Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tasting wines in the Eagle's Nest, Constantia

A green and peaceful Eyrie. We visited Eagle’s Nest in Constantia this week on a beautiful summer morning. It is high on the Constantiaberg, next door to Constantia Glen on the way up to Constantia Nek. We had not been for a few years and, in the interim, talented wine maker Stuart Botha has departed for Tokara and Duran Cornhill has taken over as winemaker. A graduate of Stellenbosch University, he has worked at top international producers in Bordeaux and New Zealand. Duran started his career in the valley as the assistant winemaker of Klein Constantia, This will be his third vintage at  Eagle’s Nest and his wines are now for sale in retail outlets and in the tasting room. We were impressed. Martin Meinert has been consulting since 2001

The farm has been owned since 1984 by the Mylrea family. In 2000 the farm suffered a devastating forest fire and they lost all of the natural fynbos vegetation and protea plantings, as well as approximately 95% of their forest. They then decided to plant grapes and focus on wine. They have also invested in extensive replanting of the natural fynbos. They have very steep East, West and North facing slopes and it is the steepest commercially farmed land in the Cape region, if not in all of South Africa. Constantia is only 10.5 km from the coast and benefits so much from the sea breezes which help to cool the vineyards, and allow for slow, steady growth and ripening
We sat on the shaded terrace, just outside of the tasting room, and had a lovely view of tall, tall trees above us, with the wind whispering through them, beautiful birdsong, and it was rather Zen, so peaceful and green. They have much more seating than when we last visited and room for many people, who come and picnic on the lawn as well. They do platters and you can see the menu hereSadly, they don’t give prices, so you will have to phone the farm. Also, they say PLEASE NOTE ALL PLATTERS & EXTRAS NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY  EAGLE’S' NEST WINES, naturally. Wine tastings cost R75 per person

Some specials on the black board
A view of the garden and the shaded seating with the pine trees behind
The view from the garden of the tasting room and terrace
The singing pines. If you are a birder, this is a place to visit. We think that we saw an eagle and we heard unfamiliar birdsong (to us!) which the staff could not identify either. They are very involved in the preservation of the rare Verreaux's eagle on the adjacent Table Mountain National Park
A woman of many talents and lots of knowledge of the  Eagle’s Nest wines; Shirley Vephile was charming and guided us seamlessly through our tasting of their five current wines. She managed to answer all our difficult questions. Sadly, the winemaker was not available to talk to us; we were told that he was harvesting. The harvest has begun in Constantia, as we discovered when we visited Buitenverwachting and tasted with cellarmaster Brad Paton last week. We shared a tasting, as we'd come to taste, not to drink!
The current wine list, with prices. They do sell the wines by the glass for enjoyment on the farm
Three of the wines are available in Magnums (double bottles) always useful for dinner parties or celebrations
We began with the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc. Eagle’s Nest does not grow Sauvignon Blanc, unlike many Constantia farms. It is one of the iconic Constantia varietals. The grapes are bought in from Darling and Durbanville and show all those great regional characteristics. Grassy green pepper pyrazines, a hint of salty minerality, floral with granadilla and guava notes on the nose. Smooth & warm on the palate with lots of granadilla and pineapple flavours, a good sugar acid balance too. Unwooded, the wine ends with good green pepper flavours. R115
We were very impressed with the 2018 Viognier; it is right up there with some of the very best in South Africa. Not heady and blousy, as some are, but elegant and refined with the perfume of jasmine, nectarine and apple. Lovely rounded palate, with lots of white peach and nectarine in layers. It has spent 6 months in older French oak barrels which have left just a hint on the end palate. Quite a sexy wine. R185. This is a 4.5 star wine in the Platter Guide
The 2017 Little Eagle Red is a blend of 75% Shiraz and 25% Cabernet Franc. We were told that it is their entry level red. It used to be a Bordeaux Blend, but Duran has changed to this warmer blend. Rich and complex on the nose, with spice, pepper and meaty notes. Soft on the palate initially with salty licorice and spice, then chalky tannins appear. Long, rich berry flavours and warm at 14% alcohol. While it is still quite young, this wine has all the components to develop into something very interesting. So it might be worth putting some away for drinking in three or four years. There is a hint of wood on the end. Good value at R125
The 2015 Merlot has had 8% Cabernet Franc added to it. It spends 18 months in French oak barrels; 40% new, the rest in second and third fill. Classic cherry merlot with incense wood on the nose. Richness, berry fruit and spicy wood and then the cherries arrive, filling one’s palate with deliciousness! It still has good acidity and needs some time to open up; decanting will be useful. Balsam, herbs, especially thyme, and chalk on the end palate. R185. This is a 4.5 star wine in the current Platter Guide
The final wine was the 2015 Shiraz, priced at R285. When it was launched, it was the first screw-topped wine we sold at more than R100 per bottle, but that was 15 years ago. Spice and dark Morello cherries on the nose, then in come blackcurrant, blueberries and a savoury hint of smoky bacon from the wood - the wine spends 20 months in 40% new French oak. Round, with intense fruit on the palate, it shows better on the palate than on the nose. Juicy berry fruit, licorice, black pepper, turmeric, dark oak and some salty minerality, with white pepper appearing on the end. This is deservedly a 4.5 star wine in the Platter Guide and was one of the Top 12 SA Shirazes in competition
Thank you Eagle’s Nest and, especially, Shirley Vephile who gave us such kind hospitality and attention
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All content ©  John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

1 comment:

Izak said...

Its a shame that the Shiraz, Merlot and Viognier only received 4.5 stars in Platter as the SA Wine Index have all three depicted as the best in their respected categories with perfect scores.