Introducing our JBay Zebra Lodge Wine “ZL Geelwal”

An exclusive wine in an exclusive place.

Grown in the Eastern Cape… made in the Western Cape

ZL Geelwal wine is made from a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Shiraz and 20% Grenache.

Honest wine with primary red and crackberry fruits, a touch of herbal coastal bush character with a dry tannin aftertaste.

David Finlayson & Didier Duc

Once upon a time…

In November 2016, David Finlayson was invited by Raphael Dornier for dinner at J-Bay Zebra Lodge. During the warm evening, Didier explained his vision of growing grapes on the Zebra Lodge property to make wine. David was immediately interested in the idea as he always looks for new territories to explore in his winemaking experience.

The following week David and Didier met to discuss the future of the ZL Geelwal wine label. Didier would grow the grapes and David, as an accomplished winemaker would make a stunning wine.

A quarter hectare was prepared and in August and October of 2017, a series of different cultivars were planted. Chardonnay (​Didier’s favourite​), Viognier, Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 2019, the first harvest while small enabled David to make 240 bottles with of beautiful blend consisting of 20% Grenache, 40% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

However, growing grapes in an unchartered terrain, in the middle of the bush bring many challenges.

“We had our degree of challenges but none of those we were worried about, like those resulting from diseases due to the proximity of the sea. Our biggest challenges turned out to be locus eating the leaves and birds enjoying the grapes. However, enough grapes remained to make a full 250 litres of wine in 2020. But we will be better prepared for next year.”

Part of the challenges had to do with labours as in the Eastern Cape nobody had ever worked on a vineyard before thus painful mistakes are occasionally made. “However, the learning will never stop, the result is so gratifying that we forget the pain,” said Didier.

David and Didier are looking at extending the plot in the near future, once Didier will have mastered the cultivation of the vineyard.

David Finlayson & Didier Duc

David Finlayson

David made his wines on the Finlayson family vineyards in Stellenbosch. “Quality and a holistic approach to the production of our wines is our ethos. We strive to farm the land, grow the grapes and make the wine in an environmentally friendly manner whilst ensuring that each wine is world-class.”

It is the Finlayson family’s firm belief that Stellenbosch has always been and will remain South Africas finest winemaking region.

Three generations of Finlayson’s have played an important role in the Cape’s modern wine industry.

David qualified as a winemaker at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch as Dux student and then proceeded to travel the world gaining winemaking experience at first in Australia (Peter Lehmann Wines) and then in France at the world-renowned Chateau Margaux.

In 2004, David bought the farm Woodlands, a portion of the original Edgebaston farm, in Stellenbosch and renamed the farm and wines Edgebaston as this was the area in England where his mother was born and raised in.

David oversees the daily management of the vines and winemaking with a direct hands-on approach. In recent years, Edgebaston managed 5* Platter with his “GS” Cabernet Sauvignon with his other wines closely following. For the Geelwal S.G.C., the challenge has been different since the grapes are grown in an uncharted environment. However, David nailed it by bringing an excellent and exclusive wine.

Didier Duc

Born in Valais/Switzerland in the most prominent region of Switzerland for winemaking. Didier spent most of his days off school helping his parents on the vineyards. However, at 23 he left his parent’s home and moved to Geneva.

I​n 2011, Didier, accompanied by his wife Florbela and daughter Inês Aricia immigrated to South Africa to start a new adventure with the creation of the J-Bay Zebra Lodge, an up-market Country House. Not long after having established the lodge, Didier thought about growing grapes, but not until David Finlayson visited Zebra Lodge with his friend, Raphael Dornier, also a winemaker in Stellenbosch did the spark become alive.

David is always up for a new experiment in growing the wine industry in South Africa so he was ready to jump on the opportunity when Didier shared his dream of growing grapes on Zebra Lodge ground. The two D’s hit it off, and the rest is history.

Today there is a quarter hectare plot at J-Bay Zebra Lodge, it includes a mix of Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 2019, in its second year, we harvested enough grapes to make a full french oak barrel (300 lt) of which 240 bottles were exclusively reserved for J-Bay Zebra Lodge.

David managed to make a sublime blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with black colour, a hint of blackcurrant and mocha. Though it would be best to drink in two years time why wait that long when the wine is good!

The name “Geelwal” is an Afrikaans word that means Yellow Hills. It was given to the farm in 1860 by Dutch people who planted their roots in the area. Therefore it made sense to Didier and Florbela to call the J-Bay Zebra Lodge wine “Geelwal”.

Leave the story behind and come enjoy the great wine of the Eastern Cape, the ZL Geelwal.