Thursday, December 09, 2010

The International Holiday Table-Vilafonte in Edmonton, Canada

Scroll down to read how our fellow winelovers in Canada are enjoying a South African tradition with an older vintage of the 'Series C' for their Holiday dinner...

EDMONTON - There are so many great wines that go with turkey or ham that it’s sometimes hard to pick one everyone will enjoy

But if you are having a big family gathering and cost might be an issue, it’s hard to do better than the 2006 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha from Carinena, Spain, at $13.95.
There’s bright, ripe fruit on the nose, with suggestions of raspberries and ripe cherries and a slight herbal, minerally component. The soft palate has gobs of concentrated, crisp, minerally raspberry flavours, with hints of spice, black cherry and licorice.

For Christmas morning breakfast, a winner is always the non-vintage Canella Blood Orange Mimosa Cocktail from Venice ($15.95). It’s a wine cocktail made from grape wine and the juice and pulp of crimson-fleshed Sicilian blood oranges. The finest cultivars are blended to achieve the best combination of flavours, fragrance and colour. Into the light, fruity, very tasty drink go dark-hued Moro oranges; tasty, sweet Tarocco oranges and the tender Sanguinello.For a white wine to sip with family and friends throughout the festive season, a 2008 Erath Oregon Pinot Gris at $23.95 is a good choice. Swirl in the glass to reveal aromas of banana and honeydew melon. In the mouth, tropical fruit, lemon and floral notes are seamlessly balanced with a good acidic backbone.

If you are having steak or ribs and some of your family or guests must have a red wine, try the 2007 Cusumano Nero D’Avola at $18.95. Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most popular red grape and used in the region’s best selling varietal wines grown near the Vitoria region. Nero D’Avola means “Avola Black,” which describes the deep, dark colour of the grape. The ruby-red wine explodes with bright cherry fruit, balanced acidity and spices.

If you are looking for a red wine that will pair with white and dark meat, a sound buy is the 2007 Domaine Arlaud Bourgogne Rouge Roncevie Vielles Vignes from Burgundy ($32.95). A new, travelled generation is taking over in Burgundy and Herve Arlaud has watched in glee as his son Cyprian and daughter Bertille have taken the family’s winery in Morey-St.-Denis to new heights. Bertille cares for the vines by hand and horse. Winemaker Cyprian let’s the quality of the fruit come through by minimal intervention. This is a straight forward Pinot Noir, with notes of cherries, blackberies, earth and spice

Another versatile wine that will pair well with poultry, pork, lighter red meat, grilled vegetables and soft ripe cheeses is the 2009 Mollydooker The Violinist Verdelho from McLaren Vale, Australia, selling for $33.95. The aromatics of this white wine suggest ripe, fruit and the palate is full of pineapple, stone fruit and citrus flavours. The lingering finish is slightly tart.

A full-bodied, vibrant white that will also stand up to spicy turkey stuffing and dark meat is the rich 2008 Condrieu Vins de Vienne, a 100 per cent Viognier wine from Rhone, France, ($57.95 .) t’s excellent. Almond and apricot notes on a generous and concentrated wine that should be enjoyed now
My Scottish mum and her family often made steak pie for Christmas dinner and a wine that would go with such fare is the 2005 Bordeaux-blend Vilafonte Series C, from South Africa ($58.95). It’s one of South Africa’s best wines and only 25 barrels were made. Sage, plums and earthy notes on the nose with blackberries and cherries on a palate, which has silky, fine tannins.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SA's smart set for The Daily Maverick's The Gathering

THE DAILY MAVERICK, Johannesburg, 26 Oct 2010

SA's smart set for The Daily Maverick's The Gathering, Zwelinzima Vavi, Michael Jordaan, Nic Dawes, Jovan Regasek and Ray Hartley are among the business, media and political heavyweights set to meet at The Daily Maverick's gathering of minds on the first Thursday of November.

Sandton, Friday 22 October 2010 – South Africa's top thinkers in business, politics and the media will be meeting for a day of analysis, discussion and ideas at The Daily Maverick's The Gathering, which is set to take place at The Theatre on the Square, in Sandton, on 4 November 2010.

The full-day session is all about clever people connecting, and talking on issues they know the best and care about most. "The Daily Maverick has established itself as the news and analysis site for people who matter, so it is fitting that our first gathering will feature well-connected, smart thinkers that intelligent people would most like to meet and hear from," says editor Branko Brkic.

Speakers at The Daily Maverick's first Gathering, with Kieno Kammies as MC, include:

Zwelinzima Vavi, general-secretary of Cosatu Michael Jordaan, CEO of First National Bank Nic Dawes, editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian Ray Hartley, Sunday Times editor Jovan Regasek, CEO of ITWeb Richard Mulholland, professional speaker most likely to be confused with a rock star Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City and Moxyland Yusuf Abramjee, head of news and corporate affairs, Primedia Yvonne Johnston, brain-mother to Brand SA and marketer-at-large Khaya Dlanga, prolific blogger and troublemaker Ivo Vegter, columnist and analyst Terry Annecke, operations director of BlackStone Tek Victor Dlamini, chairman of Chillibush Stephen Grootes, Eyewitness News reporter Mike Ratcliffe, Wine marketing guru & owner of Warwick & Vilafonté wine estates, Toby Shapshak, editor of Stuff magazine

The Gathering will stretch over the course of one business day and Brkic guarantees that people who participate won't leave without having their ideas challenged. "The Daily Maverick is creating a forum that will bring people who matter together. We want to offer our readers access to the thinking of some of the most influential people in this country."

To keep things intimate and interactive, seating at The Gathering is limited and only 150 guests will make it through the door.

Tickets have been selling swiftly, but there are still a few open spaces. Those who want to be a part of the event can e-mail for more details or to make a booking. Bookings are offered on a first come, first served basis.

A small number of seats are available, at a heavily discounted price, to full-time students.

The Gathering A conference by The Daily Maverick 4 November Theatre on the Square Sandton Johannesburg Seats available at R2 800

Contact or go to


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The YPO South African Wine Group launch event in Johannesburg

The launch event of the new YPO South African Wine Group was held at the magnificent 'Marion on Nichol' luxury hotel in Johannebsurg on Thursday evening the 7th of October. With almost 20 YPO/WPO members present, fellow YPO'er Mike Ratcliffe, co-owner of Vilafonte Vineyards and Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch welcomed guests and presented the plans for the future of the Wine Network. Under the auspices of the YPOI Wine Network, Mike has been mandated to increase the range of YPO wine participation around the world given the current focus of the network being predominantly American. This South African event will be followed by events in Cape Town and Durban.
In a further development, a regional Wine Network Chair has been appointed for Johannesburg and a new YPO Wine Group has been formed for Zimbabwe Harare Chapter - thanks Phil Warren.
It can also be confirmed that YPO'er Mitchell Taylor, MD of his family business Mitchell Wines in NSW Australia has been appointed YPO Regional Chairman for Australia - so expect more activities and correspondence in this regard.

The Wine Network continues it's search for willing YPO'ers to take on regional chair positions in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in Africa. Please contact me if you are interested.
Here are the pictures:

Click here to learn more about Vilafonte Vineyards - the only South African and Amerian joint winemaking venture.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Breaking news - Vilafonte Series M takes the GOLD at the Tri-Nations Challenge

Judging at year eight of the highly regarded and eagerly awaited Tri Nations Wine Challenge was concluded recently. Huon Hooke announced the 13 Class Trophies to a capacity crowd of 200 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on Friday 17 September. Winemakers from across the Southern Hemisphere came to receive their trophies and a name in the books for this increasingly interesting wine event.
The Vilafonte winemaking team under the leadership of Zelma Long was delighted that the soon-to-be-released Vilafonte 'Series M' 2007 was awarded the sought-after GOLD medal. Vilafonte has had a star-studded year with another nomination for 5 Stars in the John Platter guide as well as Zelma Long being nominated for the prestigous 'WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR" by influential USA magazine WINE ENTHUSIAST.
The “By invitation only” Challenge judged a total of 360 wines across 13 classes from the three nations and 135 were awarded either trophies, Double Gold or Gold medals. All trophy and gold medal wines will go on a trade mission to Hong Kong in October where there will be a major trade and media tasting at the Jockey Club in Happy Valley, demonstrating to Asia the strengths of the Challenge wines.
Results are published at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Take a few minutes to listen to this awesome video wine review of Vilafonte 'Series C' 2006

Vilafonte from Christopher Riccobono on Vimeo.

