HAZENDAL WINE ESTATE
Saturday 29 June 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 4/5
Call me silly but somehow I get Hazendal and Hartenberg muddled up. I have tasted their wines at festivals and award evenings but never visited either estate. Both wineries are on the Bottleray Road to the North West of Stellenbosch together with Mooiplaas, Kaapzicht, Groenland, Bellevue, Goede Hoop, Fort Simon and many more, some not open to the public without appointment. The mystery deepens for Hazendal as the 2019 Platter’s Wine Guide does not list or rate any wine for the winery as it was recently closed for extensive renovation. My tasting plan for today was to visit both wine estates, with Fort Simon between, to put my confusion to rest.
The approach to the Bottleray Road wine region from Cape Town is through dwindling, untidy suburbs so it is always a pleasure to reach the undulating winelands with their gentle slopes. Hazendal is the first estate reached from Brackenfell. Security at the entrance gate was extra tight – my UK driving licence being barely adequate – but I successfully gained entry. I had not been before so I had no idea what to expect and so I was pleasantly surprised when the tree-lined approach, with young vines and olives beside, crossed a small brook to a large grassed area surrounded by impressive historic Cape Dutch buildings with their whitewash walls, characteristic gables and thatch roofs. My eye was immediately drawn to the Jonkerhuis after parking at the rear. Built in 1781, it is believed that the building was constructed by Joost van As who was the son of Willem van As who bought the farm in 1729 and who was responsible for introducing the Cape Dutch style of architecture to Hazendal.
The Jonkerhuis housed slaves after the Homestead was built in 1790 but is now home to the Marvol Gallery. I now realised why there was the heavy security on entry when I saw the armed guard at the entrance with chest GoPro looking like a member of an American SWAT tactical team (photographs strictly not allowed). The Gallery houses works of Russian and South African art from owner Dr Voloshin’s private collection, who bought Hazendal in 1994. The rotating collection contained a display of modern-day Fabergé eggs. Made for Tsar Alexander III in 1885 for his wife, the eggs became symbols of splendour, power and wealth of the Romanov Dynasty and the Russian Empire. Production ceased after the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution when the factory was nationalised and the Fabergé family fled Russia. The trademark has since changed hands many times with most of the impressive, gilt and detailed eggs with inlaid previous and semi-precious stones at Hazendal, including 1 of only 2 ‘Mandela’ eggs, made under licence by the Victor Mayer jewellery company. The collection was impressive – as well as celebrating the history, relationship and art between Russia and South Africa – and well worth seeing if you visit Hazendal. As if to remind, the sign outside leading me to the Tasting Building had directions in Cyrillic as well as Roman lettering.
The Tasting Room and adjoining Avant-Garde Restaurant were equally impressive. Tall ceilings and modern décor bring a contemporary and rich touch to contrast the historic building. A number of diners were enjoying an extravagant Russian tea ‘brunch’ in the plush dining room, with large, exotic marine fish tank and bar at one end and the cellar with stainless steel tanks worthy of an art installation itself visible through glass panelling to the side. The Tasting Lounge, aptly housed in the original 1870 wine cellar, was grandiose and luxuriant as if for a Tsar with its signature shiny black, gold and copper coloured theme reminiscent of a Russian Orthodox Christian icon painting, babushka doll, or even the Fabergé eggs themselves. Tastings are either in the open lounge with welcome winter open log fire or around a bar beneath a cleverly designed mezzanine private room above. I chose to taste at the bar though the raised bar stools were not the most comfortable. Brent was my eager, polite and attentive host who remembered me from my tasting visit to Ken Forrester more than 2 years ago.
