Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Mulderbosch Winery

Mulderbosch Winery is located in scenic Stellenbosch, South Africa, where they share an ajoning property with Kanu Winery.  Andrea Erwee was kind enough to walk us through a tasting of some of the finest wines in South Africa.  Mulderbosch wines are readly available in the US.  We started with there 2009 Sauvignon Blanc which was bright clean on the nose, with fruit flavors of lemon/ lime, crisp acidity on the finish.  2008 Chenin Blanc made from 65 year old vines age in hungarian oak, is was well blance on the palate with a swet honey finish, this was a lovely wine.  2010 Rose of Cabernet is the finest rose of this grape varitial I have ever expericence, Mulderbosch clearly understands how to make this wine great. This is a wine that I could enjoy on  nice summer day on the patio enjoying a nice barbeque.  The wine refreshing with strawberrys and raspberry fruit jumping out of the glass.

From South Africa with Love: More great wines

More on South Africa! This is from our friend J’nai Gaither, who shares her insights from a day with the Wines of South Africa’s kick-off U.S. tour.

By J’nai Gaither

Of all the “New World” wine regions, South Africa seems to receive the least press. But why? The country has, in fact, been making wine for the last 350 years; it has its own indigenous grapes, and the wines that are made from those grapes are often superb. This is one “minority” wine region and little-known grape varietal that needs a whole lot more attention.

Recently the Wines of South Africa touched down in Chicago to introduce us to some of the most renowned South African winemakers and innovative winery owners who discussed the intricacies of their wine. They intelligently discussed vineyard aspect, climate, soil and geography to a group of thirsty wine professionals and other eno-topics that got our juices flowing.

There were many gems from the tasting, surprisingly, none of which were SA’s “own” varietals, Bukketraube or Pinotage. instead there was an abundance of Bordeaux blends—both red and white—that were interesting expressions of the grape. WOSA even hosted an entire seminar on Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s “adopted” grape varietal. This Loire Valley baby has practically become synonymous with South Africain much the way Sauvignon Blanc has its ties with New Zealand.

Here are some highlights of the day:

Vilafonte Series M — This wine is the only South African/American joint venture with the brilliant Zelma Long at the winemaking helm. The Series M is Merlot based, with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc sprinkled throughout. Though it has a substantial amount of Cabernet, it’s surprisingly light on the palate with hints of pears and peaches on the nose.

Bruwer Raats Cabernet Franc — From the king of Cabernet Franc in South Africa, Bruwer Raats has managed to craft a wonderful expression of the grape. It definitely had that five-spice characteristic, as well as the signature green pepper that’s so telling of Cab Franc. His 2007 boasted green pepper notes on both the nose and the palate, as well as some dark cherries. Surprised? So were we — and pleasantly so. The 100% Cab Franc had great structure and soft tannins.

This too was one of the wineries that Thaddeus visited when he was in South Africa and became an instant fan of. (Read his post!)

Ken Forrester FMC 2009 — A legend was in the house this day. Ken Forrester sat before us and gave us a marvelous introduction to Chenin Blanc, and its roots in the South African wine industry. Then he introduced us to his “F****** Magnificent Chenin.”

What a way to start off the seminar. And you know what? He wasn’t joking. The Chenin was superb. Immediately on the nose was a hint of toast and on the palate, slightly buttery and a modicum of sweetness. Though you may associate that with many California Chards, the Chenin had a bit more character and acidity and minerality not often abundant in many new world Chards.

Kanu Kia-Ora Nobel Late Harvest 2006 — LIke many of you out there, we get  weak in the knees when a dessert wine is present — and this one was no exception. The beautiful honey color was the first indication of what we were about to experience in the bottle. On the nose, floral notes abound. Its syrupy sweetness on the palate was redolent of honey, with an almost port-like texture. Hints of golden raisins danced on the palate and then surprised us with a quick bow at the finish. Though not all dessert wines are made of botrytis grapes — the notble rot that “infects” grape — but leaves behind high concentration of sugar.

