Monday, December 11, 2006

The Vilafonte winery is almost finished.


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More footage of the amazing state of the art Vilafonte winery taking shape in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Vilafonte is South AFrica's first luxury wine brand as well as being the first ever joint-venture between South Africa and the United States.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Introducing Vilafonté Team members

Dear Team Vilafonté and friends,
It gives us pleasure to introduce two members of the Vilafonté team.
Edward Pietersen (left) has joined our team as Winegrowing Manager working directly under Phil Freese, Winegrowing partner. Edward is responsible for our babies, the vineyards, on a day-to-day basis and has a huge responsibility in this sense. He brings a level of commitment and an obsession with quality that has been embedded into his psyche by Phil. You will be hearing much more about Edward in the future. edward@vilafonte.com
Bernard Pré Le Roux (right) joined the Vilafonté winemaking team in August 2005 as Winemaker working directly under Zelma Long, our Vilafonté winemaking partner. He brings excellent experience from Hamilton Russel and Tokara and has been a huge asset to our team. His attention to detail and unwillingness to compromise are his hallmarks which are exactly what is required at Vilafonté. Watch this space! bernard@vilafonte.com
They are pictured here last week receiving the GOLD medal at the Classic Wine Trophy, the only wine competition in South Africa judged solely by French sommeliers.
Best wishes,
Mike, Zelma and Phil

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Vilafonte winery is taking shape


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The next video of the upcoming Vilafonte winery in Stellenbosch. Things are really taking shape and it is looking good!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The value of charitable auctions in brand building

The recent Wines of South Africa sponsored Trés Bonne Anneé www.tresbonneannee.org wine auction held recently in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was an enormous PR success for South African wines. The auction raised a lot of interesting points for discussion and placed the value of charity auctions firmly into the spotlight. The auction was a slick 3-day event culminating in a gala dinner which raised about R4, 000,000 for charity. The ‘ultimate luxury’ trip to South Africa including visits to South Africa’s top wineries, a gourmet dinner at Warwick Estate, a 3 day Safari at Singita and a stay and Vilafonté wine dinner at the Cape Grace raised the highest bid of the evening after 4 bidders finally capitulated at R765,000. Large format bottles of Warwick and Vilafonté easily raised R50,000.
After the recent record-breaking Cape Winemakers Guild Auction and in a year that saw a similar record tumble at the Nederburg auction – it would perhaps be appropriate to reflect on the value (or lack of value) that these events can add to the South African wine industry.
The recent press release from Nederburg announcing the intention to move the long immortalized April auction date to a more ‘appropriate’ September date in order to allow recently released white wines to be auctioned appears, at face value, to be a decision which will for the first time place the Nederburg auction in direct competition with the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction. To quote the press release; “We hope that by giving the market advance warning of our decision to move to September, they will be able to plan their budgets accordingly.” At face value, it would appear naïve to assume that annual auction buying budgets will simply be all allocated to a new time of year and that the ‘spoils’ will simply be divided between the two competing auctions. It would be prudent to ask if, in fact, the two auctions are competing. This opens a debate which would surely provoke a lot of debate. Nederburg organizers would have discussed the virtues of the change and concluded that they do not compete with the CWG auction. The CWG on the other hand, I am fairly sure, were not given the benefit of expressing an opinion as they read about this event in the news like the rest of us. So where to from here? I don’t know, but this does provide an opportunity to revert to the original question intended to be addressed by these ramblings. What value do the South African auctions add to our industry?
The traditional international wine auction circuit is spearheaded by the conventional auction houses like Sotheby’s Christies, Zachy’s, Langtons and many others of smaller yet equally impressive repute. They tend to provide a forum for the auction and trade in rare and extremely valuable wines that have become commodities in this day and age. It is only the few wineries that populate the rarefied atmosphere of the ‘unobtainable’ that have the resources, reputation and clout to build their brands in these environments. Access to these auctions is not automatic and it is invariably demand that spurns demand – a vicious cycle for a brand trying to break into this mold. Australia achieved it with Grange, Hill of Grace and a number of other wannabe’s that have been thrust on the world by an enthusiastic antipodean package holiday by Parker.
In contrast, the Americans have long used charity auctions as one of the mainstays of regional wine promotion. Cooperation with deserving charities and generous patrons that regularly raise enormous amounts of money has been a branding boon to the Californians cults that have excelled at auction. It may well be the auctions that created the cult culture .To outsiders, the charity auction provides a disconnect between value and price. This is the key. Any conventional commercial auction will generally have buyers concocting fanciful theorems around the value of the auction lot and what they are prepared to pay for it. Bidding will seldom occur for the sake of donation and buyers will inevitably conclude their vigorous negotiations based on value rather than affordability. This impasse was recently broken by the inimitable Niels Verburg when, at the 2006 CWG Ball, he auctioned ‘nothing’ for R10,000 to a group of extroverted bidders determined to make a donation to the CWG Trust. A successful lot was sold for the auction with the goals of the CWG and the bidder achieved because at no time was there a promise of value. If that auction lot of ‘nothing’ had included a bottle of a rare South African vinous gem, it would have signalled the start of auction brand building which could have a significant impact on the growth of the reputation of South African wines.
The commercial objectives of the major SA wine auctions are a material obstacle to the real benefits which could be accrued to the wine industry if they were to have a greater social objective. It would appear that the Nederburg calendar adjustment has created a void in the SA wine industry for a summer charity wine event that would have as an objective the raising of a noteworthy amount of money for a significant local charity. Our industry deserves an event that would allow patrons to dig deep as a charitable donation and which in return would reward them with a rare and unique wine lot. We could learn an enormous amount by studying events like the Napa Valley wine auction itself. A signed magnum will no longer suffice as a desirable auction lot. The value of this auctions would be best served if the number of lots was severely restricted and if wineries start competing among themselves to provide the most exotic, the rarest, the most luxurious and the most personal auction experiences for the sake of charitable donation and brand building. To quote Anne Colgin, the auctioneer at the Naples Wine Festival, the most successful wine auction in the world; “Auction lots are highly prized because they are items and experiences people can't duplicate on their own." Any takers?

Vilafonte in Disney World



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Construction starts on the new Vilafonte winery


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The work has begun on the new home for Vilafonte?Vineyards as the team move in. Foundations and infrastructure is in, walls are up and the roof is one. The reinforced floors and drainage are going in this week in anticipation of tank installation in late october. All very exciting!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The next big thing!

