Last week my school friend Jenny Stephens and I spent two days on the Wellington Wine Walk, a guiding service offered by 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 was 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. We were to meet her at Diemersfontein wine estate on Thursday afternoon, and we left my car there until the completion of the Wellington Wine Walk on Saturday afternoon.
Note: The description of our Day One differs from the normal activities of this Wellington Wine Walk day, we not walking at all, given the heavy rain all day.
Cascade Country Manor
Elaine drove us to our first night’s accommodation at Cascade Country Manor outside Paarl, a 20 bedroom private retreat on a generously sized property, with olive orchards and vines. We were welcomed by co-owner Maike Götze, who was a receptionist at my Camps Bay guest house about 20 years ago. The family bought the property 20 years ago, and opened as an accommodation venue three years later.
The property has an interesting history, the 13th Duke of Bedford having built the original Manor House, the building built in the style of Woburn Abbey in the UK, the family estate. The Duke emigrated to our country in 1948, and lived on the farm, building the main entrance to and lounge of the house, I learnt from Wikipedia. The property had 38 olive trees when the Götzes first arrived, which has grown to 100. They produce about 150 liters of olive oil per year on the property.
Cascade Country Manor offers a Spa, an indoor pool, and a large outdoor pool.
Jenny and I went for a walk through the Cascade Country Manor property, including their olive orchard, finding a special garden of consciousness ahead of the amazing waterfall, and beautifully carved wooden hearts, benches, and even an angel. Maike told me that a Malawian staff member loved carving, and used alien tree species which were chopped down to carve his creations.
Cascade co-owner Volker Götze is an olive oil fundi, and explained to us why our SA olive oils are so good. There is no need to buy imported olive oil, he said. He attributed the first planting of olive trees in our country to the French Huguenots 350 years ago. He explained that olives are not edible off the tree, and bees do not even like the flowers of the tree, wind being the only means of pollination. Table olives are picked by hand, whereas olives used to produce oil are raked from the tree on to a net placed underneath the tree. Olives start off as green, then purple, and then black, reflecting the ripeness of the olives. In the production of table olives they are sorted by colour and size, and are kept with the stalks on them for three days. They go into a salt brine to remove the bitterness, the brine being replenished every four weeks, and finally the olives are depipped. Given the good winter rain, the olive trees on the property are looking very good. Olives used to make olive oil go into a centrifugal cold press, which separates the oil from the skin and pips, the first run-off being the ‘extra virgin olive oil’. It is the purest part of the oil, and no additives are allowed. Some producers will do a second press of the pulp, and this may only be called ‘olive oil’. The remaining pulp is used as compost. The lowest quality oil is called ‘pomace oil’, and is used to make soaps. While olive oils in clear glass bottles sell best, a darkened glass bottle is better for the oil, having a shelf life of about 24 months. It should be stored in a dark cool place, preferably in a cupboard.
We tasted table olives from the neighbouring farm, branded as Buffet Olives, and their Cascade Manor olive oil. Half of their production is used in the kitchen, and the balance they sell to guests. We were served an olive tapenade with olive bread after the tasting.
They serve a generous dinner, and some lovely wines, both included in our package. Our starter was a butternut, coriander and ginger soup, perfect for a cold evening. A menu with main course options offered steak, chicken curry, and a vegetarian pasta dish. Dessert was Créme Brûlée. Maike was generous in finding an Anura Shiraz 2015 in Volker’s cellar for me to drink a glassful of.
Two of our walking group members were from Joburg, Phyllis Treurnich and Cecilia Cowie, and it was so sad to hear how little they worry about Covid, being more concerned about staying alive with the threat of hijacking and crime. We have a lot to be grateful for in living in Cape Town. We also met Ian Canning from Durban, and Felicity Wong from East London, making up our group of six.
It was early to bed on our first night, with an early start planned for the next day. All of us were surprised about how warm it was in our rooms, no doubt from the heat of the days earlier in the week. After a hearty breakfast we checked out of Cascade Manor, not seeing our hosts.
Breakfast was promptly served at 7h30, with yoghurt, strawberries, blueberries and müsli, cold meats, croissants, toast, and scrambled egg.
After a hearty breakfast we checked out of Cascade Manor, not seeing our hosts. We were ready to be collected st 8h30, Elaine welcoming us to the first day for Jenny and I, and Day 2 for the other four members of our group. We were joined by a family of three persons from Plett for the rest of the day.
Elsabé du Plessis was one of the two women with character that stood out for me over the two days. We were seated at a long table on her stoep, wrapped up in blankets, and welcomed with a tot of Buchu Brandy, made by infusing Buchu branches in KWV 3 year old brandy for fourteen days.
We headed to Uitkyk Farm, where Elsabé du Plessis entertained us with her hilarious presentation of the wonder Buchu plant, having medicinal and food additive benefits. She told us that the price of a ton of Buchu is R80000, a plant that is indigenous to our country, first discovered by the Khoisan who identified the medicinal benefits of the herb. There are 117 species of Buchu, it growing best on southern slopes and in mountain soil. It grows organically, with drip irrigation, and most of it is exported. It can be found in health shops locally. A study being conducted by a Stellenbosch University Professor is showing the benefits in combatting diabetes, he describing it as a ‘wonder drug’. It is used in creams found at DisChem, and Woolworths sells Buchu yoghurt and cordials. It is used in hospitals as a disinfectant. In France it is used in perfumes, and in America as a food additive, giving a mint and blackcurrant flavour. In Germany and the UK it is used in a tea, with diuretic benefits. It is a good sedative too. One can make one’s own Buchu gin, infusing it for two hours. One can buy Buchu Rooibos Tea in the supermarkets. Buchu brings down one’s blood pressure. Feeding baby pigs and baby ostriches Buchu reduces their mortality rate. It is excellent to place on a leg of lamb when cooking it. It became a competitive market, and the price dropped to R4000 per ton. Damage caused by fires, the drought, and competitors leaving the industry resulted in the current high price.
