Lunch with Steve Ludlam of Sea Mountain Wines
Deciding where to meet for lunch as part of our Winemakers lunch series, featuring one of the wines selected for our monthly club line up, was proving somewhat of a challenge. It dawned on me, then, that the best option would be to have lunch in the shadows of Table Mountain – this being the inspiration for the Sea Mountain range of wines – developed by old friend and fellow wine nègociant, Steve Ludlam.
What better place than the historic Vasco da Gama bar and restaurant, one of Cape Town’s famous landmarks, nestled away in the back streets of De Waterkant precinct. A place that is as down to earth, friendly and accessible as Steve himself.
Being involved in the wine trade for over 20 years and having worked with several premium wineries, including the Symington Family in Portugal and Bertagna in Vougeot, Burgundy, Steve decided in 2013 to use the skills acquired over the years (chiefly via helping others) to build his own brand.
He chose South Africa, and the Cape wine region in particular, for its outstanding beauty and wine quality. Seeing Table Mountain from his office every day lead to a little research where he discovered that ‘Sea Mountain’ was the first name given by the human race to the iconic Table Mountain, translated as ‘Hoerikwaggo’ in the ancient Khoisan language. It seemed a perfect symbol for the wines. The Sea Mountain crest is a metaphor for the two mountains that lie on either side of Table Mountain: Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head.
In keeping with a decade-long lunch tradition whereby the selection of the restaurant is my responsibility and the choice of wine falls to the Winemaker, Steve arrived at Vasco da Gama’s armed with a bottle of French Chablis, a 2014 William Fèvre Chardonnay. Those of you who have had the experience of eating at Vasco, may understand that he was also pre-warned not to judge a book by its cover…
Having known Steve for close on 20 years, there was no need for pleasantries and within minutes we were getting stuck into a great bottle of wine and some pressing matters of the heart. Freshly grilled calamari proved a beautiful accompaniment to the Chardonnay, followed by a full-bodied Cabernet from his Limestone range – pairing perfectly with a tasty Portuguese rump steak.
With remarkably similar philosophies on wine, and acknowledging the pure enjoyment that a good wine brings, we also touched on the magnificent way that wine encompasses so many different elements: people, geography, business, history, culture, technology and science. Another friendship was cemented in the presence of the magnificent Table Mountain.
Steve in a nutshell:
The Sea Mountain Wine philosophy
Our philosophy is to try and keep things simple and enjoy what we do.
What do you regard as the main secrets behind Sea Mountain’s success?
Sea Mountain Limestone range offers wines which are clean, fresh and delicious fruit concentration reflect grape and region and are great drinking..
What makes Sea Mountain terroir special?
We chose specific vineyards in Robertson because of the wonderful potential they have for producing wines of great purity of fruit and mineral character. I believe this is typified by the SM’s Limestone Chardonnay.
Your favourite white and red wine to drink?
I can’t help but turn to Burgundy – Lafon Meursault Genevriere, Dujac Clos St Denis or Domaine Bertagna’s Clos de la Perrière is a good starting point! Closer to home Richard Kershaw’s Chardonnay is sublime!
Your favourite pastime / hobbies?
Mountain biking, kite surfing, tennis and reading if there is ever a moment…..does drinking wine count?
Your goals and aspirations?
Have fun and enjoy what I do.