Wine can be quite personal. For the consumer, yes, but also for the people behind the process. The brand builders, the winemakers, the soil searchers and the vine whisperers. That’s why I find it very flattering when I get to be one of the firsts to open a bottle of wine; get that first whiff of manicured magic on the nose; feel that first sip of soil-inspired solace slip over your tongue and contemplate the curiousness of the wine on your palate. I got to experience that a couple of weeks ago, when I was hosted by Ónoma Private Cellar for an intimate tasting at the ever-so-lovely, French-inspired courtyard of Arbour Café in Birdhaven, Johannesburg. A taste of Greece in a South African restaurant that makes you wish you were in France – now, that’s what I call awakening wanderlust.
Ónoma Private Cellar is an exclusive, premiere boutique wine farm with relatively young, yet exceptional wines. Production is all but what they’re about. For them, it’s rather about picking and choosing. Exclusivity.
Owner, Blaise Yiannakis joined me for a tasting of some of Ónoma Private Cellar’s latest vintages. While swirling our glasses, inspecting tears and tasting the crispness of the 2021 Chardonnay, he shared the wonderful story of their Greek and family-owned winery, which is nestled at the foot of the Stellenbosch Hills, on a farm called Felicia. The Yiannakis family purchased the farm in 1999 from where Blaise’s late father, Com used to produce excellent quality grapes, which he sold to larger estates in the area. The farm was intended as a retirement lifestyle project for the family, with farming having been in their blood for generations. Com sadly passed away before they could realise the family dream of creating their own label, but what has stemmed from it could not be more special.
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Blaise, a former art and diamond dealer who also has a law degree under his belt, selected the wines which were maturing in barrel at the time of his father’s passing and dubbed it Ónoma Private Cellar’s hallmark release. The Greek name, Ónoma means reputation and it’s the perfect name for wines that have been produced in honour of Com Yiannakis’ legacy.
Ónoma’s terroir is ideal for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and this was recently also confirmed with numerous accolades. The wines are all single vineyard and varietal wines, made in limited quantities, which makes it even more sought after. According to Blaise, Ónoma makes pure, clean, simple, classic wines. “Like the ancient Greeks would have.” That is why winemaker Matthew van Heerden – who has previously been named Best Winemaker in the World – was asked to create classic wines in the Greek winemaking tradition and I couldn’t agree more when Blaise says that van Heerden has executed this brilliantly.
From the crisp 2021 Chardonnay to a surprisingly soft 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, these unique wines are certainly setting the scene for an elegant festive season; one that will have you travel the world with merely a sip of Syrah. It’s wine with a story; a journey to embark on from the comfort of your couch.