Continuing the saga of our South African winery and safari excursion.
During our stay in Stellenbosch we resided at Clouds Estate, high in the Helshoogte Pass. Not only did the setting give us an eagle-eye view of the surrounding mountains, but it placed us close to one of the best wineries in South Africa: Thelema Mountain Vineyards.
The cellar door (tasting room) is stylish and contemporary, with broad expanses of glass to view the panorama of mountain peaks. In the parking lot we were greeted with peacocks and so began a truly unique and pleasurable experience. We entered and met our server Crescenda, a lover of great wine with more than a decade in the industry.
Thelema offers two ranges of wines: the namesake Thelema, produced from estate grapes in Stellenbosch, and Sutherland, which uses grapes from Thelema’s Elgin vineyard. The Elgin climate is cool and breezy while Thelema enjoys a high altitude perch and deep red soils.
Sixty percent of the wine produced by this iconic estate is white, so we dove in with a pair of Sauvignon Blanc: the 2014 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc and the 2014 Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc. Green Dragon is our Sauvignon Blanc expert and she immediately gave the Thelema a thumbs up rating. While the Thelema had the hallmark grassy flavor, the Sunderland had a sour apple vibe.
We then did a side by side (by side) sampling of three Chardonnay. What a treat! The 2013 Ed’s Reserve Chardonnay is fragrant, but too soft for us. We preferred the 2013 Thelema Chardonnay which had hints of peach and a clean finish. The 2012 Sutherland Chardonnay had citrus notes and full flavors.
Thelema has mastered white wines, and there was yet one more to sample. The Sutherland 2012 Viognier-Roussanne is a white Rhone-style blend. The mix is 89% Viognier and the wine is aged 10 months in new oak. It was a tasty blend, but we were ready to move into the red zone.
Kicking off was the 2012 Thelema Mountain Red. This is a mixture of six different grape varieties: 37% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, 4% Grenache and 1% Cabernet Franc. I do love my blends, but sometimes I feel that less is more and that too many varieties can mean that the wine’s voice is muddied. Nevertheless, this was an appealing wine with pepper and a dash of plum.
The grand finale was a tasting of three Cabernet wines. The first was the 2010 Sutherland Cabernet-Petit Verdot. This has 70% Cab to 30% Petit Verdot. This has a delicious mouthfeel with ripe berries and sweet currant. For less than $10US, this is a large, large value.
The 2010 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Cabernet. The wine swirls with flavors of pencil shavings and dark chocolate. The wine will improve with age (eight to 10 years) and it already is very impressive.
The 2011 Thelema Rabelais is a delicious Cab with 10% Petit Verdot. This is a lush and velvety wine that is so smooth on the palate. The Cab give it cred, but it is the Petit Verdot that makes it rock. It is a beautiful bottle and we purchased one to take home.
Thelema offers superb wine and is a wonderful destination for wine lovers visiting South Africa. We give it our highest recommendation!