Wednesday, November 25, 2015

40th Anniversary Lunch and Tasting at Meerlust

How to describe this classic Cape Dutch wine farm in the Helderberg? Owned by charming Hannes Myburgh, who prefers to keep rather a low profile, the award winning iconic wines are made by Chris Williams and shepherded into the cellar by viticulturist Roelie Joubert. Guests are shepherded to the tasting room by the ten friendly dogs, who have the most wonderful life on the farm. We were privileged to have lunch on Friday in the beautiful lived-in Manor house, which is filled to bursting with art, antiquities and curiosities. We had a marvellous Cape country lunch and a tasting of great vintages of Meerlust Cabernet and Rubicon, starting with the first ever vintage, made in 1975. And, yes, it has lasted, as we expected
We also visited the Compagniesdrift wine storage and bottling facility next door, which Is the Myburgh Family Trust Social Responsibility investment in their staff. The companies involved, MWT Investments and Faure AgriVillage, are jointly owned (50% each) by the Myburgh Family Trust and the Meerlust Empowerment Trust, which is comprised of 72 people who have long-standing relationships with the Meerlust, Vriesenhof and Ken Forrester farms in the area
Meerlust means Pleasure of the Sea. It was founded in 1693 by German immigrant Henning Huising and this national monument has been farmed by the Myburgh family since 1756The cellar was built in 1776 and was originally the estate's carriage house
Like many Cape Farms there is still a slave bell
The manor house is in the typical Gabled Cape Dutch style
The beautifully crafted front door with one of the welcoming dogs
Hannes Myburgh with his dogs. Hannes is the eighth generation Myburgh custodian of Meerlust
Catching up with the other members of the media
Then it was time for our visit to Compagniesdrift next door to the farm
The entrance belies what awaits inside, which is vast
Marketing Manager Eddie Turner introduces us to Ilse Ruthford, who is the Managing Director of Compagniesdrift, which is a Black Empowerment business funded by the Myburgh family Trust, Standard Bank and the Land Reform and Development Programme of the Dept of Land Affairs. The companies involved are jointly owned (50%) by the Myburgh Family Trust and the Meerlust Workers Trust
She explained to us what they do and how it benefits the staff who are members of the company. They have 53 wineries who store wine there, with 2.3 million bottles there currently. The facility is open to local wine producers and offers cost effective alternatives to those who do not have their own storage, bottling or labelling facilities or require transportation of their wine over long distances.
It is a modern, secure and temperature controlled facility. This is the bottling line
It is very clean and tidy
We were interested to see the wine labels of the many companies who use the facility
Bottles awaiting labelling. These are bottles of one of The Foundry wines, Chris Williams, Meerlust winemaker's own label
The vast storage area
Relabelling can also be arranged. Here, specific back labels for export destinations are applied by hand
Cases awaiting export
Going to many different countries
A smaller mobile bottling plant was in operation at Meerlust on our return. To keep the "Estate" designation, Meerlust wines are still bottled on the farm
Back to the family manor house for lunch
Comfortable sofas 
suitable for the dogs
Winemaker Chris Williams welcomes us and talks about the six wines we are about to taste and who made them. It was Hannes' father Nico Myburgh who first planted Bordeaux varieties in the late 1960's
from left to right: Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 1975 , Meerlust Rubicon 1987, Meerlust Cabernet 1991, Meerlust Rubicon 1991, Meerlust Cabernet 2009, Meerlust Rubicon 2009
The 1975 has lasted so well. It is silky soft on the palate with stewed plums, good soft tannins and a hint of violets and sandalwood. All the wines impressed, especially the two 1991s, and the 2009 Cabernet shone. The 2009 Rubicon is gathering its skirts for a long, long life. If you can find any, buy it to keep.
We were delighted that the previous winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia joined us for the tasting and lunch and he gave us lots of insight into the past wines. He described the 2009 Rubicon as resembling La Tour, high praise indeed
Hannes with one of his lads
Attention! This African dog has lots and lots of personality and life
We were amused to remind Chris Williams at a few years ago he was one of the wild children in the wine world, changing wine making processes and thinking. Today its the young from the Swartland who are going in other directions and pushing the limits
Tasting, discussing, tweeting. A very gemütliche tasting and lunch
Giorgio Dalla Cia, was winemaker at Meerlust from 1978. Chris joined as a wine and viticulture graduate in 1995 and stayed for six vintages, when he left to go to Delaire for more experience. He says Giorgio was his mentor and tormentor!
He returned in 2004 to make his first vintage of the Rubicon. Chris also makes his own wine The Foundry
The line up of bottles we tasted
Time to move into the large farm kitchen for lunch
Meerlust also make a delicious wooded, buttery but crisp (4 star in Platter) Chardonnay, which we drank with lunch. They also produce a Merlot and a Pinot Noir. All the red wines get 4.5 stars in Platter this year except the 2010 Rubicon which gets 5
It was self service from the huge pots of lamb bredie on the stove
A very traditional Cape pot of sweet potatoes cooked in brown sugar. Yes, not very good for one, but absolutely delicious with meat dishes
The huge lamb and potato 'Potjie"(Trans. small pot!) Yes, almost everyone had two full plates
Love me please
Two more vintages of Rubicon were opened and served with lunch. You need to give this wine time and it is so rewarding. As close as South Africa has to a Bordeaux blend
The cooks kitchen
Hannes has his priorities right. Thank you for a marvellous experience, both wine and food. And the dogs
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015
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