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This Young South African Wine Producer is Breaking Down Barriers

There was a time in South Africa, when a woman of color would not have the opportunity to run a winery. Berene Sauls represents a new generation breaking down barriers as owner of Tesselaarsdal Winery, located in the Overberg. Opened in 2015, Tesselaarsdal produces cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with grapes sourced from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The name Tesselaarsdal is an homage to Sauls’ ancestors who were freed slaves and farmers in the area.

Berene Sauls, owner, Tesselaarsdal

Believe in a Dream: A Former Au Par Turns Vintner

Much of Sauls’ hands-on training has been under the mentorship of Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell, whose namesake winery is among the finest in South Africa’s Overberg region. Sauls began working as an au par to the Hamilton Russell’s four daughters. She expressed an interest in learning the wine business, and the couple encouraged her, giving her more hands-own work at their winery and serving as her mentor.

Sauls says the learning experience of working every department of Hamilton Russell Vineyards was invaluable. Eventually this led to the Hamilton Russells offering to help Sauls start her own winery in 2014. They have provided her a production facility at their winery and seed money to build a winemaking facility.

tessalarsdall vineyards
Tesselaarsdall vineyards

Tesselaarsdal – A Symbol of Freedom and Heritage

Located in the Overberg, Tesselaarsdal is a rural village with historical significance. The widow of its namesake settler, Johannes Tesselaar, left his farmland to his freed slaves upon his death in 1810, a bold move at the time.

Sauls glows with excitement talking about her future as a winery owner, something she knows would have made her mother and grandmother proud. “I named my winery Tesselaarsdal to honor my roots and legacy, and the women on wine’s label represent my mother and grandmother who both loved the land,” she shared.

Eventually Sauls plans to grow her own estate fruit. For now, she sources her grapes from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge whose higher elevation and cool winds provide ideal growing conditions.

We tasted Tesselaarsdal’s two wines.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2020

Sauls second vintage, is aged in both amphora and six months in oak, giving it a light toast blended with soft tropical and citrus notes and a nice minerality. As we tasted, visions of Asian curry, Cajun blackened redfish and fresh grilled trout crossed our minds.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2019

This wine is aged just over nine months in French oak, imparting notes of allspice, wild strawberries, and fresh cherries on our palate. In South Africa this would be the perfect wine for a classic braai. Here stateside, we call that a cookout on the grill with sausages, lamb, chicken skewers and grilled vegetable. The night we tasted this wine we had cauliflower pizza with bitter greens, anchovies, and caramelized onions.

Tesselaarsdal means “heaven on earth” in Old Dutch and Afrikaans. And for Berene Sauls it is a place to honor her heritage and plant her own piece of heaven, writing an exciting next chapter for this vibrant young woman.

Importer: www.vineyardbrands.com     www.tesselaarsdalwines.co.za

Meet Berene Sauls and hear her story on The Connected Table SIPS

 

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Oceano Wines Continues to Make Waves Among Fans

Rachel Martin and husband, Kurt Deutsch, are founders/owners of Oceano Wines, single vineyard cru wines sourced from the Spanish Springs Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, California. Oceano’s second release Chardonnay 2017 has earned national awards and critical acclaim. In 2019 Oceano released its first Pinot Noir, vintage 2018, to rave reviews. We recently had the chance to sit down with Martin for a first taste and catch up.

Launching a wine brand takes marketing savvy. Martin earned her cred working with her family's Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Virginia.  While Oceano Wines is pure coastal California, Martin and Deutsch call New York City home base. He is a Grammy Award- winning and has worked on cast records for hit shows including The Band's Visit, The Book of Mormon, In the Heights, and Beautiful.

Martin is active in many causes to support women, including Les Dames d'Escoffier International.   Sixty percent of every dollar spent in the production of Oceano’s wines goes to women- and minority-owned businesses.

Marbue Marke
Winemaker Marbue Marke, Oceano Wines

Fun fact: Oceano's winemaker, Marbue Marke, grew up in Sierra Leone, Africa. Originally he planned to become a doctor enrolling at University of California-Davis, with an eye toward medical school after college. he ended up switching careers to study enology.

Why we love these wines:

These are wines with fruity -driven finesse and a clean finish. It's no surprise these wines are popular coast to coast in restaurants. The best way to order your bottles are at www.oceanowines.com

2018 Oceano Pinot Noir, Spanish Springs Vineyard CA - San Luis Obispo County  $45.00/750 ml

Bright ruby color. A layered nose of strawberry, red currant, cranberry, rose petal, fresh tobacco, beet, and vanilla. A red currant attack leads to a focused mouth of pomegranate, raspberry, cherry, rhubarb, and cedar. Silky smooth tannins give way to a bright strawberry finish that finishes long.

2018 Oceano Chardonnay, Spanish Springs Vineyard, CA - San Luis Obispo County $38.00 /750 ml

A bright nose of jasmine, key lime, white peach, honeydew melon, green mango, and peach blossom. A lemon attack leads to a juicy mouth of green apple, quince, nectarines, kiwi, and guava. Notes of kaffir lime highlight the long refreshing finish.

2017 Oceano Chardonnay, Spanish Springs Vineyard, CA - San Luis Obispo County $38.00 / 750 ml

Deep yellow color. Nose bursts with green melon, lemon curd, guava, sea salt, ocean breeze, white tea and honeysuckle. Crisp yet vibrant, lovely texture on a medium/full-bodied frame, but zesty and balanced. Lemon, green apple, melon, tangerine, topped in sea salt, hints of toasted bread, vanilla and ginger.

2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition Platinum Medal Winner
2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge Platinum Medal Winner - Wine of the Year

Buy wines here: www.OceanoWines.com

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Rachel Martin:

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Sipping with Rachel Martin – Oceano Wines

Rachel Martin grew up working at her family’s Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Virginia, which we had the chance to visit in December 2018. Gorgeous place with beautiful Bordeaux-blend style wines. It is well worth a visit.

But it’s what Martin’s doing in San Luis Obispo, California, where she spent much of her childhood, that has been making some waves. With her husband, Kurt Deutsch, an award-winning record and theater producer, Martin launched Oceano Wines in 2016. Its first wine, Oceano Spanish Spring Chardonnay, has already become a hit! In April 2019, the Ocean Springs 2017 Spanish Springs Vineyard Chardonnay ($38) was named “Domestic Wine of the Year” at the 37th Annual San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, and it earned a Gold Medal at the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival International Wine Competition.

Rachel Martin, CoFounder, Oceano Wines

Martin, who earned a degree in viticulture and enology from Napa Valley College and  attended the University of Bordeaux School of Enology, says she set out to make her dream wine when conceiving Oceano- a mineral-driven 100% Chardonnay in the style of a Grand Cru white Burgundy. Oceano’s grapes are hand-harvested from Spanish Springs Vineyard, a SIP -certified vineyard on the slopes of Price Canyon on the southern edge of Edna Valley. Just about one-half mile from the Pacific Ocean, this area is blessed with the sea breezes, warm sunny days and cooler nights- ideal for ripening the grapes.

Oceano Chardonnay is fermented and aged in French oak, and the end result is soft golden wine filled with aromas of  citrus and spring flowers, and flavors of grapefruit and lemon, guava, cantaloupe, pear and vanilla with touch of toasted brioche.

Oceano will release a Pinot Noir this year.

In support of women
A member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Rachel is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and Women of the Vine & Spirits, Martin says her industry icon is vintner, Merry Edwards (who sold her company this year). Martin says, “Merry Edwards is my greatest icon among women in the wine industry. She earned her Masters Degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Enology from UC Davis in 1973. Of three women in her class, she was the only one who became a winemaker. She overcame gender discrimination while pursuing her career, rejecting positions as a laboratory technician, the traditional role of women in the wine industry at that time.”

To recognize women in the wine and spirits industry, we created a special themed series for The Connected Table SIPS called “Women Making History in Wine & Spirits.” Launched in March during International Women’s History Month, this series is ongoing and features women around the world, working in different aspects of the industry. A donation of each sponsored podcast will be made to Les Dames d’Escoffier (New York or International depending o the location of the guest). For information, contact Melanie- melanie@theconnectedtable.com.

Listen to our podcast with Rachel Martin on The Connected Table SIPS here: