The latest spate of Cape fires which ravaged 3000 hectares of Elgin vegetation caused me to ponder my most recent tour to Elgin. It had been a cold and rainy late November morning, the sort of weather Elgin and the rest of the dehydrated Cape so desperately need right now.
On this particular day we were en route to Iona wine estate by special request of a client with a particular passion for their Sauvignon Blanc. It was my first venture to this part of Elgin and after heading down a dirt mountain road and driving for at least 20 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find it. Suddenly one of my passengers yelled stop! After seeing absolutely nothing for what seemed like forever, two very lonesome pillars supporting an open gate suddenly appeared at the entrance to Iona and I had driven right past them. I reversed and headed towards the impressive main house, a Herbert Baker*homestead, according to their website.
The house looked rather spooky, deserted and surrounded by threatening grey clouds; our imaginations took over as we envisioned what ghostly things we might encounter. We followed a garden path and discovered a glass walled tasting room with nothing more threatening than two friendly dogs warming themselves in front of a burning fireplace. The tasting room was already occupied with another group so we took a moment to pose for pictures with a classic Porsche parked mid- room and some of their artwork on display.
Rose Gunn, who owns Iona with husband Andrew, is a sculptor; her creative interests quite evident by the impressive collection of Bruce Arnot sculptures on display. One of his bronze pieces depicts a man playing numerous instruments and was the inspiration behind the label for their red blend “The One Man Band”, a mix of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Mouverdre and Viognier.
I had not realized just how close Iona was in relation to the sea; only 4km. The vineyards proximity to the Atlantic and its cool ocean winds which act as a natural air conditioner, mean a much later harvest than other Cape wine growing areas and has a significant impact on the resulting wines. Iona’s cool climate wines; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, can best be described as delicate; refined and in perfect balance.
The biggest surprise of the day did not involve a brush with any apparitions in the cellar but rather a new found love of Chardonnay for my guest, previously a Sauvignon Blanc devotee, proving you should always be open to trying new wine styles and cultivars. You just never know what you might discover.
*Sir Herbert Baker was a British architect responsible for many prominent buildings in South Africa such as the Union Buildings in Pretoria and the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town.