Capensis Chardonnay 2014, South Africa
S ometimes you have to go all out and buy a blockbuster wine for a special occasion. There are many very good wines for $25 or less, but when you want to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, a promotion or any special event, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars on a memorable wine.
When I turned 70 I figured that was special enough to drink the Capensis Chardonnay. I’m glad I did.
I usually lean on red wine or sparkling wine for special moments, but we were having seafood, and I knew this chardonnay would take the meal to new heights.
There is so much great wine coming out of South Africa now, it’s almost a no-brainer to pick one of their wines for a special meal. Soils and climate are perfect for grape growing, and South African wine makers are finding the right grapes for the right places.
Capensis, meaning “from the cape,” concentrates on chardonnay that is spectacular. A beautiful bright yellow in the glass, it has enticing aromas of lemon and vanilla bean. The first sip reveals Meyer lemon flavors, quickly followed by fresh ginger, toffee, green apples and a touch of minerality.
This is a well-rounded wine with depth and complexity. It has an incredibly smooth mouthfeel with all the pieces in place. It is smooth, complete and perfect, from the first sip to the last.
The grapes come from a spectacular place, South Africa’s Western Cape. Wine drinkers have called the Western Cape the oldest wine region of the New World and the newest region of the Old World. Gnarled old vines are planted on hillsides in some of the oldest soils in the world. A new generation of winemakers are using their youthful energy and state-of-the-art techniques to create world-class wines.
With only its second vintage Capensis has created a first-rate wine to challenge the stars of France and California.
The strategy is to source fruit from exceptional vineyards in the Western Cape. This vintage includes the Fijnbosch Vineyard in Stellenbosch (56 percent of the blend), Kaaimansgat in Overberg (20 percent) and E. Bruwer in Robertson (24 percent). The grapes grow at elevations ranging from 571 feet to 2,484 feet.
About half of the crop is matured in new French barrels for 10 months.
Winery: Capensis is a new joint venture joining South Africa and California to focus on one wine, chardonnay. The 2014 vintage is only the second bottling for the winery.
Two longtime friends, Antony Beck and Barbara Banke, joined forces to create the winery. Both have strong backgrounds in the wine industry.
Beck is director of Graham Beck Wines, a South African winery founded by his father in 1983. Beck also has a winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon, Angela Estate founded by him and his wife Angela in 2006. It has two estate vineyards, Angela Estate and Abbott Claim and is focused on pinot noir.
Banke is chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, best known for its Kendall-Jackson wines. She has spent 20 years leading the company she co-founded with her late husband, wine visionary Jess Jackson. She plays an active role in the development of Jackson Family Estate wines, as well as new projects and vineyard acquisitions.
Winemaker Graham Weerts is a Cape Town native who has worked in California, Bordeaux and South Africa. After working harvests and in cellars he became assistant winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards, a well-known South African winery. He was the winemaker at several smaller wineries before becoming winemaker at Stonestreet in Alexander Valley. He now oversees several wineries within the Jackson Family Wines portfolio.
Weerts says he loves being involved with the Capensis project.
“It’s spiritual to come back to the place of one’s birth,” he said. “South Africa is in the blood and marrow of my soul. I am drawn back to the Western Cape by the strong motivation to put my birthplace on the forefront of the world of wine. I believe in the potential of South Africa.”
The label on the bottle is a work of art, a design that artfully combines four elements indigenous and symbolic of South Africa: springbok, marula tree, king protea and Zulu shield.
The springbok is a graceful, distinctively marked antelope that is related to gazelles. It is the national animal of South Africa and is associated with athletics and strength.
The versatile Marula Tree has had many uses over thousands of years: the fruits and nuts as food, the wood for carving, the bark as dye. These deciduous trees are either male or female.
King protea is the national flower of South Africa and belongs to an ancient plant family, the Proteaceae, which dates back 140 million years. These regal flowers are named after the sea-god Proteus, one of the sons of Poseidon in Greek mythology.
The configuration of the Zulu shield was chosen for the shape of the Capensis label because the shield represents the strength and nobility of South Africa’s historic Zulu and remains an important symbol to this day.
Goes with: Because this was a special day, I made a special meal: fried lobster tails. The first time I made this was a few months ago, and it was so good I knew this would be a great birthday dinner.
The Capensis was a perfect match for such a rich meal. The lemon and ginger flavors cut through the lush lobster taste, and the smooth mouthfeel matched the buttery notes of the lobster.
The lobster is easy to make. Simply remove the meat from several lobster tails, dip them in batter and fry in hot oil for 5-7 minutes, or longer if the tails are thick. I have used a heavy batter and a light batter. I much prefer the light breading from House Autrey with some cayenne and five pepper blend mixed in. The light batter lets the juicy lobster taste come through better.
We served them with melted butter and lemon wedges. We added wild rice and cut up fresh veggies to complete this incredible meal. My wife Teri and son Michael also said they loved the lobster and Capensis.
This wine would pair well with all kinds of seafood, chicken or turkey, especially dishes with a cream sauce. I liked sipping it by itself, but when paired with food the flavor explodes.
Author Dennis Sodomka