In Search of Premium Wines, Marcus & Rachel in South Africa Days 9-13

Day 9 – Being Saturday we thought it was a good day to visit the local markets where artisans are selling African made crafts and souvenirs. This was quite an experience – every tent we entered we were immediately met by a vendor who tried to interest us in various items they were selling. They often went straight over to Jasper and told him to pick out his favorite item to have, which he of course was excited about – I mean who wouldn’t be excited if a stranger came up to you at a store and said you could pick out anything you like – the catch is that we of course had to pay for the item that our 4 year old was so excited about. Needless to say we walked out of there with armfuls of African souvenirs and presents.

Later that day we headed off to Cape Town for a Rugby match, which was a Super 14 game between an Australian team and the Cape Town team. After living in Australia for a couple years I have turned into a big Rugby fan…arguable bigger fan than Marcus. This was Jasper ‘s first time seeing a live professional game so it was an exciting adventure for all of us. The biggest disappointment for Jasper was that he wasn’t allowed to go on the field to play with all the guys and he couldn’t figure out why Marcus wasn’t playing either. We were probably the only Australian supporters in the crowd so we were glad to get out of there alive!

Day 10 – Had a nice Sunday morning at a butterfly conservatory and reptile park which was fun then off to taste at a couple wineries. The first was Rust en Vrede. This winery was on a beautiful estate and the wines did not disappoint…at all. In fact these wines are even adored by Nelson Mandela who had them poured at a recent dinner he hosted. They really were exquisite wines…sold EVERYWHERE unfortunately for us however I would suggest that you search your local wine store and see if you can get your hand of a bottle of their red…any red will do they are all equally delectable.

Day 10 – Another beautiful day – I don’t want to sound to redundant here but the weather has been ideal, low twenties and sunny every day but one since we arrived. Our first winery is Mooiplaas, Afrikaans word meaning beautiful farm. This estate dates back to 1806 and is old Cape Dutch building. The old stable has been converted into a tasting room. The friendly winemaker tasted the wines with us, which were fair but not as good as some of the others we have our sights on.
Next stop was back to Quoin Rock to meet with Carl the winemaker and manager of the winery. He tasted the wines with us again and then took us downstairs to his barrel cellar to taste barrel samples as well. Marcus was even more impressed the more he tasted, this is a young winemaker with incredible talent. The cellar was very impressive, all underground and a tunnel leading us through to a private room for tasting and dinners. This place is a winemaker’s paradise with more room than he knows what to do with – Marcus was a little envious after his past few winemaking jobs having to squeeze as much grapes possible into a limited space. We talked to him about the Shiraz and Sparkling wine and he is very excited to work with us and has the quantities we are after…we left feeling very ecstatic securing two more AMAZING wines.

Next stop was Bilton wines – every wine we tasted here was corked and they had to open another bottle for us to re-taste. The wines were actually very good however it would seem they have purchased a bad batch of corks and it is too risky for us to even consider them. One thing we have found in South Africa is that we have tasted a very higher than normal amount of wines that have cork taint. I am not sure of the reason but it is something that they will need to address in the future.
Last stop of the day was Alto – We had a very different experience in this cellar door than any others. When we arrived 20 minutes before closing the doors were already locked and closed up. We knocked on the door and finally a cellar door worker opened up and she old us that we didn’t have much time as they closed at 5:00. So we went in to taste, since it was well before 5:00. The wines were okay but we quickly got out of there….the wines would have to be out of this world, best wines in the region for us to even consider them after the chilly reception.

Day 11 – Explored the last couple wineries on Marcus’s list. First stop was De Trafford winery. This cellar door wasn’t open but we were able to purchase a bottle to try. This is a boutique winery -rarity in the region – producing outstanding wines…or so were told. The wines were in fact great, but Marcus is not convinced they are as good as the ones we have already purchased. We will keep them on the backburner in case we are unsuccessful in buying Tokara wines – we are really keeping our fingers crossed for Tokara.

Last stop was Stellenzicht winery – the wines here were good but they are selling into Canada. Not a great disappointment for us as we still are confident in our purchases and holding out for Tokara to fill our portfolio.

Day 12 – Back to Quoin rock to firm up our order and take photos. Carl drove us around the property, which just got better and better as we climbed up the site and through the vineyards. This farm has one of the best views in all of Stellenbosch and I was in photographer’s heaven. Marcus was very impressed with Carl’s management and how fastidious he is both in the vineyard and in his winery that certainly shows in his tidy wines.

After a full morning at Quoin Rock we headed back to Tokara to meet with the winery General Manager to see about buying their wines. We tasted through the wines again…again the toughest decision was deciding which two were the best because they were all solid. We finally decided to buy the Elgin Sauvignon Blanc and the Zondernaam Cabernet Sauvignon to round out this offering. I have to say that we really have purchased the best the region has to offer with the six wines we will be bringing back to Canada. We have not made any exceptions, cut any corners or compromised in any way and again we did what we set out to do, buy the best wines for our members that you can’t get here in Canada.

Day 13 – We firmed up all our orders, took some amazing pics on another sunny day and called it a wrap. Oh and that night after all our work was done, the rains came in….in droves. I have never seen rain so heavy in all my life. It sounded as though it was going to break through the windows in the house. I guess we will be getting out of here just in time!

The main thing I will take from this wine tasting experience is how underwhelming the South African wines that we have access to Canada are, and how exceptional most of their wines really are. Stellenbosch is a region that can and does produce some of the world’s best wines and I am now a huge fan…I won’t be running to the South African section of the local liquor store anytime soon however I am highly anticipating the wines we have purchased to land in Canada.