Tasting Andre Bruyns’ Superb Second Vintage of City On A Hill 2016 in the Swartland…

So yesterday, after a very hectic weekend of vineyard exploration and tasting in the Swartland, I headed back to Stellenbosch stopping enroute at David Sadie’s leased cellar at the Paardebosch farm in the Paardeberg area of the Swartland where decomposed granitic soils rule the roost.

I have to say this was a double appointment as I also came to taste David’s assistant, Andre Bruyns’ second vintage release of his City On A Hill 2016 from 36 year old Chenin Blanc vines. Sourced from two old vine vineyards planted 1981, the 2016 incorporates 8% of Viognier in this 92% Chenin Blanc blend, producing 2,600 bottles.

(David Sadie’s new 2016 releases will be reviewed separately.)

Looking out across Dassenbosch towards Adi Badenhorst winery

Tasting Note: City On A Hill 2016 Chenin Blanc, Swartland, 12.5 Abv.

This is an alluring wine with complex dried herbs, dried mint leaf, garrigue and baking spices. So much oregano and thyme beautifully melded with dry yellow stone fruits and white citrus. I just love the nuances of pithy tart yellow peaches and the rich but linear taught structure that defines this and so many other 2016 wines. The palate seems to move into a 6th gear, where the impressive 2015 only had 5. Vibrant crunchy yellow citrus fruits, peach stone, and peppery, dusty slatey granitic minerality. This wine has energy and verve, massive intensity, pithy yellow pineapple and white peach concentration and a real dusty granitic finish that is direct, nervy, tightly wound and very focused. Well done Andre, not easy to make a better wine than you did in 2015, but I believe you succeeded in doing so. 

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

Ian Naude’s Adoro Old Vine Masterclass at Handford Wines…

It’s funny how there are always certain tastings you do every year that turn out to be so engaging, enlightening but most of all, fun. Tonight’s Masterclass with Ian Naude certainly falls into this category.

I’ve known Ian for over 20 years and have always admired the way he goes about making wines. Known as a master blender of whites as well as reds, it is generally accepted that Ian Naude is the father of the white blend movement in South Africa. 

With Ian Naude and Elliot Awin, Naude’s agent in UK

I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of the guest speakers at the 4th White Blend Conference at Forest 44 in Stellenbosch way back in 2009. Arriving in Cape Town a few days after one of the most devastating storms in recent Stellenbosch history, I joined the stage with German winemaker Peter Fischer and Eben Sadie, to host an incredible event in front of over 90+ winemakers. In the audience were most of the next generation of winemakers…. the current young guns… Chris Mullineux, Donovan Rall, Gottfried Mocke and Chris Alheit etc. I hardly knew these names at the time. Now they are all long term suppliers and close friends.

Tonight Ian got another opportunity to expound his philosophy of blending as well as his passion for South Africa’s Old Vine culture. Billed primarily as an Old Vine Masterclass, the tasting happily started with a tasting of Ian’s Adoro 3 Regions Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ( 90/100), his Naude White Blend 2009 (93/100) and his Adoro Red Blend 2007, featuring Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot (93+/100). All beautifully complex and youthful.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc blend

Then on to the real business at hand, the Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Cinsaut, and Semillon… with his “Rayas’esque” Grenache ending the flight before sweetening our palates up with his excellent late harvest Mourvèdre. 

Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, 12 Abv ~ Perfumed peach stone fruits, green pear, quince, and lovely complex struck match flinty notes. Subtle smokey depth, pineapple, jasmine and supple soft texture. Very elegant with ultra fine musk and spiced apple richness. Wow, what a wine. True marriage of classism and precision (95/100).

Naude Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015, 12.5 Abv ~ Perfumed apple skins, boiled green apple Bon Bons, musk and waxy incense. Palate is youthful, sleek, and light on its feet. Acids are soft and rounded by extra lees contact making this wine so creamy, luxurious, and and voluptuous. Very opulent and youthful but should evolve nicely (94/100).

The legendary Semillon Old Vine maiden release

Naude Old Vine Semillon 2014 ~ Dusty, spicy wet grey slate, crushed gravel, green tinned fruit freshness. Layers of white fruit, white pepper, and mouth watering stone fruits make for a crisp, electric palate with a spicy apple and herby green tea finish. Very classy (93/100).

