WINEDERLUST – Experiencing South Africa’s own wine Riviera… Bot ‘Riviera’

As experienced by Honey, Mom of two and side-kick of Sometimes Grumpy Husband (aka SGH)

It’s been a while since you heard from me – a long, dry spell if you know what I mean! I am thrilled – really, quite literally in every sense of the word – to be sharing with you all again. Whilst it may not be business as usual just yet for most of us, I know we all stand in support of our incredible wine industry as they get back into full cork-popping action. The lifting of the alcohol ban also means that I can once again share our experiences at lesser-known wine farms… I think we could all use a little ‘cheers’ right now.

For this edition of Winderlust we eagerly headed to Bot River where, according to their community credo, ‘real people make real wine’. They weren’t kidding! We were one family member down on this weekend excursion as our six-foot-tall teenaged daughter announced that she ‘needed’ some quality time with my parents (read she needed to go surfing with her friends). It only cost us one case of Bot River wines on our return which was really a win/win for us all!

 So it was that SGH and our seven-year-old f u s s y eater found ourselves at the top of the Houw Hoek Pass catching our first glimpse of the expansive, rolling hills and endless blue skies above Bot River. I have to give credit to Grant Baxter from Gabriëlskloof / Bot River Wines who planned our whole weekend for us, it was absolutely seamless. From our home in Somerset West to Wildekrans Wine Estate took a zappy 30 minutes – and that included fetching our seven-year-old f u s s y eater from school and an obligatory stop at Peregrine Farm Stall for their famous pies and a speedy checking out of their wine store. They stock all the Bot River wines which is really handy if you realise on your way home that you have forgotten to pick any up at the wine farms (or drank it all while you were still there).

The 1000-hectare farm’s cheerful assistant manager, Joe (short for Joemary) Veldsman assisted us as we checked into a gorgeous farm cottage just after 2 pm where I fell in love with a king-sized bed dressed in crisp linen – what a treat! Our seven-year-old f u s s y eater, on the other hand, was more interested in the DStv and Wi-Fi, but I managed to convince him that we needed to explore a little before he got too attached to the sofa and remote. This is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts with guided horseback trail rides as well as biking, hiking and running trails (it is equally paradisical if you just wanted to relax whilst doing as little as possible). We could not resist a visit with the Wildekrans resident donkeys before breaking away for a walk on one of the many tracks surrounding the farm. A game of tag went a little awry when my son slipped off the bridge into the mud on the side of the river, so we had to cut short our exploration and head back to the cottage for a bath before dinner at Wildekrans restaurant.

The skilled staff at Wildekrans restaurant really are outstanding. After a warm welcome, we really started to unwind when double Dutch cocktails were served. We really could not fault the restaurant… stunning décor (the handiwork of Amanda Harlow, part of the dynamic duo that own Wildekrans), fab live music and glorious food. Their exceptional standards don’t slip when it comes to the menu devised by resident Chef Gordon Manuel – we highly recommend the dressed oysters and not just because I found a small pearl in one of mine! Other notable mentions from the menu are the corn chowder which was perfect for a windy night. SGH pronounced the Barrel Select Shiraz to be the most perfect pairing with his steak but I argued that the Estate Sauvignon Blanc which I enjoyed with my fish was the clear winner. All in all, Wildekrans is luxurious but exceptional value for money and will be a serious contender for my destination 40th this year.

Saturday morning started with a long head-clearing run for SGH while I took seven-year-old f u s s y eater to Gabriëlskloof to meet a few moms from our school for bubbly and breakfast. The kids played outside while we raised a glass to ourselves for surviving 2020 home-schooling… and the lifting of the prohibition too of course! I have to commend their winemaker, Peter-Allan Finlayson on Madame Lucy’s MCC Chardonnay – this is a must-try that went really well with my mushroom Bruschetta drizzled with olive oil made on the farm too. The farm’s two distinct soil types, Bokkeveld shale and sandstone, combine to produce greater complexity in the Gabriëlskloof wines which was evident during the quick tasting I managed to squeeze in after breakfast. My other top picks from their Estate Range were The Blend and The Chenin Blanc. I bought a bottle each of The Syrah on Sandstone and Syrah on Shale to be opened on a special occasion and I am looking forward to trying these with friends.

