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

Excelsior’s excellence in a bottle

Excelsior, a Latin adjective meaning “higher” or “loftier“, used in English as an interjection with a poetic meaning to indicate ‘superior quality’, is the perfect depiction of this wine estate just outside of Ashton, in the Langeberg region. This fifth generation, family-owned farm presents all the bells and whistles for the perfect country hideaway, offering impeccable service and jaw-dropping views.

Nostalgia settled inside of me while driving down the gravel road towards Excelsior Wine Estate’s tasting room. Breathtaking views of green vineyards and white roses demanded attention and for a moment I stopped to fully embrace my surroundings. Completely in awe of this natural beauty, my eyes simply had to steal another glimpse before I continued on my journey.

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The breathtaking entrance to Excelsior Wine Estate’s tasting room.

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The quaint little restaurant on the farm, Graze@Excelsior offers a selection of delish meals.

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Excelsior Wine Estate, initially an ostrich, horse and subsequently, a wine farm, offers all the amenities for the tired traveller under one roof, so to speak. Besides for the tasting room which offers a wide selection of the farm’s premium wines to taste and purchase, the weary urbanite can also revel in the delish cuisine of Graze@Excelsior, the on-farm restaurant, before settling in for the night at their exquisite, four-star accommodation, the Manor Guesthouse.

But Excelsior Wine Estate provides more than just a resting place for your fatigued feet; it also offers quietude for your soul. Sentiments, nuances, thoughts, perceptions… In the mist of all that natural beauty, time seems to stand still and life offers you a breather. Amongst the overwhelming visual attractiveness of this beautiful place, while I was searching for my next tasting experience, instead I found a little piece of my soul.

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Truly jaw-dropping views… Excelsior’s tasting room is situated on top of the dam, overlooking endless landscaping beauty.

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The estate offers wonderful solitude for the fatigued traveller.

Dating back to the late 1800s, Excelsior Wine Estate turned its farming practices to ostrich plumes which where the essence of haute couture at the turn of the 20th century. Ostrich plums were purchased at ridiculous prices and as a result, ostrich breeders became wealthy almost overnight.  However, with the invention of the open-top motorcar, ostrich feathers were no longer practical and ostrich farmers suffered the consequences.

Kowie de Wet and his son, Oscar, Excelsior’s second and third generations respectively, quickly shifted their focus to breeding horses and cultivating vines on the farm. This quick thinking and good business sense saved Excelsior from bankruptcy. At the time, it was only a handful of farms that escaped insolvency. When current owners Freddie de Wet and his son, Peter took ownership of the farm, it was already a well-established wine farm producing several hectolitres of wine annually.

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Tasting room assistant, Patricia van der Westhuizen and yours truly.

My tasting companion, Tasting Room Assistant, Patricia van der Westhuizen greeted me to their unique tasting space with a friendly smile. Overlooking the tranquil waters, the cool breeze from the dam flows effortlessly into this lovely room adding to the notion of exclusivity. Calming views from just about any angle inside of the tasting area make you want to sip a little longer, linger a little longer.

Upon arrival at Excelsior, Patricia was quick to offer me a glass of their famous Sauvignon Blanc while explaining the farm’s rich history. In-between the storytelling, she quickly added that the Sauv, their best-selling white wine, boasts numerous awards, including the recently-acclaimed Michelangelo Double Gold Award.

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Views to die for…

She also tells me excitedly of the various social responsibility awareness programmes the De Wets have been involved with, including the establishment of a playschool on the farm for the farmworkers’ children between the ages of 18 months to five years of age. Excelsior also partly financed a computer room at the departmental preparatory school which is adjacent to the estate. Students are equipped with computer skills during afterschool tutoring.

A large consignment of their wines is exported to the USA, Tasting Room Manager, Tanya Swiegers tells me. That is one of the reasons they changed their logo two years ago. “The Americans were not too happy with our old logo and we had to change it,” she tells me. “We’ve still maintained the horse, our signature animal, on our logo, but we’ve changed it slightly to satisfy our American customers,” she adds.

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Tasting Room Manager, Tanya Swiegers and I.

“While many cellars concentrate on producing easy-drinking, entry-level wines, Excelsior has maintained its superiority, producing quality, sophisticated wines for our selected audience,” says Tanya. “Our brand is associated with premium wines and that is what we’ll continue to produce.”

I was also offered a tour to their wine cellar and viewed first-hand the cleaning of one of its massive wine containers. It’s quite heart-rending having to see litres and litres of wine washed down the drain, literally. Bottle and Labelling Manager, Bruce Geduld explained the entire wine-making process to me, starting from the time the grapes enter the cellar. Excelsior’s state-of-the-art cellar produces around 12,500 hectolitres of wine every year, Bruce said.

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Hundreds of litres of wine drained from the wine container. I had to resist the urge to get down on my knees and start licking some of that yumminess. Ha!