Tasting options include the 3 wines of the Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range (R35), 3 wines from the premium Hazendal Range (R65), or both (R90). I was fortunate to be able to sample the wines from across both ranges together with the Scarlet Sails MCC, usually not for tasting. The grapes are planted on 13 hectares of the 145 hectare property and include a wide range of common and less common cultivars (Carignan, Carménère, Albarinho, Marsanne and Roussanne being the less widely planted varieties) to suit the varied granite-based, red, yellow and brown soils amid the terroir at 150 metres to 400 metres above sea level. Besides being the most popular novel by the Russian author Grin, Scarlet Sails is a spectacular firework celebration during the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, Russia. This is reflected in the elegant wine label with ship made with gold, bronze and copper coloured sails.
The very pale blush coloured MCC is aged for longer on the lees than most in South Africa (48 months for the 2015 vintage, 58 months for the 2014 vintage) to give distinct yeasty brioche notes on the nose. It was good to sample and compare both vintages. I rated them equally though they were not the same. The grapey nose, smooth moussante mouthfeel and fresh green apple and citrus flavours were similar. The 2014 vintage, containing 10% more Pinot Noir, was more subtle and elegant with a fuller body greater depth and length. The younger, 2013 wine showed a lighter but sweeter character with good acidity and grip on the palate.
The Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range includes easy drinking wines with the name being a tribute to the farm’s first owner who changed production from grain and cattle to vines to make Hazendal one of the first independent winemakers in the region. He was also a German settler and messenger to Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel who granted him 60 hectares of land. South African white blends are usually a nod to white Bordeaux wines and made from Sauvignon Blanc with added Sémillon for extra body, moderated acidity, complexity and softer texture. The White Blend was thus unusual in being a mix of 4 common white cultivars – the Cremello at Cavalli and Laurens Campher White Blend at Muratie excepted – in broadly similar overall proportion. The wine benefitted with a fresh and complex nose of honeyed, floral and herbaceous apple and citrus aromas. The apparent sweetness of aroma hid a dry wine on the palate that was more rounded and with more body than a Sauvignon Blanc.
Hazendal translates from Dutch to mean ‘the valley of the hares’ and the painting of a hare in Regency styled clothing features on the wrap around labels of the Hazenwinkel wines. The Blanc de Noir made from Shiraz was medium pink in colour, much deeper than many a Rosé, from 6 hours skin contact before pressing. I was again fortunate to be able to taste from 2 vintages of this popular wine. The 2018 vintage showed a good intensity of raspberry and wild strawberry aromas – avoiding the temptation for customary sweet candy notes – and was better for it. This helped for a dry, clean, refreshing wine with good acidity and average length. I preferred, just, the older 2017 wine due to its more honey, perfumed and subtler aromas.
My favourite wine was the Bordeaux-styled Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc that, again unusual for the style, was mostly Sémillon (67%). The wine, like those in the Hazendal Range, came in distinct Italian-imported, prosecco-shaped bottle. Why do anything the same as elsewhere? I liked the layered nose of guava, preach, nectarine and pear notes that overlaid those of more herbaceous and grassy green pepper. This made for an interesting wine with vanilla, oaked flavours (9 months in French and Hungarian 500 litre barrels) that emerged with extra complexity on the palate to give a rounding and balance.
The bush vine Chenin Blanc could only have been a Chenin Blanc due to its distinct white honey, tropical fruit salad, guava, litchi and vanilla aromas. These followed through to a flavoursome palate in which fruit, acidity and sweetness balanced. Oak flavours again come to the fore on the palate but freshness was retained by blending back 30% from stainless steel tanks. The same vinification and oaking techniques were used for the Chardonnay, the final white wine and penultimate wine of the tasting. Green and yellow apple aromas mingled with distinct vanilla and acacia (Hungarian oak) notes for a fresh and floral nose. The wine was youthful and fresh on the palate with a subtle oaking to show off the fruit flavours. This is an excellent wine for those of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement or for those who do not enjoy the more traditional or heavier oaked Chardonnay.
The sole red wine of the tasting (Hazendal has plans to produce more red wines) was the Red Blend from the Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range served with hare’s ear-shaped palate cleanser. This was another unusual blend. Besides being a less common Cape Blend (a Bordeaux-styled wine containing Pinotage) the Red Blend contained Pinot Noir. The wine was just full bodied and most likely less filtered than the white wines due to its slight opacity. Spiciness from each of the cultivars made for another interesting wine with the Pinotage contributing sweet banana notes to those of dark plum, red cherry, cinnamon and white pepper. Additional spiciness on the palate balanced the fruit flavours and fine, integrated tannins with a good finish for a well-priced red blend.
Hazendal, much like Cavalli, Waterford and Waterkloof, is a statement wine estate. Not only is there a signature restaurant but also other activities to tempt the wine drinker and family. There is the Marvol Gallery, Wonderdal children’s Edutainment Centre, family BMX Park, the Babushka Deli, Russian Tea experiences and Babushka picnics. The plus for Hazendal is that the quality of the wines has not suffered with owner and management attention being focused on the vinitourism activities as at Meerendal and Spier. The extensive restoration and redevelopment that was completed in 2018 cleverly combines 300 year old history and architecture with modern, contemporary living and adventure. New meets old but so too does South Africa meet Russia in seamless, integrated fashion. The avant-garde brand, even down to the unusual wine blends, wine labels and bottle shape, cleverly ties everything together to balance rather than clash. The Bacchus (Roman God of Wine) bronze logo, in use since 1831 to signify a commitment to produce fine, quality wines, is as relevant today as over the past 180 years. I thoroughly recommend a visit (noting winter closure of many activities until early August) and especially if you prefer white wines. Hazendal will embrace you whether Capetonian or from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek or the Wine Lands, or the rest of South Africa or visitor from overseas. Make a trip to the valley of the hares …
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Scarlet Sails MCC (54% Pinot Noir, 46% Chardonnay) – R360
2014 Scarlet Sails MCC (64% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay) – R360
2018 Christoffel Hazenwinkel White Blend (34% Chenin Blanc, 29% Sémillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Chardonnay) – R120
2017 Hazendal Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc (67% Sémillon, 33% Sauvignon Blanc) – R295 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Hazendal Chenin Blanc – R285
2017 Hazendal Chardonnay – R285
2018 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Blanc de Noir (100% Shiraz) – R120
2017 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Blanc de Noir (100% Shiraz) – R120
2017 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Red Blend (59% Shiraz, 26% Pinotage, 15% Pinot Noir) – R120
Thursday 25 April 2019
Waterford is another of those big name wine estates amid the other 800 or more in the Western Cape (and a growing number beyond too) that I have wanted to visit for some time. I have tasted at over 200 wineries since I started the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society over 2 years ago so there are several more to visit and review. Like many, I had sampled the Waterford wines before at festivals and other events but there is no substitute in my mind for tasting a wine at the place at which it is made, ideally looking out over the vineyards whilst doing so. The occasion was a mid-week break in the Upper Blaauwklippen Valley, South of Stellenbosch during which I planned to taste also at Kleinood Winery (Tamboerskloof wines), Keermont Vineyards and De Trafford Wines.
The stone walled entrance (opposite Kleinood) showed presence and status, leading to an impressive tree lined avenue that gave dappled shade from the bright late-afternoon autumn to winter sunshine. Growing ever closer and through the Clementine orchards, framed above by the stony Helderberg Mountains, were the cellar buildings with their red corrugated tile roofs and stately, central arched tower. I parked close by and tried to decide the architecture in my own mind. It was part Italian, part Spanish perhaps – much as I might expect a Californian winery – but certainly not Cape Dutch. The website refers to the ‘Mediterranean courtyard’ so I guess I was half right twice.
Impressive the arrival at Waterford certainly was. It was all the more so as I ventured into the large circular courtyard inside, complete with central gushing trademark Waterford fountain. Expansive, upholstered, and no doubt expensive sitting rooms flanked either side of the entrance with their large open fireplaces, terracotta floor tiles, designer décor and extravagant flower decorations. Further couches and low tables filled the verandah outside in case inclement weather prevented tasting whilst sat on the low circular wall around the fountain.
