Thursday, January 30, 2020

Oldenburg Vineyards and wines

Harvest will soon start at Oldenburg wine estate in the beautiful Banhoek valley and we were invited to do a vineyard tour and tasting with General Manager and winemaker Nick van Aarde this week. We were warmly welcomed by Nick and by Managing Director Judi Dyer and Marthélize Tredoux, the Direct Sales Manager

This is the tasting room, with marvellous views
It is one of those tranquil places where you can sit and stare at the beautiful vistas for hours
The farm is owned by Adrian and Vanessa Van der Spuy
The Banhoek Valley (pronounced “bun hook” and meaning “scary corner” due to leopards roaming around in times past) is about 8 km from Stellenbosch, just on the other side of the Helshoogte Pass. This mountain 'valley' is quite high up in the mountains and very cool for the area. The mountain amphitheatre that creates this corner of the Banghoek, means that Oldenburg is situated in a hanging valley, between 300m and 410m above sea level. It gets the cooling effect of the south-east wind, and has mineral-rich soils. At the centre of the valley is Rondekop, the hill on which most of Oldenburg’s best vineyards are planted, seen in this picture. The farm has approximately thirty hectares of vineyards, They do sometimes get snow on the high mountains in the winter and good rainfall
Up through the vineyards in Nick's handy Polaris Ranger, a powerful “golf cart on steroids”
for travelling up hill and down dale on dirt tracks
The Merlot grapes hang heavy, but will not be ready for picking for a week or three
Chardonnay and Chenin grapes are grown on the more alluvial soil at the bottom of the farm near the river,
which is usually dry in the summer, but they have planted some high on the hill, so get more complexity of flavour
They do not have a dam and use their allocation of water from Theewaterskloof dam, and river water in the winter
New planting of Chenin Blanc using the Stok by Paaltjie method
Known in France as the Echalas method, also known as ‘staked vines’,
this system of growing vines is mostly used in the wine producing regions of Côte-Rôtie in France,
Priorat in Spain and Mösel in Germany
And the new Chardonnay vineyard on Rondekop
The bush vines did get a bit of a hammering from the recent South Easter gales in the Cape, but the grapes have survived
Nick usually lets the canopy hang heavy until just before harvest, when it is opened up to let in more sun
The wind did him a favour by stripping off a lot of the canopy leaves
A winemaker happily surveying his grapes
We were able to taste the Grenache and the Shiraz berries and were very impressed
It has been a long, slow growing year and they have enough water, so the grapes are very good
Back into the Polaris and time to get back to the tasting room to try the wines
Down a steep farm track, which would make a very good ski run, back to the Tasting Room
Looking through the vine at the Tasting Room which also has a great view of the Drakenstein mountain behind it
Into the cellar. They used to make wine using other farms' equipment, but now have their own very efficient modern wine cellar
These tall tanks are double, they can take red wine on the top and white below, a very efficient use of space
Lots of cleaning of tanks takes place just before the harvest. Everything must be spotless
Chatting to one of the workers, who is small enough to get into the tanks to clean them
Nick has a couple of Foudres, one here and one in the barrel cellar
The other one stands next to a fermentation egg
He likes to use good French oak which aids the wine but does not overwhelm it 
We tasted some of the 2019 from the barrel. First the Grenache which is 1/3 whole berry fermented. Raisin and berries with wood on the shy nose. Soft, silky then dry chalky tannins, then good raspberry and mulberry fruit appears and the wine has a good fruit acid balance. The fruit continues well on the end. It spent 11 months in old oak. Will be excellent
The 2019 Merlot, which has low alcohol, has a classic cherry nose, a hint of wood and violets, It is crisp dry and intense, with some herbal notes. It needs and will get time. Perfumed
Nic was previously winemaker at Warwick where he won accolades and much respect. He has both a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture (Oenology and Viticulture) and a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Stellenbosch University - very useful in our industry to have both! We tasted the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon out of barrel. A classic cassis Cabernet nose, some cassis leaves, incense wood. Grippy chalky tannins are what one expects on one's palate with young Cabernet. Good dark berry fruit, lots of balancing fruit acids, green leaves and wood. And on the end palate it is warm and spicy. Seems to have everything going for it to produce a long lasting Cabernet. One to watch. The 2019 Cabernet Franc had that wildness and savoury umami that one expects, mulberry and raspberry fruit with some nice toasted marshmallow wood. Beautiful raspberry fruit on the palate, stony minerality, toasted wood, reminds one of Pinot Noir at the moment. Long flavours, with chalk on the end and then wood
