Tag Archives: Mount Babylon

New Hermanus Wine Route R320 red blends the best of the Hermanus Wine Route!

Today history will be made in the South African wine industry, with a first wine named after a wine route. Hermanus Wine Route R320 red blend will be launched to more than fifty media and wine industry representatives at Creation this afternoon, a blend of wines from 12 wine estates on the R320, which is the Hermanus Wine Route.

Conceived as a charity project which is expected to raise about R250000 in the next three months, the Hermanus Wine Route R320 is a blend of 73% Syrah, 9% Pinotage, 9% Merlot, and 9% Malbec.  Southern Right Vineyards, Bouchard Finlayson, La Vierge, Newton Johnson, Sumaridge, Spookfontein, Ataraxia, Creation, Mount Babylon, Domaine des Dieux, Whalehaven, and Hermanuspietersfontein are the blend of producers that have each supplied a barrel of wine for the new blend.  It is described as having an elegant nose, with spicy white pepper, ripe plum, crushed berries, and added rosemary and biltong.  The pay-off line is “Welcome to heaven. On Earth”.

The proceeds of a charity auction for a case of the Hermanus Wine Route R320 charity wine, that takes place via Twitter and Facebook today, will go to social upliftment, the development of a farm school, creation of a tourism scholarship, and funding of courses at Elsenburg.  To participate in the auction, one must pre-register at frieda@hermanuswineroute.com, and then bid with an allocated hashtag between 12h30 – 19h30 today.  The highest bid with the correct hashtag receives the case of wine.  The wine will be sold at R100 per bottle, and will be available on the Hermanus Wine Route, Wine Village, Hermanus Liquors, Wine & Co, as well as at Hermanus restaurants such as Season, Burgundy, Fabio’s, Harbour Rock, and Bientang’s Cave.

Creation is the wine estate at the furthest end of the Hermanus Wine Route of 15 wine estates, and has grown in stature and visibility, despite being off a gravel road section of the R320. It has a beautiful location overlooking the Babylonstoren mountain, and has attracted 17000 visitors to its tasting centre in the past year, more than double from the year before and making up 20 % of its sales, Carolyn Martin, Creation owner with husband JC, told me proudly when I visited yesterday.  The tarring of the far-end of the R320 is expected to start in February, and is excellent news for all wine estates on the Hermanus Wine Route, in making it far more attractive to wine lovers.

POSTSCRIPT 1/12:  In her speech at the launch of the Hermanus Wine Route R320 charity wine today, Creation’s Carolyn Martin praised the Hermanus Wine Route, and its unique wine estates.   “Our scenic route unites the passion and reputation of fifteen wineries, each growing small volumes of premium quality wine in carefully and sustainably managed vineyards. WOSA’S slogan, “Variety is in our Nature”, is a sentiment clearly echoed along the Hermanus Wine Route.  Each cellar on the route offers a unique experience and I’d like to give you just a tiny little thumbnail sketch of each: Hermanuspietersfontein is renowned for their biodiversity efforts and also enjoys great popularity for their buzzing Saturday markets. Whalehaven is the smallest cellar with the largest range of wines. At the trendsetting Southern Right, experiments for the ageing of wine under the sea are underway… Ashbourne is becoming known for it blends, and Hamilton Russell is the estate that first put Hermanus on the world wine map. Now on to Bouchard Finlayson with its distinctive cellar and pioneering winemaker, Peter Finlayson. (Peter, by the way, is famous for describing Pinot as “velvet sliding down your throat”!).  La Vierge is renowned for its boules, its Champagne Verandah and its quirky labels. One of Sumaridge’s many attractions is the fabulous guest house with its marvellous views where some of you will be staying over tonight. When I think of Newton Johnson I think of great Pinot, and yes this cellar has scored 5 stars in John Platter’s Wine Guide for their Pinot Noir over the past three years. Spookfontein with its own resident ghost can especially be commended for its commitment to organic farming … among Ataraxia’s many claims to fame is their art in the chapel and the “ringing of the church bell” … while both Domaine des Dieux and Mount Babylon excel in the creation of outstanding Methode Cap Classique wine. At Jakob’s Vineyard you simply have to taste their highly rated Bordeaux blend …and here at Creation I believe one of our greatest attractions is the wine and food pairing experience”.

Hermanus Wine Route, R320, Hermanus.  www.hermanuswineroute.com Twitter: @HermanusWine

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Hermanus Wine Route is heaven on earth in Hemel en Aarde valley!

I had the most heavenly experience, visiting the little-known and relatively new Hermanus Wine Route with outstanding wine estates located in the beautiful Hemel en Aarde Valley outside Hermanus recently, on a perfect warm winter’s day.

As a guest house owner in Hermanus, I stopped at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and at the Village Wine Shop, in search of a map of the wine estates in the area.  I was most surprised that both stops could only offer me the ‘2011 Overberg Wine: Cape South Coast’ booklet, which lists wine estates in the broader Overberg district, including Hermanus.  Our experience is that a wine map, such as that of Franschhoek, is a handy way to explore a wine route.   I drove to the furthest wine estate on the Hemel en Aarde Road, to start my winetasting journey at Creation, of which I have heard such good things, and then made my way back towards Hermanus. It was at Creation that I received a number of A4 copies of the brand new Hermanus Wine Route map. I did not manage to visit all 17 wine estates, as my stay in Hermanus was cut short due to an emergency which necessitated my return to Cape Town.  I have provided contact details, and impressions of the estates which I visited:

*   Creation: Dynamic husband-and-wife team Swiss-born JC and Carolyn Martin (daughter of Walter Finlayson) are producing excellent artisanal, terroir-driven wines at the foot of the Babylons Toren mountain range, on 22 ha, 350 meters above sea level, 7 km from the Atlantic Ocean, in conjunction with Swiss winemaker Christoph Kaser.  The last 7 km is on gravel road, and the province has promised to prioritise the tarring of this road connecting Caledon and Hermanus.  The tasting room staff is headed by Joanne Kuhn, who used to be the Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  She is a friendly, chatty and informative hostess, supported by Pamela.   The tasting room is also the restaurant, with an interesting collection of tables (made from wine crates, and some from floorboards) and Biedermeier chairs, in different colours.  I loved the chandelier made from sparkling wine glasses. Works of art (e.g. by Jaco Sieberhagen, Jeanette Unite, Leon Müller) are an interesting part of the tasting room, and are for sale. The view onto the mountain range is amazing, and Joanne told me that it is 80 meters higher than Table Mountain.   The wine estate uses Social Media actively, being on Twitter, Facebook, and having a Blog.  Its range of wines includes Creation (Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Syrah/Grenache),  Whale Pod (which we stock in our Honesty Bar), and Shark Alley (created in conjunction with White Shark Projects).   Creation is part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, and its A3 information sheet printed on recycled paper says the wine estate stands for ‘Original, distinctive flavours.  Exceptional, harmonious matches’.  Creation has teamed up with chefs Anli and Andre van Vuuren of Season restaurant in Hermanus, to offer a small menu. A wine pairing menu is offered at R90, consisting of Asian salmon dumpling with aubergine and goat’s milk cheese canneloni, paired with Creation Sauvignon Blanc; spicy chicken and apricot satay is paired with Creation Viognier; cauliflower soup is paired with Creation Merlot; springbok rillete with cherry jelly is paired with Creation Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend; chorizo espanadita with duck and sour cherry pie is paired with Creation Syrah; and bobotie spring roll, beef carpaccio, and prune chutney is paired with Creation Syrah/Grenache blend.   Should one just wish to taste wines, there is no charge.  One can order Creation wines with a meal, at R 20,50 – R 40 per glass, or R79,50 – R159 per bottle.  The information sheet details the food suppliers used, including Nouvelle Mushrooms, Chocolates by Tomes, Richard Bosman’s cured meats, Adamskloof olive oil from the same property, and Camphill Bakery. Monday – Saturday 10h00 – 17h00, Sunday 10h00 – 16h00. Tel (028) 212-1107. www.creationwines.com

*   Jakob’s Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blend. ‘Passion, excellence and simplicity’ form the foundation of this wine estate.  Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment only.  Tel (028) 371-5686. www.jakobsvineyards.co.za

*   Domaine des Dieux – located next door to Creation, tasting by appointment and at La Vierge restaurant.  Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za

*   Mount Babylon – SMV (Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier blend). Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment.  Tel 084 511 8180. www.mountbabylon.co.za

*   Ataraxia – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Serenity.  Located just before Creation.  Wine tasting Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 15h30.  Tel (028) 212-2007. www.ataraxiawines.co.za

*   La Vierge Collection – private cellar, with tasting and sales at La Vierge restaurant, not on same property.  La Vierge Noir, Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc, The Last Temptation Riesling, Satyricon Italian blend, Nymphomane Bordeaux blend, Shiraz, and Chardonnay.  Tel (028) 313-0130. www.lavierge.co.za

*   Spookfontein – Merlot, Phantom Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.  Wines made using ‘Old-World techniques with New-Age attitude’.  Organic and single vineyard wines.  Tasting by appointment.  Tel 082 265 1071.  No website.

*   Newton Johnson Vineyards – the only wine estate of those that I visited that was seemingly disinterested in providing information and doing a tasting.  I arrived at 15h20, forty minutes before closing time,  and I got the feeling that everything was packed away already.  There was no wine in the counter, and the tasting room was extremely bare, with only one couch.  Lisa, the tasting room lady, told me that due to cash flow problems, that is the only furniture that the winery can afford!   First wines were made by Dave Newton Johnson, with sons Bevan and Gordon, in 1997.  Natural methods are used in the winemaking, including hand-picking grapes, yeast is not added to the fermentation, using gravity, no chemicals added, with soft extraction, creating wines with a ‘purity of flavour and natural expression’.  Newton Johnson Domaine Range (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir), Newton Johnson range (Resonance, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah Mouvedre), and Felicité Range (No Oak Chardonnay, Dry Rosé, Pinot Noir).  New Patron Chef Stefan Louw has taken over Heaven Restaurant, with a heavenly setting.  Lunches only currently, but will open for dinner in season.   Interesting menu, and all starters and main courses have a Newton Johnson wine recommendation.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00.  www.newtonjohnson.com

*   Sumaridge – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Maritimus, Merlot Rosé, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Syrah and Epitome.   Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 15h00. www.sumaridge.co.za

*   Bouchard Finlayson – Peter Finlayson was the first winemaker in this valley.  Blanc de Mer, Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Kaaimansgat Limited Chardonnay, Sans Barrique Chardonnay, Hannibal, Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, and Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir.  Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 9h30 – 12h30.  Tel (028) 312-3515  www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za

*   Ashbourne – part of the Hamilton Russell collection.  Tasting by appointment.  Sales via Southern Right.  Tel (028) 312-3595.  No website.

*   Hamilton Russell Vineyards – one of the best-known wine estates in this valley, owned by Anthony Hamilton Russell, and synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00.  Tel (028) 312-3595.  No website.

*   Southern Right – also part of Hamilton Russell collection, and co-owned by Mark Wilcox.   Stocked by Whale Cottage Honesty Bar.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage. 33000 olive trees on farm.  Paintings by Olive Hamilton Russell, with earthy textures created by mixing paint and soil from the farm.  Big quartz from farm in the tasting room, representing the quartz in the sandstone soils.  Tasting room has brown earthy decor.  Very friendly and informative manager Elmarie Pretorius.  Sell Southern Right Eucalyptus honey too.  Meat and cheese platters available in summer.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00.  No website. Tel (028) 312-1318.  Independently operated Deli on property, Tuesday – Sunday 9h00 – 15h00.

