On Tuesday night Barque Smokehouse welcomed South African winemaker Marc Kent and RKW Imports for an eight course paired tasting event alongside eight wines from the Boekenhoutskloof portfolio. The ambitious Kent is the vintner equivalent of an air force pilot. Thrill seeker, pioneer, risk-taker, restless soul and difference maker. Very few South African outfits manage to fill two polar niches with such a high level of success ; the Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap ranges appeal to the market inhabited by the everyday drinker and Kent’s serious Syrah goes out to the collector.
The cellar master from this outrageously efficacious Franschhoek operation works tirelessly to champion Syrah and to indulge in atypical varietals (for South Africa) like Semillon. Now in his (very) early 40’s, the buoyant Kent’s wines continue to express a longing for the northern Rhône, though they fall into their own, unique category. To a red, the sanguine, savoury, warm climate, mountain and maritime sensation is always present. Syrah of liquid white pepper sprinkled over a periodic table of elements.
The affable Kent and master of ceremonies Zoltan Szabo led a group of 85 diners through the Boekenhoutskloof range concomitant to an astute and benevolent menu from chefs David Neinstein and Bryan Birch.
Shrimp with tarragon crème fraiche, garlic chips
Wolftrap Rosé 2012 (169409, $12.95) talks turkey and shrimp of a Turkish delight, candied strawberry and cream tongue. Sprinkled with spiced nuts. 86
Salad of warm fior de latte, heirloom tomatoes, basil and reduced balsamic
Wolftrap White 2011 (263608, $14.95) makes use of a balanced and warmer vintage, allowing the honey and pep of Chenin Blanc to truss the Viognier and Grenache Blanc together as one. “It’s richer in ’11, ” says Kent, “and still commercial, if I can use the term.” My thoughts too. 87
BBQ Chicken and Goat Cheese croquettes
Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2011 sees no oak, only the cool, steel walls of the tank. High acidity and herb pistou, unctuous and great value for SB, anywhere. 88
White Fish En Papillote leeks, oyster mushrooms, lemongrass broth
Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2009 is my WOTN. Made in miniscule quantities, a near-Bordeaux ringer attributed with white CDP-like Marsanne, Roussane vigor. Runs a gamut of aromas and mouthfeel; honey, wax, acorn, lime, ginger, peach and orange blossom. “The truth is in the second half of the bottle, ” notes Kent. 91
Pulled Duck Tacos , pickled carrots, scallions, ahoy sauce
Wolftrap Red 2011 (292557, $13.95) is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Dictionary red fruit in every sense of the inclination. The South African version of broad appeal Australian Shiraz. The only bottle without SA typicity. Tasty yet homeless and residing in Smallville. Begs the question. “What are you, man or Superman?” 86
BBQ Brisket with hush puppies
Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2011 (595280, $14.95) the consistent one outsells all other VINTAGES Essentials. Why? Because it’s well-made, affordable and precocious. Dips into Northern Rhône waters and swims with the fishes. Walks out unscathed, vintage after vintage. 88
Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus
The Chocolate Block 2010 (129353, $39.95) sends Syrah to study abroad. Though the blend is Rhône plus 13% Cab, the intense chocolate notes (go figure) seem not unlike Chile’s elite Carmenère and Cabernet blends. Montes Purple Angel and Don Melchor come to mind. Dusty Theobroma cacao, purple flowers and reduced red berries join forces for what really is an elegant brew. Knows the pathway to your heart. 89
NY Striploin with black pepper dumpling
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2009 (52076, $59) is the doctrine to preach Marc Kent’s ability to procure excellence. Balanced and focused to a sip and in every sip. Distinctly Guigal and even Delas in refinement. A varietal likeness no other SA Syrah can touch. Never over the top, here “quality is in the second half of the bottle.” Kudos Kent. 90
Good to go!