Oak Valley Stone & Steel Riesling 2018



Elgin Valley existed in quiet isolation, tucked away southeast of Cape Town, South Africa, until a pioneering railway bored through its stolid stone passes in 1902. Surrounded on all sides by forested mountain preserve, this high-altitude valley was soon renowned for its apples, pears, exotic flowers and vines. It is the pioneering railway of steel ties on quarried stone that gives rise to our discovery for today.

The story begins in 1898 with Sir Antonie Viljoen, a Scottish medical doctor who traveled widely through Europe, falling in love with wine in the process. When he was posted for the Queen’s service to South Africa, he seized  the opportunity to own a winery, and founded Oak Valley in Elgin. In addition to founding the wine industry and later the apple industry there, Viljoen would later be knighted for his attempts to reconcile the British with the Boers in the aftermath of the wars.

It’s incredible to think about, but at the time of his passing in 1918, Viljoen would have already put 50,000 vines into the ground – and that excludes his apple trees, pear trees and flowers. A true renaissance Englishman with a passion for the countryside, he created an enormous and prestigious estate.

That estate survives to this day and is still farmed by his descendents. While I have not been there, the pictures express a thousand words about how remote this region truly is. This is their Stone & Steel Riesling, coming from some of the highest Riesling vines in the world:

A super crisp lime-zest crunchiness like a Clare Valley Riesling comes zipping right out of the glass. The phrase “rainwater filtered through slate” comes to mind. The palate is steely and driven but not shrill – it’s a fully ripe Meyer lemon, entirely and thoroughly enjoyable to eat, rather than a regular lemon, best for accenting a dish. The finish is racy, but certainly not hard. It’s the a perfect balance of a very cool-climate grape with enough sunshine to make for ultra-pleasurable drinking.

Antonie Vilijoen and his descendants’ wines were quite the find for me. I think they will be for you as well. Cheers.

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