An International perspective from a judge of the Michelangelo International Wine Awards

Excerpt from Indian Wine Academy, posted 13.9.2010

Villafonte Series M and C
Bosman’s Crossing, Stellenbosch
Owner: Mike Ratcliffe, Zelma Long and Phil Freese (USA)
Winemaker- Martin Smith

Mike Ratcliffe, of Warwick Wine Estate has partnered with Napa winemaker Zelma Long (of Robert Mondavi, Simi and Long Vineyards fame) and Dr. Phil Freese (a viticulturist from Napa Valley who has been a consultant to Warwick and many wineries in California and South Africa) to make this boutique winery making bold and beautiful reds.

Tasting Room & Villafonte wines

The winery is in a small building- like Niphad Wine Park in Nashik, adjacent to a couple of other wineries opposite a residential complex. The small winery makes only red wines in two labels- M series and C series-using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec are the only grape varietals used but the yields are kept so low at 1-2 tons/ hA that the wines are really concentrated, full of fruit, a great balance and are priced accordingly.

The winery uses its own grapes from Paarl. It’s new and in only second year in production at this facility. You will find the wines full of ripe tannins and mature phenolics. There are two labels only: Series M (for modern) and Series C (Classic). Both use Cabernets Sauvignon and Merlot as the base blends – Malbec and Cabernet Franc are added in varied percentage depending on the series and vintage.

If you want to know the price, you are not in the league of its buyers who were supposed to be the Americans when it started operations but the rich Chinese and the Brits are drinking it too, besides more of South Africans coming into their fold gradually. One day, some smart Indian hotel chain will perhaps import this luxury brand- duty free, for their high end clients who like California style big wines.

Incidentally, the winemaker partner Zelma Long has been nominated for the Best Winemaker Award for this year by Wine Enthusiast, a respected and one of the top two wine magazines in the US.

Read the full article, South Africa:  Visiting Wineries of Cape Winelands

Monday, September 13, 2010

The beauty of new springtime growth in the Cabernet vineyards

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Friday, September 03, 2010

On the release of our 2007 Vilafonte Series C, Phil Freese provides a detailed harvest report.

Due to our location of the Vilafonté vineyard in the Southern Hemisphere, our growing season begins in the calendar year ahead of our harvest date. For the 2007 vintage we are watching the winter temperatures of May through August 2006 for the ability to accumulate sufficient “chill units” which assures that the vines are fully into dormancy and the cold units provide the stimulus for good budding in the spring. The Cape is truly a ‘Mediterranean’ type of climate and the cold winter months of late 2006 gave us a good accumulation of cold units.
Both winter and spring rainfall amount was slightly above ‘normal.’ Perhaps more importantly, the timing of the rains was good with small amounts of rain in mid-September and early October before our flowering in late-October. While these rains can cause anxiety for the vineyard team since the rainfall and associated cool temperatures and long periods of high humidity provide ideal conditions for mildew - there were no problems since the spacing of the rains was nearly ideal.
Dr. Phil Freese, Zelma Long & Mike Ratcliffe
The Vilafonté vineyard is a low to moderate vegetative growth area so we did not have issues of overly dense canopies from the small amounts of rain. (In fact we do not even own or use a hedging machine.) Standard canopy management practice has us retain just one shoot per spur location on our uniquely designed cordon trained vines. Thus the canopy begins the season nicely spaced with good air and sunlight penetration and low disease pressure. These canopies are much like a cane-pruned vine but with the benefit of the extra stored carbohydrate supply of the cordon’s permanent wood structure. In cool springs we have good storage reserves for flowering and moderate vegetative growth with the uniformity of shoot growth afforded by cordon-trained vines.
These attributes were important in the flowering of October. Our Malbec and Merlot vines are always first to bloom and they were at 50% flowering in the mild temperatures of the 3rd week of October. There were then 3 days of windy and cool weather where much of the Cabernet was in flowering. Our experience is building to give us confidence in our site that Cabernet Sauvignon, being the hearty Bordeaux varietal, seems to be less sensitive to cool weather at flowering than some of the other red Bordeaux varieties.
Cabernet Franc in the cool weather of late October 2006 tended to give us more variability in flowering timing and thus led to more variability in veraison-time coloring of the fruit. Also the crop level was somewhat lower due to poor ‘set’ or fertilization of the flowers and their development into berries – again related to the cool temperatures and some overcast skies.