Waterford clearly meant to make a statement and a statement it did. I chose to sit at one of the many small tables at the edge of the courtyard so I could taste and write with ease. The Waterford Tasting Experience lists 7 options. I would have expected no fewer from the grand setting. Two of these require pre-booking (the 3 hour Estate Wine Drive and Porcupine Trail Walk, at R1,150 and R450, respectively) and are part of the ‘Waterford Way’ which is ‘to be prosperous’. There were 2 wine and chocolate pairings – or rather, ‘Experiences’ – for 3 or 6 wines, costing R95 and R125. There was also a single tasting of the Jem (R115) which is Waterford’s flagship wine – named after owner Jeremy Ord, also as in Waterf-ord – which is a blend from a selection of the 11 estate cultivars grown on the estate and first released in 2007; 8 for the 2014 vintage at an ethereal cost of R1,650 a bottle. Being neither ‘prosperous’ nor fortunate enough to have held the contract for Waterford’s marketing material, I opted to skip the Library Collection Tasting (R250 for a selection of unique and limited blends) for the basic or rather ‘Portfolio Tasting’.
While I waited for Thomas to bring the first of the 6 wines, I was reminded of Vrede en Lust whose lifestyle, entry level wines are part of their Premium Range. The wines came in set ord-er (pun intended) beginning with the Rose-Mary that is named after Jeremy’s late mother. This was a Rosé – more correctly from the website ‘a very sophisticated approach towards a blanc de noir’ – that was pale salmon pink in colour. Made from Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo and Grenache grapes, picked early to be bone dry (1.1 grams per litre residual sugar) and low alcohol (10.8%), the wine showed typical sweet strawberry and raspberry aromas with a hint of white spice and medium intensity. The palate did not show much sophistication for me, with a weak follow though, little weight and low complexity (a different ord-er of magnitude to the outstanding Tamboerskloof wine I had earlier tasted at Kleinood opposite).
Next was the first of 2 white wines. In contrast to the Rosé, the Elgin sourced Sauvignon Blanc was almost too big on the nose with intense forward aromas of guava, litchi and pineapple that gave way to grassy, citrus, green pepper notes that belied the pale straw colour. I did not expect this degree of tropical fruit salad flavour for a cool climate wine but perhaps the 2018 drought and summer heat contributed or even yeast selection. The palate was dry, clean and fresh as expected of the variety but with very little flavour. The contrast with the aromas was as marked as the shadows around me as light and dark danced at the end of the afternoon.
I rated the Chardonnay, served in correct ‘balloon’ glass, the same. The grapes come from a single block (5.8 hectares) of vines that were planted in 1988, making them some of the oldest Chardonnay in the Cape. Barrel-fermented for 9 months in 24% new oak, the wine showed a pale gold colour. This was classic medium-oaked South African Chardonnay: sweet citrus, vanilla and pecan nut aromas of decent intensity, a smooth mouthfeel, and medium complexity. I would have rated it higher except that the acidity was not fully integrated to leave a bitter aftertaste.
The Waterford Estate has been owned by a partnership between two families since 1998, before which it was part of the adjoining Stellenrust farm. Jeremy and Leigh Ord purchased the property whilst Kevin and Heather Arnold have developed the wines to make it the estate it is today. Half of the 120 hectares are under vine with a wide selection of French, Italian and Spanish cultivars being grown, with the remaining 60 hectares set aside for conservation. Red wines form the majority (70%). The winery was designed by Alex Walker using stone from the vineyards and local quarries as well as timber from the estate.
My favourite wine of the tasting was the Estate Grenache Noir that could by its pale ruby appearance easily have been mistaken for a Pinot Noir. Look out for more Grenache in South Africa, better known for Priorat (as Garnacha in Spain) or as the major component of Château Neuf-du-Pape and many Rhône blends, due to its drought-resistance. The grape makes for a muscular and spicier Pinot Noir with more body, tannin and alcohol and lower acidity. Thomas described the wine as ‘a red wine like a white wine; a white wine like a red wine’ and I could see how it could appeal to traditional white wine drinkers who do not enjoy red wine. The nose showed a bright intensity of smokey, gamey cherry and currant fruity aromas with a hint of maraschino. The wine was bolder on the palate than I expected and certainly more so than a Pinot Noir.
The Kevin Arnold Shiraz was next which I had tasted at the Charcuterie & Shiraz Festival in Franschhoek last year. Subtitled Katherine Leigh, youngest daughter of the Ord family, the wine showed a better intensity of aroma than flavour. The nose showed good complexity of fruit, floral and savoury notes – sweet plum and dark fruits, violets, leather and meats – that lessened on the palate for a lighter styled wine. Tannins nonetheless were structured and green olive in flavour.
Cabernet Sauvignon was the final wine of the tasting as the shadows lengthened in the courtyard. It is Waterford’s leading varietal (30% of plantings) and made with 6% added Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot for colour, perfume and structure. The medium-bodied wine was made in lighter style than many Stellenbosch Cabernets. It showed good fresh red and dark fruit aromas of cassis, blackberry, black cherry, pencil shavings and green herbs. The tannins were closed and forwards on the palate, with classic drying mouthfeel, for a bright finish as befitting its youthful age.
Waterford promised so much. The impressive approach, mountain backdrop and setting, the grand design, opulent Tasting Room and the wide circular courtyard spoke of the Waterford ‘prosperity’. The wow factor is definitely there and a lure for the many American and other foreign tourists beside me. It is undoubtedly the kind of wine estate that is made for the coffee table winery books and vice versa. That is all well and dandy for me and part of the rich and diverse South African wine landscape and heritage. The proof for me as a wine journalist, student and connoisseur lies in the wines. Waterford ticked all the right boxes. There was a broad selection of the best known white and red wines to show off the best of the Stellenbosch terroir. There was a Rosé too and a wine from Elgin (the Sauvignon Blanc). There was the interest cultivar too with the Grenache rather than a Pinot Noir. Wine quality was however variable, with the red wines higher rated than the white wines. The service level was variable too, even for late afternoon when there were relatively few customers, and I had to wait too long between some wine servings. Wine prices were well above average which did not surprise. The Waterford name itself brings premium pricing (as did the tasting fee) that many a tourist will not even notice.
I enjoyed Waterford and was pleased to have visited and tasted the wines, which was my motivation to go. The wow was more from the buildings than the wines. I was reminded on leaving of my experience at the similarly named Waterkloof (I often get the 2 estates muddled up for that reason) that also underwhelmed as expectation fell below experience. Overall, Waterford was more ord-inary than extra-ord-inary.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2018 Waterford Elgin Sauvignon Blanc – R132
2016 Waterford Estate Chardonnay – R272
2018 Waterford Rose-Mary Blanc de Noir – R116
2016 Waterford Estate Grenache Noir – R295 FAVOURITE WINE
2014 Kevin Arnold Shiraz – R295
2016 Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – R356
Friday 4 May 2018
Landskroon Wines was the very antithesis of the Charles Back-owned duo of Fairview Wines and the Spice Route Winery. Located adjacent to these 2 brand giants, the De Villiers family-owned estate on Paarl Mountain was honest and simple by comparison. The whitewashed gate entrance led up the hill through the vineyards to a series of outbuildings with oak trees providing sparse shade for parking. I met oom-de Villiers on my way to the Tasting Room, passing an interesting collection of Stone Age implements found on the farm. He spoke only in Afrikaans and claimed to be the owner, rather than co-owner and fifth generation winemaker brothers Paul and Hugo de Villiers.
