Esona – The Very (Magnificent) One

Tugged away between green vineyards and majestic mountains, Esona Wine Boutique, situated on the R317 between Robertson and Bonnievale, catches your eye and you cannot help but be intrigued by this small piece of paradise as you drive by. This idyllic location, in the heart of the Robertson Wine Valley, is where my wine-thirsty feet led me, on Tuesday morning.

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The breathtaking views from the tasting room at Esona Wine Boutique.

Esona, the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Rowan and Caryl Beattie, started in 2003 when they purchased this gorgeous piece of farmland as a sustainable sanctuary of uncompromising landscape luxury, away from the busy city life. Nestled between rural tranquillity and unspoiled natural beauty, Esona Wine Boutique offers a vibrate escape to the wary urbanite. The upstairs tasting area gives new meaning to the phrase, room with a view.

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The scenic entrance at Esona.

In 2004, Rowan and Caryl had a vision to turn the 17 hectors of farmland into lushes, wine-producing vineyards. But it would take another six years before it yielded its first crop. In 2010, Esona released its very first bottle of wine under its newly-found label. Esona, a Xhosa word meaning ‘The Very One’, (or, my Afrikaans readers will appreciate this; ‘Die Ware Jakob’), capitalised on its staggering scenery and innately friendly staff to lure visitors to its front porch, and it worked beautifully!

It was, however, the well thought-through creativity in almost every small detail that caught my attention; from the small handprint on the torn bottle label, to the cork-inspired table decoration, to the RIEDEL glasses… Oh… the RIEDEL glasses! Let me tell you about this elegant piece of glassware. But let me start off by saying that I have a ‘thing’ for glasses. However, the RIEDEL glass is not just another glass, it’s the king of glasses, shaped and designed specifically to enhance the flavours and aromas of every sip of wine. The RIEDEL glass is grape-specific, ensuring that the taste, balance and finish of the wine is affected by the shape of the glass from which it is drank.

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Tasting Room Assistant, Daneen Pienaar showing off their selection of RIEDEL glassware.

I was welcomed to Esona Wine Boutique on Tuesday morning by Tasting Room Assistant, Daneen Pienaar who has been a part of the Esona family for just over a year now, she tells me. The rustic interior entrance is interwoven in the subtle, yet provocative design features throughout the property. The 75-year-old Oregon Pine wood staircase adds to the antiquity of the interior décor. Esona produces around 2500 to 3000 bottles per cultivar, per year, making every bottle of Esona wine special and unique, Daneen tells me.

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The rustic entrance at Esona adds character to the location.

Grapes are handpicked and much effort is added to ensure that just the very best grapes are used to make the prefect bottle of wine, says Daneen. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so much more that makes this wine boutique so special, she adds. She boasts with the range of wine awards received by the farm, including the prestigious Neil Pendock award which the farm obtained in 2011 when its Esona Chardonnay took second place in the blind-tasting competition. But visitors often struggle to decide between its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, making both wines some of its top-sellers, says Daneen.

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A selection of the various types of soil is displayed.

“The Beatties have been actively involved in various social responsibility initiatives on the farm,” Tasting Room Manager, Michelle Kotze tells me. “Rowen believes in education and development of all workers, including the tasting room staff.” Farm workers are encouraged to grow their own produce of which they keep 100% of profits earned, while tasting room staff are regularly send on courses. “We also open up new opportunities to those wanting to get their foot into the hospitality and tourism industry,” Michelle added.

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Well thought-through creativity in almost every small detail.

La degustation (The Tasting)

Armed with some of the most stylish glasses possibly south of the Equator, Daneen presented me with some of the most delicious wines that the Robertson Wine Valley has to offer.

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I was also offered a glass of their ‘Frankly My Dear’ Blanc de Noir, which is produced from their Pinot Noir grapes.

Esona Sauvignon Blanc

First up was the 2014 Esona Sauvignon Blanc. Refreshingly light, this Sauv hit all the right spots on the palate, perfectly. I loved the fruity and citrusy aromas that accompanied this delicious Sauv. Aftertastes of greenpepper and fig linger on the palate, followed by a smooth finish. It was the perfect thirst-quencher and starter to my wine-tasting experience.

Esona Chardonnay

The 2013 Esona Chardonnay was another hit. How anyone can claim to be an ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) is really beyond me. I loved this Chardonnay! Ten-months wood-matured in third-fill barrels, the Esona Chardonnay offered aromas of vanilla and caramel mixed with an almost coconut aftertaste. Daneen wanted to give my taste buds a kick and also offered the 2012 Chardonnay, and what a treat it was! The 2012 presented a fuller, more complex yet incredibly smooth taste. The Chardonnay’s will appeal to both the complex and simple wine palate.

