Sunday, November 4, 2012
Visiting Swartland, South Africa - Renegade Winemaker’s Paradise
Friday, Sept. 28 – The next morning the skies above Capetown were overcast and the day was cool. After the breakfast buffet, we boarded the van and drove almost one hour northwest to Swartland, which is known as a warmer viticulture climate and home to some very historic vineyards and “big reds”. Swartland also has a reputation for spawning “renegade winemakers” with a bent towards natural, organic wines and innovative blends and styles.
Sadie Family Wines – Tour of Historic South African Vineyards
Our first stop was the Sadie Family Vineyards where winemaker Eben greeted us and provided a tour of his amazing old bushvine vineyards which produce only ¼ to ½ tons per acre. When we arrived Eben showed us the soil by picking up the wet clay and sandstone substance and letting it dribble through his fingers (see photo).
Eben is a true “natural winemaker” in that he believes in almost complete non-interventionist winemaking. Not only does he preserve as many old South African historic vineyards as he can, but he promotes biodynamic farming practices (not certified), natural yeast, as little sulfur/SO2 as possible, and fermentation in concrete eggs, cement tanks, and recently, South African clay amphora. His wines are unique, and sometimes, magnificent.
Badenhorst Winery & Amazing Roasted Lemon & Vegetable Cups
The next stop was a wonderful BBQ chicken lunch at Badenhorst Winery, which is located in an old farmhouse overlooking the vineyards, and hosted by Adi Badenhorst, his family, and other local winemakers. Here I felt like I was transported to Mendocino County wine country in California, as I was surrounded by “natural winemakers” with bushy beards, and an exuberance and passion for making wine “on the edge.” Our group was joined by the sommelier group, and we all enjoyed the magnificent buffet of food fresh from the garden and succulent BBQ.
After tasting through 20 to 30 Swartland wines, we sat down at rough wooden picnic tables and enjoyed the meal. The sun came out, and temporarily we were treated to clear blue skies and a beautiful view of spring vineyards. It was here that I found the Amazing Roasted Lemon & Vegetable Cups. They were so tasty that I ate two of them, and then beckoned the BBQ chef over to ask how he created them:
1) Cut lemon in half. Scoop out pulp. Cut off bottom to create small flat cups.
2) Roast lemon cups in oven for 5 minutes on 450 to eliminate tart taste.
3) Stuff with cut up pieces of following vegetables: marinated artichoke heart pieces, black olives, red tomatoes – all sautéed briefly in olive oil, garlic, and salt.
4) Top with creamy goat cheese (alternative: cream cheese).
5) Bake in 350 oven for 20 minutes
Porseleinberg – The Hilltop Chicken Winery
After lunch, we drove on rough red dirt roads through wheat fields for around 20 minutes until we crested a hill to arrive at Porseleinberg Winery. This looked like a dilapidated farm with small outbuildings and many chickens running around. As soon as we arrived, a huge grey cloud approached and we were drenched in a spring rainstorm.
We hosted umbrellas and ran into the small stucco building were winemaker, Callie Loew, offered us a tasting of his famous Porseleinberg Syrah – the only wine produced here. It is composed of pure fruit, very streamlined, with well-balanced acid, fruit and tannins, and a long finish. As we were tasting, a chicken ran into the building and got trapped against a large picture window. Callie bent down to pick up the chicken and cradle it in his arms as he continued to describe the wine. I felt that we were truly in the “renegade arena of the Swartland Wine Revolutionaries.” A very fun and memorable visit.
Tasting with 10 Swartland Winemakers at Mullineux Winery
We left Porseleinberg with only a few raindrops following and slowly made our way to Mullineux Winery in the small and charming town of Riebeek Kasteel. This is a picture perfect wine tourist town with an historic hotel and beautiful vineyard and mountain scenery. I would definitely return and stay here again in the future. The tasting of the Swartland producers, and especially Mullineux Family Wines, in the center of town, was excellent. Here I was especially impressed with the red wines, including complex mineral-laden syrahs and fruity malbecs.