I loved the story behind Gabriëlskloof too – this wine farm is the realisation Bernhard Heyns’s dream. He had spent years searching for ‘that’ unique piece of land… the one that, in his words, would “root him to the spot”. In 2001 he found what was then a canola farm named Avontuur and, you guessed it… he was rooted to the spot. In the almost two decades since then, Gabriëlskloof has produced high-quality wines with a distinctive character. This family owned and run wine farm now employs members of the local community who have risen through the ranks to senior positions. This echoes my reasons for wanting to share our experiences in support of wine tourism.

We had cleverly pre-arranged a sleepover for our son on Saturday night with a school friend which meant SGH and I were free to Winederlust with a real purpose! Challenge accepted!

After fetching SGH from Wildekrans, we headed up to Luddite where we met lovely Alice Verburg, the daughter of Niels Verburg (owner winemaker) and Penny Verburg (owner viticulturist). This young woman who lives and breathes winemaking has travelled and worked overseas at various wineries to hone her craft.

During lockdown the Luddite team spent time in their vineyards giving them a lot of love and attention – an approach that is in keeping with their honest farming style, the benefits of this will probably be seen in a year’s time in their wine. Because I love shiraz, this tasting ranked highly with me. The shiraz is R600 a bottle, so we didn’t buy a case only two bottles and their chenin is sold out so if you find any, let me know. Luddite Wines is open for tastings on weekdays from 09h00 until 16h00 and by appointment only on weekends; and believe me when I say you want to make that appointment for the beautiful views from the tasting room alone.

We headed to Beaumont Family Wines for lunch next to meet with Sebastian Beaumont aka The Chenin Dude who affectionately calls the area the “BOT Riviera”. The farm’s restaurant, Zest, serves breakfast and lunch (great playground and river for the kids to play in and a good kids’ menu too). Sebastian’s wife, Nici Beaumont is not only responsible for all the mouth-watering dishes on the menu but she has created a range of delicious ‘stay at home’ meals which are made with top-notch free-range ingredients. With accommodation available, this venue is perfect for an event since multi-talented Nici is also an event organizer. While we were there, Nici and her team seamlessly got the place ready for a 50th birthday party.

Sebastian and his team are fortunate to have 40 years in viticulture experience on this unique farm. His winemaking approach is instinctive, driven by his belief that wine is made in the vineyards and minimal intervention is needed. Ancient, low-yielding Chenin Blanc and Pinotage vines are honoured in the process, allowing the wines to be a true reflection of the land and vineyards. He has a hands-on approach to winemaking, using old-cellar techniques like natural yeasts and old open concrete ‘’kuipe’’ fermenters. His non-conformist approach embraces the old but also creatively uses modern winemaking techniques to produce limited quantities of specialised, characterful and authentic wines. We both loved the Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2018 which is made from a careful selection of the most characterful fruit from Beaumont’s oldest vineyards, left to ferment naturally with minimum intervention, matured in mostly old 400L French oak, of which 15% was new wood. This pairs brilliantly with seafood especially scallops and spicy Asian dishes (R350 a bottle).

We loved our trip to Beaumont and getting to know Sebastian and Nici who are so down to earth and passionate about what they do – it is really evident not only in the atmosphere but in everything they produce. The tour and tasting were fascinating – Sebastian’s ‘thinking couch’ in the winery is very amusing and just adds another uniquely personal touch.

We went back to our cottage at Wildekrans to freshen up for our Date Night which we kicked off with a game of pool at the Bot River Hotel. I didn’t realize my husband could play so well so he earned points for this hidden talent. The hotel, which reminded me of the Riebeek-Kasteel Hotel, is being refurbished by Mohseen and Daphne from Paardenkloof who bought the hotel during lockdown and have great plans for it – their kids have even got involved in restoring the farm’s hidden memorabilia which have been discovered while exploring their new home. 

Date Night was going very well so far. We took a stroll across the road to Manny’s for dinner which is an institution in Bot. This spot is very casual with informal seating outside. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back appearance though, the food is absolutely delicious – think calamari, sardines, grilled prawns, espetada, white bait… really glorious Portuguese fare. While we were there two winemakers came in to collect takeaways which speaks volumes about the place. We enjoyed a bottle of Gabriëlskloof Sauv Blanc which was a perfect match for our spicy and delicious seafood. Oh, and the fried pap is a must, it was the perfect side for our calamari and prawns.

After a low key but really relaxing Date Night, being without kids meant we could enjoy a Sunday morning lie-in followed by a late breakfast with friends and picked up our son at a new franchise of Ou Meul Bakery. Newly taken over by Wayne Spencer, it’s a family friendly spot where kids can play in the water fountain and playground while Moms and Dads drink delicious Bootlegger coffee and enjoy a hearty breakfast made from the freshest farm products including free range eggs and home baked breads. 

The farm store is the perfect place to pick up a gift for someone or just spoil yourself. When they get their liquor licence, they will be able to stock all the Bot River wines too.

Anysbos was on the itinerary after breakfast where owners Sue and her ex-filmmaker husband, Johan Heyns took us through a wine tasting with a bonus olive, olive oil and goats’ cheese tasting (bear in mind that their tastings are strictly by appointment only). The farm’s winemaker, Marelise Niemann is very well known for her Grenache but our faves were the Anysbos 2019 Disdit (R290 a bottle but grab it while you can as the 2018 is sold out).  Disdit is an unusual chenin, roussanne and grenache blend which got its name from the producers’ reaction when they tasted it for the first time, exclaiming:

“Dis dit!” (Afrikaans for “This is it!”) All their goats’ cheese products are delicious too, but I particularly loved the goats’ cheese feta and the goats’ cheese halloumi. Their beautifully packaged olive oils are also extremely good quality too!

Our last stop on our quick Bot Riviera getaway was lunch at Ecology Lifestyle Farm where we were hosted by our new friend we met on Date Night, Daphne (the very same of Bot River Hotel fame). The restaurant was really busy which is a good indication as to how good their Indian fusion / authentic South African food is – signature dishes include Nguni burgers, mutton curry and samosas (remember to book as the restaurant is quite popular). We were treated to a wine tasting of their PaardenKloof wines while we ate lunch. Daphne and Mohseen are a power couple who seem to be making an indelible mark on Bot River as dynamic hard workers who are passionate about wine and food. Ecology is definitely worth a day visit. Not only is it excellent for kids as there are farm animals, really cute miniature ponies and a playground but there is an extensive kids’ menu that must be mentioned – it even got the seven-year-old f u s s y eater’s attention. We will definitely come back for the Mutton Curry and those very moreish wines!

We unfortunately never had time to visit Genevieve MCC, so we will definitely do that on our next visit. After what can only be described as a perfect weekend, I picked up some of Nici’s stay at home meals from Beaumont for our dinner on Sunday evening with my parents which tasted infinitely better than my cooking, so everyone was happy.

Final impressions of Bot River? Their winemaker’s association credo is 100% accurate – this place is filled with real people making real wine. How can we not fall in love with that?

It’s been real, ‘Til next time… Honey x

UP FOR GRABS

We’ve got a spectacular prize valued at over R5700 to give away to one lucky Winederlust blog fan:

  • From Wildekrans Wine Estate & Endless Vineyards Boutique valued at R3060:
    •  Two night stay at the Endless Vineyards Boutique Lodge at Wildekrans Wine Estate for two guests in a Country Cottage including Breakfast
  • From Beaumont Family Wines valued at R750:
    • A private wine tasting and tour
    • A take-home meal of your choice from Made @ Home
  • From Ou Meul valued at R400:
    • Breakfast for two
  • Gabriëlskloof and Manny’s Portuguese valued at R1500:
    • Wine tasting for two people at Gabriëlskloof
    • Your choice of six bottles of Gabriëlskloof wine
    • Dinner for two at Manny’s Portuguese

  TO ENTER:

  1. Read ‘WINEDERLUST – Experiencing South Africa’s own wine Riviera… Bot “Riviera”’
  2. Tag 3 friends you’d like to visit the Bot “Riviera” with in the Facebook comments
  3. Make sure you are following Bot River Wines on Facebook 

“From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine”.

This credo of the Bot River Winegrowers Association describes the unspoilt, down-to-earth, sociable character of the farmers – our wines are for lovers of the road less travelled. Within a 10km radius, the wine traveller can experience real country hospitality and taste wines made from the oldest vines in the region as well as the latest, most innovative varietals from new plantings. From historic and traditional wineries to the most modern, state-of-the-art cellars, the common denominators are a warm welcome; handcrafted, top quality wines; a commitment to biodiversity and the desire to share hours of sociable sipping with fellow wine lovers. How we got our name: The Bot River was known by the San people as the ‘Gouga’ (meaning “abundance of fat”). The same word was used for butter, a commodity produced in abundance by the Khoi-San who lived on the banks of the river where pastures were good. Merchants who travelled from the Cape to trade a variety of wares for full casks of butter named the river Botter as early as 1672. Now, of course, the river represents wine!

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