Another Benchmark South African Sauvignon Blanc from Hannes Storm…

I remember reviewing the delicious 2016 maiden vintage of Wild Air in September 2017, with its wonderful minerality, crystalline purity and old world restraint. (See review here…)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/10/28/yet-another-epic-wine-from-hannes-storm/

The 2017 vintage somehow manages to up the intensity and precision yet another notch to deliver a very special expression of Hemel-En-Aarde Sauvignon Blanc. Track this down from Indigo Wines for summer drinking!

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13 Abv.

Wonderfully dusty mineral aromatics that immediately suggest an accomplished terroir driven wine. There are multiple layers of talcum powder, crushed granite , limestone and green apple pith beautifully interwoven with greengage, Granny Smith pastille fruits and crunchy white pear nuances. The palate is equally grown up and complex, deliciously fresh and concentrated with a long, glycerol finish … but most importantly, very impressive harmony and balance. A really beautiful wine from a fantastic vintage for aromatic whites.

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

Tasting with Wineanorak’s Jamie Goode and Hannes Storm at last year’s New Wave Tasting in London.

Creating A Vinous Stir – Tasting the Impressive New Vintage Releases at Creation Winery…

I recently visited JC Martin and his new right hand man, Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge) at their beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge winery Creation. This was my first, long overdue visit to the winery to taste their current release wines as well as some exciting upcoming new vintages from 2017.

Originally from Switzerland, JC together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Creation is now one of the most successful wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde / Walker Bay region welcoming over 80,000 visitors per year. A very slick operation with a wonderful restaurant and fabulous wines to match, this winery is now regarded as an absolute “must visit” destination if you are visiting the Cape.

Creation Cool-Climate Chenin Blanc 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful floral fragrance, real eloquent lift packed with peaches, white orchard fruits, and pear fruit with real purity and clarity, only using old oak for maturation. Sleek palate, cool fruited, plenty of pithy minerality, honey suckle and a very long, concentrated but subtle length. Very individual style.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Viognier 2017, 14 Abv.

Beautiful fragrance, blossom and perfume lift. Musk, dusty talc, peach stone fruits and just a touch of pineapple pastille and honeysuckle. Intense, pithy, peppery yellow orchard fruits, and a crushed gravel minerality. Really expressive cooler climate Condrieu old world style.

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

Chardonnay Flight

Creation Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

20% new oak used. Rich opulent expressive nose with lemon bon bons, rich lemon pastille fruits and a youthful kiss of butterscotch. Plenty of core concentration, lemon and white citrus power, green apple and a long expressive length. Really classy effort for 25,000 bottle production.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Chardonnay Reserve 2017, 13.5 Abv.

40 % new used. Wonderfully tight, closed and restrained nose with a pronounced stony mineral grey slate depth, lemon rind, limestone, lemon grass and a very precise oak spice lift. The palate shows incredible elegance, finesse and a taut mineral mouthfeel. Very classy and old world in essence.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2016, 13.5 Abv.

50-55% new oak used. Richer, more expressive opulent nose than the younger 2017. Lemon confit, honeysuckle, white peach and pithy yellow stone fruits radiate from the glass. Very plush and complex, this wine exudes class with a very fine use of oak supporting intense concentration and a delicious, mouthwatering acidity that is finely integrated and harmonious. Big but supremely classy.

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

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.

Using around 40% new oak, the integration is impressively fine and understated. The aromatics scream of white citrus, green apple pastille fruits, lemon-lime marmalade, pithy wood spice and a delicious exotic Madagascar vanilla pod kiss. Big intense concentration, massive density and structure, the mouth coating breath and depth of the fruit is really something to behold.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Pinot Noir Flight

Creation Pinot Noir 2017, 14 Abv.

Wow, beautifully elegant lifted fragrance with such expressive purity and precision. This wine captures the upward quality movement that underpins the entire Creation range, white and red. This wine has Cotes de Beaune written all over it. Lush red berry fruits, bramble berry, sour cherry skins, red plum and a hint of pomegranate. Lovely tart, pithy acids underpin spicy, red and black cherry fruits, cranberry and crunchy almost-ripe strawberries. Mineral grippy tannins, superb overall purity and afine intense finish.

