The best day I spent in South Africa was in and around Stellenbosch tasting wine – all day! Yeah sounds rough already right. These were no ordinary vineyard visits however. I was with my friend E who works for Cape Classics. Cape Classics is the largest importer of South African wines in the US and their team was over to visit with the winemakers. Boy, was I in the right place at the right time. The red carpet was rolled out at each stop for them as the vineyards are eager to get their distributors psyched up about their particular wines. Well, guess who got to tail along? Yup. Little ole me. What a day!
First off did you know that “winos” (my name for those who work in the industry) start drinking at like 9am? Our first visit was to KANONKOP. Now, I have been drinking their wines for over a year so I was pretty excited to see the farm. It did not disappoint. A very well designed tasting room made a great first impression. Modern and clean yet made warm and rich by the meticulously stacked barrels and bottles. An attached art gallery was a nice touch as well. Kanonkop Estate has been called the equivalent of a Premier Cru or First Growth and the international awards they have won back this claim up. Winemaker, Abrie Beeslaar, however was anything but boastful. His sheepish grin and quiet demeanor made him immediately like able as he led us on a tour of the facility. We ended up in a fabulous private tasting room where the swilling began. We sipped, swirled, chewed and spat our way through ten wines. In the end the Paul Sauer 2004 reigned supreme on my list! The 1992 and 2005 Cabs were also big winners. www.kanonkop.co.za
Our next stop was a private lunch hosted by the winemaker, Mike, at Mulderbosch. This winemaker produces my favorite Rose wine, which actually gets a mention in my book! So, I was excited to meet him and see what else he had up his sleeve. Well, let me tell you, this guy may have missed his alternative calling. He makes a mean wine but his talents at joke & storytelling are second to none. He had me laughing the entire meal as I sipped his yummy Chardonnay. A gorgeous spread of roast chicken, pork loin, roasted veggies, salads and breads brought the wine flavors forward and lined my tummy for the drinking that had to be done! As we were leaving he asked us, “What winks and makes love like a tiger?” As we waited for the answer, he winked. www.mulderbosch.co.za
Next stop was Rustenberg! This farm makes some of my favorite red wines so again I was a happy girl. The estate is absolutely breathtaking. Almost everyone who works for the farm lives on the estate and there is a real sense of community here. The original estate has been restored and is a wonderful example of the traditional Dutch architecture. Yet again, we were received with great fan fare and led on a personal tour by the winemaker. After the tour we piled into the back of a truck loaded with coolers and headed high up on the farm. We stopped on a grassy hill that was shaded by 5 huge pine trees. These are the 5 soldiers and the white wine that goes by this same name was the perfect sundowner as we watched the sun go down behind the mountains. It was magic. One of those moments in life you always remember. One of those moments where the whole world slips away and there is just you, that sunset and that fabulous glass of wine! Hook line and sinker, I bought a case right then and there. Will it ever taste as good as it did sitting there on the grass under the 5 Soldiers? www.rustenberg.co.za
We ended the day with dinner at a hip little eatery in downtown Stellenbosch. The design was decidedly Belgian and the menu very South African. I had a gorgeous Springbok and a fresh green salad. The greens in South Africa were wonderful. Deep rich green with vibrant flavors. Not quite your iceberg variety. We enjoyed the company of another winemaker at dinner who had brought along five or six wines for everyone to taste. Hate it when that happens.
What a day! I am not sure I can ever hear my friend E make a work complaint now though. That was a day of work for her! I like “bring your friend to work day”. Thanks E!!!