Friday, May 20, 2011

Treasure Hunting

The Bovlei Valley Retreat against a backdrop of the Haweque Mountains.

It's raining again/Oh no, my love's at an end.
Oh no, it's raining again/and you know it's hard to pretend.
Oh no, it's raining again/Too bad I'm losing a friend.
Oh no, it's raining again/Oh will my heart ever mend.
“It’s Raining Again” – Supertramp

I am not sure what rain has to do with lost love, except that grey overcast skies tend to make life seems more miserable similar to losing love. But oh yeah, it’s raining again and I am starting to think it might be a good idea to snap a picture of the sun when it eventually present itself again, blow it up to billboard size, put a spotlight on it, paste it to my patio door to remind me that the sun still exists and just to generally brighten up the weather-related “house-arrest” we are currently enduring. One could convince oneself that somehow the notorious bad English weather crossed the Atlantic pond and established itself over Kentucky.

But I have nothing to complain about. What with the Mississippi overflowing its banks, and thousands been driven from their homes and farms for weeks while they wait for flood waters to retreat. Thankfully I am on a hill, away from low lying, flood prone areas.

Looking back toward Wellington and the Limietvallei from Bain's Kloof Pass during our visit to the region in December 2010.

The Location

If you drive east along the R301 in the Western Cape, away from the town of Wellington, toward the Bain’s Kloof Pass, one is confronted by the majestic Hawequa Mountains, which rises from the Limietvallei (Limit Valley, so called because it was the limit of European settlement in the early days of the Cape of Good Hope, the outer post) like a massive barrier between civilization and the dark African continent.

Wellington, originally named Wagenmakersvallei by the Dutch or Val du Charron by the French Huguenot settlers, meaning the place where they make and repair wagons, and then renamed by the English to Wellington, after Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington and the man who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, lies on the banks of the Kromme River and at the foot of the Groenberg (Green Mountain). The area is not known as a premier wine region in South Africa. It is more famous for its fruit farming, dried fruit industry and for being the nursery of vine rootstock. Between 80% to 90% of South Africa’s vine rootstock comes from Wellington farms.

The Hunt

A few weeks ago M and I had to go into Lexington and she wanted to stop at a specific store. I notice there was a liquor store nearby that I have never visited. After I dropped her off for her shopping I went to look if I can find any “treasures”. Now don’t think I stop at every liquor store I see, but just like some people, when they have time on their hands, go rummaging through antique stores for “treasures” or others go to nurseries to look for unique or specimen plants, I, and there are many people like me, go to a liquor store to meander through aisles and shelves and possibly find an extraordinary or interesting gem of a wine. It may be a wine that looks interesting based on the description on the label or I may have read about the terroir, but never tried a wine from there before. A Wine explorer! I don’t have a specialty, but I am always on the lookout for South African wines, especially new wines or new estates from the ever enlarging South African wine industry, and especially here in Kentucky where South African wines are not found in abundance.

I browsed through the shop’s Cabernets, Merlots and Zinfandels, their imports from France, Italy, Chili, Australia and many more and was quite surprised at the variety for such a small store. I found a Marques de C├íceres Crianza from Spain, which I wrote about in my previous post. But apart from some Graham Beck wines, nothing much from South Africa. But I didn’t see any Shiraz wines anywhere and when I asked a store worker he pointed toward the back wall, not hidden away, just away from the other wines. Why I don’t know. Maybe it was the only space they had for them.

It wasn’t a large selection, but again, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and there I got my kick for the evening, there I found my “treasures”. I found a Fairview Goat-Roti 2007 (a Shiraz and Viognier blend), but you find Fairview’s Goats do Roam wines in all the bigger stores here. But I also found something I have never heard of or read about before, an Eventide Shiraz 2005 from the Mischa Wine Estate in Wellington. I know a little about the other more well-known Wellington estates like Diemersfontein, Doolhof, and Welbedacht, but I have never heard of the Mischa Estate before. And that, the unknown, the newly discovered, is one of the criteria for my definition of “treasure.” Of course, the unknown could and has in the past sometimes backfired, but in this case, what a pleasurable find it was.

The Treasure

This deep rich garnet colored Shiraz is all about fruitiness and was a gold winner at the International Michelangelo Wine Awards. From the first whiff to the last lingering velvety aftertaste the overall impression is one of well balanced fruit with a subtle, but valuable contribution from aging in oak barrels. The wine is complex on the palate. Juicy, leaning toward jammy, with lots of berry fruit, balanced tannins and mild spiciness from Shiraz’s usual peppery to very complementary cinnamon notes. I am not a greater lover of the spice and will rarely eat something with an overly cinnamon taste, but the hint of cinnamon gives the Eventide Shiraz a truly unique taste that makes it stand on its own rather than being just another mildly-spiced Shiraz. Which make me wonder? This is major fruit terroir. Is there a link in the soil between the valley’s many fruit trees and the fruitiness in the wines from Wellington? Probably not, it is just good soil.

South Africa produces many good wines. It does not have the consistence in quality and the history of the French, nor the market and funding of the Americans, but its wine producers have the spirit and passion to compete with the big boys. Kudus to Andrew Barns and his team at Mischa Wine Estate for injecting that passion into this very pleasurable, drinkable “treasure”.  


Anonymous said...

Ai, man, Ek geniet jou wyn-inskrywings baie! Het op 'n stadium van Mischa se wyne probeer en toe was hulle alkohol so bietjie hoog vir my. Maar ek sien hierdie wyn wat jy probeer het is 'n 2005, so hy het seker in die bottel so bietjie kalmer geraak. :)

NS: Hoop julle partytjie was lekker.

BluegrassBaobab said...

Ek dink die was 14%. Deesdae is alkohol inhoud in wyne baie in die blog-wereld nuus.

Anonymous said...

Hi Swaer. I will most definitely try this Shiraz. The name sounds familiar and I might have it stashed in the wine cupboard or had it at some time (maybe not the 2005 vintage). I see that the 2005 won the Michelangelo Awards - Gold in 2006. Sounds good to me. Leon.