A Travelogue from South Africa

by Wine Specialist Dustin Harkins

I couldn’t agree more with the band Toto as “I bless the rains down in Africa.”  And they certainly need some!   On January 10th I left our lovely, but bitterly cold, Minnesota to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime wine expedition to South Africa.

When I arrived I was greeted by sunshine, 80 degree weather, and smoke.  Yes, smoke.  Harvest was weeks away and the wildfires were raging through the Southern Cape.  Fortunately our group was shielded from a majority of the fire-torn hillsides.

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Val du Charron’s backyard

We stayed in the beautiful area of Wellington, less than an hour away from Cape Town, at an amazing winery called Val Du Charron.  Val du Charron, known as “the Valley of the Wagon Maker,” got its name when the French Huguenots settled there in the late 17th century.  The valley is certainly ideal for wine production with its beautiful climate, diversity of soils, and usually just enough rain to create perfect fruit.  Currently we stock the VDC Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Gris, but we are excited to announce the new arrival of the VDC Black Countess.  VDC makes very high quality wines at great price points and if you haven’t tried them yet, please do yourself a favor and grab some!

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Sauvignon Blanc vines at Longridge Winery

The second part of our trip was to Stellenbosch to visit our friends at Longridge Winery.  Longridge was established in 1841 and is located at the base of the gorgeous Helderberg Mountains.  With most of their vineyards at the base of the mountain they are protected from excess rain and heavy winds that could damage their crop.  Longridge is an all-organic winery that we are super excited about.  At our store we currently carry “The Emily,” which is a fun blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The Pinot Noir is blended in at a small percent but is pressed lightly and gives a slight pink tint to the wine.  This could be your new summer favorite.  We are also ecstatic about the arrival of the Longridge Konkelberg Red Blend and Sauvignon Blanc, which you can try this weekend on our tasting bar!

untitled shoot-253.jpgSouth Africa’s future is very bright in the wine world and I can’t say that I have ever had a better wine trip experience in my life.  VDC and Longridge were only 2 of the 6 places we visited and the quality of their wines were remarkable across the board.  We’re always looking for that $50 California wine at half the price, and now we’ve found it.  I can’t spill all of the secrets, but there are some true gems on their way to Minnesota in the coming months.  This is a very exciting time in the wine business and we are fortunate to be a part of it.  Ask us what South African wines we are excited about and I am sure once you taste the wines you will be just as impressed as we are.

Special thanks to Libation Project’s Tom Thulen for the beautiful photos!

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