Two days of touring vineyards in South African wine country and the prospect of tasting some two dozen different bottles of wine may seem like a wonderful thing, but you kind of have to pace yourself. And you have to spit, and not swallow everything that is poured, lest you want to end up like some of the boorish, plaid short clad, young Americans we ran into, drunk silly by 11am and insisting they hit another 4 wineries and 20+ glasses of wine to taste before the day was done. I know my food better than I know my wine, but we had an extremely enjoyable two days visiting several vineyards and our daughter (now 18 and officially allowed to drink) had a crash course in wine appreciation… only to head off to university this Fall in a country that doesn’t allow an alcoholic beverage until the age of 21!
Randall, our guide, picked us up at around 930am and we drove to nearby Solms Delta, a winery that is perhaps most notable for the way it is run… with the welfare of the estate workers (descendants of slaves who tilled the land) at the forefront. If you are willing to learn more about the interesting history of South Africa, and the sometimes tense relationship between whites, blacks and coloureds (mixed race), it is utterly fascinating. We got some of the viewpoints of all three groups over the course of 10 days there and I can say that we learned a LOT more than just the tourist highlights. Solms Delta wine was everyday drinkable, but the mini-museum on the premises was worth the visit.
Solms Delta wine was everyday drinkable, and incredibly well-priced (think bottles from US$3-10) but the mini-museum alone that gave some details of the history of the area and the slave trade was well worth the visit.
They also have a good restaurant on the premises, and the chef is known for his use of local ingredients, including much of the produce that is grown on the property. We spied this long table set up for a lunch party in a covered terrace. The weather was on the nippy side, so the individual colorful blankets were a nice touch. You could also buy picnic baskets of food and enjoy them out on the lawn if you liked.
From Solms Delta we headed to Stellenbosch and looked for the Sunday market at the Blauklippen estate.
We didn’t do a tasting here, just strolled quickly through the market that had baked goods, clothing, native items, knives, prepared food, wine, flowers, etc. The tables, made from planks of wood and milk crates, were set informally on the grounds of the estate. Locals gathered (despite the overcast weather) to get something to eat or do some produce shopping.
Some kids playing with the fallen leaves.
It was late Fall so the produce selection was waning, but it was still interesting.
Local vinegars, oils, dressings, tapenades and spreads were also on offer. We left the market without eating anything, as the next stop was an early lunch…
…at a restaurant called “96 Winery Road” that was part of our tour. I should mention that our tour in private vans/vehicles came with an incredibly competent guide and included meals and wine up to a certain amount (which we never quite reached) so it was really quite an easy and relaxing touring routine.
We were still stuffed from the past few days of unbridled eating, but I managed to savor this wonderful dish of slow braised short ribs over noodles with an Asian style sauce. The Teen had some gnocchi, a burger and some other dishes as well. Didn’t get any other food photos, must have been in a rush to eat despite already feeling like fattened pigs…
Next stop, the Warwick estate. Was just flabbergasted that this farm was established in 1771, or five years before America got it’s independence! Farms in this part of South Africa were established in the 1700’s and supplied fresh fruit, and eventually wine to the folks down at the coast. Warwick is unique in that it is owned and run by a woman, and now her daughter, and granddaughter will likely take over eventually. Three generations of ladies, hence the name of one of their red wines…”Three Cape Ladies”.
What better name for a wine to be enjoyed by James Bond?! What? Yup, in the next book, and movie, the story is set in South Africa, and in one scene, James Bond has a glass of Three Cape Ladies red. Heeheehee, how’s that for Bond trivia, and they aren’t even filming the movie yet! Of course I purchased a couple of bottles perhaps to crack open when the movie shows in local theaters in 2015 or so. :)
In case you are wondering about the unusual logo that looks like a lady with a bucket on her head, the legend goes that a Princess once fell in love with a silversmith, but the King disapproved of the commoner. He eventually told the silversmith, that if he invented a cup that two people could drink out of at the top and bottom at the same time, then he could have the Princesses’ hand in marriage. So the silversmith designed a cup with a swiveling second cup and voila, down the church aisle he went.
The wines at Warwick were quite nice, and I didn’t spit out too much of those glasses. It was also our last wine tasting of the day, so I felt I could swallow more.
The family after several glasses of wine each that day. We were very much in control of our faculties.
We dropped by another vineyard, but this time only to buy some styrofoam cases so we could check-in the bottles of wine we were purchasing from the vineyards we visited. This particular shop had a great selection of cold cuts, but as tempting as they looked, we just couldn’t eat another thing for several hours more!