By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
I still have my first bottle of South African wine. My dad brought it back to me from South Africa where he spent the last summer of his life. It was the place he loved best. I spent many of the previous summers traveling with my dad, but missed this trip because I had my own trip planned, my honeymoon. Arriving back in Birmingham, Daddy got off the plane with a bottle of Highgate Stein and a set of six glasses from the Neethlingshof winery. He had carried them all on the plane so they would not get broken, along with another treasure for me—an ostrich handbag, a real one. He said he brought the wine for Kevin and me to toast our recent marriage. I did not have the heart to open the bottle and kept it as a memory instead. The bottle is in a special place in my wine cellar, and the glasses hang on our antique bar.
Recently I did a tasting of other South African wines, which I began with a toast to my dad and his love of this place. South African wine regions include Olifants River; Coastal; Breede River Valley; Cape South Coast; Klein Karoo; and Northern Cape. Three wines stand out from the tasting: Spice Route Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($16.99); Neil Ellis Sincerely Chardonnay 2013 ($18.99); and Stark-Conde The Field Blend 2013 ($25).
Spice Route is grown on the cool hills outside Darling on the Cape west coast. It boasts notes on grapefruit and lime. Sincerely is sourced from Darling, Stellenbosch, and Elgin. It offers zippy notes of lemon, lime, and crisp green apple. And The Field Blend is Stark-Conde’s only estate white wine. From the bottom vineyard in the estate located in Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, the wine is crafted from a field blend of Roussanne, Chenin, Blanc, Viognier, and Verdelho. Its fruitiness and structure are derived from its blend, its closeness to the river, and 11 different soil types.