|When a major California winery decided to buy a wine farm in South Africa they hired Dave Jefferson to investigate suitable sites. He teamed up with South African viticulturist Anton Koos and together they took soil samples, temperature readings and water analysis and decided the Breede River Valley had best prospects. Several farms were proposed but the California winery changed its mind about investing.|
A few years later Anton Koos found out their prime choice was back on the market and he phoned California to tell Dave Jefferson who decided to buy it himself with Anton as a partner. Dave been enthused by the potential of the region and brought on board enough investors to purchase in 2000 what became Silkbush Mountain Vineyards. Anton Koos moved onto the farm as General Manager. Dave had businesses to manage in the States so had to content himself with monthly visits.
The farm was mostly orchards. Anton undertook a comprehensive replanting programme of grape vines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinotage are the most planted varieties and they also grow Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
They also set aside 25 hectares of rare Breede Alluvium Fynbos as a biodiversity conservation project.
When the vines started producing several famous wineries, including Flagstone and Guardian Peak, contracted to buy their grapes. Until recently all Silkbush’s grapes have gone to partner wineries but now they reserve some rows of the high Pinotage vineyard for themselves which they market under the Silkbush label in South Africa and export as Lions Drift Pinotage. Already Lions Drift is listed on Silversea Luxury Cruise Lines and American Airline’s Business Class.
On my recent visit to South Africa I visited Silkbush where Anton found time in his busy schedule to drive me up the mountain to the Pinotage vineyard. On the way he told me the farm covers 140ha of which 87ha are planted to vines.
The Pinotage vineyard is at the highest point of the farm at 730 metres, on the upper corner of the hillside. Mountains rise steeply beyond; one of them is Sybasberg which translates as Silkbush Mountain and gives its name to the farm. Looking over the vineyards, I could see the valley stretching out into the distance to mountains opposite. The sky was deep blue without a cloud with a raptor lazily circling above.
It is a most beautiful location and there is a guesthouse on the property that can be booked. It was originally intended for the investors but (it seems amazing to me), with the exception of Dave Jefferson, none have made the journey to this most beautiful of winelands.
The vineyard slope faces West-North-West and is always two degrees Celsius cooler here than the valley floor. The soil is shale and quartzite. It is naturally loose but there aren’t many nutrients so they don’t get vigorous vine growth
Silkbush aim to harvest just seven tons per hectare. Quality is the driving factor so they remove half of the crop at 80% véraison. Leaving it this late maintains berry size.
I tasted the 2009 vintage. It has good dark red colour with an inviting nose. There is an explosion of ripe fruits on the palate, blackberry with damsons underneath. There’s a touch of oak, really nicely integrated, that leaves a trace of vanilla and a pleasant grip. This is a clean, fresh, modern fruit-forward Pinotage with a good fruit-acid balance of making it very food friendly. It is great drinking now but I think in a couple of years to develop it will be a stunner.
Silkbush don’t yet have their own wine making facility so the wine is made at Waboomsrivier cellar, a stone’s throw away, under the auspices of Bennie Wannenburg who’s made many a prizewinning Pinotage. Great fruit, great winemaker, great wine.
To book the guest cottage and read more about Silkbush visit www.silkbush.com
Ask questions and talk about wine on our forum.
Disclosure: Peter F May visited South Africa and Silkbush at his own expense.
The high Pinotage vineyard, arrowed
Viticulturist and General Manager Anton Koos in the vineyard
Grapes almost ripe on the vines. View looking over the valley.
Same wine, two labels. Export Lions Drift label is on the right
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