Yesterday I attended the launch of the new Flagstone Tasting Room in The Rockwell hotel in Green Point, a facility designed to capitalize on the tourists visiting Cape Town during the summer season.
To introduce us to the Flagstone wines, we were invited to enter the new Rockwell Theatre, in which long tables had been set up, running against the stage. Six glasses had been set up on a tasting mat. Classical music duo Palm Strings performed from the stage. We were welcomed to the first experiential tasting of Flagstone wines by Alison Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Manager of Accolade Wines, the owners of the Flagstone brand. She told us that Bruce Jack, the founder of Accolade, is now the chief winemaker of the Group, the fifth largest wine company in the world. While Gerhard Swart is the chief winemaker of Flagstone, Bruce still keeps an eye on it. Bruce said that Gerhard is the best winemaker he has ever met.
Alison explained that the V&A Waterfront attracts 22 million visitors annually, and is the most visited tourist attraction in Africa. Being located close to the Waterfront, The Rockwell offers a perfect facility in which to set up a pop-up wine tasting center for Flagstone, and for its staff to handle the tastings. A total of 22 wines is offered to taste, and one pays for what one tastes, by the bottle or by the glass. The hotel has 55 rooms, and they already sell 100 cases a week to the hotel. She also told us that they have seen a 300% growth in sales in the past 24 months.
Bruce told us that his tasting senses were trained. The sense of smell comes from the back of the brain, which has 10 million receptor sites. Other parts of the brain help identify smells too. Because one’s environment affects smell in tasting wines, the lights were switched off for the tasting of each of the six wines. Unique was the ‘pairing’ of a poem or haiku (Japanese poem), each written by Bruce, with a particular wine. Each wine was introduced by Gerhard, detailing its origin, its blend composition where relevant, and awards achieved. Bruce read the relevant poem, and then we tasted the particular wine whilst Palm Strings performed a musical piece in the dark! We were requested to switch off our phones, to ensure complete darkness.
# Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2015: a Cape South Coast wine, which has been made since 2009. Grapes come from two key Sauvignon Blanc areas, being Elgin with tropical notes (70%) and Elim giving green fig notes (30%). The wine has received a 4,5 Platter rating, it has also been named Best Small Producer at Veritas for three years running. Palm Strings played Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’. Bruce’s haiku for this wine was named ‘Freedom‘:
Taste a soulful place
Essence of seasons and sun
Craftmanship of risk
Frisk your mind for clues
You’ve smelt such freshness before
Freedom’s open door.
# Truth Tree Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (70%) and Semillon blend, with batonage in barrel. Elgin origin of the grapes gives minerality. Best Sauvignon Blanc at Young Wine Show 2015. It has won Best Semillon six years running at Young Wine Show, Gold at Michelangelo, and 4,5 stars from Platter’s. This wine is still tasting fresh after ten years.
# Two Roads Chardonnay 2016 from the Cape South Coast, is fresh and elegant. Grapes are sourced from Elgin (giving pineapple) and Elim (has acidity, with lime and passion fruit). The Chardonnay grapes used by Flagstone are the only ones grown in the area, being wind-protected against the South Easter. The wine has not yet received awards. For this wine Bruce did a rap, wearing his son’s cap.
# Dark Horse Shiraz 2014 is a blend of Terroirs, with grapes coming from Wellington, Ashton, and Agter-Paarl. The wine has been included in the Sommeliers Selection 2016, and won Gold at Veritas.
# Music Room Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, their 2013 being so popular that it has sold out already. Grapes are sourced from Ashton, Wellington, and Elgin. The grapes are the last to be harvested, at the beginning of April. Vineyards are 14 years old, and grapes are picked ripe. Aromas are good, with elegance. The 2013 vintage won Double Gold at Veritas, 4,5 Platter stars, and is included in the SA Sommeliers Selection 2016. Bruce told us that his mother and grandmother were music teachers. While one should work with wine as a scientist, one needs to feel it too. Bruce warned us that he could become emotional whilst reading his poem ‘Mothers’ Music‘:
The day you died, I paddled out at Surfers’ Corner
Way past the back line
Where the ocean breathes unbroken
And I looked back at your Mountain
You were born into the loss of war,
With only the muti of music.
You were raised by a musician mother
Settling dust like bad debts;
With a maths brain that did music,
With a hard-edge respect for money,
Insisting musicians are well paid –
Those connectors to our ancient past,
You brought into our lives rooms of music
The talk of drums, ring of hands,
The charge of pipes, purse of flute,
The salute of trumpets,
The secret society of Flamenco heels,
The halo of harps, summersaulting pianos,
The embrace of cellos, rainclouds of voice,
The high of the gif, river stones of marimba.
The lottery of applause
The laws of silence,
And the shield
Of a beautiful guitar.
# Truth Tree Pinotage 2015 is made from a single vineyard from the Breedekloof, 650 – 720 meters above sea level, the highest vineyard in the region, on the Waaihoek Mountain. The 2013 and 2014 vintages have been included in the ABSA Top Ten, and have won a Michelangelo Platinum. Pinotage is a challenging variety which can kick you in the teeth if you don’t love it. Bruce proudly said that they make the best Pinotage in the world.
I have been impressed with the creativity of the Flagstone labels, and the creative platform for the brand is ‘We are born creative’. Its bottle neck labels have the handwritten word ‘joyful’ on them, making the wine taste even better!
Disclosure: We received a gift pack with Flagstone Two Roads Chardonnay 2016 and Pinotage Truth Tree 2015.
Flagstone Tasting Room, The Rockwell, 32 Prestwich Street, Green Point, Cape Town. Tel (021) 852-5052. www.flagstonewines.com Twitter: @FlagstoneWines Instagram: @FlagstoneWines Monday – Sunday 11h00 – 19h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein