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March 29, 2006

Quiet time

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We have picked our last grape for the year.
We have pressed our last husks.
Everything visibly solid has been discarded in our quest for the finest liquid.
There are a few slowly fermenting musts, still with small fractions of sugar, burping away, but the winery is mostly silent.
Blood red and creamy white new wines are resting in barrels awaiting the violence of malolactic fermentation.

Posted by graham knox at 1:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

Friends from the USA

We had a visit recently from Linda and David Taub of Palm Bay Importers, who have chosen to bring Stormhoek to the United States of America.
Some of the Stormhoek vineyards can be seen behind them as we look north-west toward Groenberg (Green Mountain) and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean and far, far away, the USA.

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March 24, 2006

Parker Says He’s Targeted and Misunderstood

robert parker.jpg

For those of you who don’t know, Robert Parker is a world renowned wine expert and over the years his 100 point scoring system has attracted much attention. Parker, himself, is possibly the most influential wine writer in the world and for many, a coveted 100 point score for a wine is held in the same regard as three Michelin stars would be for a restaurant. And, likewise, failure to achieve this Holy Grail has tipped normally sane people over the edge. Power, indeed.

He says though, that he’s misunderstood and targeted by his fellow critics, you can read the full article here. Whenever someone wants, to have a pop, it’s he who is in the gun sight.

Well Bob, sorry but you set yourself up. The world of wine writing can be a dangerous and fickle place, success breeds resentment. I wouldn’t complain though, at least people are thinking of you.

Mind you wish I’d thought of that 100 point system back in the ‘80’s. Might be able to spend a bit more money on the equipment we need to replace this year at Stormhoek if I had!

Anyway, it’s Friday and you guys might like a recommendation for the weekend so here it is in good old wino speak without the Parker pizzazz:

If you live in the UK get out to Oddbins and track down a bottle of – Glaetzer “The Wallace” Barossa Valley Shiraz-Grenache 2004 – It’s an absolute ripper for £10. There is virtually no Grenache planted in South Africa and it’s a variety that I love. The flavours are wild and uncontrolled yet its got this rich tasting kinda Blackberry Shiraz thing holding it all together. Genius stuff, well done Ben Glaetzer!

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March 15, 2006

Wine harvest predictions

Every vine decides how many grapes it needs to produce each year.
Strong winds, rain or drought, hungry bugs and human hands can reduce this number but not increase it.
Some influential person in the planning department of the South African wine industry predicted a ‘white wine lake’ in 2002. So farmers removed some white vineyards and planted reds in their place.
By 2005, South Africa had fewer white vineyards. The white vines we had decided to produce fewer grapes. After the harvest this country discovered that we had collectively made 15% less white wine in 2005 than in 2004. And much less than predicted.
This year, its worse. We’re nearing the end of the harvest and we hear that there are fewer white grapes than normal because of the lack of rain in December and January.
Then we still have to assess the result of the damage done to perfectly good white grape juice in cellars shut down for 6 or 8 hours without electricity.
To the wine drinker all this probably means that there’ll be some shortages of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
So they’ll buy more of these wines from somewhere else.
And we’ll have to think of planting some new vineyards.

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March 14, 2006

Vergelegen – Best New World Winery

Congratulations to our neighbours and friends at Vergelegen.
Wine Enthusiast, one of the big 2 wine magazines in the USA, has chosen South Africa’s Vergelegen as New World Winery of the Year.
South Africa, ahead of Australia, California, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina?
Wow! Times are a’changing.
Vergelegen (and the unsquashable Andre van Rensburg) makes a wide range of wines from a small number of varieties, chiefly from their own vineyards.
Most renowned are the red blends and the tiny volume of single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, called Schaapenburg.
Don’t miss a visit to Vergelegen on your next trip to South Africa.

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March 12, 2006

Why Didn’t We Think Of That?

There has been a whirlwind of press over the last month about Actress, alright, Pornstar, Savanna Samson releasing her new Italian wine. Parker gave it a 91 and the story made it all the way to the New York Times. Well, we contnued to read, and read the story and couldn’t help but think: Damn we missed a big one. As Hugh says, “with porn all is possible” and (un)fortunately our brand of porn has more to do with the grapes than the jugs, if you get my drift.