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Esona offers a selection of yummy delicacies for a quiet picnic.

Esona Shiraz

The 2012 Esona Shiraz is another crowd pleaser. I love red wines and was delightfully surprised by this lovely Shiraz. Eleven months wood-matured, the Esona Shiraz embodies tastes of black pepper while soft tannins make the tasting such a pleasant experience. It is full-bodied yet soft and elegant to enjoy for just about any occasion.

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Tasting Room Manager, Michelle Kotze and I against the backdrop of the beautiful lushes vineyard at Esona.

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Daneen and I took a quick photo-break during our tasting.

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Michelle and Tourism intern, Dailyn Kleintjies.

Esona Wine Boutique also offers a range of tastings, including a Taste of Africa and a Taste the Difference experiences, involving the various RIEDEL glasses. You can also book an underground cellar tour or enjoy a delicious picnic with fresh, locally-sourced produce from their in-house restaurant, Caryl’s Deli.

I’d like to thank Manager, Michelle Kotze and her lovely team, especially Daneen Pienaar, for their hospitality and making me feel right at home. I loved Esona and will, as promised, be back for the ‘Taste the Difference’ experience. If you’d like more information on the delish selection of Esona wines, please visit their website. Please also join them on Facebook and Twitter.

Did you like this review (of course you did!)? Then please subscribe to my blog (see top right hand side). Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Till next time, hugs and high5’s!

xoxo

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Step into luxury at Graham Beck Wines

From the time you step into Graham Beck Wines’ tasting room in Robertson, you immediately notice that this is not just another tasting room. The opulence is immediately noticeable and you know you have entered into a completely new ball-game. The tasting room is like no other I’ve experienced before. I used the word ‘experienced’ on purpose, because the Graham Beck Wines’ tasting room offers you exactly that; an ‘experience’. It was thoughtfully designed purely for leisure.

I could tell you about the exclusive pieces of art on the walls; or the crafted sculptures which add a mix of contemporary and antiquity flair; or the carefully selected pieces of furniture in the room; or the endless glass walls which capitalise perfectly on the exquisite views; but instead, I really want to tell you about their unique selection of MCC’s.

Upon entering the tasting room on Friday, I was greeted pleasantly by sales executive, Ricardo Booysen and escorted to their little bar-seating area, which again, looks out on the most gorgeous views of the Langeberg valley. The tranquillity of the views compliments the tasting impeccably.

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A massive bottle of Graham Beck bubbly (left) and the beautiful views from the tasting room (right).

I’ve touched slightly on what an MCC is in my previous post, but I was completely fascinated with Ricardo’s explanation that I really want to delve a little deeper into it, in this post. Also, Graham Beck is mostly known for its delish MCC’s and so I think it ought to be the cornerstone of this review.

An MCC, or Méthode Cap Classique is, in layman’s terms, a champagne. However, the word ‘champagne’ is restricted to be used only for wine that’s produced from the grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. The method, however, for producing both an MCC and a bottle of champagne is essentially the same. It requires, amongst other, a secondary fermentation period of the wine in the bottle to create the carbonation. This method is exclusive to a bottle of champagne or MCC.

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Their gorgeous bar-seating area (left) and one of the many sculptures in the tasting room (right).

Graham Beck Wines is one of only a handful of cellars that produces MCC’s in the region and not surprisingly so. I have renewed respect for winemakers Pieter Ferreira and Pierre de Klerk. It takes an intensive process of planning and nurture to produce the perfect bottle of MCC, Ricardo explains to me. The MCC grapes are harvested early to ensure the perfect balling reading. Essentially, the balling reading should contain a high acidity and low sugar reading of the grapes. Grapes are then harvested before sunrise to manipulate the balling reading.

After the first fermentation period, which includes settling the juices of the two cultivars and fermented separately, the two are then cross blended and bottled for the second fermentation period. The second fermentation (as mentioned) requires the MCC to be bottle-fermented. It is then bottled and left for 15 month to 18 months yeast contact time before disgorgement. During this period, the bottles are riddled occasionally. Although this process was done manually during earlier years, it is now all automated, Ricardo says. (Apologies for the in-depth explanation but I was completely blown away by this info.)

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Another bottle of bubbly (left) and their spacious tasting room (right).

After the second fermentation period concludes, and after numerous tests have been performed to ensure the MCC is perfect (and delish!), the yeast is disgorged. To ensure a slightly sweeter taste, a hint of dosage (liqueur d’expédition) is then added to all the MCC’s with the exception of the Brut Zero, which contains no sugar.

All Graham Beck Wines’ MCCs contain a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with the exception of the Blanc de Blanc which contains 100% Chardonnay grapes. The red Pinot Noir grape is sourced from Graham Beck’s Firgrove farm while the Chardonnay grapes are grown at the Robertson estate, right here in the Langeberg valley. All MCCs are produced at Graham Beck’s state of the art cellar, in Robertson.

