Mike Dobrovic is a product of the university of Stellenbosch . For almost two decades he was the winemaker at Mulderbosch. In 2009 he moved to do his own thing including making the wine for Havana Hills and consulting to others. Mike was considered as “The Mad Professor” while at varsity and is very well read in science. He is also well versed in philosophy and psychology. Mike was founding partner with Dr Larry Jacobs of Mulderbosch in 1991. He had previously been at Delaire. Mike is still the gangling, amiable, untidy somewhat nervous with a penchant to tell outrageous jokes with the odd bits of Rumi thrown in.
Q : Do you think your approach to winemaking is different to others ?
“I didn’t think so but then my results seem to show otherwise. “
Q : How involved do you get with the vineyard ?
“ Absolutely fundamental to get involved in the vineyard. Where ever I have worked I have been fully involved with the farming. The vines up at Delaire on Bothma’s kop produced characters very different to those at Mulderbosch. So it is imperative to be involved with the vines.”
Q : Do you have any variety you prefer to work with ?
The comedian had to eventually show “I have no preference in the variety I work with but it really is the vine that must do the work !” Then back to being serious “I made my reputation with Sauvignon blanc so I guess that is my preferred variety but I have tremendous satisfaction from the red Bordeaux varieties from which I made Faithful Hound and eventually chenin blanc which I preferred by it’s local name Steen.” He continued with an almost embarrassed note “I also planted hundreds of indigenous trees, many endemic to Stellenbosch but becoming rare. These trees had been ripped out to make place for the vine mono-culture. I used to escape into the trees for regular ten minute chill-sessions !”
Q : What was your most memorable wine experience ?
“It was when I was working with the late Graham Ried of Anchor Yeast. It was a time when literally thousands of wines were experiencing stuck fermentations . This is when a fermentation becomes sluggish or stops altogether. Graham allowed me some input on developing a yeast nutrient. He had the ability to understand fermentation like few other yeast producers and would listen rather than dictate. His nutrient has saved the industry many millions of rand and at the same time improved quality. I feel I contributed to that.”
Q : Have you been influenced by a particular winemaker or region ?
“A visit to New Zealand before the 1994 vintage fired me up and also helped to confirm a lot of the ideas I had and give me confidence to do what I believed.”
Q : What do you think was your greatest achievement in winemaking?
“I guess the phenomenal reception of my early sauvignon blanc which had the New York Observer saying our favourite from anywhere in the world ! Not bad for a fellow with a degree in agriculture and a doctorate in humour !” Mike ends rather drily.
No mention of Mike would be complete with out a reference to Rumi especially with his work on preserving the Cape’s Floral Kingdom …
The cloud weeps, and the garden sprouts.
The baby cries, and the mother’s milk flows.
The Nurse of Creation has said, let them cry a lot
This rain-sweeping and sun-burning twine together
To make us grow. Keep your intelligence white-hot
And your grief glistening, so your life will stay fresh.
Cry easily like a little child.