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Thursday, March 03, 2011

South African Boutique Vineyard Trip: 1 - 3 March 2011 - The Cape Doctor

The early morning calls from the Hadeda’s signal the start to a new day. Their rather loud iconic calls Aah-ah, Aah-ah make me feel instantly at home. Many happy memories spent under the African Sun with my family instantly come to mind at the calling of the Hadeda.

Another Dawn has broken and unfortunately “The Cape Doctor” is not here to aid us on our Journey. Stifling heat overwhelms us as we begin to wonder if the air-conditioning in the car has broken down. All this after another night of hunting for the confused love struck “Goggas”.

I did manage, half way through the night (purely by mistake) to put one to sleep with the accidental drop of The Wine Atlas from a convenient height.

Unfortunately they must have called for reinforcements as the chirping got even louder as soon as the light was switched off and my attempts to locate them within all the nooks and crannies in the bathroom where feeble to say the least.

Another sleepless night - Score to date: Goggas 2; Tony 1.

Today we are on a mission to visit some of the lesser-known vineyards in the valleys around the delightful town of Stellenbosch. Wonderful examples of Cape Dutch, Regency and Victorian buildings line the oak shaded streets of this the second oldest town in South Africa.

As I am navigating the numerous pot holes and avoiding the ladies waving their flags whilst men are hard at work resurfacing the road, Callum is still fiddling with the aircon. Road works in South Africa are taken seriously, “Robots” are frowned upon and instead many ladies will control the flow and speed of traffic by the arduous task of waving flags.

Having navigated this stretch without hitting anyone, it is only a short time before we find ourselves in a gentle valley. Stretched out in front of us a distinct row of vines is dotted on the hill. As we near, we suddenly find on our left the entrance to the Drakenstein Prison, from where Nelson Mandela took his first steps to freedom. It is here opposite the prison that we find Freedom Hill Vineyards.

We try the Sauvignon Blanc, with tropical fruit and a hint of spice.

Their Shiraz 2007 with a nice hint of Oak, and then there was the Pinotage 2007, in which one clearly gets the earthy/mushroom undertones and big cranberry and plum flavour. A very good robust Pinotage from this 19 HA (under vine) boutique farm. We will shortlist the Pinotage.

Next we drive into the third oldest town in South Africa, Paarl. It is here in the historic high street that we spot a sign for Laborie.

A farm dating back to 1691, Laborie at present has 31 HA under vine. The Sauvignon Blanc 2010 was crisp and dry with gooseberry flavours. The Chardonnay was well balanced. It was however the reds that stood out.

We tried the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, which is still young but smoky and full of forest fruit. Followed by the Shiraz 2008. Medium bodied with distinct berry aromas complemented by strong hints of chocolate.

And finally the Shiraz wine Jean Taillefert 2009. A true find! Full bodied, fresh fruit complimented by dark chocolate and a hint of vanilla. We like it and it will be shortlisted.

We tried several other vineyards, but to no avail.

Leaving the sweltering heat of Paarl we are relieved as the South-easterly winds begin to blow. The Cape Doctor has returned!

Outside of Paarl one can find the vineyards of Vrede en Lust. Here from all the wines it was only the Viognier 2009, which has spent 6 months in Hungarian Oak, which we chose to shortlist. The distinct floral, peachy and apricot aromas set it apart from all the Viogniers we have tasted to date. The Boet Erasmus red Bordeaux blend also scored very well.

High up the vineyard carpeted hills surrounding the town of Stellenbosch we find Tokara. Already well supported by us, we are treated to a Royal tour of the cellars.

Cheers!


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