Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warwick in Wonderland - this Easter weekend at Warwick Wine Estate

Listen to to the full details on our radio interview or scroll down in this blog for the flyer.
Warwick in Wonderland will be fun for the whole family.
Click on this link:

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wanna Start a Winery? Get Ready to Sweat

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 5:35:29 PM
by Susan Kostrzewa

A friend sent me a YouTube link to a “Make Your Own Video” skit that hilariously tackles the myth and romance of starting one’s own winery and/or becoming a winemaker.

Once I stopped laughing, I started to really think about what it takes to be happy and successful in those endeavors (other than a ton of money in the case of starting a winery, incredible patience and a work ethic of steel). As the video spoofs, it’s not often about glam and glitter, but a serious, grass-roots devotion to creating an agricultural product that speaks of the place in which it’s grown and made. That’s no easy feat.

I turned to some sage voices in the wine business to ask them what kind of advice they would impart to a person seriously interested in pursuing a life as a winery owner or a winemaker. Here’s what they said:

“Winemakers and winery owners must have extreme passion and a huge connection to the wine. It’s a tête-à-tête relationship with a living organism, and like a human, it evolves over time. Through this personal, in-depth relationship, you’ll also get to know yourself better. Approach it artistically and do not cling too much to concrete objectives.” -Jean-Charles Boisset, owner, Boisset Family Estates

“Winery ownership is not easy. Pleasurable sometimes – but not always. Glamorous, maybe – but not as a rule. Winery owners are pretty hard. They like to go camping and sleep on the ground. They like spinach. They love young Cabernet Sauvignon. There is always a little pain to go with the pleasure. “ –Mike Ratcliffe, owner Warwick Wine Estate

“Vino is mother nature’s precious gift but to produce a beautiful wine is only one step in the process. The challenge is to get the fruit of your labor onto the tables of wine lovers across the globe. In a world full of great wine and thousands of labels, the focus is not on the wine you want to make but one that consumers will enjoy. Next, how to bring it to market with great value? Making and sharing wine is romantic but achieving distribution, brand building, marketing, and investing time, resources and finances is decidedly less so. Worth the ride? Yes, by the glassful!” –Cristina Mariani-May, owner, Banfi Vintners and Castello Banfi

“My advice to an aspiring winemaker? Know what you want. Are you interested in Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir or Verdelho? To make volumes of good wine; or small amounts of great wine? Do you want to incorporate both the vineyard and the winery? Go work at a winery doing what you aspire to do. And work overseas, too. To an aspiring winery owner: First, know how to sell the wines you want to make. Find the best site to make them. Focus on vineyards that can produce them. Use your capital carefully. Or, buy a winery that does what you want, and manage it carefully. For most, winery success requires persistance.” -Zelma Long, pioneering California winemaker and winemaker for Vilafonté Winery

“You must really love and be passionate about what you do, otherwise when the hours get long you will start to hate the job. It definitely is not a 9-5 job (more of a 5 -9 and that is on a good day in the harvest). Be prepared to put in many extra hours, not only during the vintage (6-8 weeks of the year) or when one needs to blend and bottle a wine, but when marketing and promoting your wines throughout the rest of the year. The upside of the job: all of the above if you love wine and live and breathe it, as well as the ability to travel for and with your wines. We have met wonderful people and made many friends through the common bond of wine. Wine is beautiful! –Cathy Jordan, Owner, Jordan (Jardin) Wines

What in your mind is the right approach for the aspiring winemaker or winery owner? Is it more grit than glamour, or a romantic ride? under: Connoisseurship, Industry Issues, Opinions and Commentary, Uncategorized, Winemaking

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This Easter, Warwick tumbles down the Rabbit Hole and transforms into a fantastical realm of Wonderland

This Easter, over the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of April, the acclaimed Stellenbosch winery, Warwick Wine Estate, now supplements their fine wine- and gourmet picnic- offering by incorporating a ‘wonderland’ theme, inviting visitors to peer ‘through the looking glass’ and be immersed in a fantasy world. Free-fall into Warwick in Wonderland where one can make the acquaintance of some of Lewis Carroll’s iconic characters. Join Alice in her adventures, in this psychedelic world… perhaps you will meet some of her contemporaries like the grinning Cheshire Cat or the time-obsessed March Hare who dashes past, announcing that he is  ‘late for a very important date’?

Visitors to the estate will also rub shoulders with hero’s in the Warwick star-studded cast: The eccentric Professor Black (Warwick’s Sauvignon Blanc, named after the creator of a hybrid peach variety), Three Cape Ladies (Warwick’s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Cape's unique grape, Pinotage, named after three generations of Ratcliffe women), The First Lady (a Cabernet Sauvignon-driven blend, named after Norma Ratcliffe, this is a wine fit for the White House) and the Black Lady (a stellar Syrah only available at Warwick).

With jungle gyms, a jumping castle, and an Easter egg hunt, children are promised nothing short of a swashbuckling adventure at Warwick in Wonderland! And to put parents’ minds at ease, child-minders will be on duty to ensure children are taken care of. Parents and other guests can venture into the newly-renovated, chic tasting centre and sample wines from Warwick’s award-winning selection, purchasing these at cellar door prices.

The Warwick Gourmet Picnic - partnered with celebrity chef, Bruce Robertson - is a ‘must do’. This culinary offering affords patrons the option of unwrapping and sampling the contents of their picnic boxes at any one of a handful of ‘al fresco’ venues. Groups can book: private ‘Picnic Pods’ flanking the dam, dine in the Parisian-style ‘Courtyard’, or lounge on ‘The Lawns’ at leisure. Take the family or group of friends on a ‘Big 5 Safari’ a through the vineyards to the ‘Penthouse’ which boats a panoramic vista of the farm and surrounds.

Warwick in Wonderland is an opportunity to celebrate the magic of freedom and glory of imagination. This fantastical Easter celebration affords a colourful playground for children while adults can sample the estates acclaimed wines and savour delicious picnic canapés at leisure.   


Opening hours

Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.   

Monday to Thursday & Sunday: 09h00 – 17h00.

Friday, Saturday & public holidays: 09h00 until 18h00.


Wine-tasting:  R25.00 per tasting (refunded on purchase).

Picnic (serves 2 to 3): R299.00.

Kiddies’ picnic: R49.00.  

‘BIG 5’ Wine Safari: R50 per adult. CHILDREN UNDER 12 GO FREE!


Telephone: 021 884 3144



Sunday, March 21, 2010

A detailed 2010 Vilafonte Harvest Report by Zelma Long

The 2010 Cape Harvest was marked by three needs for success: (1) fine tuned wine growing; (2) fine tuned harvest and fermentation practices; (3) good luck - i.e. Mother Nature smiling…most of the time.
Vilafonte was fortunate in all regards. Contrary to many whose crop was devastated by bad weather in October and November; our site bloomed in a window of decent weather and yielded a normal crop; actually up slightly from 2009. Our normal crop fine tuning practices , culminating in veraison thinning, were more important than usual due to an extended bloom which yielded more variability in Cape vineyards in 2009.
Our grapes behaved distinctively this year. Of normal size (neither unusually large or small); our usual pre-harvest analysis showed excellent color and moderate tannin; ideal for the vintage. However, the grapes were reluctant to give up these characters to the wine…normally we see a quick color extraction, but in 2010 it was necessary to extend our extraction practices, carefully, so as to get out the available color without too much seed tannin. It was a delicate dance; of a type not seen in seen in the last several years. As a result our grapes had more time on the skins, although not post dryness extended maceration.
Cabernet Franc and Merlot were gorgeous - full of fruit; full of color; perfumed. Our young Malbec, now in its second year of yield, was predictably black/purple, with its floral/sage aromas and a racy body. The group came through fermentation higher in acid than normal (Vilafonte does not acidify its grapes or wine) and so in general are racy going into malo-lactic fermentation.
Cabernet Sauvignon was of a more sober style; quiet, inward turned, and in particular needing coaxing to release its goodies during fermentation.
Overall, our team leaned into the wind and produced the best vintage of many years, in terms of wine quality; vineyard performance, and logistics. Ours was a measured pace of attention to detail.

