Just over a week ago my school friend Jenny Stephens and I spent two days on the Wellington Wine Walk, a guiding service offered by our school friend Elaine Wegelin and her colleagues Katrin Steytler, and Carol-Ann Jeffrey.
Jenny, Elaine, and I grew up in Wellington, and sat on the same school benches at three Wellington schools. Having left Wellington after Matric 50 years ago, it was not just an eating and drinking adventure, but it was a catch-up of how our hometown has grown and developed in this time.
Originally the plan was to tag the Wellington Wine Walk onto a weekend celebration in September of the 50th anniversary of our Matric in Wellington. As with all good 2020 plans, Covid got in the way, and the Matric reunion has been postponed to 2021. Jenny and I could not think of a better escape from Lockdown, and a break from our Cape Town environment, by going on the Wellington Wine Walk. Elaine was fantastic at finding a gap for the two of us, for two days out of a three day Walk, and so we booked 6 and 7 November, with arrival on the afternoon before.
What we didn’t do was to check the weather forecast for the dates, one assuming that we would have to cope with heat rather than torrential rain in Wellington, known for its hot summers. I check my Weather App daily, and I didn’t like the look of a very wet weekend forecast. I checked the Wellington weather, using the highly reliable yr.no, as well as some other apps. While the weather apps differed vastly as to when exactly the rain would be at its worst, they did tally on the volume of heavy rain that was forecast. Initially Saturday looked like the heavy rain day, but then this changed to Friday, and in this the forecast was spot on. I had a number of conversations with Elaine and Jenny about the weather, as walking in heavy rain was not to my liking, having had experience of this on my first Camino, in walking through Spain. As a customer-orientated tourist guide, and seeing the volume of rain forecast, Elaine assured us that they would make a plan should the rain live up to its forecast. On that basis we confirmed our booking.
Note: I wrote about Day One of our Wellington Wine Walk earlier this week, in the link below.
A description of our Wellington Wine Walk Day Two follows below, being extremely lucky with the weather.
Dunstone Wine Estate
We had to get up a little earlier, to finish breakfast and be collected at Dunstone by 8h15. After the slow dinner service the evening before, we were delighted that the Breakfast Service was fast, and my scrambled egg with bacon and croissant was delicious, a good foundation for the wine-tasting day lying ahead. We were excited to see the first signs of a blue sky.
Coffee Tasting at Villamar Roastery Café
Villamar is not normally on the agenda for the Wellington Wine Walk, as it is at the opposite end of the Town relative to the wine farms. Given the uncertainty about the rain on Saturday morning, Elaine had organised a Coffee Tasting at Villamar the day before, to replace a steep descent down a section of the mountain below the Bain’s Kloof Pass. As Murphy’s Law would have it, Saturday turned out to be a partially sunny day with no rain during the day.
Villamar is an Italian family restaurant and business in Wellington, one of the best in the town we were told. JeanMarie was our hostess, sharing that they roast Arabica (nicer taste) and Robusta (more caffeine) beans at the restaurant. Their beans come from nine countries, including Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Colombia, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The closer the coffee trees are to the Equator, the better the quality of the coffee. One tree generates about 1 kg of coffee beans. Harvesting of the beans is similar to that of olives.
Villamar is Fairtrade registered. They regularly do quality control, via cupping, showing us how it is done. The water is poured into tasting glasses, left to stand for a while, and then the crema top layer is scooped off and removed. One then uses a dessert spoon to place some of the coffee in one’s mouth, slurping it, to get the full aroma and taste. Roasted Coffee beans and ground have a shelf-life of about two months. The greener the bean is, the stronger the coffee is.
One should not add water at a temperature higher than 85C when making coffee, we were advised. We were shown a beautiful German siphon, for making filter coffee. We were also shown a Brewspoon, into which one places ground coffee, closes it, and lets it stand for up to 5 minutes in hot water, a quick and easy way of making filter coffee. After the tasting each of us was allowed to order a coffee in their favorite style. As I no longer drink coffee, I tried some of their Berry ice cream, which was delicious. Sadly they do not have an outlet selling it in Cape Town. We saw some beautiful cake treats on the counter near the entrance, and the presentation of their lemon meringue and cheesecake was very impressive.
Doolhof Wine Estate
We were shuttled to Doolhof, located in a cul de sac in Bovlei, a beautiful 380 ha wine estate dating back to 1712, its first owner being Jacques Poitier, now with new British owners. Doolhof is the Afrikaans translation of ‘Labyrinth’, of which there is one on the farm. The luxury boutique hotel on the property is called Grand Dedale, the French name for Labyrinth.
We tasted five Doolhof Wines, and then the surprise of a Malbec Gin, a lovely cocktail made with tonic. They had lovely preserves, of which I bought a few.
We tasted the following wines:
#. Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard 2018: flavours of passion fruit, gooseberry, and green fig. Grapes are harvested early in the morning.
# Malbec Blanc De Noir 2018, made from Bushvine grapes.
# Malbec Single Vineyard 2018, a ‘best seller’ we were told, spending 12 months in French Oak, giving aromas of black cherry and blackcurrant.
