Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Merlot

So I heard a story recently about an award-winning winemaker from South Africa who used to be a chartered accountant...

I waited patiently for the punchline.

There isn't one. It's a true story and Gyles Webb from Thelema Mountain Vineyards ( really used to be an accountant, but more then that he was (and is) a man with a passion: excellence in wine.
Thelema vineyards (arial view)

   Gyles and his wife Barbara had dreamt of finding themselves the right spot in Stellenbosch to make the wine they knew they could make. It was a long search, but an abandoned fruit farm of approximately 157 ha became their new home. The farm had been long abandoned, and though grapes had once been grown there - there were none when the Webbs moved onto the property.

   The amount of work that went into developing the land from fruit orchard to working winery was staggering and the Webbs aren't done yet~! In 2000 Thelema bought a 45 ha apple orchard in the Elgin Valley and began to convert it to cool-climate varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Thelema vineyards (tasting room)

   But it was the 2006 Merlot that really caught my attention; deep, dark and delicious it's a uniquely rich version of the grape. Merlot of course is capable of many faces; from a soft and fruit-driven single varietal to a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon to a fully tannic and an intense dark berry and chocolate flavor profile. This showing from Thelema would certainly fall under the latter category and is brilliantly executed.

2006 Thelema Mountain Vineyards Merlot
$36    **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****

altitude:    approximately 500 m
soil:          Hutton: high proportion of decomposed granite
vines:        planted 1988
maturation:   20 months oak (40% new)
  • visual:   clear; fully intense bruised plum core with slightest cherry/brick rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense and developed aromas of blackberry, black cassis, black raspberry, light savory herbs and eucalyptus notes
  • palate: clean, dry, moderately intense (red and black currant) acids, moderate+ (soft, smooth, silty) tannins, moderate+ body, moderate+ alcohol (14.5%), moderate+ intense and developed flavors similar to the nose with a distinct peppery finish. Very good to excellent balance and structure with long length
  • conclusion:  I agree with the winemaker's notes that this wine is peaking now and should be enjoyed over the next 24 months. Will not improve with further aging.
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   a soft and smooth red wine with rich tannin structure screams red meat to me... I was thinking butter poached beef tenderloin with wild thyme roast BC mushrooms and crispy parnip chips but hey, that's just my style :)


 I like hearing stories that end on a positive note; an accountant and his wife have a burning passion for wine. They search for their place in the world and work their a$$es off to make the land work and work with the land. Many of you know that I have a new light in my life; Clare Elizabeth (the LittlestStudentofWine). I understand the value of hard work and have a new-found comprehension  for how and why people are willing to dedicate themselves to building something bigger then themselves.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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