“We are a very family orientated farm,” says Bruce who has been with the estate for more than 20 years. “We look after the farm and the farm looks after us. The de Wets are really good people who invest in their farmworkers and that really lays the foundation for the relationship between employer and employee.”

When we returned to the tasting room, Patricia was ready to make my stay even sweeter when she presented their selection of award-wining white wines.

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Patricia and Bottle and Labelling Manager, Bruce Geduld inside the wine cellar.

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Some of the friendly ladies in the bottle storage department.

Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc

The Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc was a refreshing start to my tasting experience at this esteemed estate. Fruity and soft on the nose, yet robust and tasty on the palate, this lovely Sauv proved why it scooped up the 2014 Michelangelo Double Gold Award. A favourite amongst locals and foreigners alike, I loved that this wine embodied all the characteristics of a fruity white wine. Hints of figs, asparagus and green apple were prevailing in this lovely white wine. It’s a delicious treat on a hot summer’s day.

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Excelsior Chardonnay

Three-month wood matured, the Excelsior Chardonnay is slightly drier than its Sauv counterpart. Full-bodied and full of flavour, the Chardonnay contains deep tones of citrusy and orangy flavours. This white wine will appeal to both the simple and complex palate.

Excelsior Viognier

I must admit, I was mostly excited to try their Viognier, a single French cultivar, most often used in red wine blends and I was delightfully surprised! Winemaker Johan Stemmet truly pulled out all the stops with this refreshing white wine. Full-bodied and robust, this wine is soft and fruity on the palate and offers a refreshing long finish.

Excelsior Caitlyn Rosé

Named after farmowner Peter de Wet’s youngest daughter, I found the Caitlyn Rosé much sweeter on the nose than on the palate. I’m not a fan of sweet rosés and so this dry rosé presented a lovely alternative. It still offers all the flavours of a fully, fruity wine yet it’s not sweet and uncomfortable on the palate. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, this rosé was a real delight to taste.

Excelsior Wine Estate also offers a wonderful wine blending experience. Visitors are able to blend their own bottle of red wine right there in the tasting room. They can blend, cork and label the bottle in a matter of minutes. This makes for a great gift over the holiday season.

I’d like to thank my tasting partners, Patricia van der Westhuizen and Tanya Swiegers for their hospitality and assistance during my visit to Excelsior. It was truly an honour to visit this beautiful place. If you’d like more info on Excelsior’s premium selection of wines, including their wine prices, please visit 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

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

Fall in love with Van Loveren

The drive en route towards Van Loveren Wines must certainly be one of the most scenic journeys I’ve ever embarked on. Red cannas, Van Loveren’s exclusive signature flower, embrace you long before you actually reach the entrance of the farm. It comes thus as no surprise when I’m told that the Retief’s have expanded their realm significantly and now includes at least 10 farms owned by the country’s most famous ‘four cousins’.

The farm, which is as rich in history as it is in fertile soil, dates back to the late 1930s. A third generation farm, Van Loveren was initially part of a larger farm called Goudmyn (Goldmine) before oupa Hennie Retief acquired it in 1937. It was sub-divided and renamed ‘Goudmyn F’ which irked his wife, ouma Jean, who thought the “F” signified ‘Fools and Failures’. Subsequently she persuaded her husband to change the name to Van Loveren, the surname of Christina van Loveren, an ancestor of hers who was the first Dutch relative to arrive in South Africa in 1692. Christina van Loveren’s trousseau chest remains on the farm to this very day.

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The red cannas are a welcoming spectacle.

The first wine, a red muscadel, was produced in 1939 at Van Loveren but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the first bottle of wine, the Premium Grand Cru was launched. Prior to that, wine was not bottled and only sold in bulk. Nico and Wynand Retief, the two sons of oupa Hennie, took ownership of the farm before the four cousins, brothers Neil and Philip and brothers Hennie and Bussel took over the reigns from the 1990s and turned it into a commercial powerhouse.

A household name, Van Loveren’s Four Cousins range exploded onto the wine scene in 2000 with a collection of easy-drinking wines. “Our wines are mostly entry-level, yet premium quality wines and that’s why the South African consumer has taken so generously to it,” Van Loveren Marketing Manager Bonita Malherbe explains to me. “And because we produce bulk quantities of wine, we are able to remain very cost-effective and competitive. And that is one of the reasons Van Loveren is South Africa’s biggest selling bottled brand.”

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Christina van Loveren’s trousseau chest remains at Van Loveren’s tasting room.

Van Loveren has invested significantly into eco-conscious farming over the past couple of years, creating a completely P. E. T. (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottled range, the Tangled Tree collection. It has significantly reduced its carbon footprint in the process and hopes to improve on it in future. Besides for caring for the environment, Van Loveren also cares for its farmworkers, investing in a BEE scheme in which farmworkers acquired 52% of one of its farms. The Five Reserve range is produced by grapes from the BEE farm and a portion of the proceeds are invested back into the farmworkers.