They have this old Mercedes truck on the farm and would love to sell it
Anyone need parts, or a restoration project?
Notebook comes out, wines on their way
This is the Tasting Room Price List, which we followed with a few additions
The white Blend known as <CL° contains 75% Chenin, 25% Chardonnay and has 14% alcohol
Dusty nose of chenin, grapey, crisp first then fruity, with passion fruit, guava and gooseberry, a good mouthfeel, round and full
Lots of flavour and a hint of the 20% old barrels used on the end
The interesting back label. R5 from each bottle sold goes to a local Childcare centre
A close look at the back label tells the story of the name. CL is the Stellenbosch car number plate
The 2019 Chenin Blanc has gone through natural fermentation in 20% new oak
Complex fruit on the nose, orange, ripe spanspek melon, granadilla and loquats
A sunny wine with a great balance of fruit and freshness. It appears almost slightly aged in character
The 2019 Chardonnay has 33% new oak, and was whole bunch pressed, naturally fermented
No malolactic fermentation was allowed
A sophisticated style on the nose, warm fruit, bruléed toffee notes from the wood
Great restraint on the palate with lots of layers of lemon then tangerine peel then butterscotch
A great Chardonnay which ends with a hint of buttered toast. R180
There were only 700 bottles made of the 2019 Viognier
Richness of ripe apricot rather than peach, some fynbos notes, and perfume on the end of the nose
It starts gently on the palate, then opens and opens with apricot and buttery oak which fill the mouth
There is nice minerality on the end and a hint of fennel salad
Fermented in two old barrels. A pity there is so little of this lovely wine
On to the reds. We began with the 2018 <CL° Red Blend
52% Syrah, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon,19% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
The wine has 20% new oak. Incense and berries on the nose, dark berries and dark new oak on the finish
An interesting blend and a good quaffing wine
Five barrels were made of the 2018 Grenache Noir
It is wild and free on the nose, ripe red berries with a hint of spice. Clean berry fruit on the palate, a lighter style
The 2016 Syrah has incense wood, salty minerality and is a bit shy on the nose
On the palate however, rich ripe fruit, good spice on the end with a hint of wood
Drinking very well, fruit clean and enjoyable
The 2016 Merlot has complexity, spice and wood. Rich & full and many layered! Cherry and mulberry fruit seduce
We were much envied by the staff at Oldenburg because we were the first to taste this wine, it is just being released. The 2017 Stone Axe Syrah was served in a special Austrian Zoltas glass. It is a barrel selection from the best Shiraz grapes. Matured in 300 litre oak barrels for 20 months; they used 50% new oak and 50% 2nd fill barrels. Incense wood, lots of elegance and minerality, spice, pepper, warm berry fruit and even some umami meatiness. Chalky tannins, mulberry fruit then some cherry and rhubarb, with good wood supporting. It needs 10 years or more and will last and last. An interesting fact: 80% of this wine is sold from the tasting room
Several stone axes have been found on Rondekop itself. These stone axes are on display in the tasting room
They are from an early Stone Age habitation on Rondekop, estimated to be at least 100,000 years old
The 2016 Rhodium blend is a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec 10% Petit Verdot 
A right bank Bordeaux in style. Rich concentrated fruit, cassis and cherry and good wood on the nose. 
It is weighty on the palate, a good use of good fruit, soft chalky tannins on the end. It will be available in March
Looking up to Rondekop you can see some bare patches in the vineyards
This is where the replacement of some vines is taking place. They are filling the gaps with new vines
Marthélize Tredoux is Oldenburg’s Direct Sales Manager, saying goodbye. Thank you all at Oldenburg
We had a superb day at Oldenburg and at 2.30 headed off into Stellenbosch for some lunch
Not much was open, so we ended up in a restaurant that has been there for many years, Decameron on Plein Street,
which serves Italian food. It is where parents take students for lunch, the offspring can’t afford to eat there
We sat on the terrace where this beautiful vine covers the wall
While we waited for our food, they brought us a complimentary small slice of a melanzane slice each. Delicious
John had a Quattro Stagione pizza
Lynne ordered what she thought would be a simple and light carbonara spaghetti
Wow, we think there were about 400 grams of cheese stirred into the egg sauce. Good bacon, but incredibly rich and heavy
Our bill for the 2 courses came to R310 with no beverages and with service
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