July is the month in which we are proud to be launching the 2004 vintage of the Vilafonte wines. Zelma and Phil are in South Africa and we will be hosting a couple of events to showcase the wines to the media, the trade and our vluable consumers. We are very proud of this vintage and feel that it accurately mirrors our efforts and the progress that we are making in our vineyards and our winemaking. The nuances of flavour and aroma that characterise the Vilafonte vineyard surface once again and the linear typicity borne from viticulturally significant winegrowing is put on a platform - astounding really and an exciting step forward. We are sure that the wines will show beautifully.
We are also proud to showcase and launch our new sideline project that we are rolling out - the Vilafonte Series C Cuban cigar is an excellent mild cigar designed as the perfect accompaniment to our full-bodied and highly structured wines. Please contact me on mike@vilafonte.com if you are interested in participating in our wine and cigar program in your establishment or would like to purchase some for your home. I will publish a tasting note of our exciting new cigar shortly. It will also be on our website soon at www.vilafonte.com

Monday, July 03, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wow - we took the GOLD on the first attempt!



We were blown away when it was announced that Vilafonte had taken the gold medal for South Africa with our maiden vintage - the 2003 'Series C' which is only now starting to open up and show it's true colours. Great news considering the strict judging criteria of the International Wine Challenge - the worlds largest and most authoritative comeptition authority. We are very proud!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wine across America Blog – Los Angeles

Today’s PODCAST from CALIFORNIA.

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Distribution in America is the key to success. Like anywhere in the
world, ‘route to market’ is always going to be the killer attribute that can
mean the difference between success and failure. Nowhere in the world is
this more apparent than in the United States where the neo-prohibitionist
hangover of federal liquor controls hangs thick in the air. Americans, it
seems, have reached an uneasy state of acceptance of this extraordinary
status quo where every facet of a wines journey to the end consumer pads
somebody’s pocket. To recapr for those who are confised by these statements.
America (generally) has a 3 tiered system of wine distribution whereby the
non-American producer cannot legally sell wine to anyone but a wine
importer. The absurdity starts when you understand that no single person or
business entity may own both a distribution and import license. What this
means is that the importer cannot sell wine to the consumer or even the
retailer/restaurateur and can only sell wine toa distributor who in turn can
also only sell wine to the trade. Technically speaking, the only place a
consumer can gain access to imported wines is through the 3rd tier of the
channel which is the retailer or restaurateur. Once you understand the
vastness of the US market, it is understandable that perhaps this system
would have evolved independently as few companies have the infrastructure
and capabilities to own and distribute nationally with efficiency. But the
system really falls down in the sense that it suppresses free market
activities and that the larger National distributors have little in the way
of competition. As a result of this and to further entrench this skewed
power balance, the larger distributors are being consolidated  at a rate
that is unprecedented and fewer distributors are controlling more of the
market. It feels sometimes that every medium-size distributor in the US is
simply waiting for the ‘big guys’ to come along and buy them out. Might I be
over-dramatising this? Maybe, but this is the feeling on the ground.
So what does this mean for South Africa? Well, for every distributor that
gets purchased, this means fewer distribution slots for South African wines
exist and fewer small producers are able to participate in what becomes a
much larger structure. The larger a distributor gets, the larger the
supplier has to become in order to become a meaningful contributor to bottom-
line. The big brands become bigger and the smaller brands get squeezed out.
The consolidation of distribution and ongoing production fragmentation
continues apace. The two trends are not compatible and we will have to win
over some serious buyers to grow South African wine in the US – usually at
the expense of another global supplier.
So where are the opportunities?
The federal and state regulators are slowly (very slowly) dismantling the
complex wine distribution laws, but a combineation of big business
(distributor) lobbying in Washington, a very religious and conservative
population and misplaced priorities is hampering this progress. A high-
profile battle between retail giant Costco and the state of Washington
recently threw up a couple of clues about the future when Costco won the
first step in the battle to allow it to ship directly from the producer. Of
course this judgement will go to appeal and will probably be held up for
years, but Costco is being aggressive and has set a valuable precedent which
any sensible judge cannot fail to respect.
Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no as it si being championed by the
mammoth retailers and you can be sure that they are not pursuing a
Samaritanian endeavour to make money for the supplier – no, they are chasing
margin for their bottom-line because they know that through direct imports
and direct shipments, that they can leverage their massive nation-wide
distribution network to exponentially multiply their sales and balloon
already embarrassing margins.
Opportunities exist for South African suppliers to find routes to market
that narrow the gap between importer, distributor and retailer. In some
states, it is (kind-of) legal for the husband to own an import license, the
wife to own a distribution license and the kids to own multiple retail
licenses. It happens – another symptom of an idiotic system. Many California
wineries drive a substantial volume of their sales through wine clubs and
direct shipments to customers. Of course there is a limited amount of states
that you can ship to directly, but this has been growing over the years. Is
there a business model here for South African wineries. Is there an
effective model for a South African winery to run a wine club for direct
sales to customers? The answer must be yes, but there has to be demand first
and brand South Africa must become more entrenched before this will work. So
the hard work lies ahead in this massive market opportunity that is the USA.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wine across America – California Dreaming!

