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.