Thursday night saw the launch of the highly anticipated The Ellerman 2018 — a red blend created for the hotel of its namesake by Erika Obermeyer of Erika Obermeyer Wines. The evening, held within Ellerman’s wine gallery and co-hosted by wine personality Dan Nicholl, introduced invited guests to the award-winning wine (already having received a five-star platter rating before release) over a dinner curated by chef Peter Tempelhoff.
Considering the renown of the property’s iconic wine collection — now sitting at over 10,000 bottles — it was perhaps only a matter of time before it released a wine of its own.
Manuel Cabello — Ellerman House’s sommelier come operations manager — spearheaded The Ellerman wine project, having had the idea for years. He knew he wanted a red wine ... it wouldn’t be a single varietal, and it wouldn’t be a Bordeaux-style blend — it would be a blend that was an expression of the property itself, and their interpretation of the best SA red blend to be enjoyed the world over.
Serendipitously, the project came together over a wine tasting. Upon sampling Obermeyer’s wines (under her Erika Obermeyer label) Cabello knew he had found his winemaker — a winemaker who is passionate about sense of place, who has a deep understanding of terroir, and who showcases the beauty of SA and its land through her wines.
Starting with the varietals with which Obermeyer works best, they came up with the blend. An intriguing and multilayered combination of syrah (59%), grenache (20%) and cinsault (15%) varietals merged with the structure of cabernet sauvignon (6%). The 2018 (maiden vintage) was blended from barrel selection, and aged for 14-months in French oak before bottling. It is a truly impressive red blend with each component working together to create a wine with a remarkable intensity, freshness, elegance, and balance.
“In my wine I want to project the beauty and unique terrior that we’re working with in SA, and that is what I knew I would be creating for Ellerman House — a wine that tells a story of where it’s from. While stylistically it carries a lot of Erika, it is 100% Ellerman House,” says Obermeyer.
The Syrah is the backbone of the blend (sourced from three different vineyards and utilising different clones). It brings ripe red fruit, pepper spices, and a meaty savouriness to the wine; while the vibrant grenache brings textured, grainy tannins; and the cinsault adds a lively acidity. The Cabernet though, says Obermeyer, is the magic — it’s such a small percentage, but it brings everything together, adding its inherent gravitas and structure to the wine.
Alluringly aromatic the wine shows vibrant notes of red and black fruits (think sour cherry and ripe plum), together with pepper spice, herbaceous notes reminiscent of fynbos, and superb salinity. The palate, with its wonderfully textured mouthfeel and silky-smooth tannins, is multifaceted, giving way to a lingering, fresh finish.
Co-host Nicholl deliberated, “it’s a wonderfully elegant, expressive wine that speaks to the quiet luxury of Ellerman House. Having Erika make it is an inspired choice, she’s as exciting a talent as we have in SA at the moment, and with The Ellerman she’s produced yet another cracking wine that will sit very comfortably with the very best of Ellerman House’s remarkable cellar.” I, for one, couldn’t agree more.
A spectacular release that not only encapsulates the spirit of Ellerman House but also that of SA, and the phenomenal wine and winemakers we are lucky to call our own.
Dinner came to its conclusion with a surprise tasting of the yet to be released 2019 vintage, demonstrating Ellerman House’s ongoing interest and dedication to this incredible project.