Saturday, January 30, 2010


Enjoy a priceless, once-in-a-lifetime experience in South Africa, courtesy of long-time NWWF supporters and Past Honored Vintners, Shari & Garen Staglin, along with American winemaking legend Zelma Long and South African vintner Mike Ratcliffe.

Ten (10) days, nine (9) nights for two (2) couples for a dream South African wine safari

Round-trip, business class airfare for two (2) couples to Cape Town, South Africa and return from Johannesburg, South Africa

3 – 5 Liter bottles, presented in a specially designed wooden box with etched glass, the NWWF logo and other images signifying your South African adventure, including:

1 – 5 Liter 2007 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

1 – 5 Liter 2007 Vilafonté Series C Proprietary Red Wine

1 – 5 Liter 2006 Warwick Estate Trilogy Proprietary Red Wine

DAY ONE—Cape Town

After your overnight flight from New York, check into your one-bedroom suites at the newest and most luxurious hotel in South Africa, the One&Only. Situated in the heart of the Cape Town waterfront, it is surrounded by all the energy and activity that has made Cape Town a true must-see destination. After you relax from your flight or take a quick stroll, get ready for a fabulous dinner at Chef Gordon Ramsay’s chic new restaurant, Maze...his first in Africa.

DAYS TWO; THREE—Cape Town; Cape Point

Each morning, you will be greeted by your own personal tour guide and driver who will take you on a full day of touring. Over the next few days you will experience Cape Town at its most exciting. First stop? The top of famous Table Mountain; where you can see the city, the harbor and the entire peninsula down to Cape Point. Your guide will also take you to all the top tourist destinations including, the National Gallery, the South African Museum, the Houses of Parliament, the penguin colony in Simonstown and a glass bottom boat to the seal colony. You’ll even take a drive down the coast to the fishing hamlet of Kalk Bay and its many antique shops, continuing down to the Cape of Good Hope. As you stand on the most south westerly point of Southern Africa, you will see some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet.

DAY FOUR—Cape Town; Hermanus

Today, your guide will take you through the Elgin wine and fruit growing region on your way to Hermanus; a charming coastal town set between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Nature lovers from all over the world come here to watch the Southern Right Whale from these cliffs. Several of the country’s top wine estates are also nearby and at South Africa’s premier Pinot Noir producer Hamilton Russel Vineyards, you’ll be hosted by proprietor Anthony Hamilton Russel for an in-depth tour and barrel tasting. Upon your return to One&Only, dinner will be waiting at Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s African version of his acclaimed eponymous restaurant, Nobu.

DAY FIVE—The Winelands; the Grande Provence Owners Cottage

Once you have been bewitched by the majesty of Cape Town, you will be whisked the short distance to the South African wine lands where you will reside in luxury and be personally escorted through this spectacular wine region. Your home these next two nights - the Owner’s Cottage at Grande Provence, named by Harper’s Bazaar as one of the “10 Most Fabulous Villas in the World.” The property is a 300-year old wine and fruit estate nestled in the magnificent Franschhoek Valley. Dine at the Grand Provence Restaurant and visit the cellar where years of great winemaking heritage comes to life.

DAY SIX—Vilafonté Vineyard; Stellenbosch

That morning, your driver will take you to the Vilafonté Vineyard in Stellenbosch where you’ll meet South African Mike Ratcliffe and Californian Zelma Long, partners in the world’s only South African–American luxury winemaking joint venture. Vilafonté is the only South African winery to have been nominated by The Wine Enthusiast for ‘New World Winery of the Year.’ You’ll experience a vertical tasting of the Vilafonté Series M and Series C wines and learn about the most cutting-edge developments in South African winemaking. Lunch with the Vilafonté team at the winery’s Italian bistro, Pane e Vino and after a rest in their guest house, Mike and his wife Pip will host a traditional South African braai (barbecue) at Warwick Wine Estate, their family-owned winery. Significant milestone wines from the past 40 years will be opened to celebrate the evening. Return to Grande Provence for one last night.

DAYS SEVEN TO TEN—On Safari at Singita Sweni

After a fond farewell to the luxurious Grande Provence, you will be off to your next adventure! Fly to Singita Sweni; the most intimate of the renowned Singita lodges. Set amidst the foliage of the Sweni River in the Kruger National Park game reserve, there are just six riverside suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows, luxurious bathrooms and an expansive living area. A private deck over the water’s edge is an idyllic spot for drinks or to curl up with a book. A typical day at Singita starts as guests congregate with the rangers at the main lodge for tea, coffee and light snacks in anticipation of the early morning game drive. Who knows what to expect? Maybe a leopard in the branches of a tree with a kill, a herd of elephants, or an impala may dart right in front of your Land Rover. A spectacular breakfast will follow your return. Spend the morning indulging in a massage or beauty treatment at the spa, shopping or simply relaxing on your sundeck.

