Cape Winery Tours - Franschoek, Stellenbosch,

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Up fairly early and fed fish.  I put Bonnie out for the day (it was a lovely sunny day so did not need to leave the bedroom door open for her) Mike picked me up about 9:15 and we set off for the Winelands tour.  It was an absolutely lovely day to do that.  Sunny, warm, no breeze or clouds anywhere about.  This full day tour of the Cape Wine lands took in a number of wineries, which the South Africans call either wine estates or wine farms.  History is reflected in the white Cape Dutch architecture (thick plaster walls with curved cornices, I think they would be called with long rooms and tall ceilings) which encompasses simple lines, fine detail and elegant proportions. 
The first was the Siedelberg Wine Estate in the Paarl Region. I taste tested about 8 wines (12 Rand) including a DeLeuwen Jagt unwooded 2005 Chardonnay, 2006 Nuance and 2003 Shiraz.  I also tasted a Seidelberg wooded 2005 Chardonnay, 2004 Shiraz, as well as a 2004 Roland's Reserve Pinotage and 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I enjoyed the latter two the best though I do not really enjoy red wines that much.  The former had a "fresh cherry and cinnamon nose, dense soft tannin structure with a palate of blackcurrants and dark chocolate with cloves and lingering oak finish".  The latter said "very low grape yield generates extremely concentrated wine with tremendous aging potential; plums, blackcurrants and spice flavours".  The staff was very knowledgeable both about the wines and their industry.  Apparently I can, if I wish, contact their Canadian distributors at Connoisseur Wine & Spirits 20 Glenarden Crescent, Richmond Hill, Ontario email  I think the only ones I'd be interested in are the Reserve Pinotage and the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The latter has, I think, just taken a gold medal in a contest somewhere. 
I also took in some magnificent panoramic views of the Cape from Seidelberg and learned some more South African history courtesy of Mike. 
The history of oppression of one group over another (Dutch/Malay slaves, British/Dutch, Dutch/British and black/coloured, and potentially black/coloured/Dutch and British) is quite horrifying.  One hopes they are not condemned to repeat the past in the future/ however, one does worry.  There is currently, I think, a policy of preferential education and training of some, which offends others.  It reminds me a great deal of the concern some in Canada had about perceived preferential treatment of: Francophone and first Nation Canadians, women and those who are handicapped; however, there are so many underprivileged Africans in this country one wonders if it will ever even out as, I think it has for the most part - in Canada.
The next winery was the Fairview Wine Estate also in the Paarl Region.  We were to have sampled their cheese and tasted their great wines but did neither.  Basically I had a look at their cheese shop and marveled at the goat tower they have for the goats.  On the mountain behind the Fairview wine Estate is a huge monument (Taal Monument) to the Afrikaans language.  I gather it was a very forward thinking monument built during the Apartheid times.
Next we stopped at the picturesque village of Franschhoek.   This community was settled in the 1600s by French Huguenots after fleeing from persecution in France and the whole place is, in signs, restaurant names and wineries, French in appearance.  Among other places, we stopped to visit a chocolate shop which the government set up for minority people of Asian background.  They were trained in Belgium and then funded to set up in business in this community.  They do delicious work, if I do say so.  I then took a wander up the road to have a look at various buildings, churches, malls, etc to get the general feeling of the town. 
We then drove part way up the Franschhoek Pass and had a superb view back over the U shaped valley into which we'd come.  There were about 4 hang gliders riding the currents up there and it was a super day for them to do so.  While looking about up there we saw a great many spring flowers all in yellows, pinks, whites and purples.  On the way back down the valley we stopped at a number of very colourful plants on the side of the road.  Though I have seen spring flowers in Canada certainly I have seen few so colourful as these.  We passed through and stopped at the monument and museum of the Huguenot language at Franschhoek.  I was able to get more photos of lovely proteas there as well.  They are the provincial flower of the Cape Province.
We were to lunch at the Green Door restaurant at Delaire, the Wine Estate with stunning views but they were apparently closed for renovations so we carried on to a place called the Riverside Restaurant where we had boboties (something like a mince pie).  The atmosphere was really rather nice and there were peacocks roaming about there as well.  I am sorry not to have eaten at Delaire; however, I guess Mike was not aware that they were closed that day.  Nice though the Riverside was, the view did not match Delaire, which we saw later in the afternoon.
The historical farm, Boschendal, was our next stop.  In addition to wine tours and lunches it includes the majestic manor house museum which, as a farm dates back to 1685.  It was another huge white Cape Dutch series of buildings including, I think, 2 restaurants, in a lovely setting with mountains.  We did not do a wine tasting but wandered around just looking at the area, the ancient oak trees contrasted with the young vines growing in the spring and the stunningly beautiful mountains in the background.
In the Stellenbosch area of Cape Town we finally made it to Delaire Wine Estate but again, only for views.  Mike billed it as the most beautiful winery and views of the tour and I would agree with him there.  It is also known as "the Vineyard in the Sky" and is situated at the crest of the Helshoogte Mountain Pass and overlooks the beautiful Banhoek Valley.
Then we drove on and visited the oak tree lined streets of the University Town of Stellenbosch   - the second oldest town in South Africa and capital of this wine producing region.  The combination of Cape Dutch, Georgian and modern Victorian architecture bears witness to its proud and dignified heritage.  The town is situated on the banks of a river in the premier wine producing Jonkershoek Valley, is encircled by magic mountains. 
Together with Franschhoek, Stellenbosch is ideally situated in magnificent mountain valleys and boasts a mild Mediterranean climate.  It is synonymous with the oldest wine route in the country which draws tourists and wine lovers from around the world.  The old oak trees etched against the white walls of its many old buildings diffuse the summer heat and transform the streets into soft shady avenues.  We also paid a visit to Oude Libertas, a very scenic open-air theatre, which at that time of the day was attractive with very picturesque shadows.
After a lovely drive through Stellenbosch we carried on to Neethlonghof Wine Estate where we were to enjoy sampling their award winning wines.  Unfortunately, we got there about half an hour late and they had just finished their last tour.  Again, I wish Mike had checked to see about times on this tour.  I can see how he might have not known about the lunch place but really, he should have been able to keep an eye on the time and get us to the final wine tastings on time.  Of course as we were late for the Neethlonghof Wine Estate, we were also too late to go to Spier and the Blaauklippen Wine Estate for another great wine experience.  Grrr
Slowly we started our journey home, taking in some more magnificent scenery.   Found myself fairly tired after my travels so had a small dinner and got an early night.  I am glad I did as it blew up quite a storm during the night.  Was first of all woken up by the wind, then the rain.  Was hoping Bonnie did not want to go out into the rain but she held off until morning.  It was still raining a bit and the bird feeder tray had about an inch or so of rain in it.  
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