Benchmark Pinot Noir From a Pioneer in South Africa

Today’s Story: Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Hamilton Russell Vineyards is a family-owned and operated wine estate located in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation of South Africa. The estate was established in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russell, who purchased 170 hectares of undeveloped land only 2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean with the intent of producing world class wines in one of South Africa’s coolest climates. In 1991, however, Tim’s son Anthony took over and transitioned the property to only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production. He also registered Hamilton Russell as an estate to signify they will only be making wines with owned fruit. In 1994, Anthony purchased the property himself and conducted a soil study which identified 52 hectares of optimal stony, clay-rich, and shale-derived soil which all plantings call home today. Anthony and his wife Olive own the estate, working alongside winemaker Emul Ross and viticulturist Johan Montgomery to produce terroir-driven examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Production numbers are relatively small thanks to very low yielding vines, with the most recent vintages producing 2,438 cases of 2018 Pinot Noir and 2,852 cases of 2019 Chardonnay. I would say these wines are worth seeking out though if you prefer the wines of Burgundy, as these are fantastic representations of their terroir made in a similar style. To view the offerings or learn more about Hamilton Russell, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir is pale to medium ruby in color. Given about 45 minutes in the glass, the wine blossoms with aromas of pronounced intensity which include cherry, black raspberry, red rose, leather, cured meat, barnyard, grilled herbs, gravel, a hint of asphalt, menthol, and clove. Meanwhile flavors on the palate are of medium (+) intensity, showcasing notes of dried cherry, stemmy strawberry, tart raspberry, red plum, tobacco, worn leather, tea leaf, mild vanilla, and clove. There’s some gorgeous bright minerality there as well. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Rather Burgundian in style and will only be better in 3-5 years.

Price: $45. Though not an inexpensive Pinot Noir, I think this offers very solid value given its complexity, balance, intensity, and promise for the future. Hamilton Russell is a benchmark producer of Pinot Noir in South Africa, and they’re surely demonstrating it with this bottling.

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