An Interview with Toit Wessels of Ridgeback Winery

Winemaker Spotlight: An Interview with Toit Wessels of Ridgeback Winery

1. What inspired you to create your collection of wine?

Wessels: The inspiration behind our collection of wines was driven by the site on which the vineyards are situated. Old, decomposed granite soils are perfect for growing premium cultivars which include most Rhone and Bordeaux varieties as well as full bodied Viognier and Chenin Blanc. The rustic nature of the farm suits the image of the iconic Ridgeback hound which originates from Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and is also where Vernon and his family spent much of their lives. Co-incidentally, I also have my roots in Zimbabwe where we used to have a game farm.

2. Are there other winemakers that inspire you? Why?
Wessels: I think currently, the winemaking vibe in South Africa is vibrant with a number of young winemakers not afraid to rattle the cage of convention. I love working with a minimal intervention style where the fruit expression in the bottle contains as much of our specific regional characteristics as possible due to a strong viticultural focus and therefore I enjoy chatting wine with various winemakers who share the same beliefs.

3. Do you have a favorite recipe? What wine are you pairing with it?
Wessels: As a South African, I suppose a braai would have to feature….. but my wife’s Malay curry is my absolute favourite! Paired with a full-bodied Ridgeback Viognier or Chenin Blanc.

4. Someone very special is coming over. Which wine are you serving?
Wessles: Cabernet Franc is my absolute favourite and a must for any special guest. This cultivar has taught me humility at times and has also taken Ridgeback to the pinnacle as far as single cultivar or blending partner in our Premium Range. Therefore, always a good talking point!

5. Whats your favourite place that you’ve traveled to?
Wessles: After school we backpacked through Thailand, Europe and much of the Middle-East with so many highlights, but nothing beats Lake Kariba in my birth country, Zimbabwe. Staying on a houseboat with sightings of tiger-fish, crocodiles and hippo and an African thunderstorm brewing in the distance is pretty incredible.

6. What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who wanted to create wine?
Wessles: My advice for someone wanting to create wine would be to find a style or cultivar which you really believe in, do your research, understand viticulture and gain as much winemaking advice as possible in your early years! The winemaking journey has so many twists and turns, but holding onto your initial enthusiasm while gaining experience is the key to success. Wine is a living concept and you can only guide it at best!

7. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Wessles: When I was young I wanted to become a game ranger. We grew up with a Cheetah as a pet, therefore animals were just part of our lives.

8. Any special holiday traditions?
Wessles: Family Christmas at the beach!

9. If you weren’t working in wine, what would want to be doing?
Wessles: If I hadn’t started making wine, I would have become a physiotherapist. We are a family of sports enthusiasts and physio has always been a part of this lifestyle.

10. What do you enjoy when you are not working?When I’m not working, I enjoy trail running (my wife would laugh if she read this as I haven’t done it in a while…), spending time at the beach with our children and collecting Matchbox toy cars. We also love exploring new wineries and wine regions.

New Wines

We welcome our newest wine, Flannery Hill, from New Zealand. A fresh Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. This wine has notes of citrus with the herbaceous finish of a true New Zealand Sauvignon.

Featured Wines: Fall Reds
It’s the perfect time to cozy up with a nice glass of red. Need some inspiration? Zonte’s Blackberry Patch3 Pillars Pinot Noir, and Chateau du Courlat Lussaac St-Emilion are three wines we recommend you try as we head further into the fall season. Zonte’s Blackberry Patch, a varietal blend from Australia offers hints of cassis, dark plum, and finishes with Cigar Box tannins. Our 3 Pillars Pinot from California is the perfect “Burgundian” style Pinot Noir. Finally our 2015 Ch. du Courlat Lussac St-Emilion is a heavily structured wine with beautiful aromas of candied plums, intertwined with spicy notes and a long finish. All three pair well with nights by the fire pit or dinner with loved ones.

In the Press

Our de Pro Cava Brut Rose is back in stock and making headlines. This sparkling wine is a perfect wine to stock up on for the upcoming holidays and celebrations.

Next up we have a 2016 Ribera del Duero Crianza Tempranillo that is not short on the awards. 100% Tempranillo grapes but aged in oak, giving off hints of sweet spices.

.  Look out for this award-winning 2019 vintage from Bierzo, Spain. This medium bodied red is made with 100% Mencia grapes; the only grapes able to thrive in this special region. Mencia offers a unique fruit-laden and balanced wine with with its own mineral character.