The late night arrival of Team South Africa on the East Coast with an additional 3 time-zone changes was a minor shock as the road-show rolls on. After 3 months of non-stop rain that has been seriously affecting budding and shoot-development in California, the skies finally opened on the day of the Wines of South Africa tasting downtown, a stones throw from the eponymous Embarcadero. By many accounts, this tasting has been the most successful of the tour to date. Restaurateurs, retailers and eager consumers arrived in droves and kept everyone busy with an intense interest in learning more about South African wine. It is once again clear how closely linked tourism and wine are in selling brand South Africa. A large majority of the consumers had either been to South Africa or knew of someone that was going and this provided the key draw card, in my opinion. Americans have an embarrassment of choice and this is what has made America the enormous consumer culture that it is – or was it the other way around? The consumer, on the one hand, can be a little jaded and confused by choice. But if the message and the choice is communicated clearly and unambiguously to the consumer, they show an incredible willingness to open themselves up to trying something new. I have said this before – but feel that it is important to restate. Americans want us to teach them about our products and they want to buy them. We just need to start working on a clear message because at the moment our little wine industry does not have the financial or logistical clout to really get the message across. Sydney Harbour Bridge sells more Australian wine than you can imagine. ‘Finding Nemo’ and many other cultural icons has driven a whole generation to find Aussie interesting and exciting. We got close with Lion King – but it was really not there, was it?
On the subject of repeating myself, If I hear another consumer complaining that the wines on the WOSA show are not available in the USA, I will scream. It is always going to be difficult to give ‘new entrants’ an opportunity to show their wines, but perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse on this one. Perhaps these producers have had an opportunity to learn a huge amount about the US market and get a feeling for how to go about positioning themselves to enter the market, but it seems like an illogical and costly entry and market research solution. The tasting this afternoon in Costa Mesa, South of LA is being hosted by a prominent retailer called Hi-Time liquors. Once again the problem is going to raise its head as the consumers can only purchase the wines that the retailer stocks, and at best wines that have Californian distribution – it’s a tough school.
Wow! The Costa Mesa Orange County tasting was a hit – the consumers came out in droves and we were run off of our feet. This tasting must have rated as one the most intense and focused consumer wine tastings that I have ever been privileged to participate in. Wines poured, winemakers sweated, consumers listened and the wines of South Africa touched the perfect Southern California market. It was a monumental tasting and even impressed the organizers. I arrived a little more than 10 minutes before the tasting started ( a little late) and had to fight through about 100 people queuing at the door to get in. Big thank must go to Hi-Time Cellars for their excellent organization and boundless energy – the show was great!
I would like to pay tribute to the WOSA team for the effort and organization in putting this tour together – it has been an eye-opener for many producers and will be a catalyst for South Africa in this market. It is also a catalyst for greater cooperation in building South African wines in the US by building brand South Africa. One of the great minds behind doing just that is Yvonne Johnston at the SA International Marketing Council. It has been said that a bottle of wine in every wine shop and on every wine list in America will act as a positive reinforcer for Brand South Africa’s generic image. The wine industry has a lot to offer our marketing drive and we should not play second-fiddle. Tourism and many other SA industries engaged in marketing all have an excellent opportunity to harness synergies by partnering with WOSA – wine is exploding in America and we are in the right place at the right time – but there will not be more than one chance to get it right.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Wines of South Africa tour heads West

I have now arrived along with Team South Africa in beautiful (and chilly)
San Francisco – the flight from Chicago is only 4 hours, but takes in 3
times zones and even this short distance leaves you with jet lag – after a
run along the Embarcadero, the waterfront of San Francisco I feel refreshed
and ready for another big day.
But first, lets chat about Chicago. I had some very detailed debates about
the efficacy of the South African presence in the USA with Norman Cilliers
and Ken Forrester who are co-conspirators on this unabashed assault on the
USA. A lot of thoughts came out along with a lot of things that I wanted to
share. A question was posed about how many of the people manning the stands
on the WOSA roadshow actually have authority to transact business and take
any kind of meaningful business decisions. A lot of comment has been
received from consumers, retailers and restaurateurs that they have liked a
lot of the wines and upon enquiring about the producers distributor, were
told that the wines are not available in the USA. Now we understand that
many of the producers are looking for importers and distributors and that
this is a ‘fishing’ expedition, it was seen as intensely negative from many.
Another thought was that there may be examples of people from South Africa
on the tour who were considering this as a mini vacation from the office and
really had very little likelihood of doing any business. I would encourage a
thorough evaluation of the process upon return to South Africa to see if
there has been any return at all from this trip across America. This is a
concern – does this apply to other WOSA road trips? It was suggested in the
same debate that if a ‘follow-up’ meeting was called for South Africa upon
return, how many of the tour participants would attend?
On the positive side, we had a very beneficial day in Chicago and saw a lot
of existing clients and customers as well as spent some valuable time with
our distributors who are doing a great job. Business was done, relationships
formed and strengthened and the Wines of South Africa made a very positive
impact.
Another debate was raised in Chicago. The question about the coordination of
South Africa’s marketing efforts was discussed and it was felt that we
should be seeking greater cooperation between South Africa’s marketing
agencies. A South African wine tour would be a perfect companion for a
tourism tour, a finance tour and perhaps even a Safari lodge tour of
America – we have invested heavily in this tour and it is a certainty that
we should be cross-pollinating our efforts to a larger extent. The financial
economies of scale alone scream for this type of cooperation. What if the
big South African investment conference that was in NYC at the same time as
the WOSA tour had been in the same venue??? The missed opportunities hurt
the more you think about them. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. It is
however an effort to spark debate about the future of South Africa’s
investment into the world market with the greatest potential for South
Africa and our wines in particular.
Many producers have reported exceptional sales into the USA, but this could
easily be explained away with ‘filling the pipeline’ – the shelves are
starting to report increased populations of South African wines – but are
they moving. The answer has to be yes, but too slowly. This is a consumer
issue and not an importer/distributor issue. Distributors will not take on
any more brands if the existing ones are not moving. This is what is
happening and we should welcome debate on this. This is not a rule, but a
generalization – many producers are doing well – but Brand South Africa is
NOT flying off the shelf. We need to coordinate our icons – what about gold
and diamonds, table mountain, wild animals, Nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron,
Dave Matthews and many other wonderful SA icons that are yet to be
discovered.
Another contentious question has to be raised about the (negligible)
representation of WOSA board members at this event. The board members on the
tour numbered one (excluding the hard-working CEO, Su) –out of a possible
13. If this market is going to be successful we need the support of the
board and this is only going to come about if they understand the market and
this will only ever come about as a result of having been here. It is my
contention that in the next year we are going to have to raise our game
significantly through greater man-power, significantly increased funding and
national coordination if we are going to win the consumer over. Without a
thorough understanding of the complexities and challenges of the US market,
we cannot have strong leadership and without this we are dead in the water.
Despite these challenges, South Africa is gaining traction that will provide
us with a solid platform for our REAL marketing push. Lets call this a
scouting expedition shall we?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois - the train continues rolling!

Great excitement for South African wine is that the head winebuyer for the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) has decided that it is about time that South Africa is featured as wine of the onth and October 2006 it will be. After an excellent lunch with Steve Pollack, Mark Hazurand the guys from the Wine Merchant a broad agreement was made on how to proceed. Pennsylvania is a monopoly state and over 150 wine stores and outlets are owned and controlled by the State. This could be an opportunity? Steve has undertaken to assemble 125 store managers in one place for a whole afternoon in September for a South African seminar in which we can ‘educate’ them about South Africa, our geography, geology, climate and wines. I spoke to Rory Callahan and he has committed to presenting the seminar – he will need some backup. Bill Kohl who is the GM of the Harrisburg Hilton has agreed to make the conference facilities available to us in September at no cost and so we are all set. This is going to be enormous for South Africa! Well done Rory!
> The train to NYC was uneventful and a late arrival and check into the crappy Holiday Inn was not very exciting! My shoebox (hotel room) at $290 per night was a firm welcome to NYC gift and I realized that NYC is back after the horrors of 9/11. Boy this place is expensive.
> Back onto the train on Saturday and a great visit to Farmingdale, a vaguely charming town on Long Island. My train was delayed twice due to brush fires and I ended up taking a bus, another train and 2 taxis to make my way to Stew Leonards Wine Shop. I spent the afternoon doing a tasting and educating the guys on South African wine – they reported a steady growth in their South African sales, but mentioned that South Africa had not yet really dome anything significant to compel customers to reach for our wines. The shelves were also (at the bottom) languishing with expired vintages of wines that I cringed at. Perhaps our friends at the big winery in Paarl could do something to try to sell through some of the unsold back vintages polluting the South African category and taking up valuable shelf space around the country?
> Monday … the big day and the WOSA tasting in the Puck building on Lafayette street was all ready to go. Wines of South Africa and the supporting contingent have to be congratulated for putting on a great show and showing a spectacular face to the buyers and trade of NYC. I was proud to be South African as I saw all the winemakers and agents in a beautiful venue, well dressed and with a wonderful selection of SA wines. The tasting started slowly and then started building until it was fantastically busy – it really was good and the trade poured in. For those that had dome some preparation, it was a great opportunity. I cannot speak for the participating producers without importers about the success of the day – but my gut feel is that it might have been a little less successful business wise? There was a good mix of sommeliers, waiting staff, wine shop owners/buyers and other wine buyers and they all seemed really interested. Pinotage was popular and I heard this remark a number of producers who were caught off guard. The fruity, yummy Pinotage wines that had a little sugar found favour with the patrons. You can agree or choose to disagree, but the fact remains that wines with higher extract, good concentration, some sweet oak, a little residual sugar and a smooth finish do wine the customer over in the US. Now, we can fight this, or we can accept it and listen to the market. This does not mean a wholesale corruption of winemaking philosophy and South African terroir – we should just make a point to understand our markets and adapt ourselves to this. This is not a global direction and w4e should treat this topic carefully and not just accept it. It could get heated if treated lightly. We should perhaps open this topic to greater debate and I intend raising this topic at a Rootstock forum some time this year. Anyone want to join in the debate? Click on the comment tab below to start the debate.
> I write this column from my airplane seat en route Chicago for the next installment of the WOSA tour – the windy city will meat the marauding South African wine industry on Wednesday and we can expect to meet some interested and influential customers. Stay tuned.

The WOSA tasting in NYC



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A brief video showing the space and the excellent attendacne at the WOSA New York City show a couple of days ago.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wine across America - DC, PA, NY 28th April 2006

Wow, it has really been a whirlwind and things are going well so far - I am now 4 days into the tour and looking forward to meeting up with the WOSA gang in New York tonight. I am writing this on the AMTRAK train from Harrisburg Pennsylvania to New York City – the only direct service that avoids going through Philadelphia. It is always a good diea to purchase tickets online in advance as it is cheaper and it avoids finding a fully sold-out train - like this one.

I spent Tuesday night in Baltimore and presented a well-attended South African wine dinner at a restaurant called Abacrombie which has the reputation (I later realized) as one the best restaurants in the state of Maryland, Sonny Sweetman is the chef/owner along with his beautiful wife and they were filled to capacity with 53 people crammed in for a wonderful dinner. The cuisine was exceptional and the guests were intent on learning as much as possible – it was at this evening that it dawned on me that South Africa has really got a chance to win the battle for recognition in the USA. The dinner guests were interested, thirsty for knowledge about South African wine and eager to learn – how often do you see this in Europe these days? The US challenge seems so large and the obstacles enormous – but every time I am back here it appears that there is tangible progress in building brand South Africa. This is so invigorating – we just need to maintain the momentum and make sure that we take our best wines to the USA – this must surely be the KEY!

After a wonderful early-morning run around historic Baltimore harbour, Wednesday found us on the interstate highway back to DC for another trade tasting and South African seminar – I had the pleasure of meeting Carter Nevill, regional sales manager for Cape Classics and we hit it off. Cape Classics should be recommended for being a proud ambassador for South African wine in the USA. I also had the pleasure of meeting Brad McCarthy, the winemaker and co-owner of the famous Virginian winery Blenheim Vineyards which he co-owns with Dave Matthews – the US singer/superstar.

The next day was spent on a ‘ride-with’ (literally spending the day with a distributor sales person) doing tastings for a number of restaurants. We visited the eponymous Restaurant Eve, a great wine shop FineWine.com owned by the passionate Jonas Gustafsson. Then on to Le Paradou, an awe inspiring restaurant owned by legendary chef Yannick Cam; we tasted for at least an hour and shared rugby stories with sommelier, Nicolas Rouet who is a big South African fan. We got 2 listings on their epic winelist, the first time a wine from the Southern hemisphere has been listed – we felt very proud and decided to celebrate with a couple of cold beers at Vidalia, the famed DC eatery where we planned to meet fine wine merchant, Mike Tilch from Silesia Liquors for a 7 course tasting menu presented by Manager/Sommelier Doug Mohr. I have included (below) a video blog in which I interviewed Mike on his positive feelings about South African wines. The evening was capped with a spectacular 1970 Chateau D’ Yquem which was at the height of its powers – a very generous gift from Mike. What an evening!

A 04h45 wake-up was not really what was needed at this stage – but it had to be to catch an early flight from Dulles to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More about this in the next installment! New York here we come!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Young Winemakers at Cape Wine 2006



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Here is an interestingpost for those of you that were at Cape Wine 2006, here is the great clip taken for the 'Young Winemakers' seminar.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mike Tilch, fine wine dealer from Maryland talking about SA wine


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Driving through Washington DC



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Driving past the Washingotn memorial in DC

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

American Wine Diaries – Baltimore, Maryland

The American Wine Diaries – Baltimore, Maryland
CLICK HERE FOR TODAYS BALTIMORE PODCAST
I woke up too early in DC and then forced myself to go back to sleep – jetlag in traveling across timezones is a reality and you have to really take it into consideration. I got up and went for run in Rock Creek Park which is barely 5 minutes walk from my B&B. It was such a beautiful day and one can only marvel at the beauty of some of Americas parklands. Bumped into my first Starbucks coffee. Whether you are an anti-globalization activist or not – you have to admire the Starbucks ability to make a good cup of coffee – every time! OK, so engines recharged time to get ready, check out of the hotel and head for the most beautiful railway station in the world – Washington DC’s Union station. See the photo attached. I got some good advice and avoided AMTRAK and instead went for the local MARC train system which runs parallel to AMTRAK – the fare for the same ride was $7 versus $22 for AMTRAK.
I arrived in Baltimore very efficiently and was collected by Julia and then we headed to the Country Vintner trade tasting. About 150-200 people in attendance and wines from allover the world. I managed to get in some good tasting and some excellent wines. I fell in love with the Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Trocken 2004 from the Pfalz which has always been a favourite – the 2004 vintage is such a step up on the hot 2003 German wines. I digress…
I was asked to present a seminar on South Africa which (as it turns out) was the only seminar on the day and was certainly a big drawcard with a huge turnout. I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared, but in the end I adopted a very informal ‘round table’ discussion and luckily had some awesome slides that I could present as part of a powerpoint presentation – it went well and the half hour allotted for the event stretched to almost an hour as a large proportion of the audience stayed for the entire hour. What a great time and so many intelligent questions. There is no question in my mind that Americans have an enormous propensity to collect and collate information better than any nation on earth. When they become interested in something, they go harder and show more dedication to getting all the facts. Shields T. Hood and Lisa Airey from the Society of Wine Educators were at the tasting and they remarked on how positive their image of South African wine is. Rory Callahan and Robin O’Conner will be presenting a large seminar on South African wine at the SWE conference in Eugene Orgeon this year. Now this is a fantastic opportunity to preach the SA gospel.
OK, make sure that you have listened to the PODCAST this morning. Any comments or requests are most appreciated.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

First podcast from Washington DC

Click on this link to hear the first podcast from my hotel room in DC - just shaking the cobwebs out!

Monday, April 24, 2006

'The American wine diaries' - Heathrow

Well the epic USA trip has kicked off! Hi from the airport lounge in
Heathrow terminal 4 ... the first 11 hour flight to London is completed and
it is just about time to head for BA217 to Washington DC. I sat next to lady
on the BA flight who had been in SA for Cape Wine 2006 and had then followed
this with a week's holiday - she was bowled over by the show and by the
country in particular. She has already booked her 2nd trip and will be back
in SA in December. Well done WOSA!
This daily 'American Wine Diary' has a number of goals - first is to try to
help as many people as possible gain an understanding of the American market
with lots of insights, thoughts and anecdotes. The USA has been identified
as the market showing the most potential for South African wine and it is up
to the whole SA wine industry to make sure that we take our rightful place
alongside the other top wine producing countries. It can only happen with a
collective effort. At the same time, lets have some fun and see how we can
harness technology as a road warrior. We won't get over-concerned about
grammar and spelling as it will be regularly posted via Blackberry. (the
first hot tip for communicating on the road!) The USA is a long way from
South Africa - we need to harness the power of the internet to bring our two
diverse cultures together and bring South African wine to Americans who are
amongst the most adventurous and eager-to-learn wine drinkers in the world.
This diary has been commissioned by www.wine.co.za and is going to last for
about 3-4 weeks. It is intended to be interactive and we invite you to post
comments and generally get interactive. The diary will be posted
simlutaneously on the ROOTSTOCK BLOG www.rootstockforum.blogspot.com so log
on and check it out.
This diary is going to take in a huge and active itinerary commencing in
Washington DC and followed by brief stints in Arlington Virginia, Baltimore
Maryland (home of Robert Parker), Virgina, Delaware and then a short flip
over to Harrisburg (the state capital of Pennsylvania. At this stage I will
be joing the WOSA USA tour in New York which will then progress to Chicago,
San Francisco and then onwards to LA culminating in a grand tasting at the
famous (or is it infamous) Beverley Hills Hotel.
We will be doing some daily podcasting, I will be posting Video Blogs and
attempting to do some interviews and chats with people across the USA - so
watch this space. If there is something that you would like to hear about,
let me know. if you like it, let me know.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Announcing the new 'Wine across America' Blog

Starting from Monday April 24th, I will be departing on a 3 week tour across the USA.

The itinerary takes in Washington DC, Baltimore Maryland, Arlington Virginia, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, New York City – the Big Apple, Chicago, San Francisco, Orange County, Beverley Hills and then finally back to San Francisco before a break-neck flight to London England. I will be writing a daily diary with Podcasting, video blogging and lots of other innovative stuff. Its going to be great! Check in or subscribe for the feed today!

 

 

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Grape sorting video at midnight

Here is a look at our grape sorting video at midnight with the Vilafonte team going hammer and tong to ensure that only the best grapes make it into the Vilafonte wines.

Friday, April 07, 2006

End of Vilafonte harvest

Closure and continuance
When does harvest end? Well, there are many "endings"; one certainly is the last day of harvest - for us March 10, a 30 day harvest. Another is the last pressing, and this occurred Monday March 27. Emotionally, that is "the end", but the work continues. For us, and especially for Bernard, Vilafonte winemaker, there is lots of baby sitting of the wines to be done. Fermentations continue; the wines we pressed…. removed from the skins … were not all dry at the time, and so continue to "crackle" in the barrels..you put your ear to the bunghole and you can hear the pop pop of the carbon dioxide rising to the top of the wine from fermentation. However, to complete their fermentation work, the yeast must be kept happy…which means warm, with food, and somewhat suspended in the wine. We keep the wines in a warm room, (around 23 to 24C); and part of the "work" is to check on them daily. Unhappy yeasts tend to produce bad aromas; a yeast "red flag". So stirring, warming, feeding, checking, smelling, tasting…maybe a bit routine but very, very important. Concurrently, the dry wines are crackling with malo-lactic, the bacterial fermentation that changes the malic acid to the softer lactic acid. Only when the wines have completed both fermentations do we deem them "finished" and put them away in the barrel cellar to start their aging.This ends my regular/irregular harvest report, although I will return from time to time to talk of other work that is going on, and observations and conclusions on harvest.
Zelma Long, Vilafonte Winemaking Partner

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Monday PODCAST

Today is the first day of harvest that we are able to sit back and relax a little after what we can describe as a spectacular harvest - the timing and the quality have been right on the money. Phil is a genius when it comes to predicting harvest date and will even go so far as to book flights from California to South Africa on the back of his hyper-sensitive phenology and modelling data. It is quite incredible.
Today Zelma delarted for a well-deserved holiday with one of her 'rock-star' winemaking buddies called May-Anne Graf who actually worked as assistant winemaker under Zelma at Simi. They are off to the Natal Midlands which is in Kwazulu-Natal - for those that dont know this is one of the ten provinces of SOuth Africa. I am very jealous.
We are now starting to think about beddding the vines down and starting to get them ready for a good sleep during the upcoming winter. There is a lot to be done and the first order of business is to spread a fine layer of 'designer mulch' onto every drip emitter in the vine yard - this is an enormous job and going to be crucial as we plan to leach the nutrients from the mulch/manure into the soil through the organically sensitive techniwue of runnning drip irrigation through it.

We also took delivery of our new tracctor last week - very exciting.
MIKE RATCLIFFE

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vilafonte 'Harvest Reflections' - day 29

Reflection on the vineyard and the 2006 vintage
I have included a photo of the Vilafonte vineyard, taken from across the valley, with the Cape's big mountains behind it. From here it looks like a few big blocks of grapes. However each big section is subdivided, and great variations in wine personality come from each of the sub-blocks, which are about 1 ha (2 ½ acres) each. A word about the 2006 vintage. Our harvest was 1 month long; we started Feb. 9 and finished Mar. 10. This will seem short to winemakers who either (1) work with more different varieties; (2) make a large volume of wine; (3) work with grapes from quite different climates.Those 3 conditions can "spread out" harvest. Our work is focused on (1) 1 vineyard site; (2) only red grapes; (3) only 4 Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Thus the timeline is quite tight. The grapes, and wines look to be excellent…" a fine vintage". For us specifically, the wines are more concentrated this year; we have good ripeness; and for each variety the smallest berries (grapes) we have had in 4 years.
What I hear in general - winemakers are pleased with the harvest quality; the reds look excellent (I haven't heard so much about the whites); water toward the end of harvest has been useful to keep the vines going after the heat, and lack ofwater at this time has forced harvests in some places. I have also heard that winemakers are getting ripeness at lower sugars this year. Vilafonte block personalities - the building blocks of Series C and Series M
Block Z Merlot complex, deep, rich, dark, firm
Block AB Merlot aromatic red/black fruit aromas; good concentration & long
Block VW Malbec deep red black color, herbs & black fruit flavors, very soft Cabernet Franc violet aromas, medium intensity color; very firm tannins
Block D Cabernet very deep and complex, red black color, long with firm tannin
Block C Cabernet intense fruit with slightly chunkier tannins than D
Block B Cabernet clear fruit expression, softer tannins, medium long
Block A Cabernet Good color, black fruits, very soft tannins
Block N Cabernet Aromatic, red fruits expression, tighter structure, and long
Zelma Long

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Vilafonte Fermentation Blog - day 28

Today is our last day of harvesting grapes …hooray! For the next 2 weeks, our harvest blog will focus on the fermentation side of harvest before we wrap up around about the last day of March. It is always somewhat of a relief and celebration to see those vines empty of their brood of grapes. A relief, because we are never sure what weather is just around the corner; and a celebration; another year of tending the vineyard is complete; wines developing; more lessons learned about our site. This is not to say that work is done; to the contrary, we now have a cellar full of Cabernet waiting to ferment. There are 2 important components to fermentation:
Fermentation is a delicate time. We are working with 2 natural processes:
#1. a biological process…yeast changing sugar to alcohol; and all the influences on this process…of which there are many.
#2 is the natural extraction of desirable Aromas, flavors, color and texture from the skin, which we group under the name "phenolics" - a class of compounds that is huge and varied. For red wines in particular, much of winemaking success is to coax what is in the skins, out of the skins, into the wine.The extraction part….We do this coaxing, in fermentation, by letting the fermentation proceed at warm temperatures (80F); by mixing the skins (which float) with the developing wine liquid below; and by just the naturally enhanced extraction as the alcohol develops. As in many things in life; one can have too much (color and tannins) or too little (color and tannins). Our goal is to aid fermentation so that we get the tastes andcolor and aromas "just right" - with regard to being a mirror to the vineyard blockthey each come from.T omorrow I will do a "personality" summary on each of our blocks this year.
Zelma Long, Vilafonte winemaking partner

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Vilafonte 'Disaster Averted' - day 27

Disaster Averted
Harvest is always a sensitive time in the cellar, because with long work hours, people get tired and can be more prone to make mistakes. We had a case in point tonight with the Block B grapes that were harvested today…..The sorting table was busy all day with others' grapes, thus we started sorting Block B at 7 p.m. and continued on until midnight. Quite nice…cool, quiet; a pleasant evening until…Bernard went downstairs (the grapes fall by gravity, from the sorting table through a hose, down into a fermenter below in the cellar below) to check the fermenter we were sorting into. To his dismay, the large bottom valve was leaking….slightly thank goodness, but….when he tried to tighten it; it leaked more, indicating that the "leak" was not due to the valve not being tight, but due to someone else in the cellar, who had prepared the tank…forgetting to put a gasket in which would seal the valve firmly to the tank. He put a 50 gallon tub under the tank to catch the leak, while we finished sorting. Then we considered the options…none were pretty. And meanwhile these was a 2 hour crusher cleanup to do (washing all parts of the sorting system and then hosing down with high pressure hot water, to be clean for the next day). But what Bernard finally did was quite creative…and photos attached illustrate…
He drained the juice from the tank, into a clean (properly valved) next door neighbor tank. This left the grape skins in the original tank. And with the juice gone, the top of the skins was just below the side gate of this tank. So he opened this gate, climbed into the tank, dug down through the grape skins to the valve, and plugged it, from the inside, with a plastic 2 liter plastic bottle!!!! This allowed Teresa, on the outside, to remove the valve, put the gasket in, and put the valve back on. The juice was then moved back into the original tank, dry ice spread on top for protection from oxygen, until fermentation starts.Disaster averted. And they both went home at 5:30 a.m.
Photo #1 - Bernard knee deep in Block B Cabernet, getting ready to dig forthe valve outlet.
Photo #2 - Taken from the outside of the tank - plastic jug with cap plugs pipewhile valve removed and fixed
Photo #3 - a grin for success
Zelma Long,
Vilafonte's Winemaking Partner

