Another Great Vintage Performance From Hamilton Russell Vineyards – Tasting the New Release Pinot Noir 2017…

Hamilton Russell Vineyards’ wines have been on fire the past three vintages with young talent Emul Ross at the winemaking helm. In early March I caught up with Walker Bay royalty, Anthony and Olive Hamilton-Russell to taste the new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir releases from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, one year later to the day precisely after tasting them in barrel with Anthony and Emul.

The 2017 harvest was back to normal timings after particularly early 2015 and 2016 harvests. The 2017 harvest was short with all fruit coming in before the end of February. Based on average temperatures, 2017 was a warm harvest at 0.53 centigrade above average. Rainfall was only 10mm below the long term average, so conditions could not be described as particularly dry. Yields were well under 35 hl/ha. The Pinot Noir was fermented in stainless steel and then barrel aged for 10 months with full malolactic fermentation in 37% new French oak, 35% second fill, and 28% third fill barrels.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, Abv 13.31

First tasted from barrel in March 2017, I was excited to get another look at this finished wine in bottle. Already very showy, perfumed and quite generous on the nose with layers of sun dried cranberries, strawberry confit, logan berry, pomegranate and earthy red plum notes wafting uninhibitedly out the glass. Beyond the pretty aromatics lurk seductive notes of peppermint crisp, dark chocolate and subtle vanilla pod and wood spice. The palate is equally seductive, vibrant and bright on the entry with the most mouth watering complexity of sweet cranberry, blood orange, caramelised red cherries and delicate cherry cola vermouth botanical nuances. Impressively elegant and balanced, this wine is only just starting to blossom. Surely destined to be a real beauty. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

An Embarrassment of Riches from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ~ Tasting Another Fine Chardonnay from Restless River…

It seems consumers are being spoilt rotten at the moment with all the amazing Chardonnays from both Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. If you follow my blog, you might be mistaken for thinking that’s almost all I drink! Well, I’ve been following Craig Wessels’ beautiful reds and whites for the past few years starting with purchases of his unique Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and his 2012 Chardonnay.


Craig’s latest release in the UK market, the Ava Marie Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 from the Upper Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, is another top notch crackerjack wine. Using 15% new oak, the grapes were harvested between the 27th of February and the 12th of March and barrel fermented after wholebunch pressing. The wine was left 8 months on its lees without battonage.


Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2014 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa, 12.9 Abv.

Exotic, fragrant nose on this expressive wine. Shows salted caramel, lemon butter, toffee apple and hazelnut complexity. Wow, super complex nose. The palate does not disappoint either with intense caramelised white citrus fruits, creme brûlée, and nutty chalky complexity. Perhaps from a more difficult vintage but this is an extremely fine effort that is showing amazingly well. Most 2014 Walker Bay Chardonnays were probably sold out and drunk up long ago, but this elegant white is singing at the moment. Well done Craig Wessels!

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)