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The Van Loveren Tangled Tree collection is P. E. T bottled.

Arriving at Van Loveren’s state-of-the-art tasting room outside of Ashton on the renowned R317 wine route towards Bonnievale, I was welcomed by tasting room assistant, Nadine Pietersen who seemed as excited to present the tasting as I was to do the actual tasting. The massive glass doors at the entrance give way to a backdrop of white interior which allows for natural sunlight to fill all corners of the room. The perception of light and space has been perfected with this design.

The tasting room’s design, which was inspired by a wine barrel, offers lavish furnishings for a leisurely tasting. The contemporary design against the natural setting of the mountains is any architect’s dream project. Eloquently designed to take advantage of the lush gardens, a piece of art on its own, the tasting room capitalises perfectly on its use of spacious interiors. Architects Kuger Theron did a sterling job with this breathtaking design while Chrislene Retief takes credit for the beautiful interior.

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Beautiful, spacious interiors offered the perfect hideaway.

Nadine, the tasting room assistant, led me to a quiet table before presenting some of their best wines which, I may add, completely swept me off my feet!

Christina van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc

First up, from their premium selection, was the Christina Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc. Classic and full-bodied, this Sauv is any white wine lover’s dream. Handpicked to ensure only the very best grapes are used to make this lovely Sauv. A mix of tropical flavours and grass explodes on your palate from the very first sip. I loved it because it’s a comfortable wine yet it offers a little complexity which allows you to savour every sip.

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Some of Van Loveren’s selection of white wines.

Neil’s Pick Colombar

Named after Cousin Neil Retief the viticulturist, this Colombar was made to entertain the wine enthusiast. A refreshing taste of lime and guava, the Colombar is a real crowd pleaser. It’s an easy-drinking wine and appeals to the simple palate. Guaranteed to hook you from the very first sip.

Christina van Loveren Method Cap Classique

I must admit that I was mostly excited to taste their promised MCC and was delightfully surprised. Well balanced and smooth, this MCC was made for celebration. Eighty six percent Chardonnay and 14% Pinot Noir, this MCC was an absolute pleasure to my palate. A burst of bubbles erupts on your palate with limey and citrusy flavours to fill all corners of your month. It truly is a lovely treat for any occasion.

Christina van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon

Nadine ended our lovely tasting by offering me a sip of their award-winning Christina van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon. Fourteen-months wood matured, this Cab Sauv is an absolute treat to the palate. Full-bodied, it has all the characteristics of a dark red wine. Although slightly heavier on the palate, this wine will appeal to both the simple and complex red wine lover. I truly enjoyed this wine.

Van Loveren also offers a selection food and wine pairings including cheese and wine, chocolate and wine, and nougat and nuts and wine. For the nature lover, it also offers a range of activities including a 7.5 kilometre hiking trail, bird watching and mountain biking. Christina’s Bistro restaurant, also on the premises offers a delectable menu for the hungry traveller.

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I fell in love with the large variety of delish delicacies they stock in their tasting room.

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Choices included olive oil and a variety of yummy jams.

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A display of massive bottles of Van Loveren Wines was intriguing.

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My tasting ‘partner-in-crime’, Nadine and I.

I’d like to thank Nadine for the lovely tasting, I had a wonderful time at Van Loveren. Thanks also to Bonita for running me through the farm’s history, it was very insightful. If you’d like more info on the wide selection of Van Loveren 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

Experience elegance at Arabella

Driving down the white-stoned gravel road en route to Arabella Wines’ tasting room, with stunning views of the muscular Arabian horses galloping on the side felt, for a split second, like a scene from the 1980’s television series, Dallas. The Arabella farmstead, situated on the spectacular Route 62, could easily be mistaken for the Ewing’s famous Southfork Ranch.

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The scenic entrance to Arabella Wines.

The farm, which is named after the famous endurance riding horses for which the De Wet family has an inherent passion for, has views to spoil you rotten. Endless mountains and skies to impress even the fussiest landscape snob, a sea of greens to calm the soul and a massive front porch that is both inviting and relaxing; the perfect resting place for a thirsty throat. Arabella Wines, right outside Ashton, is where my journey took me this week.

The tasting room with beautiful vernacular architecture was perfectly designed to capitalise on the exquisite landscape views. You immediately feel at home upon entering this very comfortable setting with large couches to help you feel right at home. I met with Winemaker, Marna Brink and Marketing Manager, Nelmarie Baard for a lovely afternoon of tasting and touring.

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The beautiful tasting room with vernacular architectural designs.

The Arabella brand has market itself successfully as a supermarket brand and supplies to most major supermarkets within the country. Their exports have also increased substantially over the last few years with around 60% of produce exported, mostly to the UK, and 40% distributed locally.