You may also notice a substantial difference in price between their Vintage and Non-Vintage MCCs. Essentially, the long and short of it is that; the Vintage wines are produced from one specific year while the non-vintage varieties can be more than one year’s harvest. No year is thus recorded on the non-vintage bottle labels. This makes their vintage wines a tad more expensive than their non-vintage range.

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I was literally in bubbly heaven with endless bottles of MCCs (left) and a portrait of the legend himself, Graham Beck (right).

Ladies and gent’s, we have officially reached my **favourite** part of the interview; i.e. the tasting!

Graham Beck Brut NV

Of course I insisted that Ricardo opens our tasting with the legendary Graham Beck Brut NV. It is after all the MCC that both former president Nelson Mandela and US President Barack Obama served at their respective inaugurations, and it did not disappoint. A citrus, limy taste explodes on your palate from the very first sip. Ricardo explains this is because the soil is treated with a limestone which gives it the zesty flavour. I loved it because it is so refreshing and citrusy. A real treat.

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Ricardo doing what he does best (left) and a lovely glass of bubbly (right).

Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc Vintage 2009

If I thought the Brut was a lovely treat, I was in for a pleasant surprise; the Blanc de Blanc completely blew me out of the water. This was my absolute favourite of all the varieties. I loved the complexities yet elegance that accompany this MCC. It is robust and full-bodied yet fresh and versatile. If you never try any of Graham Beck’s MCCs, please at least try this one. It was a real delight.

Brut Zero Vintage 2008

Although a tad bit drier than their other varietals, the Brut Zero Vintage 2008 is not only fresh on the palate but also light on the hips, with no added sugar. If you’re anything like me and like to watch what you cram into your pie-hole, this MCC is a lovely alternative. No dosage was added to this MCC making it one of the purest wines. It offers an invigorating, natural taste to be savoured and enjoyed leisurely.

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Bubblies to pick and choose…

Graham Beck Brut Rosé Vintage 2009

Ricardo was filled with child-like excitement upon pulling out the bottle of Brut Rosé. Cheer filled his voice as he explained this MCC, his absolute favourite, to me. Pretty and pink, this 82% Pinot Noir and 18% Chardonnay MCC is slightly softer and fruiter than its Brut counterpart. In a South African first, the whole bunches for this MCC were co-fermented; the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes were jointly pressed as a blend in the same press. The Brut Rosé’s delicious salmon pink hue makes it attractive to both the eye and the palate and I could relate to Ricardo’s enthusiasm.

Graham Beck Bliss Demi-Sec NV

Another light MCC, the Bliss Demi-Sec NV, offers full flavour yet is softer on the palate. A mix of sophistication and simplicity, this MCC is a tad sweeter than the other varieties. It is easy drinkable and those who prefer a lighter wine will appreciate this MCC.

Graham Beck Gorgeous

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Their lovely new rosé, Gorgeous.

Let me start off by saying that I’m always sceptical of the media hype around a new wine. I’ve read a lot about the new Gorgeous before I had the change to actually taste it and so of course I had to insist that Ricardo sends me off with this new rosé.

Please quote me on the following: “Graham Beck’s Gorgeous completely and utterly lives up to the hype as portrayed in the media.” I think it is safe to say that the media frenzy around this new wine is completely justified. Point proven. Wow, what a lovely rosé it is!

Gorgeous is lower in alcohol content which means that I can have more glasses of wine (score!). Just in time for the summer, this rosé is a refreshing pick-me-upper. The fruity salmon pink hue makes it softer on the eye and gives it a slightly feminine characteristic. It’s a delightful wine and will appeal to both the delicate and the complex palate. It truly is this summer’s must-drink wine.

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Ricardo (left) with Tasting Room Manager, Nadia Lakey (right) who ensured that I had a lovely tasting.

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GBW Accounting Manager, JC Kriegler (right) lend a helping hand when the tasting room started to fill up.

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Both Ricardo and I were very impressed with his great tasting. This picture was taken right after the tasting.

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The impressive GBW building in Robertson.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Graham Beck Wines and was so sad to leave. I will return to their tasting room soon, if only to get another sip of their Blanc de Blanc and delish Gorgeous.

I’d like to thank Ricardo Booysen for his enthusiasm and professionalism. I had a fab time drinking (oops… I mean tasting!) and learning about their lovely wines. Please visit Graham Beck Wines’ website for more info and prices. Follow winemaker Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira on twitter. Please also follow GBW on twitter and facebook.

If you liked this review (of course you did!), please subscribe to my blog (see top right hand side). Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Till next time… xoxo