Our Craftsmen

At Zonnebloem, there are two things we appreciate when it comes to the people that take part in crafting out wines – the patience to observe the passage of time, an understanding that grapes will not be rushed and wines will not be hurried; and the importance of skill that comes from generations of experience. Get to know more about the winemakers and growers that channel their passion and dedication into Zonnebloem wines.

Elize Coetzee

Cellar Master

After graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in viticulture and oenology from the University of Stellenbosch, Elize Coetzee completed her first harvest under the expert guidance of Bruce Jack, before jetting off to pursue her passion abroad in California to grow her winemaking skills. With 17 years’ experience, Elize has dedicated 13 years to the winemaking at Zonnebloem and today holds the title of cellar master.

 

Having started her Zonnebloem journey in 2005 as an assistant winemaker, Elize quickly climbed to the role of white winemaker in 2010.

 

With her appointment as cellar master, it became Elize’s mission is to produce A-grade wines for every variety. “I have been fortunate to work very closely with our red winemaker, Bonny van Niekerk, for over a decade now, as well as our recently appointed white winemaker, Dumisani Mathonsi.’’

 

She adds that collectively, the team holds 32 years of experience, making the outlook for Zonnebloem very fruitful for years to come.

 

For Elize, the most memorable part of winemaking is right at the beginning of the process when she digs deep to find the best synergy of all the grapes’ components to make that perfect classic blend. ‘The best reward is then seeing other people enjoying your wine, and to think, wow, I facilitated that joy.”

 

When not crafting beautiful wines, Elize finds her passion by focussing on all her “B-ests”. “For me, it’s Books, the Bushveld, my two Boys and husband, Braaiing with friends or Bawling my eyes out to a good TV drama series.”

 

Elize is married to Wilhelm, red winemaker at Durbanville Hills.


Bonny van Niekerk

Winemaker

With two decades of winemaking experience under her belt, Bonny van Niekerk is Zonnebloem’s winemaker responsible crafting classic wines in the winery’s core range of red varieties.

 

Bonny discovered her passion for winemaking at a young age. After high school, she attended the Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, where she completed a Diploma in Cellar Technology. She was then afforded the opportunity to work at the Adam Tas winery, where Zonnebloem wines are made.

 

The hunger to learn more however, didn’t stop in Stellenbosch for Bonny. She worked in California and gathered marketing experience in Northern Ireland. Six years later, having worked with some of the best in the industry, Bonny returned to Stellenbosch to continue her path at Zonnebloem.

 

The most memorable wine she has ever tasted was during her first fermentation at Zonnebloem. “I have never been so terrified and proud at the same time, as I was only an assistant winemaker at one of the oldest wineries in the country,” she says. “Nowadays, I am even more critical when tasting the finished blends, as I always try to think of ways to improve the quality of the wines.”

 

She views the end of every harvest as a beginning. “You have to start afresh, literally from scratch, and work your magic with what nature has given you.”

 

Despite the great sense of responsibility that comes with producing top red wines for Zonnebloem, Bonny says she’s often rewarded. “I love it when I’m in a restaurant and walk past people enjoying Zonnebloem wine – it makes the hard work worthwhile.”

 

Outside work, Bonny loves spending time with family, friends, in nature and with animals. “I do work for animal rescue organisations. Saving an animal is a buzz: that’s where I get my energy from,” she says.


Dumisani Mathonsi

Winemaker

From the far-off plains of Hluhluwe, a small town in northern KwaZulu-Natal, comes Dumisani Mathonsi, the latest addition to the Zonnebloem winemaking team. Drawing his inspiration and love for wine from legendary wine ambassador, Jabulani Ntshangase, Dumisani began his journey to become a winemaker through the opportunity to study at University of Stellenbosch. He graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture, specialising in viticulture and oenology.

 

Since then, Dumisani has worked with some of Cape Town’s leading winemakers, including his former boss and role model Miles Mossop of Tokara, who played an integral role in the development of his skills. Dumisani spent close to 13 years at Tokara, as assistant winemaker. During this time he also did a stint in France as a harvest intern at Château de Francs (from August to October 2007) where he dealt with red blends and wooded white wines; and the following year (from August to October 2008) he again went abroad, this time to the US to spend time as a harvest intern at Ramey Wine Cellars located in Healdsburg, the heart of Sonoma Wine Country. Here he built up specialised knowledge relating to site-specific vineyard Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style red varieties.

 

He however says the highlight of his career has been to make wine at Adam Tas – the Distell-owned winery in Stellenbosch where Zonnebloem wines are made.

 

Dumisani says he often feels anxious, nervous and excited – all at the same time – when tasting wines, especially his own. He truly appreciates the effort and passion put into crafting the final product. “It’s all about creating a delicious wine for the consumer. With each bottle produced, I hope my wines deliver consistent quality, pleasure, and great satisfaction – the same feeling Zonnebloem wine-lovers have been receiving for years.”

 

When asked what he’d be doing if he had not taken the winemaking path, Dumisani says: “anything to do with nature and culture”.

 

“I am a very deeply cultured man who loves the diversity of South African cultures in general. I am extremely fascinated with all cultures that are different from mine, especially when it comes to the traditional African music scene.”


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