In January 2007 we introduced a practice that we thought was revolutionary - the full-scale practice of veraison thinning on a “per berry” basis. Instead of going through the vineyard and throwing off entire clusters that are late in coloring – we instead used our observations of the flowering variability in October and wanted to remove only the individual green berries.
Fortunately we had a small team of highly trained women who were accustomed to working in table grape vineyards. When we ask them to carefully hold and turn each cluster of fruit and remove only the green and pink berries within the clusters, they simply said ‘fine – we can do that.’ While we thought this would be a challenging concept and practice – they did it with ease as it is a common practice in some table grape varieties.
The growing season was moderate with its normal 3 to 5 days cycles of a build of daily high temperatures then a cooling of several days and then the gradual building again. The exception to the normal seasonal pattern came near the end of January with 5 days of high daily temperatures near 400 C and warm nights. Most of our varieties were finishing veraison stage and not affected by the burst of heat.
There is the theory that a burst of heat will accelerate the ripening process. Such heat events can in fact accelerate the apparent sugar concentration due to loss of water from the stressed vines but we do not look at this as true ripening. We applied some drip irrigation and waited patiently for our customarily early Merlot and Malbec to recover their flavor profiles and ‘composure’ after the heat.
Harvest began on the 31st of January with “Z” block Merlot – a “core” wine that can contribute strongly to both Series C and M wine blends. This was followed with the Malbec blocks of “V” and “W” on February 2nd.
The second week of February had a forecast of more rain and we brought in additional merlot just before 3 days of rain (20 mm).
Mid-February provided regular daily rhythm of warming and cooling cycles and an even ripening of the balance of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
March began with 3 days of rain and cool temperatures which gave us over 35 mm (more than 1.4 inches) of rain fall. We often call these late-season rains on Cabernet as ‘cleansing’ of the fruit referring to washing off any bit of dust. In fact the rains are valuable for the last bit of natural moisture needed for the final ripening but the cooler temperatures associated with a typical storm system also send key signals to the vines that it is getting on to what we call ‘game over’ stage for the growing season and the push to finish tannin ripening of seeds and skins and softening of the last bit of under-ripe characters.
We finished the vintage with the balance of our Cabernet Sauvignon blocks at the end of the first week of March.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


The Vilafonté winemaking team is proud to announce that co-founder and winemaking partner Zelma Long has been nominated by Wine Enthusiast magazine for their prestigious WINE STAR ‘Winemaker of the Year’ award.
Zelma Long is a renowned Californian winemaker and one of the most awarded female winemakers of all time. Zelma Long and her husband winegrower Dr. Phil Freese are the Californian joint venture partners in Vilafonté together with well known South African winery owner Mike Ratcliffe. Vilafonté is the first and only South African and American winemaking joint venture and is the only South African winery to have been twice nominated for ‘Winery of the Year’ in the same awards. This accolade continues to spotlight the Vilafonté achievements in positioning South African wines at the top end of the quality spectrum.
Zelma is a former winner of the James Beard Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year and has been inducted into the James Beard Hall of Fame. Some additional recent accolades in 2009/10 include:

 Selected by the University of California, Davis, Alumni Association for an Outstanding Achievement award - one of only 6 awarded in 2009.
 American Society of Enology & Viticulture Annual Merit Award – the only award in 2009.
 California State Fair Vintner Life Time Achievement Award for 2009
 American Wine Society 2009 Annual Merit Award Winner
 Induction into the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Vintner Hall of Fame - March 2010
 The John Platter wine guide five star award

Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 11th annual Wine Star Awards recognize excellence on all levels of the industry. Profiles of Zelma Long and nominees from other categories will appear in the November issue of the magazine while the winners of each category will be announced and presented in-depth in the December 15 issue. All award recipients will be honored at the annual Wine Star Awards gala dinner on Monday, January 24, 2011 at the New York Public Library in New York City. Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine Star Awards Dinner began honoring achievements for the year 2000.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vilafonte & Warwick go on a National roadshow!

Fantastic news - we are going on tour! Together with Cathryn Henderson, Editor of Wine Magazine, I will be hosting three incredible Warwick and Vilafonte food and wine dinners across the country over the next 2 months. Enjoy an all-star line-up of our much loved wines paired with a five-course tasting menu, prepared by top chefs at 3 of the hottest and trendiest new venues. Why not put together a table with your mates?

Tickets cost R450 per person and include wine and gratuity. Book now by calling 0860 100 205 email For more information, please contact Jane Eedes on 021 530 3308

Join us for some great wine, awesome food and lots of fun.
Mike Ratcliffe

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zelma Long & Anya Gallaccio present 'Motherlode' wine project in Healdsburg, California

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Vilafonte 'Series C' 2003 is starting to get some rave reviews ahead of the Nederburg Auction

Hints of spring at the Nederburg pre-Auction tasting
By: Jeanri-Tine van Zyl, Published: 13 Jul 10
Yesterday I attended a boxing class when, in the middle of the routine, the gym instructor blared to the group of sweating bodies "you are halfway through winter it is time to start working on those summer bodies!" With the wine calendar heating up the signs of a hinting spring aren't just found in Virgin Actives.
That same afternoon I was at Nederburg for a preview of a selection of the wines that will come under the hammer at the annual auction in September. With public pre-Auction tastings taking place this week (view details here), the advent of the Nederburg Auction is an indication that winter is slowly drawing to a close.
Seasonal appeal aside, this premium event is a highlight on the wine calendar. On 3 and 4 September prestige, passion and pedigree descend on the Paarl winery's grounds, and the wine industry comes to a halt. Stringently selected, the wines on offer at the auction range from the quirky to the absolutely amazing with rare vintages being particularly fascinating.
Dave Hughes presented some of these older vintages to members of the media on Monday. An honour that was coupled with the necessary etiquette: "if a wine is older than you, you demonstrate your respect for the wine by standing up when tasting it".
There were ample "respected vintages" at the tasting which commenced with a flight which included a JC le Roux Pinor Noir MCC 1989.
Others included:

Nederburg Eminence 1988
Nederburg Edelkeur 1977
Zonnebloem Shiraz 1974
Chateau Libertas 1967
Monis Collection Marsala 1983
KWV Port Limited Release 1961
Monis Collectors Port 1948

Of these I preferred the Nederburg Eminence 1988 which with its layered nose of tangerine, peaches and flowers reminded me of summer. The Zonnebloem Shiraz 1974 showed a wine that is aging gracefully with the Chateau Libertas 1967 its cheeky friend. I simply wrote "wow" next to the Monis Collectors Port 1948.
Some of the wines I urge you to try at the Nederburg Auction tastings this week are (*please read disclaimer below):
Vrede en Lust Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition 2007 - Summer fruit with a creamy finish.
Nederburg Private Bin D215 Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - An absolute explosion of passion fruit.                                         
Mountain Oaks Chenin Blanc Reserve 2005 - Some fellow tasters struggled to understand why this wine was included in the auction line-up. I liked it for its generous perfumed nose with its layers and layers of melon and honey.
De Wetshof Unfiltered Chardonnay 2006 - Tinned peaches and nuts with a voluptuous palate.
Rijk's Private Cellar Semillon 2001 - Another wine that was either loved or hated. There is no more single bottling of this varietal on the farm, which adds to the appeal. And I love the opulence of this wine.

Of the reds:
Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Pinotage 2001 - Think Lindt white chocolate and juicy finish. I really, really liked this.
Remhoogte Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - A fairly light-bodied wine with a layered nose that will keep you intrigued.
Vilafonté Series C 2003 - Cherries, sweet tannins and a velvet finish make this a noteworthy wine.
Nederburg Private Bin R109 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2000 - Rich, floral notes interlaced with spice.

Of course the Nederburg desert wines are pure seduction in a bottle.

*Disclaimer: Due to the competitive nature of bidding I do not disclose my favourite wine of the tasting in this entry.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Written by Chris van Ulmenstein and posted to her blog
Free-lance writer and second-most read South African food blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, writing the Scrumptious South Africa blog, described food bloggers as “desperate for attention” at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting last night, and their genre of writing can be called “vanity publishing”, she said.  The bloggers present felt that this description probably applies to bloggers across the board! 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was started earlier this year, and “pairs” a different food blogger and a wine blogger every month.   The wines of the Wine Blogger are tasted, and Warwick/Vilafonte’s Mike Ratcliffe brought along his Warwick Professor Black, the unique Warwick Blue Lady without vintage, and Vilafonte Series M 2006 (the highest rated Merlot blend according to Wine Spectator), for the bloggers to taste.  Food was served by Cafe Max.  Meetings are informal, and questions are answered during the two-hour meeting, encouraging fledgling bloggers to obtain input and tips from more experienced bloggers.

Jane-Anne said that through social media, “opinion has been democratised”, creating a serious threat for traditional media, with their short lead times in publishing restaurant reviews, or food information, compared to traditional magazine and newspaper publishing, and this is leading to tension between the two media types.  She started her blog three years ago, and it reflects her love for cooking and for developing recipes.   While one may not get financial reward out of a blog, especially if one does not accept advertising, which is Jane-Anne’s policy (nor does she accept freebies), she feels that she is adding value to her readers, and she herself receives emotional, intellectual and entertainment satisfaction from writing her blog.  She advised that food blogs must focus on accuracy in terms of ingredients and method of preparation, but also in terms of spelling and grammar. 

Online integrity is vital, and one must trust one’s palate in expressing what one experiences, even if it is not the popular view, one blogger said.  One should track one’s performance, and Jane-Anne advised that referring to, and tagging, names of chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay leads to increased web traffic.  She also advised that one “should find one’s voice” through the blog, and allow one’s readers to “get to know you”, and one’s personality should come through, whatever one’s communication style might be.  While content is king, a “yummy and descriptive” headline is vital in attracting readers into the content, and photographs should be of a “reasonable quality”.   Jane-Anne feels that it is sad to see so many young people’s idea of food and cooking being shaped by chefs and cookery book writers such as Ramsay, Lawson and Oliver, without them having exposure to a more classic cooking culture.  With her Scrumptious blog, Jane-Anne hopes to broaden their cooking knowledge.  

Mike Ratcliffe is probably the most experienced social media marketing wine marketer, and impressed with the different tools he referred to and uses: Blogging, Twitter, FourSquare, Twideo, Google Maps Latitude, and Nice to Meet You.   He has opted out of Facebook, due to the lack of control.   He writes a Vilafonte and a Warwick blog, being the Managing Partner of the former brand, and the Managing Director of the latter brand.  Vilafonte grapes are grown near Sante Wellness, between Paarl and Franschhoek, and the wines are made in a state-of-the-art venue at Bosman’s Crossing in Stellenbosch, while the Warwick wines are made the traditional way by Mike’s mother Norma on their farm.   Her 25th vintage celebration will take the Warwick wines around the world with 40 dinners, at which 10 vintages of their wines will be tasted.   Mike is an irregular blogger, as he travels a lot, and finds he has more time to blog when he travels.  He “leans to controversy” in what he writes, he says, yet he will not pick a fight, and will step back in a fight.  He complimented for their platform on which he is encouraged to write, creating huge exposure to their 40000 unique readers per month.    

Mike advised bloggers to be responsible in their blogging, as one influences views.  One must check one’s information sources, and not use a blog as a platform for retaliation.  If one disappoints one’s readers, they will no longer follow the blogger.  A blog is successful when one is passionate about one’s topic, and about writing.   Twitter is on a growth trend, he feels, and positional tweeting (crowdsourcing) will be introduced soon.  Mike uses traditional marketing communication media too, such as advertising and PR, and the 2000 members of the Warwick Wine Club are an important testing and tasting ground for new wines developed.   He claims that his marketing is spontaneous and dynamic, but one gets the impression that Mike Ratcliffe knows exactly what he is doing in marketing his brands, and is acknowledged by his peers in this respect.   He was praised by a fellow blogger as a professional.  

The next Food and Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting is on Wednesday 18 August, and will “pair” Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Warwick/Vilafonte wine and Scrumptious food bloggers paired

The third Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place next Wednesday 28 July, from 18h00 - 20h00, and will pair Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious food blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte wine blog.
Mike Ratcliffe is the Managing Director of Warwick wine estate and Managing Partner of Vilafonte. He has a B.Comm (Economics) from the University of Stellenbosch and a Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide. He is a Board member of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), has been involved on the marketing committee of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, is the Deputy Chairman of the South African Wine Industry Trust (encouraging black economic empowerment and land redistribution), and is President of the United States/South Africa Foundation, a fundraising charity based in the USA. He is an international wine judge, industry commentator and marketing co-ordinator, and is an industry leader in embracing social media marketing in the marketing of his wines.
Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious blog is a freelance journalist, editor, author of three books (on local touring routes, and on raising toddlers), cook, food writer and recipe developer. She writes as Juno, and her blog is independent, in that she does not accept any advertising or sponsorship, nor does she accept freebies. She does use Google Adsense. She is passionate about “food, fresh local ingredients and punchy flavours”. She loves writing recipes. Jane-Anne was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines. Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others. Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging. The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others. Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers. The Club meetings are informal and fun.
Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 18 August: Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir
Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog
Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog
Wednesday 24 November: Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Mike will introduce the Warwick & Vilafonte wines served. Snacks will be served to match the Vilafonte & Warwick wines. The cost of attendance is R 150. Bookings can be made by e-mailing

The meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be held at Cafe Max, 126 Waterkant Street, in De Waterkant, Cape Town. From Somerset Road turn up Highfield Street (opposite Green Point Traffic Department), alongside the Tafelberg Furnishers/Kfm building, and turn left into Waterkant Street. Cafe Max is about 200 meters further down the road, on the left.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The most beautiful Winter morning at Warwick Wine Estate

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The #wc2010 stadium - up close. Breathtaking

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


On the train to Soccer City - the world Cup final vibe is awesome

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Thursday, June 24, 2010

What becomes a wine industry legend? My breakfast with Zelma

There are only a few people in the U.S. wine industry for whom, if you mentioned their first name, everyone would know exactly who you were speaking of. Zelma Long's lifetime achievements would overwhelm anyone, but for Zelma, it's just been a matter of intense curiosity, high standards and focus. I caught up with her earlier this week to chat over scones at Jimtown Cafe in Alexander Valley.

Zelma was one of the first women to receive a Masters Degree from UC Davis and went on to become head winemaker at Robert Mondavi and Simi Winery during the 1970's and 1980's. Today she is co-owner of Vilafonté Winery in South Africa and consultant to wineries in Mendocino, Washington state, Israel and France. She has always had wide-ranging interests which explains why she has been influential not only in winemaking, but also in viticulture, making 'winegrowing' a term we take for granted today. She also plunged into the business end in the 1990's, taking the reigns as CEO at Simi Winery and marketing at Chandon Estates, at the time both units of luxury firm Moet Hennessy. Zelma's curiosity has taken her to scores of wine regions in seven countries as consulting winemaker, working on a variety of grapes from cabernet in Napa Valley to Riesling in the Nahe Germany to chardonnay in Chianti.

Zelma has had a lifelong interest in other cultures beyond that of wine regions, travelling to Tibet four times in the 90's. She appreciates the arts ranging from Asian, Southwest Indian to contemporary South African genres. And she "doesn't dabble" in the arts. Her desire to learn is so keen that she is currently working on a PhD in the field of performance arts from UC Davis.

Her most recent accolades include the Culinary Institute of America's induction into the Vintners Hall of Fame earlier this year and UC Davis' American Society of Enology and Viticulture's 2009 Merit Award for excellence in education, technology, research and business. Her standard for excellence has had a wide-ranging, global impact when you consider all the people she has hired or who have worked under her over the years. Winemakers like Genevieve Janssens, head winemaker at Robert Mondavi, Peter Sisseck at Pingus - one of the most expensive wines in the world - in Ribera del Duero and Dr. Monika Christmann, head of enology at Geisenheim University in the Rheingau, now set the bar high for the next generation of international winemakers. Other renowned winemakers who have worked for Zelma include Paul Hobbs and David Ramey (most recently at Rudd Estate), both of whom worked for five years as assistant winemakers to Zelma at Simi, and Dawnine Dyer who was Chandon's winemaker for over 20 years.

One of the qualities you notice when you speak with Zelma is that she is focused on the goal in whatever she does. Potential limitations, like being one of the few women in a male-dominated wine industry in the 1970's through the 1990's, never seemed to register with her, although today she is gratified that she might have made it easier for all the women she hired subsequently. Some might think going for a PhD in performance arts without an undergraduate and masters degree in the field would be an obstacle, but not for Zelma. Why not go directly for the goal?

Zelma keeps an active schedule, travelling around the world for her consultancies and winemaking at Vilafonté. She just returned from the Rhone, where she participated in the first Grenache Symposium and is now racing off to Bordeaux where she will make a presentation on Old World and New World wines at the Institute of Masters of Wine Symposium.  Gathering perspective from her experiences and through her many activities, Zelma Long continues to lead an impactful life.

Vilafonté Winery in Stellenbosch South Africa receives visitors. Check the website for information. Vilafonté Wines are imported by Broadbent Selections in San Francisco.

June 21, 7:51 AM Valley Insider Examiner Hanami