McGregor heights with Lords Cellar on the right.
McGregor heights with Lords Cellar on the right.
Winemaker Ilse van Dijk is putting the cellar on the map.
Winemaker Ilse van Dijk is putting the cellar on the map.

Cape Town - The road to nowhere undulates through rural beauty as it climbs the Sonderend slopes – to fizzle out among magnificent fynbos at the start of the Boesmanskloof hiking trail to Greyton. Travellers pass tunnels of tomatoes and orchards of stone fruit until, 11km from McGregor village, they come upon the thatched-roof cellar of Lord’s Wines, perched among vine-cloaked hills.

At 500 metres, the vineyards are the highest in the Robertson valley. Jacie Oosthuizen, whose family farms produce fruit and vegetables and export proteas, attracted 11 shareholders to invest in the planting of shiraz, chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc in 2003. The cellar was built in time to receive the maiden harvest five years ago – and market reaction was pleasing, as the pinot noir soon sold out, with the wooded chardonnay not far behind.

Jacie focused on viticulture and, as the operation expanded, took on winemaker Ilse van Dijk. She seemed to be waiting in the wings while gaining experience in cellars in Franschhoek, harvesting in Israel, and honing skills at Stellenzicht and Deetlefs. This child of Potchefstroom, whose family was not into wine, was drawn to viticulture during her student days at Stellenbosch. Once qualified, she tackled her chosen career with characteristic thoroughness and enthusiasm while remaining impressively unflappable.

Her efforts are reaping praiseworthy rewards. Lord’s flagship 2010 pinot noir, selling at R120, has collected gold, silver and bronze from three national competitions this year. Notoriously difficult to work with, the cultivar does well in the lime-rich soils of Lord’s and has become Ilse’s passion, as she relishes such challenges.

From a single vineyard, and its third harvest, the wine spent 14 months in French oak to produce a medium-bodied pinot with typical earthiness and cherry flavours.

Ilse also uses pinot noir for a rather distinctive 2012 rosé (R45). The Wicked Maiden, as it’s dubbed, is bone-dry and laden with berry flavours.

The four-star 2009 shiraz is well priced at R80, deservedly popular for pairing with meaty fare and is well-adorned with stickers, including Platter four stars and Veritas silver.

Turning to whites, the obligatory sauvignon blanc was made from Rietvallei grapes, and the 2011 wine (R50) is zingy and green in popular style. There’s a frisky chenin (R55) called First Innings, but chardonnay is the winner here – the unwooded (R50) All-Rounder, offering freshness, tropical flavours, and straightforward enjoyment.

Sadly Ilse tells me they are thinking of stopping production and focusing on the barrel-fermented, which is more in demand. The 2011 (R70) is a rich and generous chard that spent nine months in new French oak, picking up two silvers this year. To complete the range there’s Nectar Natural Sweet, a 2011 sticky (R60) made, unusually, from bought-in nouvelle.

A combo of lofty vineyards, soaring quality and a dedicated winemaker – intent on making Lord’s the leading light in pinot production in the region – is hard to beat. For those who cannot get to the mountain cellar, Lord’s has a wine shop in Robertson near the police station. Buying through will soon also be an option.

Pocket guide to best wines for your cents

An annual pocket book that bargain hunters keep in their cars, The Best Value Wine Guide has released its 2013 recommendations. If you didn’t get your free copy with Getaway magazine, you will have to fork out just under R32 for the guide, which is likely to be money well spent.

The wines included in this edition are priced up to R80, which many will not think much of a bargain. However, plenty are listed selling for far less. The panel received more than 1 000 submissions, of which 810 were deemed worthy of further tasting, with 549 wines finally being included.

For those who prefer to spend less than R50 a bottle, there are more than 400 listed, and 285 under R40. The guide is organised into blends and varietals, dessert wine and roses, port and sherry and sparkling wine. There are also lists of best value winners where criteria of quality and keen prices were used to find the best. Interesting to see that the 11 whites that make the winners’ list start at R20 for BC (Brandvlei) Wines Chenin 2012. The other 10 include three chenins, and only one columbard, viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon. - Weekend Argus