Tulbagh wine and olive route
Now I’ve never been interested in Sci Fi nonsense but something odd happens when you go to Tulbagh, so forgive me if I get a bit carried away here. Somewhere on the R46 as you pass the town of Wellington, one goes through a kind of worm hole to a new dimension of sorts. The landscape suddenly changes into a vast, desolate expanse of wheat fields, mountains and the odd cow and horse. Time slows right down; your shoulders relax as the stresses of normal lifeslowly start to fade into a distant memory.
The entrance to Tulbagh is quite dramatic; after passing Gouda one enters the Nuwekloof pass with mountains bordering the road on either side, the anticipation building with each bend of the road, wondering what lies ahead and beyond. Around the last corner, the Tulbagh basin finally reveals itself; surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, the town lies in the northern end of what was once an ancient lake.
I love to go wine tasting in small towns like Tulbagh, not only because of the quality of their wines but more so for the friendly down to earth small town hospitality one experiences. More often than not you will be the only group in the tasting room and have a better than even chance of running into the winemaker. By the end of a weekend here you truly will start to feel like a local yourself.
Here are some of my highlights, you should not miss out on...
Twee Jonge Gezellen is a fitting starting point to a tour of Tulbagh, established in 1710 the farm and the Krone family (previous owners) have a rich and pioneering history. The focus here is the production of Methode Cap Classique and at the tasting room you will be treated to a tasting of three MCC’s: The Borealis Cuvee Brut, Rose Cuvee Brut and a Demi Sec called Night Nectar. Also available to taste is a still version of their Pinot Noir /Chardonnay blend. Make sure to be around at 11am for a tour of the underground MCC sparkling wine cellar, which was the first of its kind in South Africa. The beautiful cellar is covered wall to wall in bottles undergoing their second fermentation according to the Methode Champenoise style. This is a real highlight of any trip to Tulbagh.
Saronsberg neighbours and once formed part of Twee Jonge Gezellen; it offers selfcatering cottages to rent, which we stayed at last winter and had a most memorable time. On this occasion we were day visitors and with it being a mere 34 degrees centigrade outside were happy to sit in the shade of vines covering the verandah and sip some wine.
The modern tasting room is beautifully adorned with artwork from local painter
Paul Du Toit and the recognizable sculptures of Angus Taylor, are also to be found in the gardens. Art and wine are a common theme in Tulbagh and the annual arts fair in September celebrates the talent of their many local artists.
Saronsberg offers the widest selection of wines to taste but it is their Shiraz and red blends that they have gained a real reputation for; awarded winery of the year in 2015 by the South African Wine Index, Saronsberg cellar is another must stop.
Rijks private wine cellar, named after Rijk Tulbagh, former governor of the Dutch Cape Colony 1751-1771, offers accommodation and a restaurant at the adjacent Rijks Country House. The kitchen can be a bit on the slow side but as I mentioned earlier time does move much slower in these parts and staff are at least very friendly and accommodating.
At the tasting room you have a good chance of running into winemaker Pierre Wahl. I must confess to having a bit of a crush on him but who can blame me; the man knows how to make a Pinotage, is very easy on the eye and has bucket loads of charm. Even my husband understands, in part because he loves Rijks wines but also I suspect because they both schooled in Paarl and I have come to learn over the years that there is an unspoken respect and camaraderie among men who schooled and played rugby for either Paarl Boys High or Paarl Gymnasium.
Whether you find Pierre or the delightful tasting room manager Elaine on duty when you visit, you are sure to have a great tasting and walk away with at least a few bottles of their premium reds or Chenin Blanc.
Situated up a dirt road at the entrance to Tulbagh, Lemberg makes a good start or end point to the day. This is a real hidden gem, not only because they offer wines with a difference but we have always been fortunate enough to meet up with winemaker Niël Russouw on our visits and his enthusiasm for what he does is very contagious. Lemberg is one of a few if not the only place in South Africa producing a Harslevelu wine, a Hungarian varietal favored for dessert wines. The Harslevelu is also used in their naturally fermented white blend “The Lady”, along with Viognier, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, to create an intriguing and equally delicious white blend.
Lemberg grow a variety of cultivars such as Pinotage, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and even Pinot Noir ,not typically grown in such a warm climate but showing the diversity one can get from growing in such varying terroir. The Pinot Noir was accidently planted many years back by the previous owner who mistook it for Pinotage. These old vines have produced a fuller bodied style Pinot with a much darker hue than one would normally expect. Also worth trying is their dessert wine the Surin, made from vine dried Sauvignon Blanc. Lemberg is very firmly placed as one of my favorite farms to visit.
We did not get to visit Oakhurst this time around but they are still well worth a mention. I first went to visit Pieter and Sue Du Toit in July last year and was absolutely blown away by the beauty of their home and olive farm Lemoendrif. It is flanked by mountains at the rear and to the sides. Olive vineyards abound with a dam in the front. At the time they had just started to build their tasting room which has now recently opened and from photographs looks quite amazing. Olives and olive oil are like wine, once you have had the good stuff you can’t go back and with Oakhurst around there is quite simply no reason to ever have average olives again. Their products are available at many of the farm stalls in town or can be ordered online.
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