Celebrating Pinot

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

A busy schedule unfortunately precluded my attending the full two days of activities at the inaugural Hemel-en Aarde Winegrowers’ Association’s Pinot Noir Celebration, held on 31 January and 01 February just before harvest 2014 kicked in. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay district, which falls under the Cape South Coast region, has gained a reputation for producing benchmark Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay.

Attendees had the chance to sample the wines of all the Pinot Noir producers in the valley. Tastings were held by Bouchard Finlayson, Crystallum, Domaine Des Dieux, Hamilton Russell, La Vierge, Newton Johnson, Sumaridge, Storm Wines and Whalehaven. The other events were getting positive reviews from fellow tasters at the only one I did get to attend, Pinot in Paradise at Creation Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge appellation.

New Picture (10)

It was a very special Saturday evening at Creation – the first vertical tasting of their finely crafted Pinot Noir. First up was a tasting of five wines: Creation Pinot Noir 2012, Creation Emma’s Pinot Noir 2012, and the Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, 2011 and 2010. Interestingly, Emma’s Pinot Noir was made by co-owners JC and Carolyn Martin’s daughter when she was all of 10 years old!

She’s clearly following in the footsteps of her cellarmaster father and her mother’s family, the Finlaysons. Carolyn’s winemaker dad Walter, now retired, was a highly regarded winemaker and her brother David continues the tradition at Edgebaston. Her uncle, Peter Finlayson, is down the road at Bouchard Finlayson and his son Peter-Allan makes wines under the Crystallum label.

Affable cellarmaster JC went into detail about each wine we tasted from these vineyards, which were planted in 2003. The first Pinot released was the 2008 vintage. JC hails from Switzerland. “In my home country, the pinot noir vineyards at our family winery were some 50 years old. These vineyards were planted on virgin land and are still very young. It’s a long journey that requires patience but the results of the last 10 years have already shaped up well against their Burgundian counterparts at international tastings. We have a bright future ahead of us!”

New Picture (11)

Each of the five wines was then paired with a canapé. My favourite food matches of the evening were the goat’s milk cheese, the springbok and the duck.  Click here to see the menu.

A walk up to a pinot noir vineyard fronting onto the dam in the cool evening air ended the event– you can feel the temperature drop about 12 degrees come nightfall, providing a cool Continental climate that’s ideal for winegrowing. It was a nice way to end a tasting of delicious “wine you can trace back to the place…” as JC puts it.

I hope to be back to experience all the tastings at next year’s Pinot Noir Celebration.

 – Lindsaye Mc Gregor