On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to meet the dynamic Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon Estate in South Africa during Legal Sea Foods wine dinner featuring her. A woman who is serious about winemaking, Appelbaum had a dry sense of humor with hints of feistiness that entranced me immediately. Her voice had the deep guttural sound that reflected years of cigarette smoking (something she admitted to after a few coughs), and what she had to say that to her audience about winemaking in South Africa was smart, concise and fascinating. Her outward appearance was as meticulous as her speech. This woman exuded intelligence, stateliness and a frankness that was refreshing to listen to. Thankfully, she patiently waited to talk about her vineyards while Sue and I frantically took our seats.
I admit it. We were late. Sue and I missed the hor d’oeuvres because we were also at the First Republic Bank’s Grand and Premier Cru Burgundies tasting. We sipped on outstanding white and rouge Burgundies from Christie’s auction house in preview of the auction that benefits Hospices de Beaune. Despite knowing that we had a wonderful dinner in front of us it was indeed hard to tear ourselves Corton-Charlemagne, Mersault and Mazis-Chembertin. Thankfully though, we were not the last to arrive. A couple of people walked in directly after us. Whew…
I was happy to learn that De Morgenzon farms organically and bio-dynamically. Considering that Bauer has a growing Organic Section and an ever growing clientele looking for Organic wines, I was pleased that I could add these wines to the list. They dedicate themselves to the philosophy that a bio-diverse and an ecological sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes. Applebaum said with a smile, “If you get a headache tonight, it won’t be from my wines.” Sure enough, she was right. No headache for me later that night.
Part of their organic philosophy was to plant wildflowers in between their vines so they can rely on natural pollination and yeasts. They describe their vineyard 91 hectare garden with 55 hectares of carefully tended vines and flower beds surround the entire farm. In the background there are purple mountains and a blue sky overhead, the kind of picturesque scene a city dweller like me only dreams about. Could it be that natural aspect that makes Appelbaum’s wines so delicious? Well, that and the fact they pump Baroque music throughout the vineyard to make both the vines and farm workers happier. Yes, Baroque music is best and Rock is the worst for vine happiness. Twenty-four hours and day, seven days a week you will hear the likes of Bach, Mozart, Handel, Richter and others played through strategically placed speakers around the vineyards. The Appelbaums believe that sound energy from the Baroque music has a positive effect on plant growth and the soothing sounds encourage the vines to grow faster and healthier.
Music, the surrounding gardens, happy farm workers, the majestic scenery, and loving owners like the Appelbaums, it is all working to make wonderful wines out of South Africa.
Pictures of the dinner: