2012 Downes Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Sanctuary Peak Elgin Valley
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ST 92 points
(Read the full review below)
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Downes Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Baboons in Cape Town and a Kimbrel Four-Seam Fastball

We thought we'd heard them all. But after we finally convinced the Bean Counters to drop a small bundle on a couple of tickets to Cape Town, then made our way over to see one of the most inventive Sauvignon Blanc producers in the world, we discovered the most unusual of viticultural challenges.

In Provence and Tuscany, winegrowers like Jean-Marc Amez-Droz at Château Signac and Paolo de Marchi at Isole e Olena complain about the wild boars. As the harvest approaches, the boars wait until night falls, then head out to the oldest vines, feasting only on the ripest clusters.

Down below the Mason-Dixon Line, the growers of Mendoza break into cold sweats when a low front settles in, just waiting for a single hail storm to ravage a year's work in a brief 20-minute tempest.

Those pre-harvest calamities are striking, turning talented winegrowers into bawling children. But neither holds a candle to what James Downes had to contend with when those South African baboons started throwing Kimbrel fastballs.

It's best to take a deep breath before you get to the Elgin Valley. Just an hour from Cape Town, there are few viticultural regions in the world that rival this one for sheer natural beauty. Ringed by mountains, still in close proximity to the Atlantic, the setting took us home to Russian River. Mornings are cool, afternoons warm, with mountain temperatures tumbling overnight. With low-yielding hillside Sauvignon Blanc vines given a pre-harvest haircut, Downes cuts yields back to a Sancerrois 3 tons per acre, accounting for both the decidedly New World ripe apple attack and the sizzling, wet-stone mineral finish.

And 2012? "It was pretty much perfect," James told us. "If it hadn't been for the baboons — and their afternoon feast."

We don't often show videos on WineAccess but this time we just couldn't hold back. Before you hit the buy button and take advantage of this exhilarating Sauvignon Blanc that even brought Steve Tanzer to his knees, take a look at this. Then, if you want, book that trip to Cape Town and we'll set you up at Shannon Vineyards if only to see if you can hit the baboons' high heater.

Tasting Notes

2012 Downes Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Sanctuary Peak Elgin Valley
"Bright pale yellow. Aromas of gooseberry, lime leaf and citrus peel are almost New Zealand-like in their penetrating pungency. Then juicy, spicy and very dry but with excellent texture and intensity to the uncompromising flavors of citrus peel, white pepper and flinty minerals. Excellent sauvignon blanc with real depth and spicy length, and a dusty peppery quality that leaves the mouth refreshed. A lot of sauvignon blanc for the price — and one to seek out. "
92 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar


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