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

Creation Pinot Noir Reserve 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Opulent, rich cherry kirsch liquor nose, massive intensity with a deft touch of subtle wood spice. Definite notes of sappy, whole bunch character are quite pronounced adding real nuance and complexity. The palate is cool, dense and lush with fleshy, blood orange, pithy red cherry, graphite spice and a long earthy forest berry fruit tartness and pithy spice. Tannins are mineral and expansive suggesting you bury this wine in the cellar for 3 to 5 years before drinking.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2016, 14 Abv.

An impressively complex wine showing great opulence, concentration and depth. The aromatics speak of sun raisined cranberry, red plum, ripe strawberry and sappy red bramble berry fruits. Texturally deep and very expressive, plush and powerful packing a delicious, intense acid – fruit punch. An attractive level of earthy red fruit, blood orange nuances combining with a concentrated frais des boisses finish.

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

Creation E17 2017 (Emma’s Pinot Noir)

Two barrels selected. Spicy, peppery, dark and broody with massive black cherry, dark savoury depth layered with minerality and graphite nuances. Cool, taut, structured and focused, with intensity and forest fruit focus. Finish reveals subtlety, elegance and understated power.

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

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2017 (Barrel Sample)

30% Whole bunch with a 5 to 6 day cold soak in tank pre-fermentation. Another dark broody exotic nose that’s tight and intense. But the flavour profile differs from the norm with enticing layers of saline cassis, sea breeze, root veg earthiness, black cherry and a complexing hint of reduction. Texturally, the palate is dense, elegant and wonderfully salty with beguiling maritime flavours, black currant, powdery tannins and fresh, framing acids. Very impressive effort. Definitely a super luxury wine release to watch out for.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2015, 14 Abv. (The Cat’s Whiskers)

Technically Overberg fruit, this is Gerhard Smith’s own new(ish) project, the 2015 being the second release. Two weeks fermentation on skins, soft press to old barrels, 20% whole bunch used. Lovely spicy intensity and red bramble berry fruits, subtle sweet leafy intensity and an earthy, foresty depth. Fleshy, deep and spicy with fine graphite tannin depth. Drink now.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

JC Martin’s new right hand man… accomplished winemaker Gerhard Smith (ex-La Vierge)

Gerhard Smith Die Kat Se Snor Pinot Noir 2017, +-13.5 Abv.

3 weeks on skins post ferment, 100% whole bunch fruit. Expressive aromatics of crunchy red berry, peppermint crisp, sweet leaf and sappy, resinous black berry. Cool, creamy, earthy fleshy depth, polished tannins, and really accessible already. A very characterful wine with a minimal intervention leaning.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Some Additional Wines Opened:

(But reviewed with more brief notes)

Creation Sumac Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

Vibrant, rich, elegant and fresh, with a delicious cherry cranberry twist!

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

Creation Syrah-Grenache 2016, 14.5 Abv.

80/20 blend. Luscious cinnamon and spice melange, fleshy cool black fruits, sweet tannins and a fine plummy, black cherry depth.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Syrah 2017 (Barrel Sample)

Wild yeast, 40% whole bunch ferment. Peppery black liquorice spice with saline cassis, black cherry and piquant, grippy oak spice. Delicious purity, fine maritime salinity, and lovely depth. This is quite serious and could be very impressive on release.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Fine Cape Vintage Syrah 2016, 17.5 Abv.

Made in a Port style and fortified with KWV 10 Year Old Brandy spirit. Sweet kirsch liquor and vibrant depth, fresh, sun dried raspberries, black cherry and superb savoury sweet length. Super pure, supremely mouthwatering and impressive depth. One of the best of this style I’ve tasted for some time. The perfect digestive?

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

The Young Gun Still Blazing – Tasting the Alheit Family Cartology 2017…

As most producers are getting ready to press their 2018 grapes post fermentation, I’ve been tasting the incredible offerings from Chris Alheit. Still a leading light in South Africa, look no further than Dreyfus Ashby for an allocation of Chris’s incredible Cartology white blend. A Cape legend!

Alheit Family Vineyards Cartology 2017

Big expectations as ever and this blend does not disappoint. Big, broad expansive yellow orchard fruit aromatics, subtle yellow blossom and then an overriding dusty gravel quarry minerality. The palate shows amazing depth, typical Alheit pineapple fruit pastille concentration, lemon grass and an incredible saline, grassy, herbal pithy length. Another epic effort from Butch. Drink 2019-2038+

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

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, A Benchmark Wine In the South African Wine Industry – The 2017 Vintage Reviewed…

I recently caught up with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell to taste their new releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So much has been written about 2017 as the third consecutive “drought savaged” vintage in South Africa. But in reality, Walker Bay and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley got off relatively unscathed, producing wines with great concentration, vigour and freshness. No doubt this will Be yet another fast selling vintage for this dynamic estate.

90% of the 2017 Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in 228 litre barriques for 9 months, 31% first fill, 33% second fill, 33% third fill and 3% fourth fill… 47% blonde, 40% medium, 10% medium long toast, with 4% aged in foudre, 5% stainless steel, and 1% in ceramic eggs. 1.4 g/l RS.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 13.16 Abv.

This wine was tasted from barrel in March 2017 and showed great potential with bright acidity accentuating the wine’s natural limestone minerality. After 9 months ageing in French oak barrels, the wine is still very primary on the nose, revealing notes of sweet lemon cordial, green honeydew melon, green pear, white blossom and waxy green apple skins. There is lovely nervy tension to the palate which is much tauter and leaner than the nose suggests. Framed by vibrant, steely acids, the white citrus and lemon butter flavours are concertina’d into a complex press of green apple pastilles, pithy green gauge fruits and a stony liquid minerality. Not revealing all its grandeur just yet, but undoubtedly serves as a grand road map to the full pleasures that await the drinker in 6 to 12 months time. A real triumph for the vintage and another benchmark Chardonnay from this winery. Drink now to 2030+

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

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)

The New Kid On The Hemel-en-Aarde Block – Tasting The Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2016…

The area known as Hemel en Aarde falls under the appellation of Walker Bay and is divided into three wards: Hemel en Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley and Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The Bosman De Bos Estate is situated in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley where their vineyards are planted between indigenous fynbos fields in close proximity to the ocean.

Here, suitable soil types combined with the cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean create wine growing conditions rivalling some of the greatest wine growing regions of the world. Still a newly established area with modestly aged vines, quality of the region’s wines can only increase incrementally as the vines mature further and winemaking knowhow is expanded.

With the elevated quality wines comes the corresponding premium prices, making it rare for more affordable offerings to be found especially using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But as this wine shows, they do exist and are worth the effort to track down and purchase.

Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2016, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13.93 Abv.

R/Sugar: 1.8g/l, TA: 5.9 g/l, pH: 3.35

An exciting Chardonnay that confirms that some premium wine areas of South Africa still offer excellent value for money. The aromatics of this 2016 are very grown up with plenty of dried citrus peel, wet straw and dusty limestone minerality flirting with smoky struck match reductive notes. The palate is tense and nervy, showing liquid minerality, crushed rocks, piquant lemon grass, bitter lemon and herby citrus spice. A wine with classical restraint, fine balance and great dynamic sophistication. In it’s youth, this is a superb food wine and certainly should appeal to all white Burgundy lovers. Drink now to 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Magnificence of Pinot Noir Exemplified by the Storm Brothers – Tasting Ernst Storm’s Californian Range…

The Storm brothers, Hannes, 41, and Ernst, 38, grew up in the Western Cape of South Africa, where as teens, they moved to Hermanus in the famed wine growing region of Walker Bay. Fast forward 2 decades and incredibly, both are established winemakers producing high quality, evocative, terroir focused wines.

While Walker Bay based Hannes Storms’ wines have been featured on the Fine Wine Safari before, this is my first encounter with brother Ernst’s exciting wines. Ernst’s career includes successful stints making wine in South Africa at Amani Winery and in the Sierra Foothills of California. He later settled down in California’s Santa Barbara County, where he was winemaker at Curtis Winery while slowly developing his own brand over the past 15 years. With ten vintages of his own wines now under his belt, he is now focusing on his own winemaking project full time.

Rooted in the hills of Santa Barbara County, Storm Wines emphasizes old world influences using new world winemaking techniques. The Mediterranean climate, diverse soils, and exciting new opportunities in this flourishing Central Coast wine region have combined to drive Ernst’s passion for producing his wines.

Ernst’s wines are authentically handcrafted using a combination of Old and New World winemaking techniques. From being present while picking the grapes in the early morning hours, to basket pressing, to only using gravity on the red wines. Fining and filtration is only utilised when absolutely necessary in the reds and occasionally on the whites, making sure the wines express the unique qualities of the fruit’s origin.

Notary Public White Wine Santa Ynez Valley 2014, 13.5 Abv

A Chenin Blanc / Chardonnay blend focusing on the $25-$30 in USA or £35 in the UK. Bright dusty granitic lemon line zesty nose, lime peel and white citrus. Almost Chablis like minerality and restraint. Stony, intense saline freshness, sleek fine boned cool climate texture and an attractive leanness and seductive, alluring pithy austerity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Notary Public Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 13 Abv. 

Sweet sour plum nose with intense fragrant lift with cassis and black currant leafy spice. Pretty cherry pith, pink musk and delicious cherry sherbet mineral pithy spice. Thoroughly delicious expression, such energy and focus, I really love the purity and textural focus. Real character, real class. (Interestingly, this expression really reminded me of Craig Wessels’ Hemel-en-Aarde expression of Cabernet at Restless River, in Walker Bay.)

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The fruit for this wine is 100% from the famous John Sebastiano Vineyard and only 200 cases were produced using Clone/Rootstock: 44%-115/101-14 and 56% -667/101-14 grown on Marina sand and Chamise shaly loam soils.

Picked between 8/22/14 – 8/24/14, the grapes saw a 5-7 day cold soak with 12 days on the skins. Grapes were basket pressed before fermentation and aged in new tight grained French oak after fermentation with no fining or filtration used.

Storm John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 13.8 Abv. 

Savoury earthy bramble berry fruit nose showing quince, pomegranate, raisined cranberry, raspberry herbal tea infusions, and subtle sous bois and clove spice. Sweet fruited, opulent texture, dense and quite broad but retains a little more of a rustic, hearty, old world expression.

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

Produced from 100% Presqu’ile Vineyard fruit with only 220 cases produced from fruit grown on Clone/Rootstock: 667/own root on Marina sandy loam soils. 20% whole cluster used with a 6 day cold soak and 14 days on the skins. Wine was aged in 25% new French Oak for 10 months with ageing on lees, and no fining or filtration was utilised.

Storm Presqui’le Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Rita Hills, 13 Abv.

Restrained, shy spicy earthy nose with wet earth, blood orange, raisined cherries, and a sprinkling of mineral, crushed river pebble dust. A very elegant, sleek, fresh Pinot Noir style with electrically fresh acids, a suave fleshy mouth feel, notes of black tea and plenty of sophistication on a long, lingering bramble berry laced finish. Very classy.

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

Storm Slide Hill Vineyard Syrah 2014, Edna Valley, 14.1 Abv. 

Perfumed, lifted blueberry, black currant and savoury peppery meaty spice. Dusty, smokey charcoal, creamy oak, blueberry crumble, and then develops a seductive strawberry coulis complexity. Plush, lush, savoury and beautifully vibrant with an alluring saline vein, and tantalising seashore, maritime black fruited finish. Really impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines imported into the UK by Tiger Vines.