WINEDERLUST – Plett’s Wine Route Uncorked… Part 1

As experienced by Honey, Mom of two and side-kick of Sometimes Grumpy Husband.

Since I was a small child – long before SGH (Sometimes Grumpy Husband), six-foot-tall teenaged daughter and seven-year-old f u s s y eater – my family started going to Plettenberg Bay for our annual winter holiday. You could say that a holiday in Plett is like an annual pilgrimage for us, a pilgrimage which we still make as a family but now we have a few more travellers along for what is always a fabulous ride.

During our 2020 APP (Annual Plett Pilgrimage) I was more surprised than anyone to discover things in and around my old stomping ground that I had not experienced before. Did you know that Plett has its very own wine route which was only recently established – and it’s completely sublime! Without getting too technical, the loamy soils over clay are fanned with cooling Indian Ocean breezes at night which means this region has similar geographic and climatic characteristics to the famed Marlborough wine region in New Zealand best known for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The best part of this cooler terroir (of course this is not for selfish reasons at all) is Plett producers’ ability to produce sublime bubblys which has resulted in the region climbing the ranks as a newcomer in the MCC/bubbly stakes! In fact, after many years of hard work a Plett wine farm, Newstead Lund Family Wines,has won the best bubbly in SA award! How is that for popping the cork on the region?

Honestly, all you really need to know is this: Plett has fabulous wines – discover them!

This year SGH and I decided to give our offspring a break from their parents and let them spend some quality time with Granny and Grandad at the holiday house we had rented at Xanadu through Holiday Plett For Holiday Makers (well that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). So, we packed our bags and took a short drive to our 5-star lodgings for the night at Fynbos Ridge which is only a few minutes away from the beach and conveniently very close to Packwood Wine EstateWe booked in one of the secluded self-catering cottages set amongst fragrant fynbos with stunning mountain views.

Fynbos-ridge-pool-and-feet1

The ‘locals’ at Fynbos Ridge included adorably curious Vervet monkeys and a spectacular variety of birds as well as two enormous pigs which were very entertaining. Did I mention the fireplace in the bedroom? That little bonus took the romance quotient into honeymoon territory… we were winning at this ‘giving the kids a break’ thing already.

It was time to discover our first Plett wine farm – I don’t know who was more excited SGH or me! Since 2006 Packwood’s boutique vineyard has produced award-winning wines and bubbly from their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cultivars – all of which we really approved of at a tasting. This nurtured vineyard is big on sustainable practices such as rain harvesting used for their annual spray programs, natural fertiliser, bio dynamic management all applied with their wealth of farming knowledge going back five generations. If you can, get your hands on a bottle of Packwood Gent MCC (there are very few bottles left and now only for purchase on the farm itself). We bought a bottle to celebrate our night away at Fynbos Ridge which was delicious with a feast of sushi follow by cheese (this MCC loved the blue cheese) and biscuits. The first day of this ‘give the kids a break’ getaway was a knockout success!

 

On day two we checked in at Forest Nature Spa –     a B&B close to the Crags wineries such as Lodestone, Bramon, Newstead, and Kay & Monty.This spot is the holy grail of a grown-up getaway with luxurious accommodation including an on-site spa with gourmet African/Italian fusion dinners prepared by our very own private chef, Josephine. With delicious full breakfasts in the morning and glorious wine to boot, this venue would be equally good for a girls’ weekend away. The property is completely off the grid and located right next door to Teniqua Cat Sanctuary so we could hear the lions roaring in the evening and the morning – absolutely exhilarating.

Now that we had spent the morning being massaged into a blissful state of relaxation, a visit to the farm which paved the way for a new wine route east of the Western Cape was on the itinerary. Bramon Wine Estate 2000c, boasts an impressive 250-ton Cellar. This family run estate has broken new ground by pioneering vineyards 20km East of Plettenberg Bay in the mountainous area called The Crags. They really push the boundaries of winemaking with their award winning non-traditional and traditional Méthode Cap Classique bubblies and still wines which have won many national and international awards (an impressive two double gold Gran d’Or’s in 2015 alone). When their first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted, Plettenberg Bay was subsequently classified as a Wine of Origin region. A coup for the area! Bramon’s success attracted a plethora of new vineyards to Plettenberg Bay and the aim now is to create a ‘Sparkling Wine Route’ – can this wine route get any better?

With that info on board, it would have been rude not to try their famous Sauvignon Blanc MCC. Which we savoured with dishes from the delicious tapas menu at their restaurant (where the views will be even prettier in Summer when rows of green vines will map out the vineyards which the restaurant overlooks). Since we subscribe to the ‘go big or go home’ ethos, we also tried some of their white wines while we were there… we highly recommend you do too!

We popped in at Bitou Vineyards where we loved trying their Malbec tasted directly from the barrels. The Bitou Vineyards was formerly Bitou House Polo where top-level polo games played by international players were hosted. In 2008, the playing fields were converted into vineyards and Bitou’s first Sauvignon Blanc was harvested in 2012. The entire lot was sold in bulk before the property was put up for sale, which sadly meant the vines were neglected for two years. 

Malbec tasting

Fortunately, Ron Leacy had admired this property for some time and purchased it in 2014 with the goal of rectifying these neglected vineyards and establishing a wider variety of cultivars to offer more wines through a private cellar. In January 2020, all the winery equipment arrived at Bitou, just weeks ahead of the expected harvest period. They are currently building a restaurant and tasting room with guest accommodation that will be finished at the end of this year. With easy access from the N2, I can see this incredible venue being used for a big event like a festival or even a very lavish wedding. You really do need to go and have a look for yourself.

Barringtons brewery

After a ridiculously peaceful night at Forest Spa, we decided we needed one last stop on Mom and Dad’s Big Getaway – we upgraded the title of our adventure because we had such a fab time! We stopped in at Barrington’s Brewery on our way back to Xanadu to re-join our family. This 500-litre brewery is headed up by Knysna local, Marcus Meunier who has crafted four superbly individual beers: a Lager, a Weiss, an English Ale and an American Rye Ale (he also creates seasonal beers throughout the year). SGH was in his element during the beer tasting which was paired with Tapas style food. What’s not to love about slow-cooked, pulled free range meats prepared in Barrington’s custom-made smoker prepared with fresh indigenous regional ingredients, served with freshly baked breads from the onsite bakery and a selection of homemade pickles, preserves and chutneys. Despite not being a big beer drinker, I thoroughly enjoyed this craft beer experience too. A word of advice, they don’t take bookings so get there early to stake out your spot – or even better stay the night in their snazzy new accommodation!

All in all, our two-day sojourn exploring the Plett wine route was the perfect way to start our 2020 APP and we headed back ‘home’ to Xanadu where grandparents and offspring awaited (we really did miss them). We had only just begun exploring what our undiscovered Plett had to offer… but you can read more about that in part two of how we uncovered Plett’s Winelands gems!

‘Til then… Honey x

P.S  All you need to know about the Plett Winelands can be found on the Plett Tourism website.

 

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