Esona – The Very (Magnificent) One

Tugged away between green vineyards and majestic mountains, Esona Wine Boutique, situated on the R317 between Robertson and Bonnievale, catches your eye and you cannot help but be intrigued by this small piece of paradise as you drive by. This idyllic location, in the heart of the Robertson Wine Valley, is where my wine-thirsty feet led me, on Tuesday morning.

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The breathtaking views from the tasting room at Esona Wine Boutique.

Esona, the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Rowan and Caryl Beattie, started in 2003 when they purchased this gorgeous piece of farmland as a sustainable sanctuary of uncompromising landscape luxury, away from the busy city life. Nestled between rural tranquillity and unspoiled natural beauty, Esona Wine Boutique offers a vibrate escape to the wary urbanite. The upstairs tasting area gives new meaning to the phrase, room with a view.

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The scenic entrance at Esona.

In 2004, Rowan and Caryl had a vision to turn the 17 hectors of farmland into lushes, wine-producing vineyards. But it would take another six years before it yielded its first crop. In 2010, Esona released its very first bottle of wine under its newly-found label. Esona, a Xhosa word meaning ‘The Very One’, (or, my Afrikaans readers will appreciate this; ‘Die Ware Jakob’), capitalised on its staggering scenery and innately friendly staff to lure visitors to its front porch, and it worked beautifully!

It was, however, the well thought-through creativity in almost every small detail that caught my attention; from the small handprint on the torn bottle label, to the cork-inspired table decoration, to the RIEDEL glasses… Oh… the RIEDEL glasses! Let me tell you about this elegant piece of glassware. But let me start off by saying that I have a ‘thing’ for glasses. However, the RIEDEL glass is not just another glass, it’s the king of glasses, shaped and designed specifically to enhance the flavours and aromas of every sip of wine. The RIEDEL glass is grape-specific, ensuring that the taste, balance and finish of the wine is affected by the shape of the glass from which it is drank.

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Tasting Room Assistant, Daneen Pienaar showing off their selection of RIEDEL glassware.

I was welcomed to Esona Wine Boutique on Tuesday morning by Tasting Room Assistant, Daneen Pienaar who has been a part of the Esona family for just over a year now, she tells me. The rustic interior entrance is interwoven in the subtle, yet provocative design features throughout the property. The 75-year-old Oregon Pine wood staircase adds to the antiquity of the interior décor. Esona produces around 2500 to 3000 bottles per cultivar, per year, making every bottle of Esona wine special and unique, Daneen tells me.

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The rustic entrance at Esona adds character to the location.

Grapes are handpicked and much effort is added to ensure that just the very best grapes are used to make the prefect bottle of wine, says Daneen. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so much more that makes this wine boutique so special, she adds. She boasts with the range of wine awards received by the farm, including the prestigious Neil Pendock award which the farm obtained in 2011 when its Esona Chardonnay took second place in the blind-tasting competition. But visitors often struggle to decide between its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, making both wines some of its top-sellers, says Daneen.

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A selection of the various types of soil is displayed.

“The Beatties have been actively involved in various social responsibility initiatives on the farm,” Tasting Room Manager, Michelle Kotze tells me. “Rowen believes in education and development of all workers, including the tasting room staff.” Farm workers are encouraged to grow their own produce of which they keep 100% of profits earned, while tasting room staff are regularly send on courses. “We also open up new opportunities to those wanting to get their foot into the hospitality and tourism industry,” Michelle added.

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Well thought-through creativity in almost every small detail.

La degustation (The Tasting)

Armed with some of the most stylish glasses possibly south of the Equator, Daneen presented me with some of the most delicious wines that the Robertson Wine Valley has to offer.

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I was also offered a glass of their ‘Frankly My Dear’ Blanc de Noir, which is produced from their Pinot Noir grapes.

Esona Sauvignon Blanc

First up was the 2014 Esona Sauvignon Blanc. Refreshingly light, this Sauv hit all the right spots on the palate, perfectly. I loved the fruity and citrusy aromas that accompanied this delicious Sauv. Aftertastes of greenpepper and fig linger on the palate, followed by a smooth finish. It was the perfect thirst-quencher and starter to my wine-tasting experience.

Esona Chardonnay

The 2013 Esona Chardonnay was another hit. How anyone can claim to be an ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) is really beyond me. I loved this Chardonnay! Ten-months wood-matured in third-fill barrels, the Esona Chardonnay offered aromas of vanilla and caramel mixed with an almost coconut aftertaste. Daneen wanted to give my taste buds a kick and also offered the 2012 Chardonnay, and what a treat it was! The 2012 presented a fuller, more complex yet incredibly smooth taste. The Chardonnay’s will appeal to both the complex and simple wine palate.

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Esona offers a selection of yummy delicacies for a quiet picnic.

Esona Shiraz

The 2012 Esona Shiraz is another crowd pleaser. I love red wines and was delightfully surprised by this lovely Shiraz. Eleven months wood-matured, the Esona Shiraz embodies tastes of black pepper while soft tannins make the tasting such a pleasant experience. It is full-bodied yet soft and elegant to enjoy for just about any occasion.

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Tasting Room Manager, Michelle Kotze and I against the backdrop of the beautiful lushes vineyard at Esona.

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Daneen and I took a quick photo-break during our tasting.

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Michelle and Tourism intern, Dailyn Kleintjies.

Esona Wine Boutique also offers a range of tastings, including a Taste of Africa and a Taste the Difference experiences, involving the various RIEDEL glasses. You can also book an underground cellar tour or enjoy a delicious picnic with fresh, locally-sourced produce from their in-house restaurant, Caryl’s Deli.

I’d like to thank Manager, Michelle Kotze and her lovely team, especially Daneen Pienaar, for their hospitality and making me feel right at home. I loved Esona and will, as promised, be back for the ‘Taste the Difference’ experience. If you’d like more information on the delish selection of Esona wines, please visit their website. Please also join them on Facebook and Twitter.

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, hugs and high5’s!

xoxo

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Rietvallei resonates with my heart

I blame the Muscadel. And the nine-week old Alaskan malamute, Mona, the latest addition to the Rietvallei family. I was lured into this sixth generation farm with an inviting glass of the loveliest Muscadel and the cutest puppy eyes possibly south of the equator. Rietvallei, one of the most charming wine farms in the Langeberg region and producer of some of the best Muscadels in the area, and possibly the country, turned my intended wine-tasting appointment into a delightful visit in a relaxing environment. Even farm owner, Kobus Burger pulled up a chair.

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One of Rietvallei Wines’ prestigious Muscadel wines.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but Rietvallei Wines resonated with my heart. It could be the rich history that is cemented into the walls of the cellar, or possibly the never-ending rows of the greenest vineyards some dating back to the early 1900s, or perhaps the selection of premium wines from this established estate. I’m not completely sure why, but I loved the serenity that accompanied my visit to this beautiful place.

Set in the heart of the Langeberg region in the Western Cape, Rievallei Wines is one of only a handful of South African estates to remain under one family for 150 years. Their wines tell the story of deep-rooted tradition and the legacy of the Burger family. Winemaking, as a result, flows through Kobus Burger’s veins, as it did through all of his predecessors.

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Farm owner and cellarmaster, Kobus Burger with the cutest puppy ever, little Mona.

However, the art of winemaking remains a difficult task, admits Kobus who is also the cellar master for the estate. “The wine-making industry in South Africa, and the world in general has suffered a lot these past couple of years. Many reasons can be attributed to it, including the ignorance of wine drinking, the 2008 world recession, and non-inflationary increases of the price of wine which remained around 2-3% per year,” says Kobus.

“Every year we overproduce hundreds of thousands of litres of excess wine. South Africa’s per-capita consumption has been declining for years, now at around seven litres per person per year. If we could increase that to around 12 litres, we’ll completely eliminate the excess wine,” Kobus, who is also the Chairman of the Robertson Wine Valley, explained.

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Visitors can opt to rather enjoy their tasting outside, overlooking the most gorgeous views.

“Although not necessarily cheap, South African wines are still some of the most affordable in the world,” says Kobus. “The cultivated wine drinker is few and far between and they are the only ones who will fork out R200 or more for a bottle, however, the average wine drinker refuses to pay that much for wine. People want more bang for their buck. They want the best wine at the cheapest price and we have really strong competition out there.”

New and upcoming wine drinkers still prefer easy-drinking, entry-level wines. They opt for cheap and cheerful which makes selling good quality wines even harder. “One of the best wines I’ve produced was a dry rosé, called the Juanita. Many people loved it but because it was pink, people assumed it was a sweet rosé. I had to discontinue the range because at the time people were still very uneducated about dry rosés.

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Rietvallei Wines’ tasting room used to be a  reservoir on the farm.

Kobus took ownership of the main operations of the farm from his father, Johnny Burger in 2002. At the time they had only bottled three wines; a Chardonnay, a Cabernet and a Muscadel, Exports Manager Lezaan Stemmet tells me. In 2005, they converted an old reservoir into their tasting room, which is where you’ll be able to enjoy a glass of your favourite varietal today. However, in summer, tourists opt to rather sit outside under the cool shades of the massive trees and enjoy a leisurely visit while sipping on the wide selection of Rietvallei wines.

Rietvallei’s selection of wines has grown significantly since those initial three bottles, says Lezaan. Kobus has recently added two single vineyard wines under a new label, the JMB series, in honour of his late father, Johannes Marthinus Burger. The culmination, a Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, boasts an elegant black and gold label adding a touch of sophistication to this selection.

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The scenic entrance to Rietvallei Wines.

Rietvallei Wines was also recently selected to be the wine of choice for Kenya Airways, which offered them a one-year contract to supply wine to all of their flights. Kobus is excited for the new venture and says that Africa holds a lot of unexplored promise for the wine market. Their biggest exporting market currently includes the UK and the Netherlands, respectively.

Administrative assistant, Natasha Crous took me on a delicious journey of discovery between the wooded, award-winning wines.

Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc

The Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc 2014, recipient of the prestigious Terroir Wine Award, offered a welcoming start to my tasting experience. Refreshingly fruity, this Sauv presented the perfect solace for a hot summer’s day. It is citrusy and light on the nose yet explosive and overwhelming on the palate. A zesty, crisp taste adds full flavour to this delish Sauv. Although slightly dry, this Sauv will appeal to both the simple and the complex palate.

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Recipient of the Terroir trophy, Rietvallei’s famous Sauvignon Blanc.

Rietvallei JMB Chardonnay

The JMB Chardonnay, one of the wines from their latest selection the JMB series, presented a delicious taste of citrus and orangey flavours. Soft and sophisticated, this Chardonnay takes you on an adventure from the very first sip. Gentle on the palate yet full-bodied and robust, this wine offers a long finish. It is a lovely summer treat for conscious wine drinker.

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The JMB series boasts an elegant black and gold label.

Estéanna White

A combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chennin Blanc and Viognier, this white wine proved why it is their flagship wine. Beautiful aromas of fig and melon, this white appeals to a broad spectrum of wine lovers. It has all the elements of a complex white, yet it is soft enough for wine drinkers to enjoy leisurely. The Estéanna White was barrel fermented which adds a touch of elegance to this lovely wine. It is full-bodied yet easy on the palate. A refreshing aftertaste lingers on the palate long after you’ve enjoyed it. This one was my absolute favourite of all the varieties.

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Named after Kobus’ two darling daughters Esté and Annie, the Estéanna range is Rietvallei’s premium wine.

I’d like to thank Natasha and Lezaan for the lovely tasting, I had a wonderful time at Rietvallei Wines. Thanks also to Kobus for fitting me into his very busy schedule. If you’d like more info on the wide selection of Rietvallei Wines, including their wine prices, please see their website. Please also follow them on facebook and twitter.

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, hugs and high5’s!

xoxo

Faces of Wine on the River

This gallery contains 26 photos.

This year’s Wine on the River festival, which took place this past weekend (17 to 19 October) at the Goudmyn farm between Robertson and Bonnievale turned out to be another hit amongst festival goers (as all festivals we host here in … Continue reading

Wacky, is that you?

Once or twice a year, an event happens in the Langeberg and Robertson Wine Valley that truly wakes us from our deep sleep and brings the entire area alive. Next week is such an event. The Wacky Wine Weekend, also known as the biggest festival on the social calendar in the Langeberg area, is taking place next week right here in our little valley.

Visitors come from all over the country and all over the world to attend this festival. Last year I met at least ten Americans who couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful and underrated South Africa, and indeed the Langeberg region, is.

The word ‘Wacky’ has become a verb in our little area. Everywhere someone is confirming whether or not you’ll be ‘wackying’ this weekend. Essentially, the Wacky Wine Weekend includes about 50 wine farms in the surrounding areas, each of which offers a variety of wines and activities. Visitors purchase one ‘passport’ (at R110) that allows them to enter any of the participating farms and taste wines (note: taste). However, wine drinking and other activities come at an additional cost.

With the passport, you’ll also receive a little goodie bag that contains a wine glass (for the tasting that’s about to go down) and an itinerary which indicates what activities each farm will offer. You can then select a farm to visit based on whatever tickles your fancy. There is everything from stalls that sells fragranced soaps and candles, to some of the yummiest foods, to entertainment for kids and adults alike. It’s extremely well organised and so much fun.

The countdown to the Wacky has officially started and the anticipation can already be felt with the residents here. Come on Wacky, we’re waiting…

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