Auke arranged the Stargazing for MENSA with Yvonne, the Winelands Mensan-In-Chief. He had already presented talks to them on two previous occasions but roped Lynnette and I in for this event because more people were expected and it made sense to have more telescopes available.
The show was to take place at Stellenzicht Winery and the weather did not look good as lots of clouds and even rain was forecast. When we arrived there were lots of clouds spilling over the Helderberg, Haelkop and Stellenbosch Mountain and being driven along by a fairly strong and decidedly chilly southerly wind. We had decided to opt for the two Celestron telescopes “Little Martin” and the “One armed Bandit” partially for space reasons in the cars with the Vito temporarily out of commission and partially to benefit from their automatic finding and tracking ability. I found that in the very windy conditions Lorenzo the 10” Dobsonian would have been a more stable option.
As soon as it was reasonably dark I gave a short talk and a brief what’s up before we got round to showing various objects and talking. The tall oaks to the east kept the moon out of sight till almost closing time which was a pity because the light spill from the winery lights reduced the number of objects we could realistically see quite drastically.
The evening was a reasonable success and thanks go to Yvonne for organising the evening and also for the hospitality and the red wine to keep the chill away. We did not have rain as predicted and the clouds were confined to the mountains and their immediate surroundings but we certainly had wind in abundance. Better luck next time.
Lynnette, Snorre and I had just returned from Leeuwenboschfontein so everything was a bit rushed but finally the big day had arrived; Anton, Camilla, Viljé, Birk and Anton’s in-laws were finally due to arrive. We had been looking forward to this visit for a long time and it felt as if they took ages to eventually appear in the arrival hall at Cape Town International. When they eventually did arrive there was so much excitement that nobody took any photographs! Anyway, we got them to the Kolping Guest House in Durbanville safely after making a detour to our place first because the visitors wanted to see where we lived. We let them take it easy for the rest of the day and on Wednesday we went over the tour itinerary for the rest of their stay.
Thursday the 05th of January we set off bright and early for our 08:30 appointment at Sadie Family Wines in the Aprilskloof on the north-western slopes of the Paardeberg. The winery is situated in the Swartland region and the closest town is Malmesbury. Access to the venue is via unsurfaced roads, which the Vito does not like. We were met by Christine who handed us over to Paul for a most instructive tour of the cellar followed by a well-presented wine tasting. Eden Sadie, the driving force behind Sadie Wines is considered by many to be the enfant terrible of the new generation of Swartland wine architects. He was previously the winemaker during the development of the Spice Route wines at Fairview. His return to grass roots winemaking and the extensive, almost exclusive use of decades old, previously neglected bush vine vineyards to make exceptional wines has caused quite a stir. Most of these vineyards are a long way from the winery too and some are also ungrafted vines which is very unusual considering the fact that grafting pulled the South African wine industry back from the brink of total collapse during the Phylloxera in the late 19th century.
Next up was Lammershoek, which is quite literally just around the corner from Sadie. In fact, the Sadie setup is on a small piece of property originally purchased from Lammershoek. At Lammershoek Zaine was waiting for us. He first conducted a comprehensive and informative tasting, which included a brief history of Lammershoek and an explanation of the objectives of the new management. After the tasting, he took us on a tour of the cellar. Lammershoek has undergone considerable changes since the introduction of overseas capital in a project spearheaded by German football legend Franz Beckenbauer. Despite all the new innovations and increased capital flow their wines are good but not yet in the same class as those of their much smaller next door neighbour.
After Lammershoek we were off to Porseleinberg and Callie Louw and that proved to be quite an expedition, over roads that I would normally not have taken the Vito on. The setting of this small winery on top of the Porseleinberg, amid vineyards belonging to Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek, is spectacular with 360-degree panoramic views over the Swartland. The wines were as spectacular as the view, if not more so, and Callie’s laid-back style of presentation belies his deep appreciation of wine and knowledge of wine crafting.
An interesting fact and one which is suitable for deep discussions over a bottle of one these excellent wines is the fact that Eben Sadie, Callie Louw and Addie Badenhorst of Badenhorst Family Wines on Kalmoesfontein, where we regrettably did not visit, were all keen surfers in their younger days. I believe Eben at one stage actually considered making it a career choice.
Our next stop, after negotiating the daunting gravel road back to the tarred road near Hermon, was at the established and well known Allesverloren wine estate in Riebeeck West. We first had a late lunch as everyone was more than just a bit peckish at this stage. Lunch was good but the red wines and presentation of the tasting were both a bit of a letdown. The dessert wines, however, were excellent. After the tasting, we returned to the guest house with everyone feeling that Thursday had been a long day.
Friday the 5th saw us make an early start for Hartenberg in the Bottelary area west of Stellenbosch. There we had a most enjoyable cheese board and light snacks followed by an informative and well-presented tasting of their excellent wines. Hartenberg is probably one of the nicest wineries to visit and the grounds are so well maintained too. Their wines are excellent as well, which makes every visit doubly rewarding. We enjoyed the visit so much that we completely forgot to take any pictures! It is just such a pity they uprooted that Pontac bush vine vineyard of theirs some years ago, such a pity.
Our next stop was for a Fairview Master Tasting, which is always a winner. Good wines, some actually excellent and all very well presented in the tasting by properly trained staff; jolly good show Fairview. From Fairview, we nipped next door to do the Spice Route Lunch and tasting. The wines were definitely a disappointment after Fairview and they were also presented in a very slap-dash manner which did nothing to enhance the quality of either the wine or the general experience. After the Spice Route, back to the guest house, we all went.
Sunday the 8th Lynnette and I prepared a meal which we took to the guest house and enjoyed there. We were joined for the occasion by Lenelle and Susan.
On Monday the 09th we were off to Stellenbosch where we started the day at Reynecke Wines. Their organic policy always creates an interesting discussion with visitors and our visit was no exception. Their wines were interesting, some very good in fact and the presentation by Nuschka was one of the best and most professional we encountered on our various visits.
From Reynecke we nipped around the corner to De Toren. Here the wine crafter, Charles Williams was personally on hand to take us on the tour. He started in the vineyard explaining their vineyard policy and them we toured the cellar before ending up in the very cosy little tasting room. The tasting was well presented and the tour was very informative and professionally conducted but, although the wines were good they were not really outstanding. After De Toren, we went to Skilpadvlei, which is just down the road, for lunch.
After lunch, we visited Raats Family Wines with great expectations. Unfortunately, the tasting was a bit of a disappointment. The wines were not well presented and some of them seemed to have been open quite a while. It is really a pity that a presenter, who seems otherwise to be a very informed person, does not take the trouble to ensure that a tasting is properly presented. A sloppy tasting definitely detracts from the quality of the wines even if they are good or even excellent ones. After Raats we made a beeline for home to rest up for the next day’s wine tasting.
Tuesday the 10th saw us back in the Stellenbosch area and our trip started at the well respected Kanonkop estate. Lynnette and I, being the designated drivers, stayed outside while the rest of the crew went inside to do the tasting. The tasting was apparently a bit of a disappointment because it is very commercialized. One apparently has to have at least ten people for a proper tasting but we were not informed about this when we phoned to make our reservation and that is simply slipshod administration. Nevertheless, their wines are good, in fact very good but the overall impression would have been better with a more personalized tasting for our overseas visitors.
After Kanonkop we drove to Beyerskloof, who regard themselves as the Pinotage Kings, for a tasting and lunch. The tasting had the same problem as the one at Kanonkop and here to we had not been told of any other arrangements that we could have made when we phoned to inquire about the tastings. Their wines are good and some are excellent but our guests would really like to have done the tasting blind in a separate tasting area.
After lunch, the party split up and one group, driven by Lynnette, went looking for diamonds in Stellenbosch while the second group headed for Tokara to taste more wines. Tokara is a very impressive venue but, as I have experienced before, their tasting presentation is really not up to standard. A tasting where someone slops the wine into your glass then races through a memorized bit of information, spins around and marches off before you have had time to even taste the wine is not a tasting, it is a farce. Add to this the fact that their wines are not as good as they would like to believe they are and Tokara was a disappointment. After Tokara, we picked up the rest of the party in Stellenbosch and headed for home.
