The 2013 Black Pearl Mischief Maker Shiraz is simply the latest in a string of excellent Shiraz offerings to flow from Mary-Lou Nash’s Black Pearl Vineyards. With the estate’s small production and the immediate success of Mary-Lou’s Mischief Maker, procuring enough Mischief Maker Shiraz in recent vintages to satisfy our members has become a truly daunting task. But at first you don’t succeed . . . The 2013 Mischief Maker offers a saturated purple color, an exhilarating bouquet of ripe blackberry, blueberry, and cassis infused with hints of rose petal and sandalwood. On the palate, the wine explodes in a display of opulent fruit and fine grained tannins that are sure to carry the wine forward for years to come. The 2013 Mischief Maker embodies a vibrancy, purity and sophistication rarely seen in other producers’ wines. The 2013 Mischief Maker reflects the energy, disarming charm, and total commitment of its winemaker – Mary-Lou Nash. Afford the 2013 Mischief Maker 30 minutes of aeration and the land and the people of Black Pearl will emerge to work magic in your glass. Serve cool (60°F). Enjoy!
As with all of Mary-Lou Nash’s beautiful Shiraz wines, the 2013 Black Pearl Mischief Maker needs nothing but a clean glass to shine. Yet, some tasty morsels will certainly enhance the pleasure. In South Africa, Australia and even the South of France where Shiraz (Syrah) thrives, lamb is a favored accompaniment to good Shiraz, and we will attest to the affinity. Consider pairing the 2013 Mischief Maker with a perfectly cooked lamb burger topped with fresh avocado and melted Boursin cheese, a thick lamb and potato stew, or a rack of lamb complete with stuffing. Beef works well with this wine, too, so consider a marinated strip steak as a companion for Mischief Maker. Heady sauces won’t dull this wine’s luster, either. For lighter, but no less satisfying accompaniments, we suggest pasta, served with a creamy tomato sauce, roast chicken or turkey, frittatas or the Nash Family’s tasty Tomato Basil Pie (see recipe below).
Stumbling upon Black Pearl Vineyards on a trip to South Africa several years ago remains a stroke of great fortune, although I have to wonder if divine providence is more responsible as the visit my family and I made to Mary-Lou Nash and her father Lance at Black Pearl Vineyards that day remains one of my fondest memories of an entire month long trip. It was a magical spring day on Africa’s Western Cape, a day in which the air appeared distilled and rarefied and the sky and surrounding landscape scintillated and vibrated with a brilliant pulse. Yet, it wasn’t only the land that hummed an electric tune. Mary-Lou and Lance, too, embodied the animation and vibrancy of this special spot, a space filled by perfectly tended vines, unique flora, and eye-popping scenery, which made us believe we could see clear across the continent. Yet, none of the wonder comes about serendipitously. Starting a winery and making wine requires hard work, persistence, and more than a bit of blind faith as American ex-pat Mary-Lou Nash will attest. Moreover, you have to love wine and the land. Today, Mary-Lou Nash reigns as one of South Africa’s most accomplished winemakers.
Since our visit to South Africa, Mary-Lou’s Black Pearl wines have been some of the most popular wines among our club members, and we have been clamoring to get more of her precious Shiraz, especially Mischief Maker (Mary-Lou’s favorite wine and this month’s feature). Not surprisingly, Mary-Lou acquired the name Mischief Maker as a child, a moniker she has refused to give up. Her story below may provide a few clues as to why she has retained the name “Mischief Maker.”
“My name is Mary-Lou Nash and I started Black Pearl Wines in 2001. I graduated from University of New Hampshire in 1989 with a bachelor of arts, magna cum laude Anthropology, and headed straight to Japan for two years to teach English. On completion of the two years, my sister and I hopped on a slow boat to China and backpacked around Asia for another two years. While I was in Asia in 1994, my father came to visit an old friend who owned Rhenosterkop Farm in Agter Paarl in the Western Cape. My father enjoyed his visit so much that in 1995 he became the new owner of this very run down farm on the western slopes of Paarl Mountain.
Still in travel mode, I headed down the same year to check out the farm in Africa. My only wine experience up until this point was drinking $8 magnums of Chilean Cabernet whilst sailing off the coast of Maine.
After further travels through Africa, I returned to the farm in the middle of January 1996 to meet Dad and his wife. The farm was planted with 20 hectares of Chenin Blanc which was delivered to Windmeul Co operative. On walking through the vines and tasting the grapes, we questioned whether they should be picked. Maila, the Finnish manager, agreed they were ready to be picked but said she could not find anyone to pick them so she was just going to leave it. This sprung us into action and with the two farm workers that lived on the farm, we hooked up trailers with bins and bought some secateurs and we were off and running. With the workers Christopher and George and their wives and us “tourists”, we picked three tons of grapes which filled one bin that I drove off to the co-op that afternoon on the tractor. Agter Paarl did not know what hit them, with a bikini clad tractor driver (Mary-Lou) with not a word of Afrikaans showing up on the ramp to weigh in and dump a load of grapes!
Dad’s holiday had turned out to be more of a working holiday. He had bought the farm to eventually retire to and sit on the stoep sipping gin and tonics and watching the sun set over Table Mountain. But I had other plans. I offered my services and said if he paid for my food and wine I would stay and manage the farm for him for one year until he could retire and tie everything up at home. That was eighteen years ago!
The first few years I was here we continued delivering the Chenin Blanc to Windmeul, but the years of neglect made it unviable. In 1997, with expert advice from a viticulturist, we planted our own vineyard. We dug profile holes all over the farm and got the soil analyzed. In the report we saw that the farm was predominantly Oakleaf soil. This soil has a high degree of porosity and crumbles nicely with deep ploughing. It does not re compact quickly and effective depth is easily achieved. Drainage and water holding capacity is also favourable making the soil suitable for the planting of late ripening red grape varietals. In 1997 I planted 10,000 Shiraz vines and in 1998 I planted 6000 Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Today there are many more choices of clones and various rootstocks to match, as well as a better chance of getting virus free planting material.
In 2001 I had my first harvest of Shiraz after spending the previous year training the vines onto a trellising system, and made eight barrels of wine in a cool room on the farm myself. I am a self taught winemaker, learning through other winemakers and reading the UC Davis course books. In 2011 I became the first American Cape Wine Master.”
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