The Dombeya range from Haskell Vineyards are all modernly styled wines but with a great respect for the cultivation site. Add the winemaker Rianie Strydom’s European touch to the wines and there you have it; Stellenbosch wines with lovely personality!
Rianie’s approach is both innovative to say the least – and curious. For the South African skeptics, myself included, these wines are just one big “Yes, finally!”. Away flew yet a prejudice although I’m still a bit scared of the burnt scent issue. Maybe John Platter can guide me in the future? I need to find more Dombeya’s out there!
For the curious: 2009 in Stellenbosch gave, on an average basis, cooler temperatures which suited Sauvignon Blanc. This wine consists of grapes from three different vineyards of which one was Semillon. Handpicked early in the morning to preserve the grape’s flavor and then fermented at an average temperature below 15 C. Prior to fermentation dry ice and Nitrogen sparging were used to protect the Sauvignon flavors from aeration as much as possible. The Semillon part was fermented in old barrels and kept on the lees until bottling in July.
Tasting note: Light color, almost like water with a green hue, the wine shows a restrained Sancerre like nose. Wet rocks, green notes, slightly floral, green apple peel and just a hint of passion fruit. Fine palate with plenty of fruit and acidity, all in fine balance. It’s first in the taste you sense the Semillon – contributing with a slightly fatter texture than a Sauvignon Blanc alone would be able to. Still restrained and mineral driven with a quite long finish. I like it a lot and Rianie has definitely found her own style in interpreting the grape. (88 points)
2008 Dombeya Chardonnay
For the curious: A tough year for Chardonnay if you picked late resulting in the need of monitoring the grapes for noble rot. The grapes picked at an earlier stage though gave excellent acidity and were in very fine shape. Handpicked at four different times to spread the flavors and then pressed as whole bunches. Out of the four, one batch fermented naturally – most in barriques except a smaller part which fermented in stainless steel. Ageing on 30% new oak for 10 months. Interesting to know is that 10% of the 2009 vintage was blended into the wine before bottling.
Tasting note: Light color. Gently oaked aromas, green apple, floral, lime peel, herbs and wet rocks. A most elegant appearance almost resembling an oaked Chablis in style. High and delicate acidity, firm and steely mineral. Green apples and a sweet grape fruite note adds depth. Long finish. This one got me directly – what a fine wine and at a great price as well! (90 points)
2007 Dombeya Merlot
For the curious: This is the first release of a 100% Merlot and the second vintage of harvesting the grape from vineyards Haskell manage themselves. A lot of effort is put in the crop managment to open up the canopies in order to get the black cherry and plum character in the Merlot. The vineyards are on north facing slopes which consist of rocky clay of 10 – 15% – resulting in an excellent water retention ability. Supplementary irrigation was used sparingly and on a needs basis during the growing season.
Handpicked at different times due to the diversity of the soil. Handsorted and then fermented with two yeast cultures at 25-28 C with 3-4 pump-overs and punch downs evenly spread from 06:00 to 22:00. Maceration time, including fermentation, was 11-15 days after the wine was pressed and allowed a partial malolactic in barrels and the balance in stainless steel tanks. The wine was racked twice during the barrel maturation time of 16 months. This wine has 30% new oak and the balance are 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.
Tasting note: Young, quite dark color. Plums, sweet licorice, herbs, slightly stalky, bitter cherries, dusty summer road and just a hint of oak. Quite French actually! On the palate it shows sweet plums, herbs, licorice and wet earth. Nicely balanced and the 14% is well hidden. good finish. Classic Merlot. (89 points)
2007 Dombeya Cabernet Sauvignon
For the curious: Just like the Merlot this is a single varietal wine from north facing slopes. Planted in 1999 the 2007 is the second vintage they produce. Harvested at different occasion but the majority of the Cabernet Sauvignon ripens in the first two weeks of March. The treatment of the must when it comes to fermentation and maceration, is almost identical with the Merlot and both wines are matured for 16 months in 30% new oak; the rest being second and third fills.
Tasting note: Dark red color. Classic Cabernet Sauvignon with scents of cedar, grass, black currant and a floral note reminding me of violets. Very fine integrated oak. Would I put this one in South Africa if tasted blind? Most likely not considering I wrote modern Margaux style on the 2007! Mineral driven taste with abundant amounts of fruit, excellent acidity and plenty of tannins. A slightly green note which shouldn’t be read in a negative way, fine black currant fruit, Faber Castell lead pencil and hay. Long finish bearing the alcohol without any problems! Keeps on evolving during the hour I taste it. Impressive and my favorite red! (90 points)
2007 Dombeya Boulder Road Shiraz
For the curious: A stellar vintage in Stellenbosch in style with the just as great 1997.Handpicked from three different vineyards. All three were vinified and kept separately in order for Rianie to monitor their respective potential. In order to bring out the flavors and structure from the growing sites, and to enhance the red fruit and pepper flavors as well, Rianie went for Anchor 372 yeast.
The grapes were crushed and went directly for fermentation. Four pump-overs a day followed by punch-downs. The grapes spent ten days on the skin. After pressing a part of the wine received maturation on new oak, the rest on second or third fills. After the malolactic procedure the wines were racked – followed by yet another one later on. Before the bottling, 5% Mourvedre from the 2008 vintage was blended into the wine. The soil in the three vineyards consists of minor amounts of clay complemented by sand and coarse gravel. One of the blocks also consists of substantial amounts of rocks.
Tasting note: Dark as the night! Generous aromas of dark sweet plums, violets, cherries, toasted oak (vanilla), wet earth and licorice. Although sending out signals that this is one concentrated red, it still manages to balance on the elegant side. Packed with fruit, this has enough stuffing to do well in the cellar for a couple of years. Lots of tannins, a touch of sweetness, minerals, black cherries, violets, licorice and toasted oak (vanilla). Long, extract filled finish. A bit stubborn today so give it a year or two – or several hours in the decanter. Followers of the 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintage will probably like this one! (91 points)
|Kajsa Bergqvist imports to Sweden|
* First photograph shown with the friendly permission of Haskell Vineyards.