Vilafonté is the vision of the three founding partners - Mike Ratcliffe, Zelma Long and Dr. Phil Freese.Zelma Long is one of America’s best-known winemakers with an enviable international reputation. She began her wine-making career at the Robert Mondavi winery, where she was soon promoted to Chief Winemaker. Zelma now oversees the winemaking and style development of the Vilafonté wines, working with the winemaker Chris de Vries. She is on site during the harvest, through pressing and barrelling, and then again at the blending and bottling stages. Mike Ratcliffe, co-founder of Vilafonté, is a leader in the Cape wine industry, and for many years has been keenly involved in black economic empowerment and land redistribution. Dr Phil Freese is the creator of the Vilafonté vineyard which he calls ‘different by design’. Having spent 13 years as Robert Mondavi’s Vice-President of Wine Growing, he designed and planted the first Opus One vineyards. He also initiated the remote sensing project with NASA which has provided modern technology for vineyard analysis and quality enhancement. Phil works with Vilafonté winegrower Edward Pietersen. This effective wine-growing combination continues to elevate the quality of the Vilafonté fruit to a level commensurate with the production of the world’s finest wines.
“Vilafonté is a passion. Vilafonté is all about an unwavering commitment to excellence - in everything we do” Mike Ratcliffe
Through the collaboration of these three leading industry figures, Vilafonté (which was founded in 1996) became the first American and South African joint wine-making venture, and these days is considered one of the most pioneering wineries in South Africa.
The 42 hectare estate sits on the bench of the Simonsberg Mountains with its unique vilafontes soils. It is from these unique soils – which are between 750,000 and 1.5 million years old – that the winery derives its name. The first vineyards were planted in 1998 followed by a smaller section being planted in 1999. Vilafonté’s wines are exclusively produced from grapes grown on its own property, where the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec grapes predominate.
Vilafonté produces two main wines from its premium vineyard site. Series C takes its name from being a Cabernet dominant style. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, this is a firm, powerfuland concentrated wine, rich in fruit at release and intended for long ageing. Merlot and Malbec dominate the style of the Series M, a wine that is sensuous with a firm structure for ageing with afleshy yet soft texture.
The limited release second label recently added to the Vilafonté portfolio is Seriously Old Dirt by Vilafonté. The Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes used to produce this blend are sourced from Vilafonté’s vineyards’ younger vines.