Arabella has a long harvesting season; around two and a half to three months, Winemaker, Marna explains. “This is mostly because we use a variety of grapes, for our wines. We use both the younger grape with higher acidity, but then we also use the sweeter grape that stays longer on the vine for our sweet wines and rosés. This is why our harvesting season tends to be slightly longer than other farms’.”

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Stephen de Wet inherited this beautiful Bible from his parents.

Although the farmland belonged to the De Wet family for generations, the Arabella farm was only established around eight years ago when brothers Stephen and Freddie de Wet divided the two farms, forming Excelsior (Freddie de Wet) and Arabella (Stephen de Wet), respectively. Stephen insisted on the latest technology and built a state-of-the-art wine cellar which has the capacity to produce and store around 3.6 million litres of wine at any given time. He also invested in the best bottling and labelling machinery to ensure a completed process under one roof, so to speak.

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The high-tech bottling and labelling machinery. 

“We focus a lot on producing easy drinkable wines for the greater public”, says Nelmarie. They launched their latest offerings, the Natural Sweet Rosé and the Natural Sweet White earlier this year during the Wacky Wine Festival, and were pleasantly surprised at the reception it received. “It was our most successful launch to date, it really exceeded our expectations”, she added. The reason, she reckons, is because a sweet wine or rosé usually attracts first-time wine drinkers and since the Wacky Wine Festival generally attracts a younger crowd, it was a total hit between festival goers.

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Arabella’s two new offerings; the Natural Sweet Rosé (left) and the Natural Sweet White.

Arabella Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Vintage

The Sauvignon Blanc was the first target in the tasting process. This is their most popular white wine, Nelmarie says and not surprisingly so. I love that it’s light enough to lure the gentle wine drinker yet it will also appeal to the more complex palate. A burst of summery, fruity flavours settle on your tongue from the very first sip. It’s a lovely soft wine to be enjoyed during warm summer evenings.

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I sipped leisurely on their Sauvignon Blanc (left) and their Merlot. #yum

Arabella Pink Panacea

Although a dry rosé, the Pink Panacea still offers that sweet, fruity taste that lingers on your palate. A little more complex than their sweeter varieties, this wine is a lovely alternative to a sweet rosé if that doesn’t tickle your fancy. Another one for the summer, this rosé makes for the perfect poolside wine.

Arabella Merlot

One of their most awarded wines, the Arabella Merlot proved why it is such a favourite amongst consumers. Rich flavours of plum and blackcurrant, this wine is soft on the palate yet has a long, slow finish. This was by far my favourite of all the varieties. I loved the complexities, yet it makes for a simple, easy companion.

Reserve range

Next we moved onto their premier brand, the Reserve Range.

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Their Reserve Range boasts an elegant black label.

Arabella In Unison Reserve

The In Unison Reserve was up first. An equal mix between Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, this red was truly a delight to savour. This is the wine you want to drink like an alcoholic; alone after a tough day at work. Nelmarie’s words, not mine. It is 12 months wood matured in oak barrels and offers that rich, seasoned taste. It truly is a ‘special-occasion’ wine to enjoy leisurely.

Arabella Shiraz Viognier

Recipient of the 2011 Michelangelo Silver Award, the Shiraz Viognier was another lovely treat. It contains all the complexities of a Shiraz yet is gentle on the palate. Full-bodied, this red exemplifies all the qualities of a dark, rich blend, offering a long finish. It has a blackcurrant and rich coffee aftertaste. It’s a wine to be appreciated and cherished.

I concluded my trip to Arabella with a tour of their ultramodern wine cellar, including the entire bottling and labelling operations. The tour is also open to the public pending prior arrangement, Nelmarie said. It is truly amazing to see how much work goes into what we perceive as just a ‘simple’ bottle of wine. It was incredible to view the process first-hand.

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The lovely ladies from Arabella Wines; Nelmarie Baard (left) and Winemaker, Marna Brink.

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Arabella’s state-of-the-art wine cellar can produce and store around 3.6 million litres of wine.

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2014 Merlot anyone? Marna has to check and approve all labelling (left).

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The Arabian horse dominate the discipline of endurance riding and is one of the oldest breeds in the world.

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Arabella offers picture perfect views.

Electric Vines, in association with Arabella Wines, will host a New Year’s Eve Music Festival, featuring a whole bunch of great local artists, including the likes of Just Jinjer, Prime Circle and Jesse Clegg. It will be a two-day event from 30 to 31 December and promises to be great fun. If you don’t have your tickets yet, please visit Electic Vines for more info.

I’d like to thank Marna and Nelmarie for the lovely visit at Arabella, I had an awesome time. If you’d like more info, including prices on their wines, please visit their website. Also follow them on twitter and facebook.

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Till next time… xoxo