I suppose it is inevitable that a food nerd also become a wine nerd, or vice versa. I have always enjoyed wine, but spending three full days in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek drinking and eating the best that South African wine country had to offer turned me into a full-blown oenophile.
If you haven’t tried South African wines, you are missing out – South Africa produces some phenomenal wines that represent a great value.
We have a few South African wines on our wine list at Joe Mama’s, so I was somewhat familiar with them, but didn’t feel super knowledgeable about the best producers, so I started researching. And researching some more. I found some great articles in Wine Spectator magazine and went to work mapping out the wineries I wanted to visit.
I visited a bunch of different wineries, and tasted countless bottles (don’t ask for exact numbers, things got kind of hazy after the first stop). Of course, all of the restaurants in the area have extensive wine lists, so I was even able to try wines from producers that I didn’t have time to visit.
Here are some of the highlights:
My Three Favorite Wineries:
Thelema: This was my first stop and, honestly, I could have camped out there for the entire three days and been perfectly happy. The tasting room was chic and modern, but the crackling fireplace gave it a cozy feel. I loved all of the wines that I tried here. My favorites were their “The Mint” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and the Thelema Rabelais 2008, a full-bodied Bordeaux-style blend that I ended up buying a case of. I already drank one bottle, but am planning on having the self-discipline to cellar the rest. Probably.
Boekenhoutskloof: No one can pronounce this name, so don’t worry about it. This winery was at the top of my list because they keep winning awards from people that know a lot more about wine than me (like the people who write the John Platter Guide – the definitive guide to South African wines), and because I had tried their Chocolate Block wine in Vegas a few months before and absolutely loved it. The Chocolate Block is a blended red wine. The 2010 vintage consisted of Syrah (72%); Cabernet Sauvignon (13%); Grenache noir (7%); Cinsault (6%) and Viognier (2%). And it is every bit as delicious as the name sounds. Unless you open it 5-7 years too early because you couldn’t wait, in which case it is still delicious, but a little (okay, a lot) greener than the 2009 I tried in Vegas. Oops. I guess that just means I need to buy a few more bottles to hold on to…
Vergelegen: This property was absolutely breathtaking. You can enjoy your wine while overlooking, or wandering through, the expansive gardens. This is where President Clinton sampled wines when he was visiting South Africa, and if it good enough for Bubba, it is good enough for me (also, it has won heaps of awards). All of the wines there were lovely, but their 2010 Vergelegen White blend (41% Sauvignon Blanc, 59% Semillon) ended up being one of my favorite white wines of the trip.
Additional Bottles To Try: Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir (I love Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so this unique blend was instantly appealing to me, I would bathe in this wine if I could); Stony Brook Vineyards Ghost Gum (their award-winning flagship Cab blend in the Bordeaux style, aged in oak for 32 months), Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (a very drinkable, lightly fruity, crisp wine).
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