Sipping down South
A few weeks back we headed far south for our Off the beaten track tour, to explore the exceptional wine producing areas of Stanford and Elim. The drive to get there is probably one of the most scenic, especially in Spring when the apple orchards of Elgin are full of white blossoms, the countryside is covered in patches of multi coloured fynbos and the mountain waterfalls are active again after winter rainfall.
Our first port of call was the charming village of Stanford, its quaint streets dotted with coffee shops, art galleries and farm stalls and the town itself surrounded by beautiful farm land and vineyards. There is plenty to keep one busy in Stanford for days but we only had one and I was very keen to get back to Stanford hills after a great experience there a couple years ago. Back then we had discovered little more than a small tasting room manned by Peter Kastner, owner and winemaker. We loved this little gem of a farm with loads of character and tons of potential and were excited to return and see the latest addition to the venue, their restaurant named The Tasting Room.
We were not disappointed; the setting is just beautiful and has maintained its rustic appeal. This is the perfect place to linger longer with the whole family, plenty of space for the kids to run around while mom and dad can enjoy a wine tasting and a nibble. The wines pack quite a punch; make sure to try their flagship the Jackson’s Pinotage and the Chardonnay.
We had some big beer drinkers in our group and they were eager to visit the Birkenhead Brewery which is also home to Walker Bay Vineyards. We did the beer tasting which consists of 6 different beers and ordered the steak and ale pie for lunch. I have to come clean; I ordered the large pie and ate the whole thing, it was just that good! Stanford launched their official wine route at the end of September. With eight wineries this really is an exciting area to visit and next time I will make sure to return to other old favorites Raka and Springfontein.
Day two was dedicated to Elim wineries Strandveld and Black Oystercatcher. Strandveld has some of the best wine in the country specializing in Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Pinot Noir. We spotted winemaker Condrad Vlok in the tasting room and had a quick chat before he was whisked away to host a private function next door. I love all their wine but very memorable is the Pofadderbos Sauvignon Blanc, named because of all the puffadder snakes that live in the vineyards. I'm glad I don’t have to harvest the grapes. I am a Syrah fan through and through and of their reds gravitate towards the First sighting Shiraz and the Strandveld Syrah which has been nominated this year for a Platter’s 5* . It is more than just the wine that draws one back for more, it’s something to do with the remote location, laid back atmosphere and cozy tasting room that is so inviting.
Not far away is Black Oystercatcher wine farm, this place is always buzzing so better to make a booking if you want to stop for lunch. Dirk Human, owner and winemaker, seems to always be on duty, greeting guests and pouring wine. We were fortunate enough to do a wine tasting with him and to pick his brain about his very special cool climate wines and all the latest happenings on the farm and in the community.
Black Oystercatcher offers hearty country style cooking with the most popular dish on the menu being the steak plate - grilled fillet with mushrooms - fresh bread and a salad picked fresh from the veggie garden outside. Delicious and healthy to boot! I also tried a great new craft beer called Fraser's Folly made at their brewery in Struisbaai, great packaging and taste. I might have to put them on a tour itinerary soon.
I had one last stop in mind for the day; Die Rooibier in Pearly Beach. I was introduced to this pub and its owners a few years back by friends who have a holiday home in the area and it has become a bit of a favourite. Die Rooibier is a rough and ready seaside bar come restaurant that caters to the small community of Pearly beach. It’s definitely not the sort of place you’d expect to visit on a fine wine and dine tour but bear with me it is well worth the visit.
This is also not the sort of place you drink wine. No, this is a beer or brandy kind of place. It’s also not the sort of place where you want to cause trouble because owner Sandra takes no nonsense and will tell you matter of factly what she thinks. Sandra’s sharp shooting and to the point attitude is part of the charm. She has no qualms telling you to carry your own drinks or to take your bill to the bar because she is too busy to do it. She also has an exceptionally good sense of humour and is very welcoming to tourists just don’t insult the table cloths or the prawns.
Frik is Sandra’s husband and he runs the café next door, he wears his trowsers awkwardly high around his waist and is prone to sing a few songs at the bar later in the evening. He even has his own CD, its most popular song being the hit number ‘Dis lekker hier by die Rooibier”, which translated means it’s great here at the Rooibier . I kid you not, its actually quite a catchy number and I often find myself singing along to; ” You have tried the rest now come and try the best, dis lekker hier by die Rooibier”.
It’s strange I know, but somehow the mixture of the weird Egyptian décor on the walls, Frik's singing and Sandra's comical tirades about customers who are full of it that makes you want to come back for more. Just whatever you do, don’t let Sandra give you one of her baby chocolates. This is a chocolate liqueur that will literally burn the inside of your throat. Apparently several large liquor companies have asked her to patent the product but she refuses to sell out, it’s a secret recipe that will stay in Pearly Beach!