An honorable mention would have to go to the owner of Thandi wines. Vernon Henn is more than a winery owner. He’s a philanthropist of the highest order. He started Thandi as a way to lift South Africans out of poverty through learning winemaking and viticultural practices. In 2003, Thandi became the first wine brand in the world to become a fair trade brand. A noble brand, indeed. As for the wine, the standout was the Thandi Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2010. On the nose, stone fruit—peaches, apricots. On the palate, crisp with acidity—citrus notes.

The WOSA seminar opened our eyes to a new world — the evolution of South African winemaking in the U.S.  is still just beginning. If the 35-plus wines that we tasted are any indication of future success, then we know that they have a beautiful life ahead. They are certainly one of our favorite winemaking regions, and if you try any of them, we’re sure SA will become one of yours, too

Tokara Winery

The Tokara Winery was the most scenic winery I had the privilege and pleasure to visit in South Africa. It was blessed with rolling hills, a well-manicured vineyard and a world-class restaurant to boot.  Peter Heege, who is a good friend-of-the-winery, set up the visit to he wine farm.  The winery has several world class wines and a 5 year old Brandy made from 100% Chini Blanc.

Raats Family Wines

Bruwer Raats is a very engaging gentleman who will charm you with his fine wines and love of family — wife Janice, the financial brains behind the operations, three sons and an array of canines.
Thaddeus tasted four of the family’s wines: two chenin blancs, a cab franc and a high-ended blended wine Raats calls MR.
His chenin blancs differ with oak treatments. The original chenin blanc is what you would expect: a very bright, clean, crisp, easy-drinking wine we all enjoy on a hot summer night.
Oak-barrel treatment, rested on lees, or the sediment of yeast, is what brings out the characteristics of butterscotch and orange peel on the Family chenin blanc.
The cabernet franc, also called Family, is the best Thaddeus tasted while touring South Africa. It’s a ruby-colored wine with a herbaceousness that tingles the palate with hints of clove, nutmeg and a tannin finish that can only be described as silky.
The MR is by far the Raats family’s flagship wine, a complex menage of fruit, acidity and tannin that is deep ruby in color and exhibits red fruit, black currants/tobacco/cassis, well integrated into a well-rounded finish. Thaddeus tagged it “outstanding.”

South African Wine Country 2011

caption=”De Toren owner Emil den Dulk’s philosophy on winemaking.”]De Toren owner Emil den Dulk's philosophy on winemaking.[/caption]“The Truth is in the Vine”
That’s the philosophy of Emil den Dulk, an affable, hands-on owner of the De Toren Private Cellar, one of South Africa’s unique cultivars where farming practices that are environmentally friendly are a must.
Adding to its mystique, De Toren only makes two wines: De Toren Fusion V and De Toren Z. De Toren V is a world-class bordeaux blend, mostly of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, that exemplifies some of the best clarets in Bordeaux. And yes, this is coming out of South Africa, in the Stellenbosch wine region. He boasts of making this French-style blend that incorporates all five bordeaux grapes, which also include merlot, petit verdot and malbec.
Here’s what makes this wine so special and what distinguishes its production out of Stellenbosch and not Bordeaux, according to Thaddeus. “The wine has a great composition of fruit and tannin structure with the cab franc playing a very vital role. The tannins were firm, thanks to the fruit’s profile — black currant, licorice and tobacco — and its strong integration with French and American oaks, which it hangs in for 12 months, allowing it to age well.
Emil den Dulk, owner of De Toren Private Cellar in Stellenbosch, South Africa This is a value wine at its best — $45 for a wine that would cost at least twice that if it came out of France.
De Toren’s Z is the little brother to the V — zippier, more refreshing wine with softer tannins more integrated into the fruits that make it drinkable now.

Here’s a bonus: Driefonte nin Shiraz 2004 — It’s a Rhone blend that Emil is collaborating with a Frenchman still in the experiment stages. Thaddeus found it to be “typical” of a Rhone-blended wine with dark fruit that had spice and licorice with black currant. The finish had structure with hints of white pepper and great potential. And if there’s a downside, it’s the alcohol level at 14.3%.
P.S. Thaddeus got to taste barrel samples of malbec and petite verdot that he says are as good as any single-barrel varietal that he’s ever tasted and would make great wines on their own.