Until recently, blind tastings were an everyday occurrence. Walking into Vaughan Johnson was an oenophilic lottery. Bouchard blurred into Boschendal, Waterford could have been Waterkloof. If it was packaged in a box I knew I was on the wrong track. Laser eye surgery just changed all that.

Wow. It's been an action packed three months.

February kicked off with our annual fishing trip to Struisbaai where 38 boats competed for the spoils in the annual Marlin Derby – the South African equivalent of The Deadliest Catch. Eight days at sea, five Rawbones floating in a tub, not a foot on dry land, and enough Oak Valley wine to keep the spirits and our motor neurons permanently buzzing. Believe me. Unhooking a marlin after several glasses of Chardonnay can be deadly. By the second last day we had caught and released four striped marlin weighing between 80-130kg. A phenomenal feat but not phenomenal enough. Team Rawbone came in second place overall and claimed a well deserved Methuselah of KWV Roodeberg. My grandfather, Jimmy, affectionately known as 'Skipper,' was South Africa's first Springbok fisherman. He would have been proud.

March saw the 5th consecutive year of the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race on Oak Valley. Ask any 2012 rider, they will tell you that Elgin is, without a doubt, cool climate. We had 60mm of torrential rain in 3 hours which sent many riders crawling into the medic tent for treatment with hypothermia. Many came flocking into the Oak Valley marquee for a bottle of rouge to fire up the internal organs. With Eskom struggling to keep up, they might want to consider subsidising red wine consumption as an alternative heat source. Mr Brian Dames – I'll be in touch. To lift the dampened spirits, we also served our delicious acorn-fed pork cooked over a charcoal spit together with caramelised onions and rocket with homemade apple sauce. Yip. I just heard your stomach rumble in approval.

The Epic ran a competition for the host venue with the best flyover. We delicately positioned a few of our John Deere's. Needless to say we didn't win, but a good effort nonetheless. SuperSport filmed a fantastic Epic promo video on Oak Valley which I posted on YouTube. As you will see, my acting career could use some work, I have no idea where to put my hands. Once again proving that I'm far better suited to life behind the lens.

Following the Epic rains, Easter in April brought an exceptional flush of Porcini mushrooms which grow naturally under the 4,000 oaks on Oak Valley. Porcini risotto, porcini chicken stuffing, fried porcini on toasted ciabatta, porcini linguine, porcini steak sauce ... you name it. I cooked Porcini in more ways than Bubba Gump shrimp.

In May we finished picking over 19,000 tonnes of apples and pears which coincided perfectly with the Greek implosion and the Rand falling like a stone. Music to an exporter's ears.

A number of industry stalwarts swear by the notion that good harvests only happen in odd years. 2012 shattered that theory. Growing conditions throughout the season were superb. A cold winter ensured the vines went deep into dormancy followed by a fairly cool dry spring which made it easy to manage any fungal problems in the vineyard. The first real rains came in late March but this had little effect on grape quality.

Harvest ended in the 1st week of April with 250 tonnes picked in total, the most ever produced on Oak Valley. Our Pinot Noir high-density vineyard (10,000 vines p/ha) came into full-production resulting in double the tonnage (16.5 tonnes) compared with previous years. In the past we've had very low volumes of Pinot and Chardonnay making it tough to manage stock but soon we'll have enough to appease those Burgundian cravings.

Elgin's first wine festival held on May 12th was a resounding success. It was targeted at Elgin locals as a test run for a bigger, bolder and better event planned for next year. In 2013 we will certainly widen the marketing net to attract thirsty wine enthusiasts from Cape Town and surrounds. On Oak Valley, over 80 people enjoyed The Professors playing a live set of old and new school classics which got the crowd tapping their feet and Nicole served a hearty beef bourguignon beautifully cooked using our grass-fed Simmentaler beef.

Under the dedicated stewardship of James Downes, chairman of the Elgin Valley Wine Guild and owner of Shannon Vineyards, the valley is set for the official launch of the Elgin Wine Route in September this year. In my next newsletter, I'm writing a piece on where I would eat, drink and stay as a weekend wine tourist in Elgin. Trust me, you are in safe hands.

The final phase of Pool Room construction is in full swing. If I left my role as marketing manager I could easily, but reluctantly, switch to building contractor. The majority of building work is complete and we're now moving into the joinery and interior design phase. From the outset our aim was to steer away from the typical antique, wine cellar, wrought iron, French-country look which has been done to death. We've come up with a fresh, aqua, cane furniture, mirrored walls with splashes of bright colour, Pool Pavilion atmosphere.

Our target launch is September. As you can tell I'm pretty fired up!

Before the 2011 growing season we decided to hang our Sauvignon grapes a little longer in order to express more fruit character in the wine and lower the natural acidity. The result is a cocktail of fruit flavours, gooseberry, white peach and ripe ruby grapefruit which is balanced by our characteristic minerality. The naturally fermented Sémillon component (5%) broadens the palate and adds extra complexity. All in all, one of the best Sauvignon's Vissie has made.

Our Chardonnay vines are the oldest on the farm planted in 1992. The Chardonnay 2011 expresses fruit aromas of green apple, orange peel, vanilla and honey oak characters with flavours of citrus fruits, orange and lime marmalade and a long lemony, mineral finish. The oak is well integrated and subtle. Full bodied, fresh, clean, elegant and beautifully balanced.

My sister, Amy, was recently appointed as Sales Manager in Gauteng. If I'd received a thousand CV's I couldn't have picked a better candidate for the job. Armed with a post-grad degree in Enterprise Management, Amy is dedicated, hard-working and switched on. She is taking the JHB wine market by storm and I'm thrilled to have her on board.

Until we chat again.

Keep warm this winter. Think Oak Valley Merlot Cabernet Blend.

All the best,

WINE Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc / Sémillon 2008 Oak Valley Chardonnay 2011 Oak Valley Pinot Noir 2010 Oak Valley Merlot Cabernet Blend 2007
PRICE R85.00 R130.00 R150.00 R190.00 R125.00
2-3 June   Oyster & Wine Festival JHB
11am-6pm | The Brightwater Commons, Republic Road, Randburg, Johannesburg

7 June   Burgundy Festival JHB
5pm-8pm | Fire & Ice, Melrose Arch Hotel, Johannesburg

9 June   Wine @ the Mill in-store tasting CT
11am-2pm | Biscuit Mill, Woodstock, Cape Town

8-10 June   The Wine Show PE
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

21 June   Country Club Wine Dinner JHB
6:30pm | Auckland Park, Johannesburg

1st Quarter 2012   Summer Newsletter 2012
4th Quarter 2011   Spring Newsletter 2011
OAK VALLEY ESTATE   South Africa   Tel. +27 (0)21 859 4110   wines@oak-valley.co.za   www.oakvalley.co.za