After lunch, take a walking safari, followed by afternoon refreshments in the main lodge. The exciting evening drive is the apex of your African adventure. Imagine watching the sun set over the horizon while you witness a pride of lions stalking their prey or buffalo strolling to a water hole…each an unforgettable wildlife experience. Upon your return, the fires are lit and the night's entertainment begins. Have dinner around the fire in the Boma under the stars or a gourmet meal by candlelight in the dining room. Then…retire to your suite for a restful night’s sleep in preparation for the next exciting day!

Upon your return home and into reality, the crème de la crème of wines from Staglin Family Vineyard, Vilafonté and Warwick Estate, presented in a keepsake box, will be a wonderful reminder of this dream of a trip.

Yes…dream of Africa...but with one magnanimous bid…live your dream.

Insider's Info: Trip to be taken on mutually agreeable dates March 1–December 1, 2010, excluding June 1-30, 2010 during the FIFA World Cup. All airfare and ground transportation within South Africa are included. Flights within South Africa will be a combination of commercial and charter. All breakfasts at all accommodations are included. At One&Only, dinner at Nobu and dinner at Maze are included. At Grande Provence, dinner is included, as well as the lunch and dinner with Mike Ratcliffe. At Singita, all meals, two daily game drives, walking safaris and premium wines & spirits are included. Additional meals and activities outside of those listed are not included.

Donor: Garen and Shari Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyard

Additional Donors: Zelma Long and Mike Ratcliffe of Vilafonté, Neil Ratcliffe of Southern Destinations, The One&Only Hotels, The Huka Retreats and Singita Private Game Reserve

To live & die in Copenhagen - the damage - good night!

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


Friday, January 29, 2010

a picture of me disembarking from airplane in a raging blizzard in Copenhagen

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


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

20cm of snow in Stockholm today - the things we do for wine marketing!

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


Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Wine World in 2010: What to Expect

High unemployment, pared-down expense accounts and a glut of wine mean that in 2010 consumers will find lower prices and better selection

Not since the millennium folly in 1999 have I seen so much frenzy in the wine market. Back then, with stock markets booming, auction houses setting records for wines and Champagne producers warning there wouldn't be enough fizz for the celebration, producers were enthusiastic and bottles were getting pricier by the month.
What a difference a decade makes. With high unemployment, pared-down expense accounts and a glut of wine, it's the consumer's turn to make merry, with lower prices, more choice and less pretension. Those 99-point ratings don't seem quite so requisite any more to buying good wine.
So what do I see happening in 2010?

1. Prices will continue to drop across the board, from the priciest of Bordeaux and Burgundy to cult California wines that were once available only by subscription. This goes, too, for those Italian, Spanish and Chilean producers who thought that they could easily get the same kind of money those age-old French estates used to command.

2. More people will buy online. Consumers can go to sites like or and compare prices for the same wine not just around the U.S., where many states now allow cross-state shipping, but in the U.K., Germany, and other countries. The spread can be amazing: a wine costing $40 in one store may be $75 in another. Wine stores will stock more inexpensive wines, which account for most of their profits.

3. Wine blogging will increase, mostly among those contending they've found spectacular bottles that will "blow your doors off" for under $15 a bottle. As with all blogging, readers should be wary of the source of such claims.

4. California, alas, will fail to back away from big, high alcohol, oaky reds and whites, because the producers believe that is the style most Americans prefer over subtlety and complexity. The problem is that cheaper wines of this style are so often dreadful, out of balance and undrinkable after one glass. California wineries talk a good game about finesse, but then they overripen their grapes and stick them in new oak for too long.

5. The tsunami of new wines from South America and Eastern Europe will ebb as the market overflows. Greek, Portuguese, and Brazilian wines have had good press in recent years, but unless they keep prices down, they won't make much headway.

6. New Zealand wineries will be in trouble. The country's recent prodigious harvests have glutted the market for their overly fruity punch-like style, and many fans want to move up in quality.

7. Champagne will be in serious trouble. It's not just that prices have gotten way out of whack, with too many selling above $100 a bottle, but other sparkling-wine producers have been canny about getting their bubblies well-positioned, well-priced and well-reviewed. Champagne is reducing output and holding back product already bottled to get some balance, but it's going to be a struggle to win revelers back from Italian prosecco, Californian sparklers and Spanish cavas. There are just too many Champagne labels out there.

8. Fine-dining restaurants will buy nominal numbers of expensive wines after trimmed expense accounts caused them to sit on their previous big capital purchases. They'll wait until guests are telling sommeliers, "Money is no object." Good luck with that. Fewer top-end restaurants will even open, and more modest new eateries will build wine lists with interesting, small labels from around the world and sell them at reasonable mark-ups.

9. More producers will switch to screwtops from cork stoppers in an effort to stem damage to the wines in the bottle from corkiness and oxidation as well as to make wine more accessible to the average consumer. The dirty secret is that most winemakers I talk to say they'd love to switch to screwcaps but fear buyers will think them cheap! Very dumb.

10. Americans will buy more wine at the $10-and-under level. The best bet for an expanding market is China, which is thirsty for good, inexpensive wine. And, like everything else, they'll soon be producing that themselves.

Review by John Mariani (Bloomberg)

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