Wednesday the 11th the group did a township tour with Imvuyo Township Tours & Chippa Mbuyiseli Mngangwa. The group were ecstatic about his punctuality and service delivery. Good work Chippa, I will certainly use you again. Later that afternoon we went to Orca in Melkbos for supper and that was, as always, a worthwhile experience.
Franschhoek was the destination for Anton Erland and I on Thursday the 12th while Lynnette took the ladies to Cape Town where they wanted to do some serious shopping. The first stop in Franschhoek was Boekenhoutskloof, the umbrella company for Porseleinberg. What a difference though! The place is all glitz, glass and glamour and makes Porseleinberg look like a pauper’s digs. However, their wine quality does not come close to that of Porseleinberg. Some of it is good but the guests did not think there was anything outstanding.
Next stop was Haute Cabriére at the foot of the Franschhoek Pass. The tasting was presented in very much the same fashion as the one at Tokara, perhaps a little better, and the wines were good but lackluster with nothing to write home about. After this disappointment, we headed for Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines with high hopes. On arrival, it was clear that this place has money and spends it. The tasting emporium is impressive and the attention very personal. Lizzie, the presenter, was informative and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics related to the wines we tasted. It might seem like nit-picking, but the amount given to taste was really minuscule compared to all the other tasting we had attended and the speed with which the bottles were whisked away, clearly indicated that there was no chance of tasting anything a second time. Considering that this was one of the more expensive tastings this skimpiness is inexplicable.
After Mullineux and Leeu we were off to La Motte, making it just before closing time. Unfortunately, the proximity to closing time seemed to also have affected the tasting session. It was rushed to the point of being rude and the wines were a disappointment too. If you take somebody’s money for a tasting then, irrespective of how close it is to closing time, the person is entitled to the same quality tasting experience as somebody who rocked up two hours earlier. The highlight of the visit was the bright yellow Ferrari in the parking area; what a machine! We drove home with mixed feelings about Franschhoek and its wines.
Friday the 13th was Anton’s birthday and we started that off with a surprise birthday breakfast at Kolping Guest House and ended the day with a dinner at the Cattle Baron in the Tygervalley Waterfront.
On Saturday the 14th we went on a short tour of the Peninsula which included only Boulders and Cape Point. At Cape Point, some members of the party walked up to the lighthouse and after that, we drove down to the Cape of Good Hope before going home. Judging by the subdued appearance of the group it looked as if the pace was starting to take its toll
On Sunday the 15th Harald, Anne-Kirsten, Erland and Linda departed for Gauteng from where they would head for the Kruger National Park and spend three days there before flying home to Norway.
We started the visit with a very informative, short presentation by Auke on the Universe. Unfortunately he was hampered by projector problems which were the result of either overheating or an unstable power supply. After the talk the group set about building Southern Star Wheels in preparation for the evening’s viewing.
While the group went off to supper, we drove down to the viewing site on a netball court and also had our supper, courtesy of Lynnette. After supper we set up and waited. The group arrived but, for some unknown reason, the message about bringing the Star Wheels did not seem to have registered because, apart from two that I saw, there were none there. Auke did an extensive what’s-up-tonight, pointing out a wide range of interesting objects and constellations and, after that Lynnette operated Maphefu and Lorenzo while I set the Celestron on the Moon.
Not having heeded Martin’s instruction to write down the settings for various types of objects, but rather trusting my memory, I could find everything but not produce the sort of imagery the system was really capable off. Mrs Foster’s little boy really seems to have a persistent learning disability.
As for the learner who snubbed Lynnette, when she told somebody that the darker areas on the moon were lava plains, by remarking to bystanders, “Just ignore her, there is no lava on the Moon”; I would like to suggest that said person should do some reading. It might then be possible to convert a Smart-ass to a Bright-ass. Lynnette was just too polite to take you down a peg or two.
Generally all went well and I thought that the group of learners, who were more interested in catching up on cuddle-time than in astronomy, was significantly smaller than on the previous encounter. In all fairness though, it was lot warmer on the netball court than on the grass at Dassenberg Broilers, where we saw them last (go here to read about that occasion) and also a whole lot less windy. Thank you very much for the opportunity to do the presentation Carl, the learners and Elkanah House.
