Unwind at Viljoensdrift

As Murphy’s Law would have it, the banks of the Breede River were soaking wet on Tuesday morning, the day scheduled for my visit to Viljoensdrift Wines. This was not ideal as Public Relations Manager, Claudé Regester had planned a lovely tasting aboard their river cruise boat. As a result, she had to fit me in late on Wednesday, so that I could have my review signed, sealed and delivered as per the usual Thursday deadline. Sadly because I arrived so late on the farm, the cruises had already concluded for the day but I promised to visit again. Next time I’ll include a review of the boat cruise as well. I promise.

Viljoensdrift Wines has truly pulled out the red carpet for my arrival, literally. The brightest cherry red rose blossoms nestled perfectly between endless rows of lush green vineyards decorated my journey towards the tasting room. The entrance renders homage to the Langeberg’s adage; The Valley of Wine and Roses. I immediately pulled over. I simply had to get pictures of this glowing welcome. It made me smile.

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The breathtaking entrance to Viljoensdrift Wines.

A fifth generation wine farm, Viljoensdrift Wines boasts with the tranquil Breede River right on its doorstep, so to speak, contributing to the perfect country lifestyle. The lifeblood of the area, the Breede River adds to the serenity and natural beauty of this farm. Wine tasters have the option of either enjoying a lovely glass of wine and a picnic aboard the river cruise, or if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can opt to enjoy the scenic views from their expansive deck area which overlooks the peaceful river.

After the Huguenot’s fled France escaping the French Revolution in the late 1700’s, many of them settled in the Stellenbosch area of South Africa. It was only until 1863 that the Villion family moved to the Robertson area. By then the Dutch had taken control over a large part of South Africa and Villion, the French last name was changed to the Dutch dialect, Viljoen.

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A lot of detail has gone into the interior design inside the tasting room.

But it wasn’t until 1998 that brothers Manie and Fred Viljoen decided to produce their own wines. Prior to that, the grapes from the Viljoensdrift vineyards were sold to local co-ops. They still grow around 50 hectors of fruits, including apricots and peaches which they supply to the local canning factories.

Manie, the viticulturist manages the vines and ensures that only the very best grapes are harvested, while Fred dominates the wine production in the cellar. They’ve been expanding their international footprint, with the Netherlands being their biggest exporting market, but they hope to invest a little more locally over the coming years, Claudé explains.

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The Viljoensdrift Deli provides a welcoming space to a weary, hungry tourist. 

“The tourism industry in the South African landscape has changed a lot over the last decade or so,” says Claude, a French native who speaks fluent Afrikaans. “Tourists don’t want to visit cold, hard buildings to enjoy a glass of wine anymore. They want to be entertained and dined. Wine tasting has developed into a lifestyle experience,” she says.

The Viljoens have invested a lot into keeping up with recent trends. Their gorgeous tasting room is the perfect combination of elegance and sophistication with a touch of comfort. Beaming sunlight streams from all corners of the room giving it a warm, homey feeling. If, however, you’re like me and cannot get enough of the breathtaking landscapes, then the deck area, overlooking the serene Breede River will be your seating of choice. The Viljoensdrift Deli serves a variety of fresh pastries daily, cheeses and other delicacies which offer the perfect bite-size snack to nibble on.

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I loved the display cabinets at their Deli. It was filled with the yummiest delicacies.

The Viljoens are also actively involved in obtaining a WIETA accreditation for its farm and farm workers. This initiative includes a stringent audit of participating farms against a set of generic good practice standards. These standards are based upon legislative compliance, measuring working conditions, health and safety and housing requirements of farm workers.

“We take great pride in looking after our workers because they are the foundation of this business,” Cellarmaster, Fred Viljoen says. “We’ve always believed that an informed worker is a happy worker and that contributes towards a better company and ultimately towards a better end-product. Obtaining the WIETA accreditation was just the next step to ensuring a growing partnership between the farm and its workers.”

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The Viljoensdrift sign on the mountain was added earlier this year and has become a trademark of the farm. People come from all over the world to view it, said Claudé.

And off to the tasting we go.

Viljoensdrift Villion Méthode Cap Classique

Claudé started our tasting with one of their best sellers, the Villion Méthode Cap Classique which is a Blanc de Blanc and has an extended yeast contact. This lovely MCC is the recipient of the 2014 Michelangelo Gold Award and not surprisingly so. Refreshingly soft on the palate, this MCC is a mix of fruity honeysuckle and buttered toast flavours. Since it’s not wood-matured, this 100% Chardonnay is soft on the palate making it an easy drinkable wine. It is a perfect celebratory MCC.