I won’t burden you with the story, because you can read it for yourself, but the curious bit had to do with Savana’s husband, a New York wine merchant, who apparently is quite into her profession and just isn’t, well, the jealous type. You could imagine my surprise when I discovered that the lucky boy is an old friend who I have not heard from in years and who’s first wedding I was invited to. Well, Daniel, porn and wine... Wanna host a Stormhoek dinner?

Posted by Jason at 5:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2006

100 Dinner Update- Geekfests in the Making

We're exactly one month into it and our 100 dinner thing stands at 49 on the wiki and about 30 emailed to us or Hugh. So, the official count is 79, give or take, not counting the Canadians and Europeans--- who we are still thinking about. I’m pretty happy and Hugh seems ecstatic.

We've been insistent on people coming up with interesting topics of conversation for their dinners. The more we talk about wine, the more we realize that it really is about the conversation that ensues after you open the bottle. People seem to agree.

There are programmers who want to 'mash up' over Stormhoek, Smallworld Euro-fashionistas meeting up in New York,
We're ecstatic that a few wine bloggers are bellying up to the bar Jathan, jens rosenkrantz at Cincinatti Wine Warehouse, who does a great blog and has been very supportive from the beginning, Other bloggers include the illustrious Kai Chaing, aka pjammer, 'meating' up in Palo Alto. Brent saying "Poker and Wine, what could be better"? Well, maybe a couple of things, but he's got a point. Lisa's doing "Art and Wine" in Denver, and Melissa is doing at bakeitup.blogspot.com a very unlikely wine and dessert schtick. We can't wait for the feedback on that one. Tom aka Tomdog is doing a Buzznet photo fest and Jack in Tennessee is going to be turning beer drinkers into winos (we thought that they only drank Jack Daniels). Check out the wiki to see some of the other dinners.

Based upon the emails, there are lots more varieties of geeks out there than we had envisioned. Of course, there are the tech geeks, but it seems that there are wine geeks, food geeks, fashion geeks and hard partying-geeks all wanting to sign up. But, as I discovered last week when I erased multiple entries on the wiki by mistake, only the Tech geeks are actually able to figure out how to use the wiki.

So, if you want to sponsor a dinner you can email Hugh or click on the email button on the sidebar of this page and we’ll have our resident Computer Sciences PHD, post it to the wiki... Stay tuned.

Posted by Jason at 4:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Frappr... Sounds like...

A cool way to plot your Stormhoek dinner.


A couple of weeks back, Hugh did a nice post about the Telegraph article on Nick. John commented and suggested that we could set up a Frappr account (I had never heard of Frappr before) and with a few clicks of the mouse, we have the very cool looking Stormhoek 100 dinner Frappr map.

If you have emailed or wiki’d your dinner, we'd ask that you be so kind as to go to the map and plot your event with your zip code. It only takes a second and this way we can all keep track of how the 100 dinners are spreading. I suspect that the non-USA folks can do it just for fun as well, even though we are just starting to work on the out of US dinners.

At the current rate of sign ups, it looks like we should have the 100 dinners spoken for in about ten days. Then, we will have to make some hard decisions.

Posted by Jason at 2:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 9, 2006

Practiced hands

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There are faster ways to put on a label.
But when there’s a power cut, nothing beats elbow grease.
What happened to our electricity?
South Africa has ageing power generation units and distribution grids, a rapidly growing economy and some indecision about spending public money.
It seems that we will have some relief in about 6 months and a just-like-new supply system in about 5 years.
By then, we’ll be able to hand-make wines like the old people did.

Its not rare for us to hand apply labels. There are long lead-times in label printing here.
South Africa sells at least 10% more wine every year. That’s 10% more labels to be printed. The print business is booming.
We have a printer in the neighbourhood who can do little batches virtually overnight.
These come on flat sheets that have to be stuck on by hand and eye.
When we have a small order that’s needed in a rush, we have to print, stick, pack and drive.

Posted by graham knox at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 8, 2006

Open invitation to Jeremy Clarkson


Motoring writer for the Sunday Times, London
(Jeremy has probably the most recognisable face and voice for motor car marketing and general commentary in Europe)

Dear Jeremy,

We would like you to come and visit our Stormhoek winery in Wellington, South Africa.
I know that you have just been to South Africa and you hated the wine you had here but I think you should give this country another chance.