Like in 2014 we were booked to do the Blaauwklippen Christmas Market again in 2015 (go here to read more about Blaauwklippen Wine Estate), but, unlike last year’s one night stand, 2015 was to be three consecutive nights. The weather forecast looked good and they proved to be correct too.
Star People spent three very pleasant and busy evenings there with solar viewing from 16:30 till sunset and from 18:00 till 22:00 the almost first quarter moon provided many people with a first time peek through a telescope. We had our Old Faithful, Lorenzo, there as usual and Auke set up Evan’s demo radio telescope as well. Jonathan brought along his refractor on the first evening. Lorenzo was operated, as usual by Lynnette, with Auke also doing several stints. Wendy and Rose each had an 8” Dobby there and Alan, not to be outgunned, set up his 12” Dobby. Dirk set up his 127 mm MAK, (F = 1500 mm) but was plagued by technical problems so he never really got into the swing of things. We had a surprise visit from Brett and Tammy too which was very nice.
This was also the maiden voyage of my Celestron 102 mm (F660 mm) refractor with the Samsung CCTV camera and the Martin Lyons modification. Although I didn’t actually project the image but only had it on the small screen attached to the telescope, it worked quite well. The system does not like wind, as the slightest breeze gave the Moon a serious case of the shivers. This is actually not the refractor’s first public outing but it is the first successful one. There was a previous outing at the Helderberg Nature Reserve, but that was a total disaster due to an electrical problem.
Anyway it was a lot of fun and we met lots of interesting people and some very nice ones too. Here are some of the images taken over the course of the three evenings.
This year I decided to take Lynnette somewhere different for her birthday. I didn’t have anything specific in mind and neither had I defined “different” for myself either. Then my eye caught a line in a blog about No 6 written by a fellow guide and it sounded nice, so I decided to give it a shot and booked. Looking back, that in itself was a strange decision because I am normally very wary of restaurants named after sports personalities and don’t ask me why either because I don’t know.
We left early and I took Lynnette on a tour of Wellington before driving out to the Welbedacht Wine Estate (Go here to find out more about the Estate) and No 6 Restaurant (Go here to view information about the restaurant.) and even then we were about 30 minutes early. On the drive into the estate, I got a bit of a shock because there was a notice up “Closed – Private Function”. Now that was all I needed! I parked the car, asked Lynnette to wait for me and went off to give the restaurant a piece of my mind. As I approached I was met by a very friendly young lady who explained (and apologized) that the function had been the previous day, but that they had forgotten to take the notice down.
We were shown to our table where we first ordered cold water to cool down and then just relaxed and chit-chatted while we enjoyed the very pleasant, peaceful surroundings and soaked up the lovely view. Then it was time to get on with the celebration and the eating so we kicked off with the estate’s sparkling wine; a very respectable Chardonnay blanc prepared by the méthode champenoise. Our waitron gave us a thorough briefing on the menu and we decided to go with her recommendation, which is also something we seldom do. The menu is apparently changed on a weekly basis but certain items are retained as anchors by the instruction of Schalk Burger. The Trippa alla Parmigiana and the Lazy Aged Sirloin have this distinction.
Lynnette decided to skip the starters but I ordered the Trippa a la Parmigiana. Knowing Lynnette I ordered the larger portion and an extra spoon. True to form her “just a little taste” became several “little tastes”. The Trippa was, however, very tasty and well worth the extra “tasting”. It had just the right amount of tomato with a good Parmesan and freshly chopped basil sprinkled on top.
For mains, we both went for the Lazy Aged Sirloin as recommended by our waitron, but emphasized that we wanted it exactly medium rare and not a hairsbreadth to either side of that. The sirloin arrived absolutely perfectly done to our taste. The chips were hot and crisp on the outside but still soft inside and the side salad was just the right amount to compliment the steak. I was absolutely delighted that the steak was not served with any sauce so one could enjoy the full flavour of the flame-grilled meat.
With the sirloin, I had the 2010 Cricket Pitch as recommended by the waitron. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and, apart from being a very capable companion to the sirloin, it is a quite outstanding wine in its own right. I bought a second bottle to take home and enjoy at my leisure when the weather gets colder.
My dessert was the Vanilla Pannacotta with fresh berries which I would have preferred a bit colder. Considering how hot it was, a touch of heat exhaustion was acceptable, but it was very tasty, which made up for the slight melting. The touch of mint also worked well with the berry flavours.
