Day 5 – Woke to our first rainy day in South Africa…and this is supposed to be the rainy season. First stop was Zorgvliet winery. We pulled up to a colossal and extravagant cape Dutch building set amongst stunning mountains and beautiful vineyards. We walked up the stairs into a modern tasting room. A friendly cellar door employee tasted through their portfolio of wines with us. We were really impressed with all of their wines, which is a pleasant rarity. It is apparent this winemaker knows what they are doing in the cellar. The wines we really loved were the 2006 Petit Verdot and Viognier. Both of these wines are spectacular and probably the best two wines we have tasted since arriving…and we have tasted lots of great vino. We asked to speak to the person in Charge to see if they are currently selling in Canada and if they have the quantities we are after. Essie came over to speak with us and we were elated to find out that they do in fact have the quantities and have never sold to Canada….we have found our first two South African wines for our members!
A couple hours later we were pulling out of Zorgvliet and decided we were hungry and stopped in at the next winery we came across for a bite to eat. We pulled into Tokara winery – yet another magnificent building, winery, tasting room and restaurant. All modern décor complete with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vineyard, huge fireplaces, sculptures and glass windows looking down into their pristine winery. Marcus of course wanted to taste the wines first but Jasper and I convinced him to wait until after lunch. We sat at a table on their outdoor patio to enjoy the sun, which decided to emerge in the afternoon. We ordered a glass of wine each with lunch and both wines were really incredible. After a delicious lunch (Jasper ordered his favorite…prawns and scallops) we went over to the tasting room to sample the rest of their wines and we couldn’t believe it, but they were all amazing. Marcus asked to speak to the person in charge but they were currently overseas so we would have to wait. We are keeping a space open for these wines in the hope we can buy them because they really ARE that good.
So far today has been very successful and we are very excited about the wines we have discovered. We hope we keep having great luck and tomorrow is another day of brilliant wines!
Day 6 – Up early to a sunny day in Stellenbosch. Jasper is off to a playgroup in the community we are staying for mornings during the week. Jasper is a very social little 4 year old and is excited to go and play with kids his own age while we are out tasting and it makes getting work done much easier for us too. The estate we are staying has large fences all around with very tight security. The security is something we are finding difficult adjusting to. Most wineries are gated with guards that require signing in before entering the premises. Even the parking lots and street parking in town have security guards watching the vehicles. When you return to the lot they follow you to your car to ensure you have keys to enter. Most of the attendants try and negotiate a side deal, where you pay them a lesser price directly instead of putting your money in the meter and they will make sure you don’t get a ticket, pretty cheeky!
The wineries and retails are truly the most spectacular we have seen. Most are gigantic cape Dutch style buildings with elaborate tasting rooms, high end restaurants and meticulously manicured grounds. Many of the wineries have tables set up outside on patios overlooking their vineyards, and an attendant will come and serve you the wines for tasting. Majority of these estates have been making wine for 100’s of year dating as far back to the 1600’s. This is arguably one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Marcus worked here 12 years ago and he told me that I would fall in love with the region and I really have. With a backdrop all around of mountains, ocean 10 minutes away and Cape Town just a short half hour drive this is the ideal tourist destination for any wine lover.
Our first winery of the day was Thelema Vineyards. Marcus’s uncle went to Geisenheim University in Germany for oenology with the owner several years ago and he wanted to pop in and say hi and taste his wines. Amazing Riesling and Cab Sauv., so if you can get your hands on some in Canada I recommend you buy a bottle….or two.
Next winery was Quoin Rock, yet another magnificent winery and cellar door. This one is different from most of the others as it is a very modern building and it is very tastefully done not skimping on any of the finer details. We entered into the elaborate tasting room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vineyards and mountains. We tasted all their wines and they were all fantastic and not sold in Canada…the hard part will be choosing which one(s) are the best. Marcus’s favorites were the 2006 Shiraz and the Sparking wine (which happened to be my favorite, I love a good bubbly) made in the traditional method. We are unsure of whether or not we can buy it, the winemaker was not in so we have to call and arrange a meeting.
Marcus then headed off to a few more wineries on his list to taste – which he reported were rather disappointing and not good enough to buy.
Day 7 – Went to Alluvia, which is another massive estate…I think you get the point, but we were really blown away each stop. This winery was complete with a 5 star accommodation and restaurant. We tasted their 2 wines that were available for tasting. Both wines were good but we will keep on tasting.
On to Slayley next, which Marcus was interested in stopping in for a taste. When Marcus worked in the region 12 years ago he knew the winemaker and they were producing great wines and from what we could tell they weren’t selling to Canada. We went upstairs to their tasting room and sat down at a large dining room type table waiting to be attending to. We sat there for a long time – 20 minutes or so, which in Canada would be extremely rude but here things are done in “African time” which is a much more relaxed slow pace. From what I can tell the only thing they do fast here is driving, which they do REALLY fast and aggressively. Everything else such as eating at restaurants, buying food, cleaning the accommodation, getting gas etc. takes much longer than we are used to. Even tasting wine takes a much longer time, which we didn’t mind too much. We found it made the experience much more enjoyable being able to sit outdoors and taste the wines with no pressure. Okay back to the tasting, on this particular day we had only 20 minutes to taste as we had to go and pick up Jasper from pre-school. So we quickly tasted a couple of wines, however the wines after the long wait weren’t what we were looking for so onwards an upwards.
In the afternoon we went on to taste Asara…yes another beauty of a winery. Marcus really liked the Sauvignon Blanc however I think it is a close second to the Tokara Sauvignon Blanc we tasted earlier and are still waiting to hear back if we can buy it.
We stopped off at a couple more wineries that aren’t worth mentioning then back to our accommodation that the local security guards refered to as “gangsters paradise”
Day 8 – Marcus called up a good winemaker friend Adi Badenhorst who he met 12 years ago. We took the 45-minute trek down to Paarderberg district where Adi has purchased a vineyard with old winery buildings on site. He is a highly regarded winemaker in the area where he made his mark at Rusterberg winery. After 9 years with the same company he decided to start his own winery. We had a fantastic time with Adi, and Jasper had a great time running amuck on the vineyards with his son Samuel. The two of them ran down the farm road so far in their toy tractor that we lost sight of them and had to send Adi’s assistant (yes another Jasper) in a truck to pick them up. We tried Adi’s two wines, a red and white that are both blends. Both wines were very interesting and fantastic. Adi’s Mom who happens to be a top chef cooked us a gourmet lunch to go with our wines. Such amazingly welcoming hospitable people here, they have a very rich culture of entertaining with food and wine family and friends which I just love, makes you feel as though you are stepping back in time.
After our delicious lunch we put the boys to sleep for naps and Adi took us down the road to Sadie Winery with Eben Sadie who led us through a barrel sampling of his wines, which were very unique, interesting wines not to mention incredible. These talented winemakers are going outside the box in this up and coming region working with different varieties, rare blends and demanding (and receiving) a pretty penny as well. Maybe we will see these wines in Canada in the near future.