a peppery note, along with well-singed vanilla bean and tobacco leaf notes. Lovely brambly echo through the finish as this stays engaging throughout. Distinctive, fun wine. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault. (93, non-blind)

Ernie Els Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2013
Gorgeous, with blackberry, plum and boysenberry confiture aromas and flavors inlaid with suave cocoa-accented toast and dark licorice notes. Everything cruises along, picking up a waft of black tea and singed iron hints through the finish.  (93, non-blind)

Rust en Vrede Estate Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012
This is rock solid, with energetic, bramble and savory-lined structure supporting layers of fig, raspberry and red currant fruit. Everything pumps along nicely, with a refined iron note adding length and contrast on the finish. There's serious grip in reserve here too. (94, non-blind)

Boplaas Daniel's Legacy Cape Winemakers Guild Western Cape 2013
Gorgeous blueberry and loganberry fruit flavors sail forth, augmented with alluring milk chocolate and sweet tobacco notes. A Christmas pudding note checks in on the polished, rounded finish. Major crowd pleaser for sure. Touriga Francesa, Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca. (93, non-blind)

Duncan Savage Follow The Line Cape Winemakers Guild Western Cape 2013
Hint of reduction but it gives way quickly to pure Bing cherry and Damson plum fruit. Very silky in feel, with light white pepper and shiso leaf notes lining the finish. Think Pignan in a light year. Equal parts Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. (90, non-blind)

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Coastal Region Auction Reserve Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Vibrant, racy and long, with delightful cherry, red currant and plum fruit that stretches out on long silky tannins, while hints of bergamot, rooibos tea and iron streak the finish. (92, non-blind)

Boschkloof Syrah Stellenbosch Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Lively mint and violet notes lead the way for this fully ripe, but overall graceful rendition, with cassis and Damson plum, fruit gliding through the iron-tinged finish. (91, non-blind)

Groot Constantia Shiraz Auction Reserve Cape Winemakers Guild 2012
Tobacco, spearmint and bay notes keep this just on the herbal side of the spectrum, though there is ample plum and blackberry fruit at the core. Fresh, elegant finish has a good sanguine tang. (89, non-blind)

Saronsberg Shiraz Tulbagh Die Erf Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Lively, with lots of juicy blueberry, raspberry and boysenberry fruit pumping along, spiked with anise, plum cake and sweet spice notes and carried by lightly brambly grip through the finish. (91, non-blind)

Cederberg Shiraz Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
This has a great track record, and this is not let down, with blackberry, plum and boysenberry compote notes carried by velvety tannins while notes of anise, fruitcake and violets filling the background. Hedonistic in feel, but with plenty of energy as well. Rock solid. (92, non-blind)

Hartenberg Shiraz Stellenbosch Auction Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Dense, dark style, with melted black licorice, plum sauce, blackberry compote and fig paste flavors melded together and carried by a solid graphite beam through the finish. Lots of toast and muscle in the end, but that should mellow out nicely with cellaring. (92, non-blind)

Simonsig Shiraz Stellenbosch Heirloom Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
Pure, with a very fruit-driven beam of raspberry coulis, plum sauce and red currant pate de fruit notes backed by a lively snap of red licorice. Picks up a noticeable cocoa note through the finish, but that should meld back into the fruit with modest cellaring. (92, non-blind)

Luddite The Monster Cape Winemakers Guild Walker Bay 2012
Plenty amped up, with lots of cocoa and espresso leading the way for a core of thickly layered fruitcake, fig and blackberry pate de fruit flavors. Toast runs rampant through the finish, with loamy tannins underscoring everything. A bit too heavy-handed in style. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. (89, non-blind)

Rijk's Private Cellar Pinotage Tulbagh Cape Winemakers Guild 2012
A boldly fruited extrovert of a wine, with layers of boysenberry, blackberry and loganberry fruit paste pumping along, gilding with red and black licorice and backed by ample sweet spice on the lush finish. Misses a bit of the spine in previous vintages, but doesn't skimp on the fruit, that's for sure. (90, non-blind)

Beyerskloof Pinotage Stellenbosch Traildust Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
This has ample raspberry, blackberry and plum coulis flavors carried by remarkably silky tannins, all while a fruitcake notes and flash of anise builds steadily through the juicy finish. Nice echo of singed apple wood gives it just enough spine too. (91, non-blind)

Kanonkop Pinotage Simonsberg Cape Winemakers Guild 2013
A beauty, with layers of boysenberry, fig and blackberry confiture that are thoroughly hedonistic, but offset wonderfully by a well buried charcoal notes. Through the finish a graphite edge emerges along with notes of black tea, singed alder and iron. Loads of grip and youthfully tight. A heck of an effort with the grape I love to hate. (94, non-blind)

South Africa

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