Winner Gunter Schultz, carving a barrel.
When these guys and dolls get together, their talk of barrels, cutbacks and styling ain't necessarily referring to the cellar. They ooze enthusiasm to ride out the next wave. But they'll drink a good bottle and even stop to analyze it philosophically while they're waiting for a set to come in.
The lingo may differ from typical winespeak, but this group's commitment at South Africa's first Vintners Surf Classic was unfaltering. The appointed venue was Onrust Beach, an unspoiled stretch of white sand framed by rocks and surf, hugging South Africa's southeast coastline. An easy hour's scenic drive from Cape Town, Onrust is a popular seaside vacation destination. Although vine-free, it forms part of the largely coastal Walker Bay wine ward, where some shit-hot pinot noir, chardonnay and dense, aromatic pinotage is produced.
"I've worked three harvests overseas -- Delegat's in New Zealand, Miranda in South Australia, Sonoma Cutrer in California -- and I made sure there was a good surf break for when I had a day off!" -- Gunter Schultz
Eben Sadie, the 28-year-old winemaker of innovative Spice Route Wine Company, in the Swartland district, announced the event. "There's a group of people out there living in a world of liquid passion," he began. "This year will see the first of what will be known as the Vintners Surf Classic, involving people that gain their livelihood from the vine and also practice the art of surfing. Sorry, no bodyboarders allowed."
The first Vintners CDS Surf Classic 2000 was open to any surfers in the industry. Participants' "entry fees" were six bottles of red, which Sadie and Anthony de Jager, winemaker for Fairview, blended and bottled under the 'Big Red' label. Although some veteran longboarders, like Jeremy Walker of Grangehurst, were invited, the oldest entrant on the day was 36-year-old Villiera winemaker Anton Smal. Two hours after the scheduled 7 a.m. start, surfing began in earnest, with 12 participants in three separate heats.
"Normally we look for style and a few good moves," says Rudi Schultz. Johan Reyneke explains, "Getting into the barrel is the most critical part -- at least a 20 pointer." Bevan Newton-Johnson adds, "Like good wine, you look for that powerful initial burst, a solid mid-palate and a long finish."
THE FIRST HEAT:
Bevan Newton-Johnson, wine marketer of Cape Bay and Newton-Johnson
Anthony de Jager, winemaker for Fairview
Gunter Schultz, assistant winemaker at Morgenhof Estate
James Farquharson, consultant winemaker for Lievland and winemaker/joint shareholder with surf bud Johan Reyneke at Reyneke Wines.
THE SECOND HEAT:
Ben Radford, winemaker for Longridge
Eben Sadie, winemaker for Spice Route Wine Company
Sebastian Beaumont, viticulturist at Beaumont Wines
Rudi Schultz, winemaker for Jordan Vineyards
THE THIRD HEAT:
David Finlayson, winemaker for Glen Carlou
Gordon Newton-Johnson, winemaker for Cape Bay and Newton-Johnson
Anton Smal, winemaker for Villiera
Johan Reyneke, vineyard manager at Reyneke Wines
After the surf settled, Gunter Schultz walked away with first prize; Anton Smal took second; Johan Reyneke, third; and kneeboarding Sebastian Beaumont fourth. While the competition was over, the party wasn't. At a local pub in Betty's Bay, the obligatory surfing videos were screened and bottles of Big Red dished out. Waves of wine flowed well into the night.