Vilafonté is the first American and South African joint wine-making venture within the global wine community.
This ground-breaking red wine project is a partnership between a well respected group of ‘quality driven’ wine specialists from South Africa and the United States. Vilafonté is the first winery in South Africa to be focused on producing wine specifically for the US market.
The Vilafonté philosophy embodies an obsession with quality, from the soil through to the bottle, and an absolute focus on luxury positioning. The name, Vilafonté, derives from the primary soil type of the 100 acre estate, whose character forms the foundation of the wines.
The Vilafonté team blends a unique combination of knowledge, skills, international perspective, and international recognition. The Vilafonté project aims to create the first Luxury Wine brand from South Africa.
The Wines of Vilafonté Vineyard
The Vilafonté vineyard will only produce 2 wines:
‘Series C’ is a bold and expressive with a classic backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon ably supported by small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
‘Series M’ is a luscious blend of Merlot & Malbec with some spice added by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine is designed to be powerful and seductive yet, be accessible to drink at an earlier age.
Zelma is Head Winemaker for the Vilafonté project
Zelma is one of America’s best known winemakers with an enviable international reputation. One of the first women to study enology and viticulture at U.C. Davis; she began her winemaking career at Robert Mondavi Winery, rapidly working into the Chief Winemaker position. After 10 years, Zelma was recruited by Simi Winery in Sonoma County. Simi was later acquired by Moet Hennessey, under whom she worked for the next 18 years as both winemaker and CEO.
Zelma won notice for the quality of her wines, especially the Simi Chardonnay and Cabernet. She traveled to Italy and Argentina to provide technical assistance to Moët wineries. She has won many awards, among them the prestigious James Beard Award for Wine Professional of the Year, the MASI award for international wine contribution, and the Wine Spectator sponsored Oral History of a California Wine Pioneer. For 25 years, she has overseen the wines of her family winery, Long Vineyards, in the Napa Valley.
Zelma oversees the winemaking and style development of the Vilafonte wines, and is on site in South Africa during harvest, through pressing and barreling, and then again at blending and bottling. Zelma has sometimes been described as ‘fanatical’ in her pursuit of quality in winemaking.
Vilafonté’s General Manager is Michael Ratcliffe.
Mike qualified as a business major before attending the University of Adelaide and was in the first graduating class for the Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing. Mike is Managing Director of his family estate, Warwick which is recognized as one of South Africa’s foremost wine estates.
Mike is a leader in the Cape wine industry. At 28, he participated in reigniting the concept for a “Cape Blend” (Pinotage-blend) which has since become an integral part of the Cape high-end wine offerings. Mike is a board member of WOSA, (Wines of South Africa) the generic export promotion board for the SA Wine Industry. Mike maintains a keen involvement in black economic empowerment through his board membership of The South African Wine Industry trust. (SAWIT)
Dr. Phillip Freese
Phil is head ‘wine-grower’ and creator of the Vilafonté vineyard which he calls “Different by Design”.
Phil is responsible for the strategic direction of all Vilafonté wine-growing and vineyard development operations.
Bartholomew Broadbent is responsible for Vilafonté distribution in the USA.
Bartholomew was Named by Decanter Magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in the wine world – faces to watch in the new millennium; and his business named by Entrepreneur Magazine and Dun and Bradstreet as one of the 100 fastest growing companies in America.
Vilafonté owns 30 acres of producing vineyard; and 103 acres total in one of South Africa’s prime wine growing regions, the Paarl appellation. The site is a 270 degree shallow bowl; with a complex of ancient gravelly clay soils, and exposures to the north, south, and west, selected for complexity of its geography and geology.
Vilafonté Vineyard is planted, to our specifications, with specific clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec & Merlot.
The average planting density of South African vineyards is about 2,500 vines per hectare (1,000 per acre) while Vilafonté has been planted to about 5,200 vines per hectare. This high-density planting is a first for South Africa. The vineyard is designed to have a low production of grapes per vine, yet maintain an economic yield per hectare due to the high vine density per hectare. (1.92kg (4.19pounds) per vine.
The introduction of NVDI aerial infra-red and multi-spectral imagery has also been pioneered at Vilafonté by Dr Freese from his work with NASA and local service providers. Both are key factors in the monitoring and management of this vineyard to exacting standards.
The wines will be launched around the world in Summer 2005.