Monday, February 04, 2019

Hemel en Aarde Valley Pinot Noir Celebration Part Two. Lunch and old vintage tasting

We arrived back on Nidderdale Farm for a tasting of older vintage wines from the valley, presented by their winemakers. Guests Jan "Boland" Coetzee, Remington Norman and Roland Peens joined us for the tasting, which was accompanied by a two course meal cooked by Chef Craig Cormack of Goose Roasters and he heads Salt restaurant on Paul Cluver Estate in Elgin. Craig is a very good chef and he had paired the food with the wines we would taste, some older Hemel and Aarde Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. This was a very exciting tasting and lunch
Some of the wines we were to taste. Each table had the same selection and we could request which wine we wanted from the servers on our table, so it was a random on-demand tasting for everyone. We must comment that all the serving staff were superb and so well versed in pouring wine and fulfilling requests
We started with a 2015 Ave Maria Chardonnay from Restless River which has a forest floor mushroom nose; it’s earthy and full of minerality, crisp and full with long limes and lemons and some chalky tannins. And then, their Le Luc 2016 Pinot Noir with similar forest floor mushroom notes and full of red currants and mulberries
We also tasted from Craig and Anne Wessels' 2012 Restless River triple magnum of Chardonnay with incense on the nose, rich and full aromas, round and warm on the palate with cooked apples and pears, warm and spicy and a long aftertaste of lemon juice and zest and grapefruit wood
Then the double magnum of Newton Johnson 2012 Chardonnay with hints of herbs and savouriness
Lots of lemon and lime, but almost approaching malolactic. Grapefruit and lemon zest and wood on the end
Craig told us about the very old soils in the valley. The most ancient is Cape Granite, topped with Malmesbury shale, Table Mountain sandstone, then Bokkeveld shale and then, on top, the sandstone from the collision with Patagonia, which had previously separated and then came back. The different appellations have different soils, so they split them into three wards. The District of Walker bay was founded in 2004. in 2006, Hemel and Aarde and in 2009, the three appellations were declared. Production is currently 15,000 cases and there is huge potential. Currently two big producers are looking at the valley. There is evidence of long human habitation by the Khoisan in the area. And a Portuguese cross was found chiselled into a stone at the top of a hill on Hamilton Russell. Currently there are 22 producers making wine in the area and it is too expensive an area to farm to make cheap wine
Wendy Appelbaum chatting with Michael Fridjhon
Next we tasted the Bosman Family Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay from the Upper Valley. Perfumed with peaches and nectarines, and rather French in character. Full of limes and citrus, a very beautiful expression of South African chardonnay, some soft chalk, good texture and even some tension with warmth at the end. The Ataraxia Pinot Noir 2015 has red fruit and forest floor and was so good with the mushroom dish served as the starter. Soft and silky full of elegance, with lovely fruit and wood notes. It ass gentle but firm with the rich mushrooms
Craig with Anthony Hamilton Russell. The Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2016 is perfumed with berries and whiffs of wood smoke then dark toast. Warm and heady, with dark fruit, a more serious wine, with some spice on the end
Anthony spoke about how his father Tim Hamilton Russell founded the farm in 1975
and began to plant grapes in an area others thought unsuitable. It has been a huge success
Pouring Newton Johnson 2012 Chardonnay. They also had a magnum of 2014, but that went very quickly
First came the bread course of Crusty Pinot rolls with salted butter bon bons to stave off hunger pangs
There were six tables of 32, this is Table One, where we sat
Craig took the Chardonnay to as many people as possible
Michael Fridjhon in conversation with Sharon Parnell of Domaine de Dieux
Anthony Hamilton Russell
Roland Peens of the Wine Cellar said "Our wines are winning points world wide and are being appreciated. The conclusion is that we are exciting, but we are too cheap and we don't produce enough to get us firmly on the world market or onto overseas wine lists. This valley is restricted in space, so we have to up prices big time and sell it all abroad". (There were some loud groans of protest from many of the attendees). "It has to happen", he said, "the South African market won't spend big"
Kevin Grant in conversation with Adi Badenhorst
And now a word from Jan “Boland” Coetzee on "What is Pinot Noir" and its beauty. He is passionate about the grape and has years of experience growing it here and abroad, He has done harvests abroad for many years and now mentors local winemakers
The two Chefs from The Goose Roasters, Beau du Toit and Craig Cormack
The wine and lunch menu
Crisp rice arancini balls, seared cauliflower, cauliflower salad, grilled king oyster mushrooms, pickled shimeji mushrooms, a mushroom purée, truffle oil and chives. The mushrooms were magnificent, especially with the Pinot Noirs
John was given a really nice plate of fried gnocchi and grilled butternut with the cauliflower and shaved and grated cheese
The main course was undoubtedly the best dish of the entire Celebration. A classic Coq au Vin, made with stuffed ballotine of chicken, seared baby onions, a sweet onion purée, confit garlic, carrots, leeks, grilled mushrooms, crispy pancetta and even baby beets. The chicken was tender, the flavour of the sage in the stuffing complimented the dish and, as for the Pinot noir red wine jus, people were talking about it for hours afterwards. All we needed for this was more of that Pinot bread to soak up the wonderful jus. Wow
Through a Pinot glass lightly, at our table setting after lunch. We really appreciated this event
The wines and food were very, very good. Pinot and Chardonnay do improve with age
And their value increases, so they are a good investment if you can properly cellar them

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