Friday, October 12, 2012

Chardonnay Lunch at Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa and Green Tie Wine Bash

Sept. 24, 2014 – We left Bot River amidst partially sunny skies and drove approximately one hour to Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch. The scenery along the way was stunning as we passed through the mountains again, saw the ocean in the distance, and then arrived in Stellenbosch with its green vineyards and tall, granite mountains. Stellenbosch is one of the oldest and most famous wine regions in South Africa, and I would compare it to Napa Valley in terms of the fancy wine estates, beautiful landscape, and famous wine names.

Jordan Winery’s Pond with Abundant Bird Life

We arrived at Jordan Winery about a half hour early and I was glad because we had time to walk around the beautiful grounds. This included a large pond were we saw Egyptian Geese, the South African Ibis, a Fish Eagle, and the most amazing weaver bird nests hanging from a weeping willow tree. I was so impressed, I filmed a short video, as well as photos. See:

The other unique aspect to Jordan Winery are all of the chameleons that hide in the tall grasses near the ponds. They even have chameleon crossing signs (see photo). Later, after lunch and too much chardonnay, we had a good time hunting for chameleons in the bushes.

I should mention that the Jordans, who own the winery, are good friends with the Jordans of Sonoma County, and have worked out a marketing agreement so that both wineries can promote their wines under their respective Jordan labels, as long as they are clear about appellations.

Seminar on Chardonnays of South Africa

I was already a fan of South African chardonnays, but I discovered after the excellent seminar provided by the Chardonnay Forum, that there are specific regions within South Africa that produce even more stellar chards. We had the opportunity to taste (spitting, of course) 20 chardonnays in five flights, sorted by region.

My favorites ended up being chardonnays from Cape South Coast and Stellenbosch, with specific highest scoring wines being: Iona Chardonnay 2010 (like a Chablis, crisp and steely), Haskell Anvil Chardonnay 2010, Radford Dale Chardonnay 2010, Bouchard Finyalson Kaaimansgat 2009, and Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2010. All twenty of the wines were lovely, but these five were strong stand-outs for beautifully balanced wines with classic flavors of apple, lemon custard, spice, and well integrated oak. They all had high acid and a long finish.

I was most fascinated by the winemaking techniques that several winemakers professed to be using. This included 100% barrel fermentation using natural yeast, keeping the wine on the gross lees, and not racking or topping. Instead of battonage, they roll the barrel back and forth. Others admitted they don’t even roll the barrel, but let it sit for 9 months with no activity. Obviously a very non-interventionist practice, but one that seems to result in some spectacular wines with high levels of complexity.

Chardonnay Lunch on Terrace With Amazing View of Mountains and Pond.

We were treated to a most extraordinary lunch on the terrace of Jordan Winery overlooking the pond and chiseled mountains. The day was still partially sunny so there were some blue patches of sky and interesting cloud formations circulating around the mountain peaks.

The Chardonnay forum winemakers were also circulating in a table-hopping dance between each of the courses. I have only seen the Napa Valley Vintners do this before, and was impressed that this group of primarily thirty-something winemakers, seem to have adopted this successful technique. As a guest it was delightful, because at the change of each of the 4 courses, 3 new winemakers would join our table and bring with them 3 new chardonnays. Yes, it was a 100% chardonnay paired lunch, and probably one of the best meals I had in South Africa. The menu consisted of:

• 1st Course - Seared Water Buffalo Liver, Miso poached turnip, fresh apple and wood sorrel
• 2nd Course - News Season’s White Asparagus, Parsley, fried caper and smoked garlic
• 3rd Course - Barrel Smoked Kingskip with first broad beans of the season and young beets (this is a native fish found off the shores of South Africa. It was delicious and reminded me of a cross between halibut and sea bass.)
• 4th Course - Chardonnay Poached Pear with Cheese Mousse

Green Tie Event Celebration Bash in Capetown

After the three hour lunch and searching for chameleons in the tall grass, the mood on the van back to the hotel was obviously sleepy. When I was told that we had 30 minutes to rest and change for the next event – the Green Tie Celebration Bash at the Waterfront – I protested and said I would be late. Therefore, when I reached my room at the Cullinan Hotel, I fell asleep for an hour, then took a long hot shower. This caused me to arrive at the party 1.5 hours late, but it didn’t seem to matter, as it was in full swing with hundreds of people, music, dancers, abundant food, and of course, many bottles of wine.

The Green Tie Event (where everyone wears a green tie to celebrate sustainable efforts and the environment) was held in a very large tent on the edge of the ocean at the Lookout point along the Waterfront in Capetown. When I left the Cullinan Hotel, I thought I would have to hail a taxi, but was instead greeted by 8 people in green t-shirts who offered me a ride in one of the many vans catered for the event.

When I arrived I was handed a glass of sparkling South African wine, and then had a nice time wandering around talking to people and tasting some of the amazing dishes – all served as hardy tapas by wandering waiters. The dishes included: fresh mussels, fresh fish, sausage, ostrich burgers, yellow corn & coconut soup, mushroom raviolis, chicken satay, brownies with ice cream, fruit granola cups, and assorted cheeses.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was when I bumped into Essie – an MW from Finland and recognized as one of the world’s great authorities on Champagne and sparkling wine – and Mark Devere, sorting through over fifty bottles of South African sparkling wine outside near the ocean. We had a good time trying several of them, until Essie settled upon a bottle and announced it was the best of the lot. We then proceeded to enjoy the bubbles along with all of the food and music.

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