Having vines on the farm, Elsabé found a clever way of using the grapes to make jams and relishes from them, with eye catching labels. The Pinotage jam caught my eye, and I bought Shiraz jams, which will became a talking point at future breakfasts, and as gifts. She and her staff produce 700 jars of Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon jam and relishes per day. They have olive trees on the farm and offer table olives as well as olive oil for sale too.
Uitkyk created a cellar, and sells the Imbuko range of wines, with the catchy slogan : ‘From the vines to the wines’.
Elsabé explained how to make ‘stokkies’, grafting these onto rootstock, to prevent the vines catching the phylloxera lice, to be planted to create new vines. An art in itself. Funny is that the grafting is done with a good old stapler, before they are waxed! Uitkyk is one of only 24 farms offering Stokkies, and undergoes strict controls by the Department of Agriculture.
Many of us ordered her products, I buying a number of her jams and some branches of fresh Buchu, which I have placed in my water bottles. I’ll be making my own Buchu brandy too.
Hildenbrand Wine and Olive Estate
Our next stop was at the Hildenbrand Wine and Olive Estate, owned by the Queen of SA olive oils Reni Hildenbrand, chairing the SA Oil olive oil competition judging panels, also judging olive oils internationally. She led us through a tasting of her olive oil, an ABSA Top 10 olive oil, as well as five of her Hildebrand Estate wines. She encouraged us to buy local olive oils carrying the SA olive oil seal, our country’s certified oils being of excellent quality. A pungent bitter fruity taste and peppery after-taste is a trademark of an excellent quality olive oil. She advised us to buy olive oil with a pourer, to not waste any of the oil. She also advised against buying olive oil sold in tins and in the ‘papsak’ aluminium bag, as well as those sold at Woolworths, being imported and not certified to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Reni bottled her first olive oil in 1996, and her first wine in 1999. The oldest olive tree in Wellington was planted on Reni’s farm in 1893, she shared proudly.
We tasted the following Hildenbrand Estate wines, all of the grapes grown, the wines produced, and bottled on the estate, all being Vegan and Vegetarian friendly:
# Unwooded Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2019. When I asked Reni if it was the latest vintage, she seemed surprised, saying that wines need time to ‘get together’. She advised us to not drink white wines too cold.
# Ryperd Chenin Blanc Semillon Blend 2018, which was named after a rescued race horse which died.
# Chardonnay Barrique 2016
# Barrel-fermented Semillon 2017.
# Cuvee Chenin Blanc Chardonnay, the grapes of the two cultivars pressed and matured together, instead of separately and only blended at the end.
# Malbec Excelsior 2018, the first 100% Malbec produced in our country.
Reni is a fiesty 75 year old, who looks far younger, crediting olive oil for her youthful look. She is an animal lover, and we met her pet pig Franz, her dog Max, and cat Benno. One wine a year is named after one of her deceased pets.
The tasting was done over a generous Lunch spread, including a Cous Cous salad, carrot fritters, chicken, quiches, cheeses, breads, olives, guacamole, sausages, and gherkins.
Our third stop was at Wellington Wines, an amalgamation of the Bovlei, Wamakersvallei, and Wellington Co-op in 2013. A very professional wine tasting, and we tasted the Duke (easy drinking wines) and La Cave (upmarket) wine ranges, the latter including a White Pinotage, one of only two producers in our country. The Duke range is named after the Duke of Wellington after whom the town was named. Wines are exported to China and Asia.
We tasted the following wines:
# La Cave White Pinotage 2020
# La Cave Pinotage 2019
# La Cave Shiraz 2018
To absorb all the wines we tasted, Elaine spoilt us with chocolate brownies sold by a pop-up coffee shop next door.
Close by was the Redemption Leather shop, stocking shoes, belts, and bags. A quick stop here.
Dunstone Wine Estate
Our accommodation was at Dunstone Winery, and we had time for a snooze, after all the wine tasting of the day. We were welcomed with tea and a banana loaf, given the wet and cold weather. The bathroom amenities were generous, with talcum powder, mosquito spray, earbuds, cotton wool, and Charlotte Rhys liquid soap, always a sign of quality. There was a kettle with a selection of tea brands and flavours, including my favourite Dilmah Earl Grey tea. Sadly we did not meet the owner, and there was no information about or tasting of their wines, a lost marketing opportunity as purchases were made by at least one member of our group at each stop, be it wine, olive oil, or preserves.
Dinner was at their The Stone Kitchen on Dunstone Restaurant, about 300 meters from the accommodation section on the farm. We were supplied with an umbrella and were lucky that it didn’t rain when we walked to the restaurant. Our guide Elaine joined us at dinner. All cutlery was wrapped in paper serviettes, and presented in a sleeve, for Covid infection prevention. We chose ribs, burgers, and steak, following a Butternut soup. Service was slow, but we were in good company, and were warmed by the fireplace. We were grateful to Elaine for dropping us off at our accommodation, not all the area being lit.
In the restaurant a Beverage List gave us an idea of the Dunstone wine range, including Viognier 2020, Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Shiraz Rosé 2020, Stones in the Sun Syrah 2019, Merlot 2018, Shiraz 2017, Reserve Grenache 2018, and Reserve Shiraz 2017. The total production of Dunstone wines is 1100 bottles.
The story of our Wellington Wine Walk Day 2 follows below.
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
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