Thursday, 25 June 2009

One last wine tasting!

Wednesday 18th June

As I had just 4 days left in South Africa we decided to go for a final days wine tasting with André (Elaine's brother), his girlfriend Maria and Elaine's friend Katie.

In the evening we had arranged to go for a braai at Anton's home which just happens to be at the Rainbow's End wine estate. In fact Anton is the winemaker in the family enterprise and he is André's best friend.

Katie was our designated driver and did not disappoint. She arrived at our house before us at 1300hrs in a great big BMW! What a change from a Nissan 1400 bakkie! We arrived a few minutes later, jumped in and headed off to pick up André and Maria.

With the 'boet' safely in the car we set off for our first port of call, Waterford Wine Estate, who's winemaker Francois went to school with Elaine and André. If you grow up in Stellenbosch it seems inevitable that you will have plenty of good connections in the wine industry!

Waterford is known for matching it's wine tasting with the stunning chocolates of Von Geusau (Elaine's favourite - especially the rose geranium variety). Before we could taste the wine and chocolate together we sampled a number of very good whites and reds from both the estate and second label ranges.

Now it was time for chocolate and wine together! Our waiter brought out trays with chocolate and three fresh wine glasses. We were to sample the Kevin Arnold Shiraz with masala chai dark chocolate, a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a dark rock-salt chocolate (sounds strange but it was REALLY good) and finally the Heatherleigh desert wine with Elaine's favourite rose geranium choccie.

Satisfied with our lot we got back into the car and decided to drive to Hidden Valley, one of the estates that we had considered for our wedding venue.

The location is absolutely stunning, nestled into the slopes of the Heldeberg Mountain with stunning views all the way out to Table Mountain (though not on the day we visited unfortunately).

The thing that we really love abut coming here, other than the view, is the opportunity to taste some excellent wine and to buy a case of one of our favourites (the Land's End Sauvignon Blanc which is on special offer for next to nothing!). An added bonus is that you are given a very generous amount of wine to taste!

Time had got away from us, as it tends to when you are sitting in the sun drinking wine, and it was time to head to the shops to get supplies for the braai. We also had to pick up the bakkie to take with us Rainbow's End as the road there is a bit of a rollercoaster!

Another hour or so later we were all set and headed off just as the sun was setting. After a ten minute drive on tarmac and 20 minutes on a real dirt bone shaker we had reached the main gates to the estate. Anton opened up for us and we started on the very steep and rutted final couple of kms. Finally, after Anton joined us halfway up, we reached the end of the line and the magnificent family home. Words cannot describe just what a stunning location this is, backed right up onto the slopes of the Jonkershoek Mountain overlooking the Banghoek valley. It was dark when we were there so have no photos of the view but the Rainbow's End website can fill in the gaps!

We had a couple of drinks and then headed off to the cellars which Anton had kindly offered to take us round and let us taste different wines in different stages of maturity straight from the barrels.

The cellars were nice and warm compared to the outside temperature not by luck but by design. Anton gave us a basic introduction to his craft and then used a wine thief to extract a sample of wine from a barrel.

Tasting glasses were filled and we began our journey into the unknown!

We repeated the process many times and got a great insight into the life-cycle of wine in the barrel. It was interesting to taste how the flavours and acidity change dramatically over time and also to recognise that what may not be palatable now had the potential to be a fantastic wine in 12 months time, hopefully good enough to win Anton even more gold medals for his collection. I think that we all started to feel that we would like to study the process and join Anton as winemakers ourselves!

Sampling all of that red wine (they do not make any whites here) had started to have an effect, our tonues were red and the journey back to the house would be slightly more tricky!

Anton went to fetch some finished and bottled wines for us to drink while the rest of us got ready to braai. The Cabernt Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that we drank with our steak and boerewors were fantastic and we all had a great night sitting out on the 'stoop', eating, drinking and laughing. The only downside of the whole evening was that we had to leave and negotiate the road again!

For those of you in the UK we are sorry but you won't find Rainbow's End in the shops but you can order through the website, just don't ask us how much shipping costs! For those of you in SA, get drinking! You will find Anton's wines at some of the top restaurants in the land and specialist quality wine merchants.

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