Blaauwklippen Valley is one of several areas of Stellenbosch that we’ve visited on our South Africa trip. This valley provides excellent growing conditions for producing elegant and rich tasting Syrah and aromatic whites like Chenin Blanc and Viognier. But it’s not easy to get there. After turning off the R44, we traversed a passable road up to the gates of the Mont Fleur Conference Center. After that we continued to climb several kilometers on an increasingly rustic trail until finally reaching the peak of the valley. That’s where there are three exceptional small wineries that source their fruit from the steeply sloped vineyards of the valley. They are Kleinood, Keermont, and de Trafford. We met with the winemakers (pictured here), toured the vineyards, and tasted the wines at the Keermont Winery.
The Blaauwklippen [blue cliffs] Valley is known for its varied decomposed granite and clay-based soils and for its sometimes bizarre weather that can bring snow and high winds. In October 2010 a South Easter wind roared through the valley at speeds up to 120 km/h, ripping off shoots and even uprooting vines and destroying half the crop.
The first of our wineries on Blaauwklippen Road is Kleinood where Shiraz and Viognier reign supreme. Before planting the vineyard’s 9.5 ha. in 2002, owner Gerard de Villiers carried out extensive analysis of the soils and decided to plant virus-free Rhone Syrah clones 174, 300, 470 and 747. Italian consultant Alberto Antonini oversees viticulture, and Gunter Schultz makes the wines. We tasted the Tamboerskloof 2009 Viognier and the Tamboerskloof 2007 Syrah (90% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, 3% Viognier) , two well-crafted, elegant wines. Kleinood wines are imported by Spec’s of Houston TX.
The next winery on the climb up is Keermont. This is a 25 ha vineyard that produces 11 different varieties of grapes and sells a substantial amount to wineries like de Trafford. However, it also makes very fine wine. We tasted their 2010 Terrasses wooded white blend (88% Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay 7%, Semillon 5%), 2009 Syrah, and 2008 Estate Blend (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah). Alex Starey makes the wine. Fran Kysela of Westchester VA imports this wine.
Finally, at the end of the road high up on the side of the mountain one finds de Trafford where David de Trafford makes some of South Africa’s very best Syrah. We tasted his 2009 Syrah and 2007 Elevation 393 red blend (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 13% Cabernet Franc). We earlier tasted the reasonably priced 2008 Blueprint Shiraz at our offices in Washington, DC. David’s wines are imported by Bryce McNamee of the Boutique Wine Collection.
Full tasting notes on all wines tasted will be available in our forthcoming report on The Wines of South Africa.