Friday, March 21, 2014

Winemaker Conrad Vlok celebrates 10th harvest at Strandveld Vineyards

Winemaker Conrad Vlok celebrates 10th harvest at Strandveld Vineyards
Issued by GC Communications on behalf of Strandveld Vineyards

Conrad Vlok

Embracing the 10th year of his journey of discovery as the driving force behind Strandveld Vineyards’ cool climate wines, winemaker Conrad Vlok and his team are in full swing with this year’s bountiful harvest at Africa’s southernmost winery and home of First Sighting.

Conrad’s career at Strandveld Vineyards, situated between Elim and Cape Agulhas in South Africa’s newest and possibly most exciting wine ward, has been a two-fold triumph. Firstly for him as a winemaker crafting wines in the young Elim wine appellation, and secondly, for wine lovers discovering exciting new wines rooted in the rich history and landscape of this region just kilometers away from the true tip of Africa. Strandveld Vineyards’ location – the cellar 11 kilometers and the vineyards a mere 8 kilometers from the sea - combined with the perpetual cool winds that blow from both the southeast and southwest, are responsible for the unique growing conditions. The brackish gravel soils ensure natural low yields and this, together with cooler temperatures, result in slower ripened, healthy fruit with highly concentrated flavours and wines that are as exciting and unique as the wine growing region they come from.

Over the years Conrad has shown his prowess as an exceptional winemaker with a decade of award winning vintages under his belt. Making the most of the ever present sea winds cooling the vines and the unique Elim soils that shape every vintage, Conrad and his team produce the popular First Sighting as well as the top tier Strandveld wines. The name “First Sighting” honours Bartholomeu Diaz’s first glimpse of Cape Agulhas in April 1488, a further thumbprint of how these wines are shaped by the history of this unique wine growing region.

With Strandveld Vineyards firmly entrenched as one of South Africa’s producers of exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, as attested by highly regarded UK Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, Conrad hopes that 2014 will also be a good year for Strandveld Pinot Noir.

“We are well known for our Sauvignon Blanc, but I have a feeling that this could be the year that our Pinot Noir will also shine. I chose open barrel fermentation, with only two gentle punch downs per day, instead of the regular pump over action, as a means to extract less hard tannins from the pips and skins,” notes Conrad.                           
Showing a beautiful dark purple colour, this young wine will age further in new French oak barrels.
“Things are looking very promising in the cellar, even though it was a tricky year for the harvest with heavy rains in November and January,” says Conrad, whose 10 year experience has more than equipped him to be in top form with each new vintage. As the first winemaker to press grapes from Strandveld’s own vineyards in 2005, Conrad has a close affinity to the soil, the vines and the cellar. The white cultivars Conrad currently specialises in are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, especially a blend of the two as portrayed in his highly acclaimed Strandveld Adamastor. Amongst the reds, his focus is on Shiraz, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The 2014 Strandveld harvest started on 14 February – a week later than the previous year –   and should be wrapped up by the end of March.

“My time at Strandveld Vineyards marks the longest period I have been at any wine farm, which of course brings with it the great satisfaction of experience and a deep understanding of the vineyards, as well as our very own particular micro-climate and diverse soil types,” adds Conrad.

His proudest achievements include a Veritas Double Gold medal as well as a Gold medal (Best in Class) for his 2010 Strandveld Sauvignon Blanc. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Strandveld Adamastor received 5-star ratings in Platter’s South African Wine Guide.

“Every time your wines achieve such great recognition is like a stamp of approval for a job well done,” says Conrad, whose Strandveld Navigator, a red blend produced from Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvédre and Viognier is a firm favourite with wine lovers as well as visitors to the farm who are intrigued by the history that inspired the name. This Rhône blend pays homage to Prince Henry the Navigator – the patron of early Portuguese exploration, who had a passion for rounding Africa’s southernmost tip.

When Conrad is not working in the vineyards or the cellar, you can find him spending time with his family at their home on the farm, in the veld or line fishing from his sea kayak in the Atlantic off Cape Agulhas. He is passionate about cooking and visitors to Strandveld Vineyards might just catch the delicious aroma of a succulent fish dish or Springbok potjie being prepared.

Conrad’s winemaking philosophy is that winemaking starts first and foremost in the vineyards and that it takes good grapes to make great wine. “Attention to detail is key. Don’t mess up in the cellar; stay focused until the wine is in the bottle and on the table.”

Dedicated first and foremost to bio-diversity and the conservation of the lush surroundings, Strandveld Vineyards offers a picturesque setting with an abundance of birdlife and plants, the perfect escape for wine and nature lovers to experience a serene getaway from the city's hustle and bustle. The farm is open for wine tastings in the historic tasting room and offers the experience to extend your stay in one of the welcoming guest cottages. Phone Tel: +27 (0)28 482 1906 or send email to Visit, Facebook or follow @Strandveld on Twitter. The GPS coordinates are 34 ° 39 ' 592 " S; 19 ° 47 ' 268 " E.