South Africa: Day 1 in Stellenbosch

By John ~ February 24th, 2009.

20090224_kanonkopharvestOn our first day in Stellenbosch, our first wine farm stop was at Hartenberg Wine Estate established in 1692. The tasting room hostess was nice, but she was juggling our tasting with a phone call about a doctor’s appointment. We tasted four wines at Hartenberg, and while all of them were decent wines, none of them really rang our bell.

From Hartenberg we went to L’Avenir which was probably the most disappointing stop of the day. We tasted six wines at L’Avenir and found nothing that really excited us. Again, the setting was beautiful with a very nice tasting room.

Things picked up when we reached the Warwick Estate at our third stop.  We tasted six wines in a very pleasant atmosphere due primarily to the friendliness of the tasting room hostess. Two of the six wines that we tasted at Warwick were among the best that we’ve had on the trip so far, the Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc and the Trilogy, a Bordeaux blend.  Another fun experience at Warwick was LaGayle and I tasting wine simultaneously out of a silver wedding cup. The wedding cup is a two-part pure silver vessel held by the groom. As he raises the cup, a second smaller vessel comes out for the bride to drink as well. She doesn’t touch it except with her lips. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

20090224_weddingcupThe next stop was at Kanonkop Wine Estate. It was another beautiful wine venue and tasting room, and they had their own art gallery; however, we only found one of the four wines that we tasted to be really excellent. They were in the middle of harvest which was interesting to watch and compare with operations in the U.S.

Our final stop of the day was at Stellekaya, a winery in an industrial park in the city of Stellenbosch. The two hostesses were very nice; with one exception, we found the six wines we tasted to be decent but not great.

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 1 in Stellenbosch:

Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
2008 Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc, R85, QPR: 5 [Wine Exchange (California), $14.99]

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2005 Kanonkop Paul Sauer, R230, QPR: 5 [Star Wine (New York), $32.99 for 2003 vintage]
2006 Warwick Trilogy, R180, QPR: NC

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Warwick First Lady Cab, R70, QPR: NC
2004 Stellekaya Merlot, R73.50, QPR: NC
2005 Stellekaya Shiraz, R73.50, QPR: NC
2005 Hartenberg Shiraz, R104, QPR: NC
2008 Warwick Chardonnay, R135, QPR: NC
2005 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon, R160, QPR: NC
2004 Hartenberg The Mackenzie Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, R 290, QPR: NC

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2004 Stellekaya Boschetto, R40, QPR: NC
2008 Hartenberg Sauvignon Blanc, R56.50, QPR: NC
2004 Stellekaya Cape Cross, R80, QPR: NC
2005 Stellekaya Cabernet Sauvignon, R85, QPR: NC
2005 Hartenberg Cabernet Sauvignon, R89.50, QPR: NC
2005 Warwick Three Cape Ladies, R110, QPR: NC
2007 Kanonkop Kadette, R115, QPR: NC
2007 L’Avenir Pinotage, R120, QPR: NC
2006 L’Avenir Grand Vin Pinotage, R250, QPR: NC

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2006 Stellekaya Hercules, R73.50, QPR: NR
2006 L’Avenir Cabernet Sauvignon, R85, QPR: NR
2006 L’Avenir Cabernet Franc, R85, QPR: NR
2007 Warwick Old Bush Vines Pinotage, R90, QPR: NR
2005 Kanonkop Pinotage, R150, QPR: NR

Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2008 L’Avenir Chenin Blanc, R37, QPR: NR
2007 L’Avenir Sauvignon Blanc, R40, QPR: NR

Filed under: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Lesser Known Varietals, Merlot, Red Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, South African Wine, 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

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