Restless River new releases
By Christian Eedes, 20 October 2021
From film and visual effects to farming, there can be few career reinventions as dramatic as that undertaken by Craig Wessels. Today, he and his wife Anne tend Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley property Restless River and the reputation of their wines grows steadily. Tasting notes and ratings for the soon-to-be-released new vintages as follows:
Restless River Wanderlust 2020
The wine under the “Wanderlust” label is different every year, allowing Wessels to undertake some experimentation with a view to improving his established bottlings. In 2020, he undertook to make a Pinot Noir as the Cistercian monks might have in the Middle Ages, that is with no mechanical intervention – no destemming, crushed underfoot, punch-downs rather than pump-overs, juice separated from skins by basket press. Grapes are from his own vineyards (no Le Luc due to a very small crop) plus Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge property Mount Babylon.
The nose shows red currant, cherry, musk, tea leaf and a hint of mushroom. The palate is light-bodied with good fruit definition, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Lovely presence and very flavourful given an alcohol of just 12.8%.
CE’s rating: 93/100.
Restless River Ava Marie Chardonnay 2019
A challenging vintage that compelled Wessels to undertake nine passes through his 2ha vineyard as opposed to the usual five to seven. This attention to detail has paid off as this is the best vintage of Ava Marie yet. On the nose, a hint of flinty reduction before citrus, almond and leesy complexity while the palate shows great fruit concentration without being too weighty or thick-textured. The fruit is pure but there is already remarkable detail, the wine possessing a silky feel in the mouth, the finish super-dry. Matured for 11 months in mainly 500-litre barrels, some 10% new. Alcohol: 13%.
CE’s rating: 97/100.
Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
The last vintage before the four-year drought broke and this is headier and deeper than you might expect (not that the 2017 was too slight). Red and blackberries, earth, violets and crushed leaves on the nose while the palate has impressive fruit density and weight. The fruit is pure, the tannins fine yet grippy and there is very much a youthful reserve about it right now. Matured for 23 months in 225-litre barrels, around 25% new. Alcohol: 14.5%.
CE’s rating: 93/100.
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