South Africa Wine Country

View of Table Top Mountain from De Grendel winery.

By a set of lucky circumstances a friend and I found ourselves on a three-day South Africa wine country tour with Luhambo Tours while the rest of our group were off on safari.  On Day 1 we were met at our hotel in Cape Town by our new best friend Graham Nicoll.  As we drove off in our private vehicle Graham answered every question we could come up with on wine, South African history, wine again, the current drought and yet more wine

After a stop at a beach with a view of Table Top Mountain we continued on to our first winery – De Grendel.

We sat on the front porch enjoying a view of the vines and Table Top Mountain while Graham went inside and got our tasting.  Okay, I have to confess I’m a red wine drinker.  White wines in my world are for seafood and hot days.  After this tasting though I decided I may need to change my wine worldview.  A South African Chenin Blanc or Viognier are (dare I say it?) a step above the standard white wines you can get in the States.  They have a dry, mineral flavor that is perfect for a hot day.  Yes, I still prefer red wine but when I have to go white these are where I’m going to go first.

Speaking of red wine I was about to be introduced to my new barbecue/pizza/sipping red at our next stop at Fairview Winery.

In addition to wine Fairview also makes goat cheese with the milk from goats kept at the winery.  We enjoyed watching the goats on our way into the tasting room although by this time it was warm enough so that many were more interested in napping than entertaining guests.

Our tasting at Fairview included a cheese sample paired with each wine.  Our favorite by far was the Primo Pinotage – a mix of Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes that was created in South Africa back in 1925.  It has a smoky, earthy taste that goes well with barbecue of even just on its own.

After some purchases – Graham had a cooler ready for us in his trunk – we were off again.  We stopped for lunch at the Lust Bistro which was very good but unfortunately I couldn’t do it full justice because… cheese.

As if life couldn’t get any better at this point for our final stop of the day Graham took us to one of his personal favorites Oldenburg Vineyards.

Tasting room at Oldenburg Winery

By this time it was getting pretty warm but we hung out on the back porch and enjoyed some light, crisp white wines while taking in the amazing views.

The next morning we were given some time to explore our headquarters in Stellanbosch.  Stellanbosch is a college town and had the feel of it with wide variety of restaurants and cafés with cuisine from all over the world.  Throw in several gift shops for the wine tourists and there was plenty to keep us occupied.  In addition to shopping though we opted to spend some time at a local spa – again set up through the tour.

Just as we were getting thirsty again Graham picked us up for a pre-lunch tasting at  Stark-Condé Winery.

By this time we had worked up an appetite so we drove over to L’Avenir Winery for a lunch on their terrace. There we enjoyed a lovely tasting including a rosé that went perfectly with our lunch.

In the course of conversation I mentioned my wish to find something creative to do with use wine corks which led Graham to choose our next tasting at Mont Rochelle Winery where not only was there some wine cork art but more lovely views and an elephant!  Who needs a safari when you can spot an elephant at a winery, right?

That evening back at our Stellanbosch headquarters we decided to walk about to look for an outdoor café for our dinner.  We got lucky and found a table at the Man’oushe Lebanese Restaurant where the tabouli was large enough to feed an army and the sandwiches were enormous.

The following morning we had a close call.  We were heading back to Cape Town that day and the cooler in the back of Graham’s vehicle was only so large.  Would we have enough space for our Lebanese leftovers, Fairview goat cheese and assorted bottles of wine?  We moved most of the bottled water into the air-conditioned car leaving the cooler available for all our goodies.  Crisis averted!

Day Three ended up being chocolate day.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Our first stop was Waterford Winery for a wine and chocolate pairing.  Breakfast of champions!  After our tasting we took advantage of a tour just beginning as we were finishing our tasting.

Continuing with our chocolate theme we moved on to Van Ryns and shook things up a bit with a brandy and chocolate tasting.

Brandy and chocolate. Cheers!

Perhaps it was the brandy but by this time we were starting to feel sad that our wine country tour was about to end.  To console us Graham drove us over to Jordan Winery so we could enjoy our lunch with a view.

Lunching at Jordan Winery

Well all good things must come to an end but on the way back to Cape Town we made a final tasting stop at Meerlust Winery where we made friends with the tasting room canine mascot.

Who’s a good (and big) boy!?

While we enjoyed our tasting that included their famous Rubicon red the tasting guide told us about a recent winery mystery: Why was their dog getting so big?  As we sipped our wine and watched her feed biscuit after biscuit to our new friend we decided that some mysteries must remain forever unsolved.  It was time to move on

Graham dropped us off directly at our new base in Camp’s Bay and we rejoined our party bearing wine, cheese, Lebanese goodies and tales of a fantastic three days in wine country.

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