Naude Old Vine Cinsaut 2014 ~ Dusty, musky perfume rise out the glass, showing nuances of rose petals and strawberries. Pithy, garrigue herby notes develop. Palate is fleshy, mid weight suave and seamless with precise tannins, harmonious elegance and a lovely jasmine, rhubarb crumble finish (93+/100).

Naude Old Vine Cinsaut 2015 ~ All together more youthful, taught and exotic than the 2014. Shows complex layers of lychee, rose petals, fleshy yellow fruits, raspberry, and bramble berry fruit with a pronounced granitic mineral accent underpinned by chalky tannins. Plenty of structure and intensity. An impressive wine in its youth (94/100). 
Naude Grenache 2014 ~ Not quite qualifying for the Old Vine Series status with “only” 18 year old vines, this wine is equally impressive with deep, dark, earthy, foresty, bramble fruits, caramelised cherries, pink musk and Bon Bon sweet fruits. Plenty of old world furry tannins, mid palate density and an intense, profound, exotic finish. Let’s hope this is not a one-off jackpot wine! (95/100)

Adoro Late Harvest Mourvèdre 2013 ~ An icon wine in the Adoro range, this late harvest wine has around 60g/l RS with a balancing 9TA and 14 Abv natural. Soft and fresh fruited, there is beautiful crunchy, plummy forest fruits, subtle sweetness, tart crunchy acids and pithy bitter black chocolate opulence. Very vinous and luxurious but not heavy or laboured in any respect. The perfect restaurant digestive (93/100).

With BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and Ian Naude after the Masterclass

After the tasting, Ian confided in me that halfway through the masterclass, he felt really worried as the 18 guests were so silent! He was concerned he was boring them. On the contrary, they were absolutely enthralled, hanging on every word from his lips. Spellbound.

This memorable evening was capped off with a fantastic meal together at Medlar Restaurant in Chelsea. Head sommelier Christopher Delalonde MS expertly conducted proceedings, serving several fantastic blind wines over the course of dinner. 

Fab Saumur Blanc Monopole from the famous village of Breze, home of Clos Rougeard whites!
Beautiful 2015 Hermitage Blanc
Pork Belly with Kimchi and Pak Choi

Big thank you to everyone who made this such an enjoyable evening. Can’t wait to do it all again next year! 

Ruth Lewandowski Wines ~ Purity and Precision with 105 Year Old Vines…

The 2015 Naomi is 100% Grenache gris made by Evan Lewandowski, with 105 year old vines from the Gibson Ranch of Mendocino’s McDowell Valley. Rather than treating this fuchsia-toned grape like a red wine and macerating it with its skins, Evan whole cluster pressed the fruit and seperated the juice from the skins to ferment in an egg-shaped tank. The manually controlled press cycle was a long, fairly rough one to extract a higher than average amount of phenolic material from the beautiful, unique fruit.

After about three weeks, native alcoholic fermentation was complete along with malolactic fermentation. The 2015 Naomi saw no winemaking additions of any kind except for a scant 20ppm of SO2 before being bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Ruth Lewandowski Wines’ winemaker Evan Lewandowski

“Contrary to who most people imagine Ruth to be, she is not my mother, nor my grandmother, but my favorite book in the Bible.  Without sounding ‘preachy,’ and in the interest of concisely summing things up, there is no better depiction of death and redemption than the book of Ruth (who just happened to be from a town called “Moab”).  Much of my philosophy of farming and, in turn, winemaking is derived from this cycle of death and redemption (both in the physical realm we can see and the spiritual realm we often do not). Death is, indeed, the engine of life.” ~ Evan Lewandowski.

Tasting Note: Ruth Lewandowski Naomi Gibson Ranch 2015, California, 12 Abv. ~ Beautiful pale marmalade orange colour with a hint of pink blush. The nose is rich, expressive, pithy showing zesty marmalade jam, orange peel, salty briney gravelly minerals, wet river pebbles and an alka seltzer lift, dried herbs and grassy elderflower nuances. There is a fine density on the palate from these 105 year old Grenache Gris vines, with tangerine peel, lemon grass and spicy green pears. The subtle grape skin grip and spicy tannins add to the palate texture, all in beautiful balance. This is a complex, seductive wine that wills you to drink it! A real pleasure giver. No surprise then that this wine sold out within days of release… entering it into the unicorn lexicon! (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Naomi’s Grenache Gris ferment