When you have:
- Just come from a safari which included in seeing the Big Five,
- Just come from a safari where you enjoyed a spectacular birthday brunch
- Just been told that many wineries will be closed on the second day of your tour because it is Good Friday
- Just come from the Okanagan Valley, home to some pretty fantastic wines
it is hard to get excited about three days of wine tasting. Now I didn’t say impossible, I just said hard. We landed in Capetown feeling a little tuckered so after getting settled in the hotel we just went for a quiet walk and dinner. Our guide picked us up around 9am the next day and off we went to the first winery. If we were at home I know that we would not be sampling at 10 in the morning, but when is South Africa. I’m not going to itemize all the wineries we visited – I think we did about 10 over the three days. We got to the point where when we went in we just told them to bring out their best two – not to waste their time or ours on starting at the bottom and working up. Does that sound snobbish? I don’t mean to be, but you can only drink so much in a day without passing out. I will say for most of the wineries in South Africa – they pour a healthy taste.
The highlight was spending time with Albert Ahrens of the Ahrens Family Winery. This is a great story.
When we were staying in Kruger at Nyeliti – the hosts did Terry and Cindy’s brunch – Lee-Anne said that if we had time while in Capetown, we had to go and see this wine maker. He has a very different approach to wine making. The other three weren’t sure but I said that Shaun hadn’t given us any bad info yet and it was he who recommended Nyeliti so we agreed to go. Now, it was also at the end of the day – we didn’t find his winery until 3:30 or so and after 3 other wineries. We didn’t leave until 6:30. It was an amazing experience. He and his assistant wine maker sat with us and we talked about his vision for wine and wine-making and tasted an awful lot of fabulous wine. How fabulous? We all want to figure a way to import some of his wine into Canada. He talked about how he wants South Africa to develop appellations similar to France, so that you know the wine, not by the grape, but by the region. He talked about how he views himself as a grape scout – not a winemaker. He talked about a lot of stuff that was way over my head. Luckily Gary and Cindy know a ton and were able to engage with him. A couple of important things – Terry doesn’t like Chenin Blanc and it isn’t a favourite of Gary and Cindy either. However, they all raved about Albert’s.
And now for the most important story. We were into the afternoon by about 30 minutes when it came up that we live in Penticton, in the Okanagan Valley. He said he was familiar with Summerland and Peachland. I asked how that was and he said he had studied Google Maps of the town towns extensively. Why I asked. He said that a number of years ago a winery with an unusual name – “Dirty Laundry” I interrupt. “Yes!” he says. Apparently he had been hired to come to Summerland to be their winemaker. He and his family had gone through all the usual angst of making the decision – uprooting their small children, leaving their parents etc. etc. They had finally made the decision to come when they got a call from the owner – the government had said no – there were too many winemakers already in Canada. Small world – plus the only hat I took on the trip, but wasn’t wearing that day – was from Summerland Golf Course. 6 degrees of separation.
At the end of the wine stories, we went outside to test his sparkling wine – why not. Gary was incredibly successful in using the sabre to pop the top off. One time only and nothing broken. Cindy has the video to prove it too!
That night we are off to dinner at Karibu Restaurant. There was nothing special about the restaurant or the meal. The story is about Tiana the quasi-manager. This could be a very long story but for your sake and mine, I’m giving you the Coles Notes version. For some reason I can’t recall, Tiana decided to sit down at our table – and she wouldn’t leave. Talk, talk, talk, talk, and talk some more. She decided that Terry was cold (true) and got her a blanket.
That wasn’t enough though. She decided that Terry just HAD to have her scarf. And after all, we had seen a leopard.
Now, I said the food wasn’t anything special, and we certainly have had better, but still it was quite good – all except Terry’s of course. Tiana felt that we needed to tell the chef how fabulous the food was so off she went and the two of them come back. Three of us tell him the meals were lovely and then Terry says that she was disappointed in hers. I’m not sure which was quicker – he excuse making about how different people have different tastes or his rapid exit from the table – accompanied by Tiana. We followed not a lot later.
Tomorrow – off to Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.