• Kim Rabe

Hemel En Aarde-Heaven on Earth

July’s off the beaten track tours took us to the Hemel en Aarde Valley – direct translation, heaven and earth. Hemel en Aarde is known as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wine country, with its cool maritime climate being ideal for the - typically difficult to grow - Pinot! It’s winter time so the route was quieter than usual. This is the way I like to taste wine – away from the madding crowds. You get that personal touch and can enjoy the peace and quiet of a beautiful part of South Africa.

There’s a lot of good wine tasting and drinking to do here. With 15 Estates on the route it’s almost impossible to decide which to leave off the list. The Hemel en Aarde is divided into 3 sections: Hemel en Aarde Ridge, Hemel en Aarde Valley and Upper Hemel en Aarde but since we were staying at High Season Farm half way up the R320 we decided to divide the route in half and take it in over two days.

Friday morning we started out at Southern Right vineyards, owned by Anthony Hamilton Russell and Partners and sharing the same winemaker as Hamilton Russell, Hannes Storm. They offer two tastings; a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinotage, I really loved the Pinotage!

Next up was Hamilton Russell where the forest and dam views at the tasting room are so spectacular; it’s worth a visit for that alone. They offer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and a tasting of their sister label, Ashbourne White and Red.

At Bouchard Finlayson we had the pleasure of running into the familiar bearded visage of Mr. Peter Finlayson himself, wandering around the cellar. He was the first winemaker in the valley and a pioneer of growing Pinot Noir in the area. The Tete De Cuvee Galpin Peak Pinot Noir was unfortunately not available for tasting. I’ve tasted this before and it was my favorite wine at the 2013 Caroline’s Red Wine Review. Instead we tasted the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, sublime in its own right and the Hannibal. The Hannibal is an incredible blend of Sangiovese 52%, Pinot Noir 17 % Nebbiolo 15%, Mouvedre 8%, Shiraz 6% and Barbera 2% and as it turns out was my favorite red of the day. Everything else is really good too. Take lots of money with you because you’ll want to spend it.

This was followed by calling at Newton Johnson Vineyards; great selection of wines but the Chardonnays were outstanding. Friendly hostess and great views make it a “must do” visit. On a clear day, as it was for us you can see all the way to the Sea .It is thanks to these cool ocean breezes that cool the vines, encourage slow ripening and flavor-rich grapes and give the wine of the Walker Bay area their exclusiveness. The restaurant was closed at the time but is regarded as one of the best in the country.

To end the day we chilled out on the verandah at La Vierge and enjoyed the afternoon sun and incredible views. La Vierge is relaxed, offers a lot of wines to taste and has a great restaurant to.

After a full day of wine tasting we stumbled back to our “home for the weekend” at High Season Farm. This place is amazing. Luxury self catering cottages with everything you need to keep you cozy and comfortable. We soon had the indoor and outdoor fires going and ended the night with a traditional South African braai (barbeque). Next morning I opened the curtains to a sun just coming up over the mountains. The cows were at my front door grazing and all was well with the world as we set about getting ready for another exciting day of wine tasting. First though we needed a hearty breakfast which we found at the Plaaskombuis Farm Stall.

Our second day started at the picturesque Sumaridge Vineyards, with a wonderful host and some of the most delicious and unique South African wines. Try the Maritimus, the Chardonnay and the Epitome and make sure to go home with a few bottles too or you’ll regret it later.

Our next stop was Creation Wines where we enjoyed a wine and food pairing; highly recommended! This is a big tasting with yummy canapés. You definitely get bang for your buck and your host will walk you through the whole experience.

After lunch we headed further up the road to the small wooden tasting room at Domaine Des Deux to sample some Methode Cap Classique (bubblies). This is a real gem, one of my favorites of the trip and we had it to ourselves –even better.

Our last stop was Ataraxia. The tasting room is built as a chapel playing on the heaven on earth theme of the valley. The tasting room is decorated with modern art and is an additional attraction for crowds because their wines are great, especially the Chardonnay.

Sadly, that was all we could fit in over the two days but don’t worry, we’ll be back soon. Make sure to join us when we go. Make a booking here.

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