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Viljoensdrift Chardonnay

The Chardonnay was another lovely treat. Six months wood matured, this wine offers a slightly woody taste on the palate. Full-bodied, a citrus and gooseberry taste explode on your palate from the very first sip. I loved that it offers a mix of sophistication and simplicity. This wine is perfect for a fish braai on a warm summers evening.

Viljoensdrift Anchor Drift Dry White

Claudé was very excited to introduce their Anchor Drift range of wines to me. The range, which she named, is their entry-level wine and tends to be more cost-effective than their other varietals. “This is a picnic wine,” Claudé says. “It’s the kind of wine you want to enjoy during your boat trip here in the summer.” A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, the refreshing citrusy taste of this wine will hook you from the very first sip.

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Viljoensdrift Cape Blend

From their premier brand, the River Grandeur selection, the Cape Blend offers all the complexities of a rich red wine. A blend between the Pinotage and Shiraz, this red embodies a complex taste of plums and blackcurrant. Although soft on the palate, it has a long finish. This wine is to be enjoyed leisurely.

Viljoensdrift Pinotage

Another one from their River Grandeur selection, the Pinotage was my absolute favourite! This is also their flagship wine with only the very best of grapes selected to produce this wine, according to Claudé. Grapes are sorted and handpicked to ensure that only the very best are used to produce the Pinotage. Claudé also says that this wine is Cellarmaster, Fred Viljoen’s favourite since it always poses such a challenge to produce the perfect wine. But oh, what a delight it was to my palate. A full-bodied mix of ripe berries and plums, this Pinotage will entertain you with every sip. It was truly a delicious treat.

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Viljoensdrift Merlot

Claudé ended our tasting with a delish taste of the Viljoensdrift Merlot. A seasoned, spicy taste of berries and sweet fruit, this wine was slightly softer than its Pinotage counterpart. Twelve month wood matured in oak barrels, this lovely red offers a robust yet gentle flavour to the palate. I loved it because it was rich and complex yet simple enough to enjoy every sip.

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Cellarmaster Fred Viljoen enjoys a glass of wine with Public Relations Manager Claudé Regester.

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Claudé and I after tasting their delish range of wines.

I’d like to thank Claudé for being so accommodating and understanding. Thanks also for a lovely tasting, I had such a great time at Viljoensdrift. If you’d like more info on their wines, including their wine prices, please visit their website. Please also follow them on twitter and facebook.

Did you like this review (of course you did!)? Then please subscribe to my blog (see top right hand side →). Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Till next time… xoxo

Painting the valley red @ Rooiberg

Howdy guys,

My visit to Rooiberg Winery has been the perfect start to this new addition to my blog. Let me start of by saying that I’ve always maintained that the people from the Langeberg area are a special breed, really very nice people (okay, perhaps I could be a tad bit bias since I’m from the area). However, having said that; Ashley Jaftha from Rooiberg Winery was an absolute delight, like a breath of fresh air. She was incredibly passionate about the wines and let me tell you, this lady knows her wines. I couldn’t help but fall in love with every sip of Rooiberg wine.

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Look at all the awards stickers on their Reserve Chardonnay (left) and Ash with a bottle of their Red Chair Bean There Pinotage which features a hint of coffee (right).

I stumbled into Rooiberg Winery on Tuesday like a lost tourist but I was immediately welcomed by the friendliness and hospitality of everyone there. Because Rooiberg operates as a cooperation with 34 members and 16 farms that grows their various grapes, it is able to keep their prices at a minimum making their wines very affordable to the public, Ashley explained to me. Last year they produced around 10,800 tonnes of grapes generating between 7.2 million and 8 million litres of wine. Man, that’s a sh*#%t load of wine! (Pardonnez mon français)

I tasted six types of wines. Here they are in chronological order;

Flamingo Sparking Wine

Just arriving inside their tasting room from the excruciating 30 degree heat on Tuesday, this sparkling wine presented a lovely solace. It is produced from the pinotage and the red muscadel grape and is not an MCC (Methode Cap Classique a sparkling wine which is made in the traditional Champagne style), but merely a soft carbonated drink, says Ashley. It has a 9% alcohol level and is really lovely when served cold, I can certainly attest to that. It has a slightly sweet, fruity taste but it’s very subtle and not overwhelming. I would recommend this lovely, light wine for a lazy afternoon cooler. It really managed to quench that thirst (if you know what I mean?).

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The Flamingo is a semi-sweet sparking wine (left) while they also offer the Rooiberg Winery Rose Natural Sweet (right) as a lovely alternative.

Rooiberg Red Chair

Their latest offering, the Red Chair collection, was created to capitalise on one of their biggest marketing ploys; the ‘Biggest Chair in Africa’ and it’s worked wonderfully, says Ashley. “People love the idea of this massive, red chair outside our door and we thought why not create a range of wines to compliment this creative marketing initiative. People love a good story and the red chair has become one of our stories, so we made it part of our brand,” she said. They launched the Red Chair brand in March last year and they hope to have the wine in local Checkers stores by next month (November). “We are very excited about this new range,” Ashley said.

And the wine certainly lives up to its creative birthing idea. First up was the Red Chair Sauvignon Blanc De Light. This is a very light and refreshing wine. It’s the type of wine (my dietary) dreams are made off; it’s low in kilojoules (yay!) and low in alcohol (9%), but full in taste! It has a zesty, lime taste with a fruity flavour aftertaste. I also wanted to taste the Red Chair ‘Bean There’ Pinotage and found it a lovely delight of dark mocha and rich plum with velvety linger in your mouth. The alcohol level in this wine is 14%.

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The Red Chair range (left) next to the creative genius behind its name; the actual ‘Biggest Chair in Africa’ (right).

Columbar

Next it was onto, what I’ve found to be, my absolute favourite, the 2014 Columbar! The grapes from the Langeberg area tend to have higher sugar levels due to our climate, Ashley explains, which gives this wine just a tad hint of sweetness. Since I took the very first sip, a fruity, guava taste exploded in my mouth. It has a beautiful mixture of tropical and fresh honey aftertaste. It was so refreshing and light. I really enjoyed this wine.

We moved next to their range of red wines. Their flagship range of wines, the Reserve range, weighs up nicely with other superior wines from the area. The range is made from strictly A-grade, single variety grapes and matured in first fill French oak barrels. (For those who, like me, are less advanced in their wine knowledge, Ashley explains that this simply means that the Reserve range is the very first wine range to enter the French oak barrel, afterwards the barrel is reused to store some of their other wine varieties.) That is also one of the reasons their Reserve range’s wines are so DELISH.

Rooiberg Pinotage Reserve

To my palate’s delight, Ashley pulled out their award-winning Rooiberg Pinotage Reserve. It is the acclaimed recipient of the Gold Medal at the 2014 Gold Wine Awards as well as a Silver Medal at the 2014 International Wine and Spirit Completion, and rightly so. It has been 18 months wood-matured and has a purple, deep ruby shade. Your tongue really comes alive with the very first sip. It’s has a combination of redcurrant, blackberry and subtle vanilla notes from aging in the new barrels.

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The Rooiberg Winery’s Reserve range.

Rooiberg Cape Vintage Port

As with all good things in life, this trip too had to come to an end, sadly. And Ashley didn’t disappoint; sending me off with a final tasting of their delish Port. Very fittingly, this 18-month matured, desert wine left that good feeling of satisfaction on my tongue. The aromatic flavours of fruitiness lingered in my mouth as I walked to my car. It wouldn’t be too long before I pop into Rooiberg Winery again. And that’s a fact.

Rooiberg Winery also boasts a GORGE restaurant, Bodega de Vinho, on the premises for a yummy lunch.

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Restaurant Bodega de Vinho at Rooiberg Winery.

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Another Bodega de Vinho snap.

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I absolutely loved the chandeliers at the restaurant, it just gave it that romantic feel.

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Ashley and I after my tasting… I’m still holding up after a few glasses. #soproud

Visit Rooiberg Winery’s website for more info and prices on their various wines. Also, please follow Rooiberg Winery on twitter and facebook. A special thanks to Ashley Jaftha for the wonderful tasting. I had such a fab time, also follow her on twitter.

If you don’t follow my blog yet, please subscribe by clicking on the tab on the right side of the blog. Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Ps. Thanks to Rooiberg for this tweet… ↓

 

I’m so incredibly humbled.

Till next time, xoxo