As I entered the simple Tasting Room, complete with family photos and award certificates on the walls that was vaguely reminiscent of Groenland Wynes, I felt at home again. No branding, no fuss, no ‘vinotourism’ – just the wines. There was a sense of peace to the room aided by the classic wine labels from the Landskroon Range and the premium red Paul de Villiers Range. Landskroon is a family farm with a long history, stretching back to 1689 when Huguenot refugee Jacque de Villiers arrived in the Cape. Just 3 years later, the farm was granted to a Swedish immigrant from Landkrona (meaning ‘little bear’) – hence the current name of Landskroon – by Governor Simon van der Stel.
Fast forwards to 1974 through multiple de Villiers generations and the consolidation of different farms, and the first wine, a Cinsault, was made under the Landskroon label. Wines were first exported in 1994 and the cellar expanded and upgraded in 2000. Today, the farm produces mainly red wines (80%) from the 190 hectares (of 300 hectares) under vine. Surprisingly perhaps for a farm with such traditional historic roots, there are some unusual and interesting varieties grown in addition to the noble grape cultivars: Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. I read on my return home that Cape Vintage (Port) is made which explains the latter.
Bevena was my attentive host as I chose which wines to taste. I had to start with a Sauvignon Blanc as today was International Sauvignon Blanc Day. The bright shiny wine was my favourite of the tasting. Made in green grassy style, it showed decent complexity of fresh lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas. The palate was fresh and clean, with high acidity, as any Sauvignon Blanc should be. It was good value for money too (R57).
The barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc (85% in French oak) was more restrained in style, shyly revealing notes of baked apple, ripe melon and sweet lemon on the nose. It was watery and thin on the palate, moderately dry, and needed to be more robust for my taste.
Cinsault was my first red wine and the first to be made at Landskroon. Popular in China, the lightly wooded, light to medium bodied wine showed typical Pinot Noir colours of pale ruby. Complexity of sweet fruited aroma was limited but pleasant – red cherry and wild raspberry, together with light pepper spice – which gave way to light tannins in the mouth.
The Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend – both classic Bordeaux Right Bank varieties – was also light in style. This was my first tasting of either variety of the day and a return to the red fruit flavours and grippy, bitter olive tannins. I preferred the single variety Merlot, matured in oak for 12 months, which showed a better intensity of ripe redcurrant, red cherry, red plum and cedar. The wine was tannin-forwards on the palate and showed medium length.
The Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon, also my first tasting for the day, was a multi-award winner. Full bodied and deep ruby in appearance, aided by 16 months in 85% French new oak, the wine showed greater intensity and complexity than either the blend or the Merlot. The balance on the palate was better too though the tannins were still not yet fully integrated or developed.
The Shiraz, also from the Paul de Villiers range, was good also with a bolder bouquet of spicy red-to-dark berry aromas. The tannins were olive in character but not too aggressive to contribute to a decent finish.
I sampled last the Pinotage Blanc de Noir – literally a white (pink) wine made from red grapes – which I bought a bottle of. Transparent and shiny in appearance, the delicate eye of the partridge colour is from just 2 hours of skin contact. Classic Rosé ripe strawberry and sweeter candy aromas showed on the nose to follow through to a dry, clean wine on the palate.
Landskroon Wines stuck to the basics without the razzmatazz of neighbouring Spice Route and Fairview wine farms. I enjoyed the simple wines that were decently made. Some were lighter in style than I prefer but all were very affordable at R50 to little more than R100. When the big boys next door are busy, the car parks full, and range of activities and attractions overwhelming, give yourself a little peace and visit Landskroon. You will not be disappointed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Sauvignon Blanc – R57 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Paul de Villiers Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc – R111
2017 Pinotage Blanc de Noir – R49*
2015 Cinsault – R49
2016 Cabernet Franc/Merlot (56% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot) – R59
2016 Merlot – R71
2015 Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon – R116
2015 Paul de Villiers Shiraz – R116