Friday, October 11, 2019

A full day with Piekenierskloof Wines

An invitation which was hard to refuse, to visit Piekenierskloof Wines. Their offer of transport was gratefully accepted. We were collected at 7 am as it is quite a distance up the N7, past Malmesbury and Piketberg in the direction of Clanwilliam. Then it was off to Canal Walk to pick up more media guests
Where does the name come from? Way back when the Cape was being settled by the Dutch in the 17th Century, as an ever-expanding colony, the Dutch deployed their Piekeniers (Pikemen) soldiers along the rocky kloof (ravine) range, ensuring safe passage for all travellers
Because we left so early and the trip was long, they had very kindly prepared a breakfast box for each of us. It contained a lovely breakfast filo pie with bacon, spinach, olives, sun dried tomatoes and feta, a spicy apple bran muffin, a dried fruit compote in a jar with masala chai spices, creamy yoghurt and granola. And a bottle of very berry Rooibos tea and a bottle of water. So thoughtful and so appreciated
We arrived at 10.30 and briefly visited Kardoesie Shop and restaurant at the top of the pass for what the Americans call a comfort stop
And then down the road to the vineyards to meet the entire Van Zyl family, who own and run both Piekenierskloof Wines and Carmien Rooibos Tea. The farm is 750 meters above sea level on a Plateau with fantastic views. Brothers Potgieter and Oubaas van Zyl run Bergendal (Hill and vale) and Heidedal (Valley of Ericas) farms with their old vines, orchards and citrus groves. We were all given a very warm welcome from Oubaas van Zyl and his wife Hannalise. We met in their famous old bush vine Chenin blanc vineyard, planted by their father in 1962. (Oubaas is indeed his name, he explained; it is a common name up in this area, it is not a title or a nickname. It means old boss in Afrikaans.)
And a welcoming glass of the excellent Bergendal 2018 Chenin Blanc as we were standing in that vineyard. One third of it spends 9 months in barrel, it has floral notes of pear blossom and apple on the complex nose, has a hint of oak and is intense in flavour, with good fruit, pears, melon and citrus, with a touch of vanilla oak on the end, so well balanced fruit and acidity, beautifully crafted and so enjoyable It is our Wine of the Week. These are the new labels for the wines
The idea was that we would drink a glass of each of the wines in their vineyard
Well, all except the Samson Straw wine which we would taste with dessert later in the afternoon
A very unusual and beautiful leucodendron that is covered in soft grey flocking
The vines were planted directly into the soil, no root stock was used. It is believed that the sandy soil somehow makes them impervious to Phylloxera, a small mite that kills vines and nearly ruined the world wine industry in the late 1800s. The vines struggle, but continue to produce superb grapes after 55 years. They are unirrigated and grow in sandy loam soil. The area has cool nights and long sunny days. The wines are made using natural wine making practices
Oubaas told us the story of how his grandfather, Johan Abraham van Zyl, one of the pioneering farmers of Piekenierskloof, was convinced that fruit would have a future on the wild untamed land which they had to tame and turn into agricultural land; a huge effort and this has proved correct. He bought up several farms, combined them and now they run one of the largest farms in the area
The first grapes were Chenin Blanc, Grenache Noir and Cinsault
The media group listening to the story of Piekenierskloof
The views high up in the kloof are magnificent
Then it was back on the bus for a journey down the hill to see the other vineyards
The two brothers Potgieter and Oubaas and their sister Mienkie, who is the MD of Carmien Tea
We were accompanied by their valued farm workers
In the distance, you can see stone fruit and citrus orchards and rooibos plantations
Jaco van Niekerk is the newest General Manager and Winemaker at Piekenierskloof Winery. He is a qualified winemaker and viticulturist with a BSc from Stellenbosch University. He has extensive international and local experience of working with wine; he told us all about the wines and how they make them with as little interference as possible
Bush vines so old and gnarled they almost look like trees, but they are still producing very good grapes. We also saw the Cinsault vineyard and tasted the 2018 Heidedal Cinsault. So pretty on the nose, rather reminiscent of Pinot Noir with ripe berries cherries, and on the palate good acidity of morello cherries and blue plums, so enjoyable. One of the very drinkable modern style Cinsaults
Healthy shoots with flowers about to bloom
In the distance, the Cederberg mountains
Three hectares of old bush vine Grenache Noir
Jaco and his wife Cerina poured us a taste of the Grenache Noir. It has ripe plums on the nose, and is deep and dark on the palate with pomegranate and plum flavours that refresh and excite. It is a well balanced food wine. She is expecting their first child, a son, in late November, so she didn't taste with us
And we see the Muscat de Frontignan vineyard, just three rows that produce the sweet grapes that are dried on straw to concentrate the sugars and make the excellent dessert wine, Samson Straw Wine. Samson was a strong, loyal and solid local man who worked the land alongside the van Zyls' father, turning wild untamed bush into productive vineyards and orchards. He earned so much respect from the family that they named this wine after him
Jaco told us abut dry land farming, the yields from the bush vines and his philosophy of making the wine
Travelling in the back of the 4x4 bakkie with a glass of wine and a good view
The Grenache vines are 46 years old
Almost in the shape of a tree
These tiny florescences will be grapes by December
They grow citrus as well as grapes. These are younger trellised grape vines
Back to the farm and time for Virginia Waterboer to pour us a taste of the 2018 Rosé made from Grenache
What a beautiful salmon pink colour it has, almost fluorescent in the glass; it glows
It has candy floss on the nose, but is dry, crisp and fruity on the palate, full of ripe plums
The fresh air gives one quite an appetite and the chickpea flat breads and sweet potato humus
topped with sumac, paprika, green olives, raisins and spekboom salsa were very welcome
The 2019 Six Hats Sauvignon Blanc is incredible, possibly the greenest Sauvignon we have ever tasted,
full of intense green peppers, peas and asparagus flavours, as if they were all whipped up in a Nutribullet
The Piekenierskloof 2018 Chenin Blanc is unwooded. It has a classic Chenin nose, grassy, dusty with notes of apricot and pear. Full on the palate with long flavours of stone fruit and pineapple, very well balanced
The food was prepared by Carmen Niehaus, twin sister of Mienkie van Zyl
She has been the food editor for Huisgenoot and YOU magazines since 1989 and is very well respected in food circles
She read us the menu
The neck label we tell our overseas friends to look for. If a South African wine you buy does not have this label,
it has not been made, bottled and certified in South Africa by the Wine and Spirit Board
This special label is only affixed to wines made from certified heritage vines
The menu
Rosa Kruger is an eminent viticulturist and is very involved in the Old Vine Project, which finds, lists and helps to protect our oldest vineyards, which are our heritage grapes. She spoke about the project and the vines and said that global warming has sharpened minds. People are planting higher and cooler, against the slops, using new warmer climate varietals. The new varietals do not struggle with acid like Sauvignon Blanc does; they have it naturally, so we will see Grenache and Assyrtiko planted much more. We have lots of texture with old vineyards; vines which were planted after the South African War 118 years ago. We need better winemakers like Jaco, who is one of the nicest to work with. We need leaf roll virus free varietals and we need to train labour to care for the vines, the best ways of pruning and tending old vines. This has made a huge difference. This is one of the most exciting areas in the country, high dry land, suited better to some varietals than others. Stand together to protect this area with your life
A salad of broccoli and cauliflower topped with ginger cream cheese balls rolled in nuts and sunflower seeds,
with pickled red onion. Served with the Bergendal Chenin Blanc
Oven baked Pumpkin bowl filled with oven roasted vegetables, sorghum cooked in green rooibos, dried peaches and apricots with lemon, mint and coriander oil. Served with the Heidedal Cinsault
Crushed potatoes oven roasted with garlic, sea salt and topped with grated lemon rind, olive oil and wild rocket. We also had a dish of chicken, marinated and roasted in the Bergendal Chenin, green rooibos, honeybush tea, olive oil and garlic, accompanied by cooked prunes, green olives and capers and topped with fresh coriander
Slow cooked Middle Eastern leg of Lamb, so tender and very flavourful. Accompanied by herb Tzatziki
Served with the Carel van Zyl Grenache
The wonderful aroma of the orange blossom next to the venue was so reminiscent of our stay in Seville last year
Then it was time to board the bakkies and 4x4s for a trip to the top of the hill. There we enjoyed a bottle or two of the new Rosé MCC. Not ready yet to be degorged, Jaco just brought a couple of bottles so that we could taste it. Still a bit cloudy, we suspect this is going to be a winner, lots of fruit flavour and some class. Taking off the crown cap made quite a bang
Pouring tastings
And topping another bottle
A good mousse!
Everybody is happy
Up the hill we go, higher and higher
Those brave enough for the Bakkie
and, at the top, you come to the cliff edge and get this fantastic view of the valley, full of ripening wheat fields,
looking back towards Piketberg, Malmesbury and, apparently, on a clear day you can see Table Mountain
The hillside is covered in proteas
and this was not good for those with vertigo as the road goes alarmingly close to the edge and up we went, further and further
To a boma, where we were treated to dessert and some of the Samson straw wine made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes,
aka Muscadel. It is raisin sweet with good acidity and goes very well with desserts. Residual sugar 191 gm/litre
Dessert was mini carrot cakes with cream cheese icing, and Eton mess with lemon curd in jars
A survivor, a local pelargonium clinging on to a wind-blown ancient rock
The family all together in one shot, Thank you van Zyl family for being so hospitable and kind
and for sharing your piece of paradise, Piekenierskloof, with us. We so enjoyed our special day with you
All content ©  John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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