Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Visits to Robertson wine estates: Kleinhoekkloof and Kranskop

Robertson is full of some really kind and hospitable people in the wine industry, as we found on our most recent stay there
Although we had previously met the owners of Kleinhoekkloof, Theunis de Jongh, his wife Ronelle and daughter Danielle, who makes the wine with her father, we had never visited them on the farm and what a delightful visit it turned out to be. Ronelle is obviously a lover of animals and this tame guinea fowl was one of an abandoned clutch she rescued and raised when they were chicks. Some of them have gone back to the wild; this one cannot be separated from her
Into their tasting room to sample some of the wines. We began with the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, R75, which has a green fig nose and lovely fresh acidity, melons, gooseberry and lime: it is zingy with nice minerality. The Merlot Rosé R70 seems to be going through malolactic fermentation in the bottle; it has lovely fruit, is bone dry, with a little fizz and is perfumed on the nose. Kailagh (named after their bull mastiff) is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Nouvelle (they have 10 rows). It is shy on the nose with some perfume, then some Sauvignon Blanc pokes through, with sweet fruit, and crisp acidity. They bought the farm in 2004 and KWV viticulturalist Marco Ventrella helped them plan what to plant where. Initially it was all red grapes. Kim McFarlane taught Theunis how to make wine
Theunis has a hobby; he trained with Neil Jewell and makes his own charcuterie. He buys one pig a month and these are the results hanging in his cold room. On the bottom shelf was a small smoker working magic on the hams above it, lightly smoking only them
The range of their wines. The 2016 Pinot Noir is smoky on the green nose, with sweet berries, a darker style with smoky bacon flavours. Good with the charcuterie! The 2016 Shiraz is herbal and spicy with deep red berry flavours. Jupiter, the 2015 Merlot, R220, has spice, perfume and wood on the nose; clean and green with raspberries and mulberries. The Cabernet Franc 2016 is elegant and savoury, with a classic Cabernet Franc nose. Lovely fruit, warm alcohol, layered, with all the bones it needs to become great in time. Jupiter 2014 is a co-fermentation of Shiraz, Viognier and Petit Verdot; smoky, peach from the viognier and elegant. Cherry berries, meatiness, so concentrated, spice notes and cooked plums with minerality on the end. He doesn't sell his wine to retailers, just on the farm and to his mates. You should make a trip to try them. Don't mind the dirt roads, they are well graded
Theunis de Jongh was in the International Steel market until his "retirement" took him to wine and charcuterie, which keeps him very busy and happy
We were treated to a plate of his excellent charcuterie for lunch. Different cuts of the pig produce such different results and there were local cheeses, chutneys and relishes and good warm bread. We were quite overwhelmed by their superb hospitality. His prosciutto is the best we have tasted outside of Prosciutto di Parma in Italy, soft and sweet and delicious. The fat on his meats just melts in the mouth and the variations of textures and flavours are great. We get the feeling that Theunis only does things one way, the perfect way
The happy family entertaining us so well
And, in a lavender bush, a nest of tiny Cape Wagtails waiting for their mother. The day was so hot that the lavender was watered to cool them down and the mother reappeared to feed them. Thank you so much, family de Jongh. We really appreciate your warmth, hospitality and friendliness
Beautiful views over the vines at Kranskop, where we went next. You can see the heat shimmer
Lynne trying to cope with the heat while chatting to Newald Marais on the deck over the tasting room. It was in the high 30s
Much better inside the cool tank cellar.  Newald, who is both Cellarmaster and Viticulturist on his family farm, was at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery for many years and, ultimately, at Nederburg, where he succeeded Günter Brözel as cellarmaster
Newald took tasting to a new level. We began at 3 and left at nearly 9 pm. We did the full range, some tank tastings and then from the barrels. We have to assure you that we do spit, especially the driver, John. The Chenin Blanc 2017 is dusty with summer fruit and apricots on the nose, full of golden fruit on the palate, crisp acidity of quince, a classic Chenin. It will age beautifully. The grapes came from 30 year old vines. The 2018 Chenin has quince, is shy with buttery brioche and thyme on the nose, lovely on the palate, zingy, full and rich with greengage and nectarine. The Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is a classic green Robertson sauvignon, full of pyrazines, crisp lime and gooseberry with lovely long layered flavours. We were able to taste the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, a classic green pepper and smoke nose; soft, sweet and full of sunshine, with lime and asparagus and rich on the palate, intense long flavours, the perfect food wine. The 2017 Viognier is rich, full of golden and white ripe peaches with hints of fennel seed. Crisp intense, not overly sweet or sickly, more golden peach and quince fruit with white plums and nectarines. The 2017 Chardonnay has perfume, peaches and a golden oak nose. Soft with limes in the dry French style with oak and peach roundness. The 2018 has more wood, more fruit, more of everything; some marmalade, 3500 bottles and we predict will win awards
Newald is passionate about his wines and has lots of experience. We talked wine industry while we tasted and had a lovely afternoon with him. He has not bottled all his 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and we were able to taste a tank sample of this. It is herbal and vegetal; it has the same background as that in bottle, but is spending longer on the lees and that adds more and more quality. And the tank sample of the Viognier has so much perfume that you could wear it. It is intense, with ripe peaches, nectarines and lots of deliciousness. The 2018 Rosé made from Petite Sirah and Viognier is perfumed with raspberries and strawberries, and while the colour is a classic pink, there are dark berry fruit flavours on the palate; more a red wine than Rosé
The 2013 Pinot Noir is fruit forward with dark red berries and raspberries on the nose, cherry, berry, long fruit flavours backed by wood; concentrated and dark, very enjoyable with more raspberry on the end. The 2016 has lovely fruit and incense wood. Nice fruit and cola flavours with liquorice wood in the mid palate, some salt, then dark toast umami flavours. The 2017 has savoury marmite, then fruit, spice and perfume on the nose. Good fruit, plums, minerality and soft wood on the palate. The 2016 Merlot is very good with a pretty nose of lovely fruit and perfume. Sweet fruit, warm alcohol; no greenness at all. Perfume on the back palate, a lovely follow through with long fruit flavours
The 2016 Shiraz is spicy and fruity on the nose; clean, quite dry with chalky tannins, juicy and savoury, needs time. The 2015 Cabernet, to which Tim Atkin gave 91 points, is full of cassis fruit and leaves and violet perfume; very deep, an excellent nose. It is very French in style with good wood and cassis, with some forest floor, a knock out wine. On the palate, beautiful fruit with long flavours, blackberry, cassis and violets, with some nuttiness. Then, something rarely found and quite different, a Tannat. The 2016 earned a double gold at Vitis Vinifera. Dark, almost black red, a savoury nose with wood, sesame and linseed notes, the fruit comes afterwards on the nose. Dark red fruit, warm alcohol, mulberry, with long flavours and shy wood on the palate with tannins. The 2017 Tannat has more perfume, greener on the nose and some savouriness. Lovely fruit and warm alcohol (14.6%) with notes of green cassis leaves, blackberries, elderberries long flavours and tight tannins. What a wonderful tasting. Thank you so much  Newald, we can’t properly express how much we enjoyed our session with you. You were very generous with your time, your knowledge and your wine
We drove back to our cottage on Bushmanspad for a late supper and woke to find that the heat had broken. We had lots of wonderful rain in the night and the temperature was down to 15 degrees
Such a relief
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