# Pinotage Single Vineyard 2018, 40% matured in new French Oak barrels, with flavours of blackcurrant, red cherries, and vanilla.
# Pinotage Dark Lady 2019, with coffee and mocha aromas, also a ‘good seller’, matured for eight months in dark toasted barrels.
# Tasting a Doolhof Malbec Gin was a big surprise, beautifully packaged, and refreshing when mixed with ice and tonic.
I messaged Angelo Casu, the GM of Grand Dedale, and he came to say hello, giving us permission to see his beautiful accommodation. The viewing of the entrance to Grand Decale is not usually part of the visit to Doolhof. Angelo waved us goodbye at the exit gate, our Group starting to walk for the first time.
Welvanpas Wine Estate
Our first walk on the Wellington Wine Walk was between Doolhof and Welvanpas, alongside the Kromme River. Having grown up in Wellington, I knew that the Welvanpas Manor House is famous for having been the home of Voortrekker hero Piet Retief. His descendant Dan Retief and his wife Retha now own the farm, the 10th generation Retief, she preparing our lovely lunch, and he introducing his wines, but also sharing lots of historical information about the property, about Wellington, and the Cape. The first farm ownership papers date back to 1712. Most of the grapes on the property are sent to the co-op. Two of the wines made by Dan are named after his daughter Suzaan and his son Daniel, to make the children feel that they belong to the farm. Dan also grows Valencia oranges on the farm, getting a better price for them during the Covid Lockdown, he said.
Our Lunch starter was a savoury onion and cheese bread, creatively presented in a metal cup, served with butter and apricot jam, a yummy combination. This was followed by a very traditional South African lunch of Bobotie, yellow rice, and salad. Koeksisters were served with the coffee.
We tasted the following five Welvanpas Family Vineyards wines:
# Sauvignon Blanc 2016, a light easy-drinking wine.
# Rosé 2016
# Pinotage Unoaked 2016, with a mulberry aroma.
# De Krakeelhoek Merlot and Shiraz Blend, named after the original Farm name.
# Revival Road 2014, a Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz
We walked from Welvanpas to Bosman Wines along the Kromme River, and through vineyards. The rain held off all day.
Bosman Family Vineyards
The shuttle bus met us on the road, and dropped us off at Bosman Wines Lelienfontein Estate. The wine estate stopped making wines at one stage, concentrating on vine grafting only, but since 2007 they have been producing wines again. It is the largest vine nursery in Africa. Its historic cellar is 270 years old, and we were shown the entrance to it, a gate bearing the crest of the Bosman Family, which has been owned by eight generations of Bosmans. Winemaker Corlia Fourie was described as the ‘Queen of Chenin’ by our Bosman’s hostess. Bosman’s wines are Fairtrade registered.
The wine estate has the most active empowerment project in our country, called Adama, the biggest land transformation project, a part of the sales of certain wines going to the empowerment project. with 500 families benefiting from it, through schools built, a retirement home, transport offered for doctor visits, and accommodation.
We had learnt about vine grafting on our walk the day before, but the Bosman’s operation is vast, grafting 4000 Stokkies per day, onto eleven root stock options. The farm also grows blueberries, Wellington having developed a reputation for this berry, being grown on a number of farms in the area.
We were spoilt with a tasting of nine wines:
# Bosman’s Loose Cannon 2015, a MCC, made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes grown on the Hemel en Aarde Bosman Farm, which spent 18 months on the lees.
# Generation 8 Chenin Blanc 2020 (Photograph)
# Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2017, made from grapes from Bushvines planted in 1952.
# Bosman’s Chardonnay 2018, from grapes grown in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley
# Fides Grenache Blanc 2017, called ‘Orange Wine’, an untypical orange colour, with flavours of candied apple peel, and pot pourri. The grapes are fermented on the skin, made in a red wine method. Maturation is in Russian oak barrels. (Photograph)
# Adama Red 2018, a Blend of Shiraz (50%), Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Grenache Noir, and Zinfandel, all grapes grown on the Wellington Bosman’s farms.
# Bosman’s Pinot Noir 2017, matured for 16 months in Russian oak barrels. Grapes come from the Hemel en Aarde Valley Bosman’s Farm.
# Nero 2017, made from the Sicilian grape cultivar Nero d’Avola, the wine I liked best of those we tasted. Three blocks of this cultivar have been planted, and it thrives in Wellington, (photograph)
# Soet Steen 2019, ‘super sweet and intense’, made from sun-dried slightly raisined Chenin Blanc grapes.
Bosman’s Wines owns nine wine farms in Wellington and one in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. We felt that this was the most professional wine estate which we visited over the two days of the Wellington Wine Walk.
Each wine estate had delivered our purchases to Diemersfontein, for us to pick up there at the end of our Walk, a fantastic service.
Wellington Wine Walk Partners Elaine Wegelin, Carol-Ann Jeffries, and Katrien looked after us over the two and a half days, nothing being too much trouble, and showing great flexibility in rearranging our program when it poured all day on our first day, not being walkable.
Wellington Wine Walk. Cell 083 235 5570. www.winewalk.co.za Instagram: @wellingtonwinewalk
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein