WOLSELEY WINE TOUR
Wednesday 22 February to Thursday 23 February 2017
This was my first mini wine tour and also my first time exploring the Wolseley area. My partner was running a social media workshop for the Wolseley Tourist Office and so it made sense to do some tasting while she was working. It was an opportunity too to continue my wine studies ahead of the next Cape Wine Academy Course. I could also research and select wines for the March tasting meeting of the Society. The tourist website listed five wine farms. How could I not visit them all?
All the wine farms were open to the public except for Seven Oaks Wines, so I arranged to taste here first. Tastings are held in the owner’s home which was not the easiest to find. My persistence paid off handsomely as Jacqui could not have been more pleasant and hospitable. Her warm welcome was the taste of things to come and oft-repeated over the two days. The wines were good too and they really opened my eye to a style different from those I am accustomed to drink from the Constantia Valley estates near Cape Town. I did not think I ever would have bought a wine for R20 but the bargain 2016 Chenin Blanc tasted good. It will be interesting to see how it fares in my ‘blind’ tasting of low and high priced wines at the next Society tasting evening.
Waboomsrivier Wynkelder and Bergsig Estate could not have been more different, to each other and to Seven Oaks Wines. They were located barely a few kilometres from each other beside the Breede River to the South of Wolseley. Contrast large-scale cooperative production with seven generation award-winning family estate. Both had their charms and merits and equal friendliness. The wines from each served their individual markets, clients and occasions. Waboomsrivier was unstated and functional; Bergsig overstated and formal. I bought from both, my favourites being the 2014 100% Shiraz Cape Vintage (R45) and the 2013 Cape LBV Port (R85) from the two estates, respectively. I cannot wait to taste them side-by-side to compare.
The scenery surrounding the Breede Valley was worth the visit to the area alone. Rocky outcrops of the Waterval and Witzenberg mountains rose tall in a huge horseshoe. The dry heat was noticeable for a Capetonian more used to cooler and moister air due to the surrounding ocean. February is an excellent time to visit Wolseley with the grape harvest being gathered in apace.
My partner and I stayed at Arum Lily Cottages & Log Cabins on the R46 to the East of the town. The self-catering cabin provided unexpected luxury and was equipped to the highest standard. No detail of high quality was spared to allow a relaxing stay overnight. The highlight for me was the wood-fired hot tub on the deck overlooking the dam. This was a first for me and I could easily have been a little doubtful as to how it would function. Lit by the owner before I arrived, the fire was really efficient to make the water warm. Indeed, after returning from Waverley Hills organic estate for dinner, the water was almost too hot. It was the best way to end a day after work and tastings – and to see the stars and Milky Way before bed.
We ate nearby at Waverley Hills where I had tasted their fruity organic wines in mid-January. I booked a table but need not have done so as there was plenty of space in the airy and tastefully decorated restaurant (open Wednesdays and Fridays). It was good to return and to experience their food. My partner ordered pan-fried sea bass with buttermilk pea pureé, wild garlic couscous, butter fried mange tout and peas. I opted for the lamb shoulder, slow-cooked with herbs, smoked yoghurt, roast onion foam, potato mash and green beans. The two main courses were overcooked for my liking but this did not harm the meal.
The menu lists paired wines for each main course – a nice touch – and I chose the recommended 2012 Shiraz/Mouvèdre/Viognier (77% Shiraz, 19% Mouvèdre, 4% Viognier) that was included in the price, at R198. It was a perfect full-bodied, plummy, spicy accompaniment to the lamb. My partner chose a glass of the zesty 2014 Pinot Grigio, at a ridiculously low R20. If only wine restaurants sold wine in their restaurants with the same value.
We ended with home-made ice cream – gloriously creamy strawberry and an unusual carrot cake – before coffee. As we left afterwards, we realised we had spent two-and-a-half hours for dinner. Wolseley really is somewhere to unwind and let time pass by.
The cabin at Arum Lily left me utterly rested for the final day of the wine tour. We popped into nearby Tulbagh in the morning before heading back to Mountain Ridge Wines for my last tasting. Mountain Ridge was fun and very different to the formality of Bergsig. Again, I was very well-hosted. I sampled wines from the entry De Liefde, middle Mountain Ridge, and premium Romansrivier Reserve ranges. This was a farm that has embraced the old and the new: late-1940s concrete tanks and ultra-modern centrifuge technology. The star of the tasting was the privilege to taste a tank sample of the 2017 Chenin Blanc under the watchful eye of Christo, the winemaker. The grapes were picked just a month ago and I learned so much from Christo in such a short time.
My partner and I returned to Cape Town from Wolseley after two days of work and pleasure. She had enjoyed meeting the Tourist Office staff and local business owners for her Social Media Workshop. I had visited five utterly different wine farms and tasted so many different wines of every style and variety. I realised that there’s so much more to do in the area – hiking, mountain-bike riding, fishing and more – with its spectacular scenery. Even so, we had time to stop off at the Farmyard Honey Factory on the R46 and see one of the Wolseley blockhouses as we passed through. The old forts were built in 1901 by the British during the Anglo-Boer War to protect the railway bridges from Boer attacks.
We chose to return to Cape Town via Slanghoek rather than the beautiful Bain’s Kloof Pass. It took under 2 hours for the 115 kilometre journey that was so worth the visit. Wolseley is much closer to Cape Town than I had thought.
I have two reasons to return: to taste the 2017 Chenin Blanc and to visit the farmers’ market at Mountain Ridge wines. There are more vineyards to taste wines too, which are not shown on the Tourist Office map or website.
Another reason perhaps is to sketch out a Wolseley Wine Route for the Tourist Office. It is needed. I already have a name in mind. WWW again but not for the Warm Wolseley Welcome. It will be WWW for Peter’s Wolseley Wine Wanderings!