By John ~ March 3rd, 2009.
When we awakened for this day in the winelands and opened our drapes to the deck, smoke from the mountains was quite thick. The view was just a haze. We later learned that here had been six fires which we thought was significant until we learned that there were 95 fires one day the previous week. This seems to be a common occurrence this time of year in the heat of the summer.
After breakfast we headed out for our first wine farm stop of the day at Vergelegen. Vergelegen is a beautiful estate of some 7,400 acres that was established in 1700. It seems to have a great reputation in South Africa; however, we felt like it was an ambiance tour and not a real wine tasting experience. There was no commentary provided on the wines, the staff really could not answer basic questions, and the wine did not live up to its billing. Also, not only did Vergelegen have a tasting fee, we had to also pay a fee to get in the gate to even get to the tasting room. Out of ten wines that we tasted at Vergelegen, none of them really blew us away.
Stop number two was at Eikendal, a wine farm established in 1981. Once again, it was a very nice tasting room setting and the hostess was very pleasant but, quite honestly, not very knowledgeable. We tasted five wines, and our favorite was their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The next stop was Ernie Els Wines, a joint venture between Jean Engelbrecht and Ernie Els, the golfer. We tasted three wines, and they were all pretty decent; although, they were fairly pricey for South African wines. The facility and tasting room were in a beautiful setting with a mountain top view overlooking the vineyards. An Ernie Els museum is also located on the site.
Stop four was for lunch at Guardian Peak Wines which is also an Engelbrecht/Els facility. The menu is set with wine pairings. It was a beautiful setting with good food, but it was extremely hot to eat outside. The wines were good but not great.
After lunch we visited Rust en Vrede, a wine farm established in 1694 that produces about 14,000 cases a year. All the wines we tasted had a rather distinctive chocolate flavor. Since we tasted four different varietals, it must be something they are doing in the winemaking. Our favorite of their wines was the Rust en Vrede Estate blend (60% Cab, 30% Shiraz, 10% Merlot).
Our fifth and final stop of the day was Waterford Estate, a rather new property established only ten years ago but one that obviously has a lot of money behind it. It is in an opulent estate setting with a distinctive courtyard and a great wine tasting venue. It almost had a Spanish feel. While the wines were decent they weren’t as good as I had been led to believe they might be. One has to really want to go to Waterford because you have to venture down a really long, dusty road before arriving at this really nice place.
Please remember from my previous posts on South African wines that because we are buying wines here at South African prices based on the rand (R), we decided that it would be misleading and of little value to our core constituency of readers in the U.S. to calculate a QPR rating unless it is a wine we can buy in the U.S. and is of good enough quality to want to buy. Therefore, for the purposes of the wine reviews on this trip, I will only calculate a QPR rating on a wine which I have given a Quality rating of 4 stars (out of 5) or higher and if I can find a U.S. vendor and price on which to base the QPR calculation. Wines that meet these criteria will be set apart from the others by bold type. Otherwise I’ll denote the QPR as Not Calculated (NC) if the Quality rating is 3 stars or higher or Not Recommended (NR) if the Quality rating is less than 3 stars.
Here’s a complete listing of the wines we tasted on Day 3 in Stellenbosch:
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2005 Eikendal Cabernet Sauvignon, R76, QPR: 5 [Southern Hemisphere Wine Center (California), $14.99 for 2002 vintage]
2004 Rust en Vrede Estate (Blend), R300, QPR: 3 [Crow Canyon Wine (California), $46.99]
2006 Cirrus (Engelbrecht/Els) Syrah/Viognier, R350, QPR: 3 [Drink the Grapes (New York), $43.99 for 2005 vintage]
2004 Ernie Els (Bordeaux Blend), R525, QPR: 2 [Planet of Wine (New York), $55.48]
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2008 Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc, R44, QPR: NC
2008 Guardian Peak Rose’, R50, QPR: NC
2007 Eikendal Noble Late Harvest, R75.50, QPR: NC
2008 Waterford Sauvignon Blanc, R85, QPR: NC
2005 Eikendal Classic, R120, QPR: NC
2006 Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz, R145, QPR: NC
2004 Rust en Vrede Shiraz, R160, QPR: NC
2006 Engelbrecht Els, R210, QPR: NC
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2004 Eikendal Shiraz, R102, QPR: NC
2005 Vergelegen Merlot, R108, QPR: NC
2006 Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon, R115, QPR: NC
2006 Vergelegen Semillon, R145, QPR: NC
2004 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon, R145, QPR: NC
2006 Guardian Peak Tannat Malbec, R150, QPR: NC
2007 Vergelegen Chardonnay Reserve, R185, QPR: NC
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Vergelegen Mill Race, R60, QPR: NR
2008 Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, R75, QPR: NR
2008 Vergelegen Chardonnay, R82, QPR: NR
2007 Rust en Vrede Merlot, R115, QPR: NR
2005 Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon, R154, QPR: NR
Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2008 Vergelegen Vin de Florence, R35, QPR: NR
2008 Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, R145, QPR: NR
2006 Vergelegen Shiraz, R172, QPR: NR
Filed under: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Merlot, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz/Syrah, South African Wine, Tannat, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25