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Monday, March 15, 2010

Warwick 'Professor Black' gets sexy! Great body, lovely legs -gotta love this!

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Warwick Wine Estate Crowned Overall Winner at this year's Santam Classic Wine Trophy Awards  

Warwick Wine Estate was named overall winner at the 2010 Santam Classic Wine Trophy Awards held at the recently opened Taj Hotel in Cape Town, on Friday, 5 March.
A panel of international judges praised the Warwick Trilogy, the Estate's cabernet-driven flagship blend, for its handsomeness, elegance and qualitative consistency with each successive vintage. This top honour at the Santam Classic Wine Trophy Awards follows Trilogy's 'Top 100' Wine Spectator listing in 2009 and a thumbs-up 4½ Stars in what is, arguably, the most authoritative local wine guide, Platter's South Africa Wines . Although accolades are synonymous with Trilogy, Managing Director, Mike Ratcliffe was, nevertheless, delighted about this recent scoop, as the winery prides itself on advocating 'quality without compromise' and actively pursues positioning South African wines in a competitive global context. 
The audience was comprised of celebrated wine- and lifestyle- media, members of the trade and representatives from respective wineries. The festive, vibrant, and relaxed ambience allowed for an informal forum, peppered with several impromptu addresses, characterised by charismatic French judges expressing their affection for South African wines! Organiser, Christophe Durand, exuded praise for the outstanding quality of South African wines entered this year and these sentiments were echoed by the editor of French wine publication, La Revue du Vin de France, Oliver Poels, who asserted that South African wines were 'par with the best from France and the world'. 
The Santam Classic Wine Trophy is widely renowned for its credibility and legitimacy. Wines are blind-tasted over four days, cross-tasted, and re-tasted blind after which the short-listed wines are tasted again by all the judges in the 'grand finale'. Throughout these tastings, protocol outlined by the Organisation of Vine and Wine from Paris is rigorously adhered to.

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Monday, March 08, 2010

can we get Warwick 'The First Lady' Cabernet Sauvignon into the White House?


Lights, camera, action! Professor Black in Hollywood's red carpet wines for Oscars

10 wines matched to top nominees in Wine Spectator


Wine Spectator, arguably the world’s leading wine magazine (the benchmark when it comes to authoritative wine ratings), deemed it fitting that they align themselves with the oldest and most prominent award-ceremony in the world, namely, the Oscars.  At this year’s Oscars, Wine Spectator is doing what it does best: rating wines, albeit in a  slightly more light-hearted manner. The panel has selected 10 wines, across 5 categories, each of which  suitably ‘personify’ the nominee, and, by implication, the role he or she plays in the movie. Read the article here.

Warwick was in the limelight on the red carpet this week after receiving an impressive 90 points by Wine Spectator. In addition to this affirmation,  Wine Spectator has nominated Professor Black for Best Actor.  Spotlighted for his supporting role as François Pienaar in the apartheid-rugby-allegory film, Invictus, is the handsome, charismatic and refined Matt Damon. Wine Spectator decided that a bright South African star, Pienaar, immortalized by Damon,  commanded a bright wine with the same stellar constitution. The crisp, tropicality and liveliness -  coupled with a  long floral finish - of Professor Black, made this luscious wine the obvious choice for the Best Supporting Actor role.     

So, wherever you are while watching the star-studded glitterati of the unparalleled-in-stature, celebrity-strewn, glittering, dazzling and extravagant Oscars, following Wine Spectator’s suggestions and hobnobbing with Professor Black will ensure your soiree is chic and that the x-factor is both prevalent and enchantingly enticing.  

Take one! / that’s all folks!


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Warwick Trilogy Cleans up - again!!

Trilogy is the overall Trophy wine winner at the Classic Wine Trophy - best red blend!!! Warwick also wins a return ticket to Paris worth R15000!

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Monday, March 01, 2010

Here's a cool shot; a layout to assess grape ripeness at Vilafonte, looks great

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa