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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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Sipping Hamilton Russell Oregon Pinot Noir

 

We have a soft spot for South Africa after a visit to the wine country and the bushlands in late 2006. So, it was a pleasure to visit with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, proprietors of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a producer of estate-grown wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the fishing village of Hermanus in Walker Bay. It’s one of the southernmost wine estates in Africa and benefits from a cooler maritime climate, ideal for producing their Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. (listen The Connected Table Sips)

Hamilton Russell Vineyards is one of the southernmost wineries in South Africa

Now, after producing 40 vintages in South Africa, the Hamilton Russells have spread their wings and have invested in making wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their first two releases, vintage 2018 deliver classic Pinot Noirs with opulent fruit and spice balanced with masterful restraint and purity. The wines are available through Vineyards Brands in the U.S.A.

The couple had looked into investing in Burgundy but decided the Willamette Valley offered a better opportunity to work with some of the region’s best AVAs, Eola-Amity Hills and Ribbon Ridge.

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in South Africa with Vineyard Manager Johan Montgomery and Winemaker Emul Ross

The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is recognized for its iron- rich volcanic soils formed by ancient lava flows combined with marine sediments and alluvial deposits. The maritime climate allows for a steady cooling sea breeze during the long, warm growing season Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Here, the soil is uniformly marine sediments with fine silt, sand, and mud.

“After sanctions (in South Africa) were lifted in 1992, we knew we wanted to expand long-term. We visited the U.S. often and saw an extraordinary opportunity in Oregon with Pinot Noir. While Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from South Africa exhibits a bit more austerity, the Oregon wines capture the more purity of fruit. Interestingly, the alcohol levels, acidity and PH balance are almost the same,” said Anthony Hamilton Russell.

Hamilton Russell Oregon wines, both 2018, are like fraternal twins. They share a similar DNA – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir -but exhibit different character, due to terroir. Olive Hamilton Russell has a culinary background and is a passionate forager. She shared some pairing tips for each wine.

 Zena Crown Oregon Pinot Noir 2018, Eola-Amity Hills is aged 14 months in French oak.  SRP $85.99. Olive says, “This wine has darker fruit and spice. It exhibits more austerity and fine tannin. I suggested pairing with a rack of lamb, slow roasted meats, or a mushroom risotto.”
Bramble Hill Pinot Noir 2018, Ribbon Ridge is aged 14 months in French oak. Bramble Hill Vineyard is recognized for producing grapes for some of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noirs. SRP $85.99. Olive says, “Here, the wine has more open red fruit and lively minerality. Consider pairing with turkey and cranberry sauce with Brussels sprouts and date syrup; cod and miso or duck with orange sauce.”

Listen to our podcast with Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell #TheConnectedTableSips (under 12 min.)

 

 

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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: