Forget about phylloxera, leaf-roll or empowerment-hungry land-grabbers. The visitor currently most feared by wine farmers is a pretty blond from Pinelands. That’s right. Jeanri-Tine van Zyl, youthful staffer at Wine Magazine, is sending tremors down various backs at the mere thought of her visiting your winery for one of the magazine’s Cellar Door Shoot-out articles.
Jeanri, like me from Afrikaner stock, never fails to call a spade a shovel, the kind of honesty ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ with a slight hint of facetiousness ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ that has caused generations of Anglo Saxon males to reach for their ball protectors. Aesthetically unpleasing tasting venues, surly or patronising cellar staff, kitsch art….all are delicately ripped apart by Jeanri’s spicy prose.
In any event, I thought of Jeanri on Monday when I visited a fantastic winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde. Seeing it was Monday, and I had my cynical cap on. I was pissed at the stretch of bumpy dirt road leading towards Caledon. My two travelling companions, the Dachshunds Maximillian and Friedl, were edgy and their paws were irritating me as they jumped on my navel at the excitement of the journey. Max wet my T-shirt with excitement upon spotting a badger crossing the road.
Irritability vanished, however, as I drove into the gates of Creation Wines and cast an eagle eye over the rolling vineyards. A dam, stocked with trout, sits below the winery which is below the tasting reception.
Reception is open, light and airy. 260 degree views allow you to take in the vines, and the fynbos ridges beyond. A couple of arty objects are mounted, some for sale, as you head to the tasting counter.
Okay. By now Jeanri may have approved. But the prospect of conversing with a human being would have her sharpening her pencil.
If Carolyn Martin, one of the owners, is there, however, all prospects of knocking this Creation joint fly out of the window. Carolyn is life. Carolyn is energy. She maintains that perfect balance between marketing pushiness and convincing passion.
And she could sell hard liquor to a mosque in Quatar. And, be warned, if she had any Carolyn will have Jeanri’s balls for breakfast.
But it boils down to the “p” word. And this passion, well there’s a lot of passion in this creation. And much for Carolyn to tell. The ungrafted, virus free vineyards. The coolness blowing in from the Kleinrivier Lagoon each evening. The new Pinot Noir, 2008, that is clean and fruity and very European. “We don’t do farmyard.” Chardonnay from Creation is wooded, but only 30% new. French. Steely and minerally but with a touch of creaminess to lengthen the experience of the fruit.
Syrah-Grenache. Not overcooked or jammy. But restrained. Plummy. Touch of fynbos. And was that a cherry?
Carolyn takes me down to the cellar, where Christoph Kaser ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ one of the owners who is also a winemaker in Switzerland ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ is busy handling some free-run Merlot, Creation’s first. Carolyn’s husband, JC, – also from the land of Heidi and clocks ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ is off duty today.
The winery is picture perfect: open wooden fermenters, gleaming rows of stainless steel. Even the pressed husks look good enough to put on a post-card.
We taste from the tanks. Bracing Sauvignon Blanc. Some Syrah-Grenache from the barrels.
Only three years down the line, Creation’s wines are being listed in top restaurants and outlets ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ here and overseas. Quality of experience is evident from farm to bottle, to cork and into the glass.
The enthusiasm from Carolyn and Christoph’s side is very infectious and very un-Swiss. This is a beautiful place, and the enthusiasm is the kind shown by the fortunate people whose dreams have come true.
And at Creation, they have.
This is the place whereby all other wineries should be judged.
E. Louw Joubert