Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stunning Stellenbosch

As part of our trip to the Western Cape and Cape Town, we spent a few days in the beautiful wine country of Stellenbosch. This portion of our trip was planned by a friend who sadly didn't end up visiting South Africa due to a family emergency. I was excited for this friend to experience South Africa and I am sorry she had to miss the trip. She would have been our first friend to make the journey from the U.S. Note to other friends - that coveted honor is still up for grabs. Also, this friend knows a lot about wine whereas Mr. Deep and I only know that we like wine. So Mr. Deep and I were flying (or should we say drinking) by the seat of our pants.

The first place we visited was the Jordan Wine Estate.  It was raining a bit when we arrived but it quickly cleared. The rain did cause Jordan to delay the harvest by a day. By the way, we had no idea we were going to be in Stellenbosch during harvest time. I am not even sure that is something that can be planned because I think a lot of the winemakers just decide when it's the right time to harvest based on the conditions. You could probably time the month (we went in January) but being there on the exact right day or days might be difficult.

At Jordan, we were received a tour of the vineyard and viewed the various hillsides where the grapes are grown. We learned that different types of grapes are grown in different areas of the vineyard depending on the level of sun, wind, etc. that a particular hillside receives. While out in the vineyard we got to taste a few wines as well. It didn't hurt that a wine writer from the U.K. was also on our tour and so by association we got the VIP treatment. We nodded our heads and tried to act serious as we learned about fruit, tannin and structure. After exploring the vineyard, we were given a personal tour of the area where the wine is stored as it ages. I guess the wine writer had already seen such things so she did not join us. We learned about different types of barrel aging including the type of oak used (French or American) and the freshness of the barrel. There is a more official term for this barrel freshness but I can't remember what it is. Anyway, a barrel being used for the first time is going to introduce more oak flavour to the wine than a barrel being used for the fourth time. Following our tour and tasting we ate lunch in the lovely Jordan restaurant. We then headed out (via Uber) to visit two more wine farms that day, Neil Ellis and The House of J.C. Le Roux. 

The general manager of Jordan (left) and the wine writer from the U.K. (right.) And seriously can you imagine if your job was being a wine writer and you traveled around and drank wine for a living? Where can I sign up?

Hahahahahaha. As if he has any idea what he is doing.
The chefs at the restaurant at Jordan are artists!
Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
At Neil Ellis and J.C. Le Roux, we didn't take tours and only did tastings.  It was interesting to see the different styles of the wine farms and tasting rooms. The tasting room at Neil Ellis looked like a 1960's style elementary school or library that you would find in the U.S.  J.C. Le Roux was all white and modern looking inside, in a 1980's kind of way.

Me at J.C. Le Roux

Sparkling wine at J.C. Le Roux
Finally, we headed back to Jordan where we had lovely accommodations. 

Mr. Deep was very excited about our accommodations!
The view from our room at Jordan.
On our second day in Stellenbosch, we visited Waterkloof, Zevenwacht and DeWaal wine farms. Waterkloof was not even on on our radar but a former colleague of Mr. Deep, who lives in the area, suggested it. 

Waterkloof sits on top of a huge hill (mountain) and has floor to ceiling windows in their restaurant/tasting room. They were harvesting as well the day we were there. 

Harvest at Waterkloof

View from Waterkloof
While we were tasting at Waterkloof we were able to taste some of the sauvignon blanc grapes. They were sweeter than I thought they would be and actually tasted a lot like regular grapes. But they were smaller in size.

Zevenwacht wine farm was much more of a country setting with a pond and old Dutch style buildings. We ate a picnic lunch near the pond and then had a tasting. For the tasting we sat outside on the porch. We practically had the place to ourselves except for the annoying smokers who came out to smoke while we were trying to taste. How are we supposed to taste earthiness and chocolate while people are blowing smoke in our faces? 

Picnic lunch and more beautiful photos from Zevenwacht below.

The pretty porch where we had our wine tasting at Zevenwacht

On the way back to Jordan, we decided on a whim to stop at one last wine farm, DeWaal, located right next to Jordan. Going to DeWaal was one of those unplanned things that ends up being a highlight of a trip. 

We arrived toward the end of the day and about 15 minutes later Mr. DeWaal himself came over and started chatting with us. I am calling him Mr. DeWaal because Mr. Deep insists his name was David and I am positive his name was Pieter. And, in looking at the website now as I write this post, it appears his name is Pieter. So I win! Anyway, Pieter started talking with us and telling us about the wines and the vineyard. The harvest was also in full swing at DeWaal and we could see the workers coming in from the fields and the grapes being poured by the truckload in the "crusher."

There were two other guys at DeWaal who were visiting from Germany tasting at the same time that we were. After chatting for a while Pieter invited the four of us down to the fermentation area to taste some grape juice that was in the process of fermenting into sauvignon blanc. It was such a cool experience be with the winemaker and taste right out of the tap. According to Mr. DeWaal, the alcohol content of wine increases by about 1% per day during fermentation. We were tasting it on day five and so it tasted like a wine cooler that you would have enjoyed back in the 80s - very sweet. If you didn't drink wine coolers back in the 80s have no fear, you didn't miss much  - except for a really big headache. 

On the beautiful property of DeWaal.
The fermentation tank
German guy tasting the soon to be sauvignon blanc.
Pieter DeWaal


  1. Wow. Very cool, esp the last part about Pieter. So down to earth, so typically South African. Our claim to fame was visiting Haute Cabriere and sitting in Achim von Arnim's old 2CV peugeot, parked unlocked on the premises, and posing for pictures with his used cigar stump from the dashboard in our mouths:-)

    1. Thank you! We definitely want to go back and visit the area again.


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.