There was a time in South Africa when a woman of color would not have the opportunity to run a winery. Berene Sauls represents a new generation breaking down barriers as the owner of Tesselaarsdal Winery, located in the Overberg. Opened in 2015, Tesselaarsdal produces cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with grapes sourced from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The name Tesselaarsdal is an homage to Sauls’ ancestors who were freed slaves and farmers in the area.
Believe in a Dream: A Former Au Par Turns Vintner
Much of Sauls’ hands-on training has been under the mentorship of Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell, whose namesake winery is among the finest in South Africa’s Overberg region. Sauls began working as an au pair to the Hamilton Russell’s four daughters. She expressed an interest in learning about the wine business, and the couple encouraged her, giving her more hands-on work at their winery and serving as her mentor.
Sauls says the learning experience of working in every department of Hamilton Russell Vineyards was invaluable. Eventually, this led to the Hamilton Russells offering to help Sauls start her own winery in 2014. They have provided her with a production facility at their winery and seed money to build a winemaking facility.
Tesselaarsdal – A Symbol of Freedom and Heritage
Located in the Overberg, Tesselaarsdal is a rural village with historical significance. The widow of its namesake settler, Johannes Tesselaar, left his farmland to his freed slaves upon his death in 1810, a bold move at the time.
Sauls glows with excitement talking about her future as a winery owner, something she knows would have made her mother and grandmother proud. “I named my winery Tesselaarsdal to honor my roots and legacy, and the women on the wine’s label represent my mother and grandmother who both loved the land,” she shared.
Eventually, Sauls plans to grow her own estate fruit. For now, she sources her grapes from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge whose higher elevation and cool winds provide ideal growing conditions.
We tasted Tesselaarsdal’s two wines:
TESSELAARSDAL CHARDONNAY 2020
Sauls second vintage is aged in both amphora and six months in oak, giving it a light toast blended with soft tropical and citrus notes and a nice minerality. As we tasted, visions of Asian curry, Cajun blackened redfish, and fresh grilled trout crossed our minds.
TESSELAARSDAL PINOT NOIR 2019
This wine is aged just over nine months in French oak, imparting notes of allspice, wild strawberries, and fresh cherries on our palate. In South Africa, this would be the perfect wine for a classic braai. Here stateside, we call that a cookout on the grill with sausages, lamb, chicken skewers, and grilled vegetables. The night we tasted this wine we had cauliflower pizza with bitter greens, anchovies, and caramelized onions.
Tesselaarsdal means “heaven on earth” in Old Dutch and Afrikaans. And for Berene Sauls it is a place to honor her heritage and plant her own piece of heaven, writing an exciting next chapter for this vibrant young woman.
Listen to our conversation with Berene Sauls on The Connected Table SIPS podcast (link here) Or click below: