South African Winetasting and Dinner

Stephen Gold's home, San Francisco, California
Tasted Friday, November 7, 2008 by Richard Jennings with 519 views

Introduction

This was a very enjoyable, and highly educational wine evening, featuring a carefully selected array of top South African wines and South African food flown in from a South African restaurant in San Diego, all provided by the only person I know in this area who is really knowledgeable about South African wines. Stephen Gold, our incredibly generous host, has made 7 or 8 trips to South Africa in the course of his charitable efforts to install solar energy systems to power remote conservation camps throughout Africa. I've known Stephen as a connoisseur of Bordeaux, white Burgundy and Chablis, but on this night I got to learn about South African wine history and top producers from him. I was very impressed by the wines, and look forward to continuing to learn more about South Africa's rich vinous history.

Gathered in Stephen's home theater to watch a little video on SA wines, l to r: Jim, Dee, Paul, Stephen, Al, Christine, Christianne and Daniel
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Flight 1 - Sparkling Flight (1 Note)

We drank from a couple bottles of this nice Rose, with our cheeses, which included some South African cheese (e.g., BoerenKaas), and biltong (essentially air dried South African beef jerky).

Flight 2 - 1st White Flight (5 Notes)

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A great start, with some impressive Chenin Blancs and Sauv Blancs. They were all good, but I particularly liked the Simonsig Chenin Blanc for its complexity and minerality, and the Springfield SB Special Cuvee, for its deep flavors and high acidity. Our food for this flight was South African mini chicken pies.

Flight 3 - 2nd White Flight (4 Notes)

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Another nice flight. The only one I didn't rate highly was the Spice Route, as I felt the oak was obtrusive. The group's WOTF was the Meerlust, which was very good, but I preferred the Cape Point Isleidh Sauv Blanc/Semillon blend. That's a wine I would definitely buy, and could enjoy with a variety of dishes. Our course for this flight were Khurshids Samoosas.
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  • 2006 Meerlust Chardonnay 91 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Bright medium canary yellow color; lovely herbal, lemon and oak nose; tasty, tight, tart lemon and mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (group's WOTF)

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  • 2007 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 90 Points

    South Africa, Cape South Coast, Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

    Medium canary yellow color; a little oxidized, oak and vanilla nose; good tart and juicy lemon palate with acidity; medium finish 90+ pts.

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  • 2007 Spice Route Viognier 86 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Swartland

    Light bright yellow color with green tinge; herbal, goat cheese and mint nose; unusual oak, earthy, mineral, cream, and honeysuckle palate, with too much oak unfortunately; medium finish

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  • 2005 Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Cape Point

    Light medium yellow color; lovely herbal, green, mint and menthol nose; complex herbal, green and menthol palate; medium finish 92+ pts.

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Flight 4 - First Red Flight (5 Notes)

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With this flight, I tasted my first Boerewors, South African farmer's sausage. Another great bunch of wines. The group's WOTF was the Stark-Conde. My favorite, for its complexity and depth, was the Pinotage, the best I've ever had. I was also very impressed with the Thelema and its unusual chilipowder and dried jalapeno flavors.
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  • 2006 Rust en Vrede Merlot 91 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Black color with cherry meniscus; rich, big plum and charcoal nose; rich plum, berry, charcoal and graphite palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts.

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  • 2001 Kanonkop Pinotage 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch

    Dark red violet color; herbal, mint, cassis, smoke and graphite nose; wow, complex graphite, charcoal, mineral, smoke, tar and dry black fruit palate with fine tannins; medium-plus finish 92+ pts.

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  • 2004 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon The Mint 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Dark, opaque, black red color; intense liquid pepper, dried jalapeno, chili powder and eucalyptus nose; black fruit, charcoal and jalapeno palate; medium-plus finish

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  • 2005 Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Twin Peak Vineyards 91 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek Valley

    Black with cherry meniscus; herbal, black fruit and graphite nose; greener, tart cassis and tart plum palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (group's WOTF)

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  • 2005 Anwilka Stellenbosch 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Dark red violet color; ripe berry, plum, mint and earth nose; ripe black fruit, mineral and tart palate, very young yet; medium finish

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Flight 5 - Meritage Red Flight (5 Notes)

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This flight was a clear step up in quality, from the great wines we'd already had. The De Toren Fusion was immensely impressive. The 100% Cab Franc Cordoba Crescendo was very good, and went the best with our food for this flight, Bobotie (basically South African moussaka) and rice. I also loved the Rubicon and the Rustenberg.

  • 1996 Meerlust Rubicon 94 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Bricking, rust medium dark red with pale meniscus; beautiful Bordeaux-like shitake mushroom and mature black fruit nose; very tasty, rich, elegant, maturing black fruit, plum palate, like a mix of Right Bank and Margaux; medium-plus finish 94+ pts.

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  • 2003 La Motte Millennium 92 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Franschhoek Valley

    Dark red violet color; ripe boysenberry, berry and cherry pie nose; ripe boysenberry, plum, black fruit and charcoal palate, youthful, with focus and a touch of caramel oak; medium-plus finish 92+ pts.

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  • 2001 Cordoba Crescendo 93 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Dark red violet color; herbaceous olive and black fruit nose; dense, black fruit, charcoal, smoke and caramel oak palate; medium finish 93+ pts. (100% Cabernet Franc; best pairing with our Bobotie)

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  • 2005 Rustenberg John X Merriman 94 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Black red violet color; oak and earth nose; dense charcoal, graphite, tart black fruit and mineral palate, very young; medium-plus finish

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  • 2000 De Toren Fusion V 96 Points

    South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch

    Black with cherry meniscus; mineral, tart blackberry, black fruit and berry nose; solid, herbal, tart black fruit and charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 96+ pts.

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Flight 6 - Syrah Flight (5 Notes)

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I think we all would have been satisfied and impressed had we ended with the Meritage flight, but Stephen had more to show us. This was a strong group of Syrahs, led, for me, by the Rhone-like Niels Verburg. The group's WOTF was the Boekenhoutskloof, which was also an incredibly complex and memorable wine, a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier.

Flight 7 - Sweet Flight (3 Notes)

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We ended this fabulous vinous travelogue with some lovely sweet wines. The Constantia had a touch of TCA (our first flawed bottle in a night of 28 wines), but its complex and layered flavors still showed through.

Closing

This tasting took a lot of thought, care and planning on Stephen's part, for which we are all deeply grateful. I was also delighted that Linda and Lester Schwartz, owners of Fort Ross Vineyard (makers of one of my favorite Cali Pinots) were able to join us, as they are originally from South Africa. I'm very excited and inspired to learn more about South African wine, and look forward to traveling to the vineyards there which I've seen such spectacular pictures of.
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