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Harvest interview with Zelma Long

A late night interview with the4 extraordinary winemaker Zelma, Long, the head of quality for the first South African American joint winemkaing venture. Have a look at www.vilafonte.com to see more.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Vilafonte 2006 Harvest Blog - day 25

General harvest and winemaking update
Harvest. We are harvesting like mad this week! Which means, we bring in one of each of our 1 hectare (2.5 acre) blocks each day. The weather is cooperating and is back to cool nights and warm days; perfect ripening weather. At the end of this week Vilafonte will be finished with harvest. Last Friday we harvested the first of our 7 blocks of Cabernet, and this Friday will be the last. Remember, our Cabernet blocks are imaginatively? named Blocks A,B,C,D, N,O,P. The latter 3 have different row directions from the former, and, of course, make different wines. Among them, P is a different clone. These three tend toward more red fruit, or red/black fruit…raspberry, red and black cherries, boysenberry. A and B tend toward lush black fruit. C and D are our building blocks; very concentrated; lots of firm tannins. A-D are contiguous, but, different. Anyone who says there is no such thing as terroir (as I have heard a few people say) has never made wine from vineyard blocks that have differing vine environments.
Sorting
Last weekend's heat and low humidity knocked some of our clusters on our small vines to a shriveled state and they must be sorted out. Julie and Mary Ann are "cluster sorting" in the vineyard, about 9 hours a day, leaning over half ton bins of fruit. Not glamorous work. Tonight those grapes come in (Block B) and they will be berry sorted by a crew of 10 of us, starting at 7 p.m. until approximately midnight. Long days. This will happen again tomorrow night (Block N). Cold soak
Cabernet D and C are sitting, very cold (12C) in tanks for 3-4 days; while their skins slowly release color. The first day after crush, D was light pink. Today, it is purple black; really really dark. And delicious. Rich, deep flavors, big tannins. I was excited when tasting D. It is just barely starting fermentation today.
Fermentation
We have had a pause between Merlot and Cabernet, so nothing is fermenting in tanks just now, but some of the lots were pressed off before they were dry, so we are carefully watching their progress in the barrel. It's a delicate time….we want to be sure that these wines complete fermentation so they are totally dry…no sweet reds for us!
Pressing and Barreling
All the Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are pressed and safely tucked into barrels. When we are ready to take the wine off its skins, we drain the free wine off (this becomes Series wine); then take a light press; then combine the heavypresses (which are not very heavy) in one tank, to go to barrels in due course.
Monitoring fermentation, and planning the work
Photo is Bernard checking Brix on Block D Cabernet. He checks all fermenting wines twice a day for Brix (sugar) and temperature. I taste all the new wines with him daily and review the results; together we ID what each wines needs are for the next day, and thus, the work plan.
Zelma Long

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Vilafonte 'Barrel Blog' - day 24

"Barrel prep"
#1- barrel selection and orders.
One of the very constant harvest cellar jobs is preparing barrels for filling. But a good deal of work goes on first. Back in October, we tasted our wines from the last vintage, and evaluated how well the new barrels of each type had worked with each block and varietal. Based on that…answering the questions: what worked? Which blocks need new oak? Which need once used, or twice used oak (French oak is what we use for wood)?do we have a cooper that we want to test this year?? Etc......we placed a barrel order.Preceding the barrel order we meet with each cooper or cooper's representative. We tell them what we want to accomplish; what we liked or found disappointing about their barrels the previous year, and ask what if any new developments they have in their coopering. Coopering barrels…from selecting the oak, drying it; preparing the staves; assembling the barrel…is very complicated; barrels are from biological elements and take judgement to make, just like wine. Each cooper tends to have a signature style, again like wine. Base on our assessment and their information, and our projection of harvest tonnage by block (a bit difficult since the vines are just budding out at this stage!) we organize our order for new barrels. What we don't do is as follows:
a. we don't use a formula such as " we need x% new oak"
b. we don't assume that each block will have the same needs as the nextc. we don't assume that a block's match to new and older oak will be the same year after year (generally as vines get older they can absorb and benefit from more new oak)
d. we don't assume that all coopers are the same. In fact we are very particular, and work primarily with coopers with a long track record for quality, style, and consistency of quality.
e. we are not driven by cost. We select the number, type and style that we believe will be absolutely the best for our wines. These barrels are beautiful works of craft in and of themselves, and are a major cost of winemaking, so their selection, care, and use is, in my opinion, one of the 4 major critical segments of refined winemaking. More on barrels later…once we have them, then what??
Zelma Long
The photo is one of our grape sorters. Her T shirt reflects perfectly the detail needed for fine winemaking!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Vilafonte 'Grape Chemistry' Blog - day 24

SIZE AND THE ISSUE OF CONCENTRATION IN THE 2006 WINES.

The cool and the warm..
Last week, as previously reported, it was cool. We had 2 days of light rain, 1 cloudy day and one national holiday. This left everyone with little time for harvest, which was not a big problem, since the weather was cool and the grapes were in good condition. It became a problem, however, this week. On Sunday and Monday, Mother Nature reversed herself and sent hot weather rather than cool. The grapes were not pleased. We saw some dehydration and increase in Brix. Suddenly, everyone needs to harvest everything!! Actually, last Thursday I looked at the phenolic samples taken that day. These samples record tannin and color, and at the same time are checked for grape chemistry. I was delighted to see the results; our grape "ripeness chemistry" was excellent - the relation of Brix, acid and pH, and color and tannin. And we were getting ripeness at lower sugars than 2005.If I had control of the weather I would have ordered a week of mild days, say 75 - 80 F. Winemakers always yearn for control of weather. It did not come to me. So now, everything is ready, to come in, and indeed we will be will be going full speed with harvest this week. Meanwhile, we are working very long days.

Today Julie, and friend and visitor Mary Ann Graf from California, worked from 8 am to 6 pm, in the vineyard, sorting grapes as they were harvested into our bins. In the heat, some small clusters had shriveled and needed to be discarded. Tonight (starting 9 p.m.) we will crush these, and Bernard and I will be sorting clusters for the final touch up. And so it will go all week.

