Mike Dawson, Winemaker at Journey’s End

I have been a great fan of Journey’s End Wines for a number of years. Great whites, superb reds and a winery which has a sense of fun about it, though very serious about its wines. We had a bottle of Journey’s End Huntsman SMG 2019 within the last week and were really sad when it was empty. The Winery is in the most Eastern part of the Stellenbosch Wine Appellation close to the little village os Sir Lowry’s Pass.

I spent 5 minutes with Mike talking about his life and times on Journey’s End.

What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
A lucky coincidence really, I always loved science at school and wanted to study something scientifically related at varsity. While flipping through different chemistry orientated degrees, my mother and I can upon viticulture and oenology (I had no clue what this was at the time) but after reading into the degree details thought that this could be fun.

Vintage photograph of Elsenburg

Where did you train to become a winemaker?
I initially studied a BSC at Stellenbosch University before moving to Elsenburg Agricultural Institute.

Mike Dawson having a sniff of barrel matured white wine

Who would you regard as your mentor?
Leon Esterhuizen, the Gabb family (of course), Lorraine Geldenhuys (my lecturer at Elsenburg); as well as Ian Naude, Charles Hopkins and David Nieuwoudt for being outstanding winemakers as well as complete gentleman, always willing to go the extra mile to nurture and expose new winemaking talents. And the list goes on, these are all people who have had a very positive impact on my philosophies and inevitably my career as a winemaker.

Freshly harvested Albarhino

You work with a selection of some of the world’s most noble grape varieties. Is there one other variety with which you would really like to work?
Albarihno would be fun, I tasted some outstanding examples of this grape in Argentina.

Oak Matured White Wine

Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
Oaked Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend, this will become a reality during the 2022 vintage.

You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
Winemaking is a constantly developing industry which is what I love so much about it, you can never learn too much. I’m blessed to be working for the very forward thinking Gabb family who have a firm belief in innovation and trying out different winemaking techniques – which suits my winemaking style down to a T. This allows me to express and challenge myself, trialling new processes and determining the outcome (whether positive or negative) has always been a fascinating exercise for me.

Rhine River Vineyards

If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
Italy or Germany

Pinot Grigio. known as Grey Pinot

And what grape type would you use?
Oaked Pinot Grigio or sweet Riesling respectively

I know it is a bit tricky asking a father to choose his favourite child, but which one of your wines is your current favourite?
I’m loving the Huntsman SMG 2019 and the V6 Sauvignon blanc 2019 at the moment.Your greatest bottle of wine ever?
Vergelegen GVB White Blend 2015

What is your favourite style of food?
Fresh out the garden or braai

96 Winery Road – premier Stellenbosch Restaurant

Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Hearty, friendly and homely, nothing too sophisticated or pretentious. I prefer to feel like I’m eating at home to be perfectly honest. Shout out to 96 on Winery Road for offering all of this as well as cooking the most exceptionally delicious Wagyu steak.

Your ideal dinner party guest. Just one. Tell me why you chose that person.
I would get into a bit of trouble if I didn’t say my girlfriend 😊

Your favourite holiday destination?
Wow, tough question, I would say that my most memorable places to have visited have been Zambia, Seychelles and Italy.

The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier

What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier and Permaculture Design by Aranya, a very good friend of mine and avid gardening buddy gave these to me as a birthday present and I’ve become completely hooked.

One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
Any live mix from Acid Pauli would be a treat. It is a desert island of course. I also love Edward Sharpe and the magnetic zeros for a more relaxed ambience.

Acid Pauli

I’m currently/always working on….my garden

My favourite weekend getaway is…. West Coast or Cederberg camping with my girlfriend and dogs.

Guilty Pleasures?
Crime/investigative books/documentaries and romance novels. My girlfriend is not the biggest fan. I don’t feel too guilty about it though, apart from having read “Sex, Lies and Stellenbosch” a must read, but a ‘must hide the cover situation’ if reading at the airport with on looking eyes.

One day, I will…know far more than I know today. Hopefully.

Mike and Leon Esterhuizen, Wine Operations Direct0r in the tasting room, practising their synchronised sniffing

How can a visitor contact your winery?
Telephone 0218581929
Email janine@journeysend.co.za

Website www.journeysend.co.za


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