An Ernest Effort from Els
Welcome to another installment in my series on golfers’ wine projects. This time the focus is on Theodore Ernest “Ernie” Els, known as “The Big Easy” due to his imposing physical stature along with his fluid, seemingly effortless golf swing.
Els launched his winery in 1999 in Stellenbosch, South Africa [predictably, since he’s a native]. With award-winning winemaker Louis Strydom at the helm, they produced the maiden 2000 vintage of Ernie Els, a ‘classic’ Bordeaux blend. This impressive facility is now home to eight different Els selections.
Wines of varying quality have been made in South Africa for over 350 years. Stellenbosch, in the country’s southwestern Coastal Region, is one of the oldest and most highly regarded growing districts. It is similar to a Mediterranean climate, with an average rainfall of around 25 inches per year. The soils largely consist of clay, with the deeper soils having a considerable amount of granite, just the sort of difficult land that quality grape vines prefer. The majority of the vineyards at Ernie Els Wines are north-facing, with the rows running in an east-west direction, resulting in the optimal utilization of sunlight. In summer, the vineyards’ close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean provides cool sea breezes that moderate temperatures, extending the ripening period.
Big Easy White 2011
Yes, Els rather cheekily labeled these wines after his nickname. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc, with no oak aging whatsoever. The wine is pale gold, and the nose is delicately perfumed. The prominent flavor is grapefruit, with a hint of almond and spice. There is plenty of acid, complementing the grapefruit flavor profile, with the finish featuring some of grapefruit’s bitterness, as well.
Match this wine with New Orleans-style Barbecued Shrimp, Chicken Clemençeau, or Cheese Soufflé.
Big Easy Red 2010
This red blend is 60% Shiraz and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance Mouvedre, Grenache, Cinsaut, and Viognier (with the exception of the Cab, this is a typical Bordeaux blend). It is dark purple in the glass, with a rather boozy nose. It was barrel aged for 12 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.
The palate is dense and full bodied, with plenty of tannins. Earthy flavors of black cherries, coffee, and chocolate predominate, and are smoothly integrated. A hint of cocoa on the finish delivers a slight bitterness that is less welcome than it is in the Big Easy White.
Serve this red with Steak and Truffled Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Chicken wth Watermelon Relish, or Garlic Pork Roast.
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