I had the most heavenly experience, visiting the little-known and relatively new Hermanus Wine Route with outstanding wine estates located in the beautiful Hemel en Aarde Valley outside Hermanus recently, on a perfect warm winter’s day.
As a guest house owner in Hermanus, I stopped at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and at the Village Wine Shop, in search of a map of the wine estates in the area. I was most surprised that both stops could only offer me the ‘2011 Overberg Wine: Cape South Coast’ booklet, which lists wine estates in the broader Overberg district, including Hermanus. Our experience is that a wine map, such as that of Franschhoek, is a handy way to explore a wine route. I drove to the furthest wine estate on the Hemel en Aarde Road, to start my winetasting journey at Creation, of which I have heard such good things, and then made my way back towards Hermanus. It was at Creation that I received a number of A4 copies of the brand new Hermanus Wine Route map. I did not manage to visit all 17 wine estates, as my stay in Hermanus was cut short due to an emergency which necessitated my return to Cape Town. I have provided contact details, and impressions of the estates which I visited:
* Creation: Dynamic husband-and-wife team Swiss-born JC and Carolyn Martin (daughter of Walter Finlayson) are producing excellent artisanal, terroir-driven wines at the foot of the Babylons Toren mountain range, on 22 ha, 350 meters above sea level, 7 km from the Atlantic Ocean, in conjunction with Swiss winemaker Christoph Kaser. The last 7 km is on gravel road, and the province has promised to prioritise the tarring of this road connecting Caledon and Hermanus. The tasting room staff is headed by Joanne Kuhn, who used to be the Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau. She is a friendly, chatty and informative hostess, supported by Pamela. The tasting room is also the restaurant, with an interesting collection of tables (made from wine crates, and some from floorboards) and Biedermeier chairs, in different colours. I loved the chandelier made from sparkling wine glasses. Works of art (e.g. by Jaco Sieberhagen, Jeanette Unite, Leon Müller) are an interesting part of the tasting room, and are for sale. The view onto the mountain range is amazing, and Joanne told me that it is 80 meters higher than Table Mountain. The wine estate uses Social Media actively, being on Twitter, Facebook, and having a Blog. Its range of wines includes Creation (Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Syrah/Grenache), Whale Pod (which we stock in our Honesty Bar), and Shark Alley (created in conjunction with White Shark Projects). Creation is part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, and its A3 information sheet printed on recycled paper says the wine estate stands for ‘Original, distinctive flavours. Exceptional, harmonious matches’. Creation has teamed up with chefs Anli and Andre van Vuuren of Season restaurant in Hermanus, to offer a small menu. A wine pairing menu is offered at R90, consisting of Asian salmon dumpling with aubergine and goat’s milk cheese canneloni, paired with Creation Sauvignon Blanc; spicy chicken and apricot satay is paired with Creation Viognier; cauliflower soup is paired with Creation Merlot; springbok rillete with cherry jelly is paired with Creation Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend; chorizo espanadita with duck and sour cherry pie is paired with Creation Syrah; and bobotie spring roll, beef carpaccio, and prune chutney is paired with Creation Syrah/Grenache blend. Should one just wish to taste wines, there is no charge. One can order Creation wines with a meal, at R 20,50 – R 40 per glass, or R79,50 – R159 per bottle. The information sheet details the food suppliers used, including Nouvelle Mushrooms, Chocolates by Tomes, Richard Bosman’s cured meats, Adamskloof olive oil from the same property, and Camphill Bakery. Monday – Saturday 10h00 – 17h00, Sunday 10h00 – 16h00. Tel (028) 212-1107. www.creationwines.com
* Jakob’s Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blend. ‘Passion, excellence and simplicity’ form the foundation of this wine estate. Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment only. Tel (028) 371-5686. www.jakobsvineyards.co.za
* Domaine des Dieux – located next door to Creation, tasting by appointment and at La Vierge restaurant. Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za
* Mount Babylon – SMV (Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier blend). Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment. Tel 084 511 8180. www.mountbabylon.co.za
* Ataraxia – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Serenity. Located just before Creation. Wine tasting Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 15h30. Tel (028) 212-2007. www.ataraxiawines.co.za
* La Vierge Collection – private cellar, with tasting and sales at La Vierge restaurant, not on same property. La Vierge Noir, Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc, The Last Temptation Riesling, Satyricon Italian blend, Nymphomane Bordeaux blend, Shiraz, and Chardonnay. Tel (028) 313-0130. www.lavierge.co.za
* Spookfontein – Merlot, Phantom Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc. Wines made using ‘Old-World techniques with New-Age attitude’. Organic and single vineyard wines. Tasting by appointment. Tel 082 265 1071. No website.
* Newton Johnson Vineyards – the only wine estate of those that I visited that was seemingly disinterested in providing information and doing a tasting. I arrived at 15h20, forty minutes before closing time, and I got the feeling that everything was packed away already. There was no wine in the counter, and the tasting room was extremely bare, with only one couch. Lisa, the tasting room lady, told me that due to cash flow problems, that is the only furniture that the winery can afford! First wines were made by Dave Newton Johnson, with sons Bevan and Gordon, in 1997. Natural methods are used in the winemaking, including hand-picking grapes, yeast is not added to the fermentation, using gravity, no chemicals added, with soft extraction, creating wines with a ‘purity of flavour and natural expression’. Newton Johnson Domaine Range (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir), Newton Johnson range (Resonance, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah Mouvedre), and Felicité Range (No Oak Chardonnay, Dry Rosé, Pinot Noir). New Patron Chef Stefan Louw has taken over Heaven Restaurant, with a heavenly setting. Lunches only currently, but will open for dinner in season. Interesting menu, and all starters and main courses have a Newton Johnson wine recommendation. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00. www.newtonjohnson.com
* Sumaridge – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Maritimus, Merlot Rosé, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Syrah and Epitome. Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 15h00. www.sumaridge.co.za
* Bouchard Finlayson – Peter Finlayson was the first winemaker in this valley. Blanc de Mer, Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Kaaimansgat Limited Chardonnay, Sans Barrique Chardonnay, Hannibal, Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, and Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir. Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 9h30 – 12h30. Tel (028) 312-3515 www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za
* Ashbourne – part of the Hamilton Russell collection. Tasting by appointment. Sales via Southern Right. Tel (028) 312-3595. No website.
* Hamilton Russell Vineyards – one of the best-known wine estates in this valley, owned by Anthony Hamilton Russell, and synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00. Tel (028) 312-3595. No website.
* Southern Right – also part of Hamilton Russell collection, and co-owned by Mark Wilcox. Stocked by Whale Cottage Honesty Bar. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage. 33000 olive trees on farm. Paintings by Olive Hamilton Russell, with earthy textures created by mixing paint and soil from the farm. Big quartz from farm in the tasting room, representing the quartz in the sandstone soils. Tasting room has brown earthy decor. Very friendly and informative manager Elmarie Pretorius. Sell Southern Right Eucalyptus honey too. Meat and cheese platters available in summer. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00. No website. Tel (028) 312-1318. Independently operated Deli on property, Tuesday – Sunday 9h00 – 15h00.
* Whalehaven – Whalehaven Pinot Noir, Merlot, Old Harbour; The Idiom Collection Idiom Cape, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel. Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday and Sunday 10h30 – 16h30. Tel (028) 316-1633. www.whalehaven.co.za
* Hermanuspietersfontein : Located in the Hemel en Aarde Village, the modern wine cellar building is visible as one comes into Hermanus. Well-known venue for its Saturday morning Food & Wine Market with interesting products and Hermanuspietersfontein wines, and for the excellent and creative Afrikaans -dominated marketing of its wines. Probably has the longest wine brand name in the country, being the original name of Hermanus, but frequently abbreviated to HPF. Winemaker Bartho Eksteen is highly regarded for Sauvignon Blanc, and won the 2010 Diners’ Club Winemaker of the Year Award. He only makes wines that he likes, the brochure says! They commit to “produce terroir-driven wines of the highest quality, focusing on Sauvignon Blancs and Rhône and Bordeaux-style blends. We are intent on adding value to the Walker Bay reputation as South Africa’s premium cool climate wine-producing region”. Wine range includes Bloos (‘blush wine’), Sonner Nommer (Sauvignon Blanc), Swartskaap (Cabernet Franc), 1855 Posmeester (Bordeaux-style blend), Kleinboet (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 3 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Bartho (Sauvignon Blanc blend), Nr. 5 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Arnoldus (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 7 Sauvignon Blanc, and Die Martha (Rhône-style Shiraz dominant blend). Open Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 16h00. Tel (028) 316-1875. www.hpf1855.co.za
* Benguela Cove: Open Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00. Tel 087 754 8650. www.benguelacove.co.za
Guest houses in Hermanus would love their guests to spend more than one night in Hermanus, and to come to Hermanus, even when there are no whales (December – April). The Hermanus Wine Route is an ideal way to enhance the tourist experience of Hermanus, in experiencing its excellent quality wines and friendly wine estates. One would like to see far more marketing of the Hermanus Wine Route, helping the tourism industry of Hermanus as well as the wine estates themselves. The Hermanus Wine Route map has an empty back, which could contain valuable information about the wines made by each wine estate, to help one select which wine estates to visit. Information about the restaurants on the estates should also be listed. The opening hours of some of the wine estates should also be extended, to be as uniform as possible on the Wine Route, and to be open as late as possible (some close as early as 2 pm!). The Hermanus Wine Route map should be made available at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, the Wine Village wine shop, and at guest houses in the area. In the Hermanus Info booklet it is surprising that the first reference to the Hermanus Wine Route (they call it the ‘Wine Wander‘) is two-thirds into the booklet!
Hermanus Wine Route, Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 316-2761. www.hermanuswine.com Twitter: @HermanusWine
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
On my several trips to the Cape, I have visited lots of wine estates (one of my reasons for visiting!!) and Creation is probably my favourite. They do everything right from the friendly, informative tasting, the views, the set out of the tasting room and of course the food. We had the meat and cheese platter with a glass or two of our favourites from their range – sauvignon blanc and syrah/grenache for me! I love the whole valley but you are right in that it could be more tourist friendly and extended open hours, especially on a Saturday would be helpful. I also echo your view on the Hermanus area – there is so much to do there besides whales and 3 nights is perfect!
Thank you for your support Lisa.
Saturdays and Sundays are the most popular winetasting days, and therefore the hours should be extended, so that one can get to as many wine estates as possible. Very few are open on Sundays.
I agree about Creation – what a special place this is, run by people passionate about what they’re doing. Just shows that you can be outstanding without having a massive ego and unlimited funding.
What a shocking experience at Newton Johnson.
Although, I suspect that this kind of thing happens more often than we would like.
I called at Benguela Cove yesterday only to find that they have no ‘tasting lady’ so no tasting available and that “Head Office” has not decided what to do about it! Suggest one does not drop in on chance.
I then went on to Heaven at Newton Johnson – very warm welcome from the waiter who came out of the front door to greet us. Charming new patron chef Stephan Louw came to chat enthusiastically before making a most enjoyable Caesar salad with a beautifully succulent chicken breast. Service from a new waiter (x-Bahia) was personable and extremely professional even if he had a slight tendency to try and up-sell. In contrast to all of this was the very indifferent attitude of the person in the tasting room – absolutely no welcome or interest so we left without a purchase! So that seems to mirror your experience here!
Thanks for your feedback Michael.
One would have thought that Newton Johnson would have done something about the attitude of their tasting room lady, after my blogpost!
Great guide to publish just before the Whale Festival Chris!
Many thanks Vanessa.
The Hermanus Wine Route seems so marketing-neglected. Thanks for your Re-Tweet today.