Haskell Vineyards is the Helderberg property acquired by international property and mining magnate Preston Haskell in 2002. Rianie Strydom, previously of Morgenhof, acted as consultant winemaker from January 2005 but was soon employed fulltime and has enjoyed what can only be described as phenomenal success in the period to date.
Dombeya was the previous name of the farm and a foundation range was launched under this label, the 2005 vintage Bordeaux-style red blend called Samara rating 4 Stars in WINE magazine, as did the 2007 Boulder Road Shiraz while the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon came in at 4½ Stars.
But it’s the the ultra-premium Haskell range that has really made an impression. The first wines to be released were two examples of Shiraz from the 2007 vintage, one called “Aeon” and the other “Pillars”. The first time these wines came up for critical review was at the 2009 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, where Aeon won a silver medal with a score of 82 on the 100-point scale and Pillars won gold with a score of 93. Pillars was obviously something extra-special as it went on to win best in class, best red wine and best wine overall at the 2009 Tri Nations Wine Challenge as well as collecting a 5 Star-rating in Platter’s 2010.
The 2008 vintage of these wines is set for release on 1 November, although they’ve already been reviewed at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy wine Show were Aeon scored 82 and Pillars 85, once again placing them very much at the top of the pile (I was on the panel and my inclination was to score them even higher).
Strydom showed the wines again to a gathering of media and trade this past Monday, and herewith my thoughts. Aeon is mainly from the grapes of one particular 2ha vineyard on Haskell Vineyards but also contains 5% Mourvèdre from nearby Biliton. It shows dark fruit as well as some fynbos and pepper on the nose while the palate is rich and full but balanced by a good line of acidity. The wine spent 14 months in French oak, 60% new.
Pillars, from a 0.75ha vineyard, shows more red fruit character and spice on the nose while on the palate, the wine appears more medium bodied but still with excellent flavour concentration and freshness. Fermentation was partially natural and the wine also spent 14 months in French oak, 60% new.
My feeling is that Pillars has just a little more purity and focus, and it is interesting to note that it will sell for R400 a bottle from the tasting room with Aeon at RR290. Strydom however insists that this is not an indication a difference in quality but merely that she will be able to make more of Aeon in time to come by virtue of the vineyard being bigger (volumes of both wines currently stand at 250 cases). A third version of Shiraz by the name of Hades is planned in due course to complete the so-called “Vineyard Series”.
On to the maiden 2007 vintage of a Bordeaux-style red blend, called simply Haskell IV on account of owner Preston Haskell the fourth member of his family to be named such in as many generations as well as the wine consisting of four different varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 55% Cabernet Franc. Tasting it now, I thought this wine showed great fruit expression, bright acidity and good tannic grip, a pretty smart effort overall. This was as opposed to when I tasted it back in May (see here) next to some top Bordeaux, where I found it just a little bit awkward. I suppose context is everything. Price per bottle: R400.