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The Greg Sherwood column

Yonder Hill winery: the art of winemaking

Greg Sherwood
July 2001

If you were walking through the vineyards of The Yonder Hill winery, chances are you'd hear the contented humming of workers tending the production of premium red wine. Mechanic turned winemaker David Lockley has become famous for producing sumptuous red wines to the rhythm of classical music.

With 10 ha of vineyards and a relatively small production (100 tons of grapes, making some 8000 cases each year), the Naude Family (Owners) has certainly built a state of the art winery to be proud of. This 13 ha farm is only 15 km from Stellenbosch and nestles up against the Helderberg and overlooks both False and Table Bay. Table Mountain, too, is clearly visible from the farm. Due to the proximity of the sea, the early afternoon maritime breezes greatly influence the ripening period, resulting in a harvest up to three weeks later than in Stellenbosch central.

Vineyards are planted on selected soil sites, ranging from clay and loam to loam-gravel quarts, which according to David is responsible for the distinctive character of Yonder Hill wines. This might very well sound like fanciful marketing talk coming from yet another New World winery, but after tasting their full range of wines, I can honestly confirm that their reds reveal individual if not unique terroir characteristics for a Stellenbosch site.

My first experience of the Yonder Hill wines was in 1998 at the Stellenbosch Wine Maker's Road Show, where they were modestly nestled in a corner of the hall, being poured by friends of mine who had volunteered for the task as no winery representatives were present. Pretty early into the evening it became apparent that their reds, or more specifically their Merlot, was showing as one of the stars of the evening.

Be it as a result of the vineyard-specific terroir, or David's own winemaking techniques, the reds all display the signature rich mouthfilling mocha coffee and savoury notes which are accompanied by violets, dark chocolate, ripe plums and vanilla. But my hunch is that their wine's character originates with the terroir as David has only been the winemaker since 1998 and the wines I tasted from earlier vintages were similar in style.

Merlot 1999
Deep dark colour. Rich mocha character bursting with fruit. Deep velvety texture with chocolate-like ripeness and hints of coffee. Matured for 14 months in new French oak barrels.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Extra dark plum colour with crimson rich velvet texture and ripe mint flavours. Good fruits, spices, mulberry on the nose. Matured in French oak barrels for 23 months.

Inanda 1999
A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc. Orange-brick rim. A complex nose, tar, chocolate, coffee, cassis, cherry and mulberry nose. Similar palate with organic nuances. Complex structure, long mid-palate and sweetish finish. Excellent balance. Matured in French oak barrels for 23 months. Received 4 1/2 stars out of 5 in SA WINE Magazine red blend tasting.

(Wines tasted May 2001, London)

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