*   Whalehaven – Whalehaven Pinot Noir, Merlot, Old Harbour; The Idiom Collection Idiom Cape, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday and Sunday 10h30 – 16h30.  Tel (028) 316-1633. www.whalehaven.co.za

*   Hermanuspietersfontein : Located in the Hemel en Aarde Village, the modern wine cellar building is visible as one comes into Hermanus. Well-known venue for its Saturday morning Food  & Wine Market with interesting products and Hermanuspietersfontein wines, and for the excellent and creative Afrikaans -dominated marketing of its wines.  Probably has the longest wine brand name in the country, being the original name of Hermanus, but frequently abbreviated to HPF.   Winemaker Bartho Eksteen is highly regarded for Sauvignon Blanc, and won the 2010 Diners’ Club Winemaker of the Year Award.  He only makes wines that he likes, the brochure says!  They commit to “produce terroir-driven wines of the highest quality, focusing on Sauvignon Blancs and Rhône and Bordeaux-style blends. We are intent on adding value to the Walker Bay reputation as South Africa’s premium cool climate wine-producing region”. Wine range includes Bloos (‘blush wine’), Sonner Nommer (Sauvignon Blanc), Swartskaap (Cabernet Franc), 1855 Posmeester (Bordeaux-style blend), Kleinboet (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 3 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Bartho (Sauvignon Blanc blend), Nr. 5 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Arnoldus  (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 7 Sauvignon Blanc, and Die Martha (Rhône-style Shiraz dominant blend).  Open Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 16h00.  Tel (028) 316-1875.  www.hpf1855.co.za

*   Benguela Cove:  Open Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00.  Tel 087 754 8650. www.benguelacove.co.za

Guest houses in Hermanus would love their guests to spend more than one night in Hermanus, and to come to Hermanus, even when there are no whales (December – April).   The Hermanus Wine Route is an ideal way to enhance the tourist experience of Hermanus, in experiencing its excellent quality wines and friendly wine estates.  One would like to see far more marketing of the Hermanus Wine Route, helping the tourism industry of Hermanus as well as the wine estates themselves.  The Hermanus Wine Route map has an empty back, which could contain valuable information about the wines made by each wine estate, to help one select which wine estates to visit.  Information about the restaurants on the estates should also be listed.  The opening hours of some of the wine estates should also be extended, to be as uniform as possible on the Wine Route, and to be open as late as possible (some close as early as 2 pm!). The Hermanus Wine Route map should be made available at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, the Wine Village wine shop, and at guest houses in the area.  In the Hermanus Info booklet it is surprising that the first reference to the Hermanus Wine Route (they call it the ‘Wine Wander‘) is two-thirds into the booklet!

Hermanus Wine Route, Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 316-2761. www.hermanuswine.com Twitter: @HermanusWine

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Hermanus forms winegrowers’ association and wine route

The Hermanus Hemel & Aarde Valley has some of the country’s best wines, and its pinot noir and chardonnays are legend.   The growing number of wine producers in this fertile valley at the entrance to Hermanus have formed the Hemel en Aarde Winegrowers’ Association, a blend of the Hemel-en -Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge wine wards in the Walker Bay Wine District.   A new Hermanus Wine Route has been created.

The wine estates in the new Association are Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Southern Right, Ashbourne, Bouchard Finlayson, Vrede, La Vierge, Sumaridge, Newton Johnson, Lelienfontein, Pearly Gates, Southend, Tokara – Siberia Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde Country Retreat, Deja Vu, Hemelzicht, Klein Hemel, Spookfontein, Ataraxia, Babylon Farm Vineyards, Creation, Mount Babylon, Jakob’s Vineyards, and Domaine des Dieux.

The area is characterised by small production runs and produces cool-climate wines of exceptional quality.  Wines from the region are characterised by their above average natural acidity and below average pH, a below than average alcohol level, and more ‘tightness and minerality’.    It is strongly influenced by its close proximity to the ocean – interestingly defined as the Atlantic (rather than the Indian Ocean) in the media release of the newly formed association.

Johan Holtzhausen of Mount Babylon is the first Chairman of the new Hemel-en-Aarde Winegrowers’ Association.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio www.whalecottage.com