Zelma Long

Monday, March 06, 2006

Vilafonte 'Cabernet' blog Friday - day 24

Friday was the first, and only, harvest this week
As predicted on Tuesday, we did not bring grapes in again until today, due to rain and the national holiday. It has been cold, cloudy, and drizzly this week!! Bernard barreled down the Malbec, pressed out Block Z Merlot and barreled it down. We moved the Cabernet Franc and Block E Merlot off of cold soak into fermentation (just warmed them up, started naturally). Today we did our first Cabernet of the season, Block D. Each of our vineyard blocks, which are 1 hectare ( 2 ½ acres) or less, has its own personality, which I have learned through the years. Block D is one of our most concentrated, and has very solid tannins; it is a major "building block" of the longevity of our wines. Below are some photos taken as harvest was starting this morning:
1. picking basket waits for tasty Cabernet
2. our harvesters
3. Mr. Spies pulls tiny trailer needed to fit between narrow rows and pick up grape-filled boxes
4. " vineyard pre-sort" - removes leaves, shriveled clusters; light colored clusters
5. forklift on tractor will pick up bins, load them on a flatbed truck to get them to the wineryWe pick only 1 block per day - between 4 and 7 tons. We pick in the morning starting at 7 a.m. when the grapes are cool; do a presort in the vineyard, load bins on a truck and whisk them away to the winery.
Have a look at a video of our sorting table. Click HERE
Zelma Long, Vilafonte winemaking partner

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Vilafonte 2006 Harvest Blog - day 23

What is Cape weather during harvest 2006?

I’m quite happy with weather this harvest. Yes, it was windy and warm earlier, and drove the Brix up fast, but then the vines stopped adding brix yet continued to ripen… Yes, we had a particularly hot Saturday. And yes, we’ve had perfect ripening days…warm days, cool nights. And yes, we had a light rainy day, with more to come this week. But all in all, to me it has been good harvest weather, with just a few hiccups.

Cape weather, similar to California’s north coast, comes in cycles of temperature. See below Phil’s weather graph for February, and watch how warm and cool cycles over 3-5 days. This chart by Phil Freese, taken from weather station near Fairview, 2.06 Graph shows max and min
temperature and ET (evapotranspiration – represents evaporative demand on the grapevines due to heat, wind, low humidity, etc). For reference, our harvest started Feb. 9.

Zelma Long

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Vilafonte Harvest - day 22 - Dubai Visitors

Laura Bunzel, sommelier and wine buyer for the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai who has been staying with Mike for a week, joined Bernard and I while we checked Brix, and temperature of our fermenters and tasted them, to see what their "Sunday needs" would be. Harvest brings visitors; those who want to get a first hand feel for wine growing and winemaking. Friday, Laura had joined Phil in the early a.m. for harvest (of Merlot Block E). After an overview of our winegrowing, she helped Julie document vine details (shoot length, etc) for Phil. Julie does this in every block near harvest...One of the nice thing about visitors, and Laura exemplifies this, is their interest and curiosity. She had seen several other wineries and was curious to discuss the different winemaking techniques that are used. For example, she asked why we didn't harvest all our blocks together for a field blend (answer: (1) they get ripe at different times; (2) we want to see, after fermentation, which will be suitable for Series C and Series M). I told her … every winemaker has a different approach…and that makes wines diverse and intriguing. It is not a matter of "right technique" or "wrong technique" but how they all fit together and most important, how they work with the grapes, and the winery's vision.For Vilafonte, the grapes drive our decisions. That is why we collect data on our vines…to know them very very well, each vintage. Laura says she fell in love with the Cape.
Laura, come back next year and we will put you to work again!
Zelma Long

Monday, February 27, 2006

Vilafonte 'Babysitting blog' Saturday -day 21

From Mike: I just got off the phone with Adam Chase in Boston and had a good hour talking about viticulture and Vilafonte. Adam is studying for the MW in the USA and has been following the Vilafonte podcast and blog religiously since inception. We really had an in-depth conversation and he really drew on me to reach deep for answers. Good chat Adam!

Here is Zelma's update on all fronts:
Harvest planning: Phil has gone home to take care of his California clients (he came in mid January to get the vineyard ready for harvest). This morning Bernard is overseeing the sorting of Block E Merlot. So Julie and I walked all 7 of our Cabernet blocks. One, Block D, our "big, concentrated wine" block, is ready and will come in on Tuesday, we decided. The others are more or less neck in neck; tannins softening, seeds ripening, skin softening, and Bernard and I will check them on Tuesday to see which we want to bring in later in the week. I am told that we won't be able to harvest on Wednesday since it is a national holiday … it is Voting Day. Fortunately we won't need to bring anything in, and it is projected to be a cool week.
Weather: The weather has been perfect this last week; cool nights and warm days. Next week rain is projected for Tuesday and Thursday. We will see what really will happen! Weather changes frequently in the Cape.
Sorting: After the vineyard check, Julie and I went to help Bernard with the sorting. Block E had a lot of raisins; fortunately no small green berries (like we saw in the Cab Franc). But it took "heavy sorting" - Bernard and I doing cluster sorting; 9 women on the sorting belts, and Julie at the end, just before the grapes fall in, to catch anything we missed.
Fermentations: As of today we will have 2 tanks on cold soak (Merlot and Cabernet Franc); 1 actively fermenting tank (Merlot) just in the midst of fermentation; 2 tanks finishing fermentation (Merlot Z and Malbec) and one (Merlot AB - our first harvest) in barrels finishing fermentation. In addition to overseeing grape reception, destemming, sorting and crushing, Bernard oversees these fermenters, making sure their temperature what we want; that the mixing morning, noon, and night, is what we should do…(and it is different for each tank, both in timing, duration, and type…we decide as we taste together and discuss each morning).Other winery work:We anticipate pressing out the Malbec on Tuesday; today Bernard is organizing the barrels to be filled. I select the barrels for use based on my past experience with our Malbec. I have tried several types of new barrels and someolder barrels, and prefer the older barrels with this wine. It has so much fruit that we want the fruit to be forward, and it is so lush it doesn't need, or benefit from, the new oak.
Baby grape sitting: To the parents out there, it often feels like we are watching over our "babies" …some of them fermenting; some still "hanging out" in the field; and some being separated from their skins (pressing); but all needing daily and usually multidaily attention.
Zelma Long