A very pleasant and relaxed dining experience, and a perfect way to celebrate Lynnette’s birthday. No, I am not allowed to say how old she is but I really love her red hair. A big thank you to No 6 and the very efficient staff, for making Sunday the 29th a memorable occasion for Lynnette and I.
Mad Dogs and Amateur Astronomers go out in the midday sun (apologies to Noël Coward)
Astronomy outreach during the daytime and in summer is not for the fainthearted or those who forget to apply their sunblock as Star People, being Auke, Lynnette and myself were about to discover at the Root44 Market, on the Audacia Wine Estate on Saturday the 17th, Sunday the 18th and Saturday the 24th of January. On the first Saturday we were very ably supported by Wendy Vermeulen and Brett du Preez who’s innovative solar telescope was also pressed into service. Permission to be there was negotiated by Auke with Surea and Megan and on the individual days JJ and Jason were available for all manner of practical assistance. The wine estate is situated on the R44 between Stellenbsch and Somerset West right next to the equally well known Mooiberge farm stall and strawberry farm with its huge collection of imaginative scarecrows.
The Root44 Market is the venue for the Root44 parkrun every Saturday morning when hundreds of serious and also not so serious runners and walkers descend on the venue to participate in the weekly, timed excursion through the vineyards. Some progress at the highest speed they can manage while others are merely intent on finishing the 5 km and soaking up the beauty of their surroundings. However, it is also the venue of choice for hundreds of folk who want to spend a Saturday or Sunday with good food and wine, relaxing music and the convivial company of good friends in the sort of tranquil surroundings which only the Winelands of the Western Cape can offer.
We were there to generate an interest in Astronomy and especially in space related activities and research. To do this we employed a wide selection of informative posters, and Lorenzo, the 10-inch Dobsonian, equipped with the appropriate Solar filter to show guests the Sun and the rather meager harvest of sunspots. On the second Saturday we even managed to show people the rather pale pre-first quarter moon. We talked to lots of interesting people and also met many astronomically enthusiastic persons as well.
One gentleman turned out to be the estate manager for the Earl of Rosse’s estate in Ireland where Birr castle is situated and where William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, built his gigantic Newtonian telescope between 1842 and 1845. Called the Leviathan of Parsonstown it had a 1,8 m speculum mirror with a focal length of 16 m. In 1994 a retired structural engineer and amateur astronomer Michael Tubridy was asked to resurrect the Leviathan of Parsonstown. The original plans had disappeared so intense detective work was called for to achieve his goal. Reconstruction lasted from early 1996 to early 1997 and a new aluminium mirror was installed in 1999.
Our poster display was quite impressive and most visitors found it very informative as well. In fact many of the interesting discussions originated around one or more of these posters. Some visitors started a discussion at one poster and then continued on to a second and third poster, eventually departing after more than an hour of questions and answers; heavy stuff!
However, the Sun took its toll and by closing time on the second Saturday we were done, well done. It did not take a long discussion to decide that we were just not up to another day in the Sun. Auke made the appropriate apologies to Surea and Megan and we spent the Sunday recuperating. All things being equal it is much easier to battle the mozzies and their biting cronies at night than to take on the Sun for seven hours or more.
Olé-Marten and Liz came to South Africa on Sunday, January 27th from Oslo in Norway for a holiday that was to start in Cape Town and finish in the Kruger Park. They hired a car to explore Cape Town and environs and then planned to drive down to Port Elizabeth in one day. I recommended that they spread the drive down the Garden Route over two days with an overnight stop in Knysna. Olé-Martin followed my advice and changed their plans accordingly. They left Cape Town on Saturday, February 2nd and spent the night in Knysna before driving to Port Elizabeth on Sunday, February 3rd. From Port Elizabeth, they are scheduled to fly to the Kruger Park via Johannesburg, where they will link up with a Siyabona Africa for a four-day tour of the Park. They then fly back to Johannesburg to visit friends before flying back to Norway via Frankfurt on Friday the 8th of February.
Olé-Martin made contact and asked us to organize a day’s wine tasting in the Stellenbosch & Franschoek areas on Wednesday 30th January. He specifically requested that the tour start with a visit to “Oom Samie se Winkel” in Stellenbsoch.
We had to pick them up at 08:00 from their guest house, The Hedges in Argyle Road, Newlands. So at about 06:15, the Vito left Brackenfell with Lynnette behind the wheel. We started early in anticipation of the dreaded early morning traffic on the ingoing N1, but it was quite manageable despite the usual batch of lane-switchers, impatient light-flashers and the constant stream of minibus taxis passing in the yellow lane. Well, we weren’t late, in fact, we arrived at about 07:20 and had to wait just around the corner from the guest house so as not to seem over eager. Lynnette pulled the Vito over on a convenient grassy verge and we waited while the time sneaked up on 08:00. During the wait, the Vito, with its tinted windows, was eyed rather suspiciously, by a passing parade of early morning, joggers, dog walkers, walkers without dogs and an ADT patrolman on his bicycle.
By 07:50 Lynnette’s patience had run out and we moved off to park in front of the guest house. While she waited in the vehicle, I went in to fetch Olé-Martin and Liz. They had just finished breakfast and, while they went off to fetch their stuff I was entertained by an elderly Pug, a juvenile Boxer and tennis ball-addicted Pointer, well a dog that looked like one. The juvenile Boxer kept trying to chew the Pug’s ears off despite lots of growling and posturing by the Pug who eventually got fed up and fled into the house. The Pointer kept pointing its nose at a well chewed and very icky tennis ball in an effort to entice me into throwing it and, once the Pug had departed the Boxer turned its attention to the tennis ball as well. At least the ongoing tussle between the Boxer and the Pointer for possession of the ball let me off the hook as far as throwing it was concerned. Almost on the dot at 08:00 Olé-Martin and Liz made their appearance, all dressed up (figuratively speaking) and with lots of places to go and many wines to get to know.
Lynnette navigated us safely through the suburban traffic onto the N2 and we were off to Stellenbosch. It was a hazy sort of day because of the low overcast and patches of ground-hugging mist, but I optimistically forecast that it would all clear by late morning and, at the same time, kept my fingers crossed that the fires in the mountains around Franschoek would not flare up during the course of the day.
First stop Oom Samie and because we were nice and early there was a choice of parking spots right in front of the shop. Both our guests were intrigued by the Bokkoms and the Boerseep. About 30 minutes and several purchases later, we were off again and Lynnette took us on a brief driving tour of Stellenbosch and the University Campus before heading out over Helshoogte to our first tasting stop, Tokara. Tokara is a brand new player in the wine industry, with the first vines being planted in 1998 and the first wines went into the bottle in 2001. Actually, the first wines labeled as Tokara wines only appeared in 2005. Tokara also produces grapes on Highlands Farm (Elgin-area) and on Siberia in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley near Hermanus. Outside the entrance to the tasting area and the restaurant, one is welcomed by the “Tokara Vines” an ArgoWeld Special Project designed by the artist Marco Cianfanelli and, if you have time, read the stories told by the words on the vines. While our guests were tasting, Lynnette noticed that the giant clock in the tasting area had stopped. I inspected it and quickly found the problem. There was a spanner in the works!
From Tokara we set out for Boschendal which is considerably older, dating back to 1685 when it was owned by the French Huguenot, Jean le Long. After sorting out some initial confusion with my navigation, Olé-Martin and Liz could settle down under the Oaks for a very relaxed tasting. After the tasting, we did a tour of the beautifully restored Manor House where the huge stable doors in the house and the innovative sash windows with which one could close the gap left by the top half of the door, letting light in but keeping flies and dust out, generated quite a bit of discussion. Olé-Martin and Liz paid a visit to the shop on the way back to the Vito, commenting on the huge selection of goods on offer.
Then we were off to Allée Bleue, established in 1690 as Mere Rust, which is literally just around the corner from Boschendal. By this stage, the clouds had, as I had predicted, departed and it was quite hot. Fortunately, the Sun had already moved over far enough to the West so that the outside tasting area at Allée Bleue was already shaded by the tall Eucalyptus trees (Blue gums) that form the magnificent avenue from which the estate derives its modern name. After the tasting, we walked across the road to the bistro for a light lunch and then set off for La Motte.
