The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!
Experience 4.0 Stellenbosch Wine 4.0

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Friday 1 December 2017

Experience: 4/5
Wines: 4/5

Chrismie, a typical portmanteau name in Afrikaans, welcomed me to her home while husband, engineer and winemaker Frik made his way through late Friday afternoon traffic to host me. The satnav reference from my 2017 Platter’s Guide didn’t quite get it right and I overshot the turning off the Jonkershoek Road just east of the centre of Stellenbosch. ‘Turn into Omega Road and take the lane by the stone with the 28 on it’, Frik advised. Fortunately, I was far enough away from the Cape Flats not to be too bothered by any significance of the ‘28’!



Frik’s large house, originally his mothers and subsequently extended, is set in 3½ hectares of land in scenic surroundings. The land grows some of the oldest Chenin Blanc bush vines in South Africa, though I was soon to learn that Frik concentrated on making red wines.



Frik led me downstairs to the family garage that, like so many, hasn’t seen a vehicle for many a year. His aim was to ‘make a strong Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend’. He told me too that his 2 phobias were to run out of wine – there’s no chance of that I soon discovered – and not having a corkscrew. Frik is a garagiste of note and an active member of the Garagiste Movement of South Africa. Few garagistes are listed in the Platter’s Guide; Bemind Wines in McGregor being the only other I have sampled and visited.



Fittingly for Frik, the word garagiste literally means ‘garage mechanic or garage owner’. The movement began in Bordeaux in 1991 by a rebellious wine merchant in St Emilion who decided to make his own wines using grapes he bought in from surrounding vineyards. Four years later and the first South African garagiste started in Muizenberg. Wine of Origin certification is necessarily bureaucratic; production is limited to 9,000 litres a year and the winemaker must be self-financing.


I listened intently to Frik as he passed me samples of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Malbec – his favourite cultivar – from the different sized barrels. I didn’t know, for example, that barrel prices halved from new to 2nd fill, to 3rd and then to 4th fill. I was unaware too that it was possible to buy ‘reconditioned’ barrels by Revolution that have the insides shaved (wines penetrate only the inside 5mm of the barrel during fermentation).



I soon learned that Frik was a master wheeler and dealer with many contacts in the industry, from vine grower to supply him with grapes to bakkie-mounted mobile bottling plant. Problem-solving is an important skill for the garagiste and I could see why Frik was a mechanical engineer. He began by taking the Garagiste Course with Professor Du Toit of Stellenbosch University a few years ago. I booked the course last November but had to miss it due to my Cape Wine Academy studies.


Frik was modest about his success. The wines all tasted good to me even though barrel samples, as the recently bottled wines were still suffering ‘bottle shock’ and it was too soon to open. He explained how one does not learn the intricacies of wine until one starts to make it. I was relieved to learn – as I am sure one day I shall get the bug to make – that he had never had a barrel turn to vinegar.



Frik was larger than life, generous of his time, and just as inspiring. I left feeling motivated and determined to take the small-scale winemaking course next year if the Cape Wine Academy programme allows. As I left, he gave me a bottle of Sonklip Red and showed me the koppie with the rock that catches the sun behind his house that gave name to his wine (and silhouetted on the bottle label). Perhaps I shall wait until I have done the garagiste course to open and savour it …..

Wines tasted (bought *):


2017 Merlot – Barrel Sample
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Sample
2017 Cabernet Franc – Barrel Sample
2017 Malbec – Barrel Sample
2014 Sonklip Red (63% Shiraz, 37% Mourvèdre)


You Might Also Like

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Of Female Rugby Players and Ballet Dancers! Let’s Continuously Study Very Seriously: Wines of the Loire and Northern Rhône

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Red Chair in the Morning

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

Altitudes with Wine!

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

A Kleine Experience at Zalze

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

Pedigree Stud Grub at Cavalli

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Well Hosted and Enjoyable – Even Though I did not Experience at its Best

King Chenin Kens (Knows) the Wood from the Trees

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

Golden Wines at the End of the Rainbow

Beyond Expectation

Late at Lateganskop

Grape Fun – Stomping Well Worth the Journey!

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

It’s High Time Again

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Posh Spice in Franschhoek!

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Franschhoek’s Hidden Gem Is Reluctant to Reveal

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

More-ish Wines at Môreson

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Speed Tasting with Sommelier ‘Royalty’ at my First SASA Meeting

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Wonderful Grapes at the Vineyard Hotel

Cabsolutely Frankulous at the Carnival

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

Boutique de Brendel

No Black Marks at Raka

The Bestbier Family produces Best Wines at Goede Hoop

Delaire Graff Wines Sparkle

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

More than Just a Destination

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Iconic Steenberg

Around the (Old) World in 18 Hours – starting with the European Cuvée!

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Englishman Meets Mrs English at Classic Lanzerac

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

On the Left, but then on the Right …

More Still at Tanagra

Class in Glass at Glenelly

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof


Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Kept Alone at Kaapzicht

Simonsig Excellence Today with a Traditional Legacy

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Wines to Love on Love Street

Wine Passions Mounted at Cavalli

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!


The Vineyard Hotel a Classic Vehicle to Showcase L’Ormarins Wines

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Eq-wine – Fine Wines and Fast Horses!

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

Mutual Attraction

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Au Revoir France!

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

Classic(al) to Barrique – De Morgenzon Hits all the Right Notes

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday


Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Great Value in the Swartland

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *