As we drained the last sips from our coffee cups after a proper farm breakfast, we stacked the Avanza and said our goodbyes to the sterling team at Jan Harmsgat Country House. Our next and final stop for the weekend was a chit-chat at Lozärn Wines. It is here where we got real geeky about wine.
In 2012, winemaker Salóme was enjoying a fine Chilean Carménère with husband, Sybrand and a true friend. It was love at first sip, which led to the planting of a Carménère vineyard two years later on Doornbosch. This is – as far as they can ascertain – the first single vineyard Carménère for South Africa. The wine bug had bit, and the Chilean import was joined by several other Bordeaux cultivars along with Sauvignon Blanc.
Lozärn, the Swiss-German pronunciation of Lucerne, was chosen as the wine brand, and labels are adorned with a skeletal image of a duck. Granny Kay is also honoured with a fine Bordeaux-style red blend named Kay’s Legacy (https://lozarn.co.za/).
My first meeting with Lozärn Wines was at Chef’s Santi’s house for a Chef’s Table social dining experience. Lozärn winemaker, Salome Buys-Vermeulen, joined us for the evening and spoke us through their colourful story, their history, their range and the food pairings for the night.
I was mesmerized by their story, by Salome’s passion, determination and infectious excitement and of course, by their wines. I almost instantly fell in love with their Carménère, but a bit more on that later.
Now, it was time for our #MagicOfWinter team to hit the road and visit the home of Lozärn, and to make the most of the glorious sunny Sunday in the Langeberg Valley.
Tastings in the cellar
After a hearty welcome, Salome walked us to the uber-modern cellar, which also hosts the tasting room. Taking up a casual seat at the wooden table, wedged between the massive steel tanks and rows of their beautifully packaged wines, I already loved their informal approach to wine tasting. For me, it should be something exciting and interactive, and I prefer a relaxed chat over wine than a formal education with copious pages of tasting notes.
It wasn’t long before our glasses were filled with an icy 2018 Chardonnay and Salome talked us through her 10 years of experience as a female winemaker. Ten minutes in, it’s clear to see that she’s passionate about her craft. A self-confessed “geek”, she has wine making down to a fine art and thoroughly enjoys the science behind the trade.
As we moved into the reds, Salome brought out a sensory tray filled with different spices and herbs which she likes to present alongside her wines. The idea behind the sensory tray is to help visitors identify which notes they are picking up when smelling and tasting the wine. As everyone’s palates are different, tasting notes are only meant to guide the wine drinker, not dictate the experience. Half of the fun of wine tasting is comparing what you pick up from the wine with the person next to you!
It’s right about now that I should tell you about their flagship red, Kay’s Legacy 2016. An alluringly smooth Bordeaux blend (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc), this is a gorgeous toast to Granny Kay, the much-loved family matriarch around who Lozärn’s story, heritage and ethos revolves. Kay’s Legacy 2016 is warming, fragrant and earthy, and holds great cellaring potential.
The feather(s) in Lozärn’s cap: Carménère
About seven years ago, Salome fell in love with a truly unique and exciting varietal, called Carménère. Through her undying passion, dedication and inquisitive nature, the first Carménère vineyards were planted on Doornbosch – as far as they can tell, the first single vineyard Carménère for South Africa. The result? The Carménère 2016 – a unique red, and the 2017 Rosé – a simply delightful, flirty and playful interpretation of this exotic cultivar.
These two iterations of this notoriously difficult varietal moved us in ways I am still seeking words for. But it’s so much more than just excellent wine; it’s excellent wine delicately wrapped in feel-good stories of perseverance, creativity, nurturing dreams and the pursuit for absolute excellence. It’s the coming-to-life of an adventure that Salome has been meticulously planning for many, many years, and finally, everyone can reap and celebrate the rewards along with her and the Smuts family of Doornbosch.
It was time for some fresh air, and maybe a spot of lunch.
Pruning the vines
A quick stop across the road and we were preparing ourselves for a practical demonstration on how to prune the Carménère vines with owner, Grant Smuts, holding the secateurs. This was an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse at the more mundane side of wine-making, even though this seemingly menial task is vitally important to ensure maximum yield and the sustainability of the vines year after year. Even pruning the vines at Doornbosch is an art; nothing is left to chance, guess-work or estimations. Just like wine-making, pruning is also a science.
Having said that, Grant wholeheartedly invited us to try our hand at pruning and after a few misses, I think most of us got the hang of it!
A lunch like no other
On our return to the cellar, we found a lunch spread casually set up between the wine barrels. Beautifully presented in a country-chic way, the spread included mouthwatering options like a cheese platter with olives, biltong, preserves, pate’s and pesto’s, a meat platter filled with roast beef and marinated chicken kebabs, a warm new potato salad and the most delicious farm-fresh tomato salad I’ve ever tasted. For dessert – chocolate brownies, toasted coconut marshmallows and sticky wedges of honeycomb.
This feast was prepared for us by Grant’s wife, Christa, who came down to meet us with open arms and the most welcoming smile.
As we settled down outside on the lawn with laden plates, Grant brought out buckets of icy wines to share. Salome’s dogs came to greet us and eventually laid down in the shade when they realised there wasn’t as much a crumb left over after lunch.
This precise moment, sitting outside on the lawn with plates of fresh, home-made food balanced on our knees and glasses of ice-cold Langeberg wines in our hands, with the sun baking against our backs and laughter filling the spaces between the birdsong – this precise moment, was everything this Valley stands for. Once again, as so many times before on this trip, we were enveloped in the most generous hospitality of its residents. We came as visitors, and left as friends. We came with very little knowledge, and left with an in-depth understanding of limitless passion, endless creativity, and how years of hard work look like. An in-depth understanding of what all the human heart can hold, and how much it can give.
My most heartfelt thank you to the Smuts family for hosting us so freely and for preparing such a lovely meal for us. A gracious thank you to the beautiful Salome for spending her morning with us, for sharing her wine journey with us and for indulging us in the fruits of her labour!
The Fine Print
Tel: 023 616 2972
Address: Doornbosch farm, Gelukshoop Road, Bonnievale
Wine tasting by appointment only.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.