Olé-Martin and Liz were very taken with La Motte, which is one of the nine original farms settled by the French Huguenots in 1672, and I must say the well organized and maintained indigenous garden really is a pleasure. After the wine tasting, our guests paid a quick visit to the shop and then we were off again. We drove through Franschhoek and up over Franschhoek Pass as far as the Jan Joubert’s Gat bridge, which was built in 1825 and is currently the oldest stone bridge in South Africa in daily use. Lynnette turned the Vito around just past the bridge and we drove back up the pass again, making several stops to take photographs. We took a different route back to Stellenbosch from Franschhoek, going through Simondium and then past Backsberg and Anura to Klapmuts. From Klapmuts we came back along the R44 and then out to Spier where Lynnette had booked a table in a tree at Moyo for Olé-Martin and Liz. Spier also has a long history dating back to 1692 with Arno Jansz producing the first wines in 1700. The name Spier possibly originates from about 1712 when Hans Heinrich Hattingh is thought to have named it after his hometown in Germany, Speyer, but there are other possibilities too. The area was, however, also occupied in the Early Stone Age (at least two million years ago ) as is shown by the many stone tools found in the area.
Lynnette and I did not join Olé-Martin and Liz up the tree at Moyo. We went into Stellenbosch and came back, about two hours later, to fetch them. Both of them were thrilled to bits by the experience and recommended that we should make sure that all our overseas visitors, especially the Norwegians, ate up the tree at Moyo. Thanks to Lynnette’s safe driving we had them back at their guest house at 21:20, which was only 20 minutes later than the scheduled time.
Our guest from Oslo, the capital of Norway, landed at Cape Town International airport on the 29th December, 2012 for her first visit to South Africa. The prime objective of her 13 day stay was kite surfing and she was fortunate to have favourable conditions for most of her stay. She contacted ELF Astronomy to arrange a wine tasting tour for the penultimate day of her visit and, after discussing the options with her, she opted for a fairly leisurely day with only three estates on the itinerary At the last moment she asked us to cancel the first tasting of the day, the chocolate and wine tasting at Seidelberg, as she wanted more time to pack her kites and boards that morning, so we were left with only Fairview and Backsberg.
Lynnette and I picked her up in the Vito on Wednesday the 09th at 10:00 and headed north for our first appointment in the Beryl Back Master Tasting Room at Fairview, where Desiré was on hand to welcome us.
We spent a very relaxed 90 minutes or so working our way through the eight wines and eight cheeses under Desire’s expert and very well informed tutelage. The wines we tasted were:
As a bonus, because we were such well behaved tasters, Desire allowed us to taste the Fairview Durif/Petit Shirah as well. I can unreservedly recommend the very relaxed atmosphere and highly professional tasting Fairview presents in the Beryl Back Master Tasting Room.
At lunch, in the Goatshed Resaurant, our guest had a glass of Fairview Pinotage and I had a glass of Fairview Pinotage Viognier, both very enjoyable wines. Lynnette, being the driver, settled for Adam’s Ale with ice and commented that it was quite a good vintage. After lunch we headed east to Backsberg.
At Backsberg, Danwin James, the Tasting Room Manager, set up a tasting of eight wines for us. When I saw how many glasses he could handle in one go, I initially suspected he had been issued with more than the regulation number of fingers. Closer inspection showed this not to be the case and Danwin assured me it was just a matter of practice, lots of it. The wines we tasted were:
Sauvignon Blanc 2012
John Martin 2012
Backsberg Family Reserve Red 2005 (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend)
Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Beyond Borders Pinot Noir 2010
For the grand finale, Danwin allowed us to taste a very interesting Backsberg Port. He only gave us, In the words of Poo Bear “a smidgen”, but a very memorable one.
We were both impressed with Danwin’s relaxed, quite personal, but very professional presentation. His personal charm, knowledge of the wines and obvious enthusiasm about Backsberg, are all impressive. Our guest was especially pleased to find that Backsberg could deliver to the doorstep of any address in Sweden, at rates that were extraordinarily competitive.
We then headed home for one of Lynnette’s excellent suppers before taking her back to her guest house, so that she could complete her packing, before departing Cape Town for Oslo the next day.