It’ll be hard to match Jaguar’s budget to fly you, and dozens of your mates here. But I’m sure we can find a car load of leggy models to bring your keys and jacket. You gave our city accolades for its weather, light and mountains but you didn’t have a word for the girls. It would be most surprising if Jaguar didn’t surround you with helpful young things. The last time I saw Le Mans on television, it looked like a casting set for Baywatch.

We don't think our tanks are very big. Mario Julies can get inside about half of them if he has to. The rest are too small. Jeremy Clarkson will have to tell us if he thinks that they are 'huge'.

You only mention visiting one winery in South Africa, where you saw huge steel vats, pressure gauges (surely you realized later that these were temperature gauges, as cars generally have both of these) and the wine tasted like ‘the outlet from Sellafield’.

Well, I haven’t been to Sellafield or tasted whatever leaves there, but I’ll bet our wine tastes better. And you couldn’t call our tanks huge but I’ll let you be the judge.

If we have to match Jaguar’s deal, we will have to start saving soon, so please don’t delay your reply.

Graham Knox

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March 3, 2006

Out On The Road Again

We've been out and about again this week taking part in the Specialist Wine Importers exhibition. On Monday we were at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and on Wednesday at Vinopolis in London. The two venues attracted smaller independent retailers and wholesalers from all over the UK.

The organisers did extremely well to get so many people along to both events and at each venue an opening address was given by marketing guru, Drayton Bird. He summarises what business is all about by "Looking after and listening to your customers". Yeah, we all know it but how many actually do it? I hope and think at Stormhoek we get the message loud and clear.

Posted by nick at 1:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 1, 2006

Back to hand made wines

You never know how much you use your left hand till you hurt it.
And we didn’t know how important continuously available electricity was till we didn’t have it.
We had a rolling series of electricity outs from Monday to Friday last week.
When the Chenin Blanc juice was being chilled to settle before barreling.
When Pinotage skins had to be pressed. When Semillon grape crates were stacked in the cold room and we wanted to chill them.
In 5 days, we had 10 power cuts.
You would flick the pump switch and nothing would happen.
You would be noting the temperature drop and then hear the cooling plant stop.
Once we heard that we, and most of the wine country, would have no power from 6.30pm to 8.30 pm, so we planned nothing for that time. And at 6.45, the lights went out and the cooling plant stopped. So the advice was nearly spot on. But all of the others just happened.
What happened?
We have 2 power utilities in this area. One is broken, being fixed. The other is due for an overhaul and just stopped. Till they could get more power from the national grid, we got rations. I haven’t told you about the bottling plants that stopped, the label and carton makers that froze.
Since Saturday, the power is normal. Just like winemaking.

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Long lost little brother


Baby bunches of cold, tiny-berried Cabernet Franc grapes fall with relief into the destemmer; ”no more days in the hot sun”. Mario is the one with the earpiece.

Why do we grow Cabernet Franc when no one has ever heard of it?
Everyone knows Cabernet Sauvignon. Do you know anyone who doesn’t know what Cabernet Sauvignon is?
Even Mother.
Maybe that’s why we planted Cabernet Franc 4 years ago. It’s one of the reasons at least.
Another one is that it tastes different. It doesn’t taste wild.
Sauvignon means wild in the Frenchies language. Cabernet Wild.
There’s a wild, grassy flavour in many Cabernet Sauvignons and if you’re a fan of a white variety called Wild White, you’ll find the same vegetable flavour there. Or at least you’re supposed to.
Cabernet Franc is Cabernet without the vegetable bits.
In keeping these diary notes, I’ve had to record that our Cabernet Franc has put in a claim for a new world record for vines grown at 33.5 deg S. for the interval between onset of flowering and harvesting (yesterday)of 120 days.
We had a little party to celebrate, then the power went off, and with it the cooling, the pumps and the press. We’ve had a week of this. Cold fermentations become warm. Other fermentations could start in hoses.
We have great hopes for our Cabernet Franc.
We would plant more right away. But our Cabernet Franc vineyard is ohsoclose to our biodiversity, untouchable virgin bush (fynbos) land and we have to study the impact first.

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