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Wineries of South Africa

June 1, 2011

Checking out the wine at Bouchard Finlayson

After spending several days in Cape Town, we headed out to the wine country of South Africa and stayed at a beautiful place called Arabella.  It was an awesome hotel on a gorgeous golf course with amazing views.  The resort is located near a town called Hermanus which is famous for whale watching – unfortunately we were a little bit too early in the season for whales. 

Arabella was also very close to a wine area called the Hemel and Arde Valley.  It is not the most famous wine area in South Africa, but since it was so close we decided we should visit some of its’ wineries.  We originally planned to do a kayak and wine tour but rain and high winds kept us from doing that so we ended up driving to visit three vineyards.

Inside Creation Winery

The first one was called Creation and it had a great atmosphere!  We tried quite a few of their wines while sitting next to the fire place and watching the rain come down outside.  The woman who worked there was extremely nice and gave us a ton of information about the vineyard and about South African wines in general.  After spending quite a bit of our afternoon there, we decided we should move on before everything closed.

Our next vineyard for the day was Newton Johnson which was just down the street.  We were the only ones there and it was a pretty quick tasting.  We liked their wines but all agreed that Creation was better.  Actually, we had initially tried to go to the place across the street, which we heard was fantastic, but it was already closed for the day.

Lastly, our final vineyard for the day was Bouchard Finlayson, whose wines were great.  The vineyard was beautiful, with much more of a country setting, and we got to meet the owner and his funny puppy which was a plus.  The dog was beyond energetic and kept trying to jump and bite the lights on the ceiling.  No lie, the owner was essentially Sean Connery, accent and all.  We bought an extra bottle of wine from this place and took it to dinner with us that night at a fantastic seafood restaurant right on the water.

Overall, we really enjoyed the Hemel and Arde Valley and it was perfect for the leisurely day of wine tasting, constrained by rain, that we were looking for.  However, we were still hoping to make it to Stellenbosch, the most famous wine region in South Africa, before we departed the country.   

Raining but still great views

The next morning was still a bit rainy but it let up enough for the boys to play a round of golf.  After showers, purchasing a set of Kudu horns, and getting checked out of our hotel, we headed to Stellenbosch.  We knew we didn’t have a ton of time before we needed to get to the airport for our flights, so we figured we would have lunch at one vineyard and then would maybe make it to one more if we had time.

The first destination and lunch was at a vineyard called Guardian Peak.  It was a little different experience than a typical tasting – you would order a meal and they would pair a glass of wine with the food.  So there was no actual tasting, just one glass of wine.  The food was great and we all enjoyed the wine.  Plus, we each ordered something different so we still got a good sampling of a few of their wines.

Ernie Els Winery

Luckily we finished at Guardian Peak with enough time to stop by another spot.  This time we chose Ernie Ells Winery which was nearby, and yes, it is the famous golfer’s personal winery.  They displayed numerous photographs of “The Big Easy” playing various courses, along with quite a few of the trophies he has won over the years.  It was the nicest of all the vineyards we went to and very beautiful inside and out with a peaceful atmosphere.  They only produced red wines which was perfect for me since I am allergic to white!  We had a tasting of several of their wines and they were all delicious – definitely one to look for in the States.    

The wine country was yet another highlight of our trip and I don’t think any of us would mind going back!  Actually, I really hope we get to one day because there are still so many more to visit.

C’est la guerre (as Grama always used to say),

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