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WINEMAKER: Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore Estate

WINEMAKER: Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore Estate

It’s easy to think of Samantha O’Keefe at Greyton’s Lismore Estate Vineyards as a gorgeous Californian rose, transplanted and thriving in a rather remote part of Africa, but that’s doing her (and wine) a disservice. She says, “I am farmer, winemaker and mother in a business that pulls me in all directions”. She’s obviously made of pioneering stock we in South Africa find most appealing.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Samantha took a degree at Berkeley and worked in the corporate-entertainment world until she and her ex-husband decided to pursue a dream and come to Africa. If ever anyone could say, ‘I have a farm in Africa,’ it would be her.

Her wines have attracted attention from the start with people like British wine critics Jancis Robinson and Tim Atkins consistently rating them very highly. They regularly feature on Best Wines of the Year lists in international publications as well as locally. She is single-handedly responsible for establishing Greyton, where her farm lies, as a wine region. This cool climate area was previously unknown for grape growing.

A further feather in her cap is that she recently was invited into the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild as one of only three female members currently in the guild.

She lives on the farm that she bought in 2003 with her teenage sons Keenan and Quinn in an idyllic setting on the slopes of the Greyton Mountains. The farm is named after Lismore in Ireland, paying tribute to her Irish roots as do the names of her sons. One is tempted to paraphrase Rupert Brooke and say, ‘There is some corner of a foreign field that is for ever Ireland’.
Samantha is making sure she is leaving her mark in her adopted land. When she says, “Wine is equal parts art, science and magic,” we know she is what makes it magic.

lismore, wineThe Age Of Grace Viognier 2016

Delightfully fragrant on the nose with nuances of orange blossom, silky smooth in the mouth, packed with tropical fruit flavours. Heaven. Drink chilled without food, or with roast chicken if you must. R200

Chardonnay 2015

One of the finest wooded Chardonnays in South Africa, perfectly made in the Burgundian Chablis style. Rich and complex, intense citrus notes and marmalade tang well supported by low-key acids. The sort of wine you want to keep all to yourself. Magnificent. R260

Syrah 2016

Deep dark red berry flavours like cassis and blackberries, even a grape or two. White pepper and crushed violets on the nose. Rich and full in the mouth. Well-controlled acids support all that fruit. At its best decanted, with grilled fillet steak R360.

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