There is a difference between knowing the great wines of a particular district and actually experiencing those wines in their native setting. Nonetheless, I was somewhat sceptical about having to drive from estate to estate. More specifically, I was concerned at the time the driving would consume relative to the time left to consume those wonderful wines I’d heard about.
The Elgin district is just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town so it is worth identifying estates of interest beforehand, whether due to their Platter ratings, their child-friendliness or their famous settings. Tickets – collected from the Peregrine Farm Stall – came with a wine glass as well as a map of the area which clearly indicated participating estates, making it even easier to set a course in minutes.
We came with high expectations and Elgin valley did not disappoint. A few Chardonnays, Syrahs, and Pinot Noirs absolutely stole the show. Some highlights included:
Paul Cluver – Their Estate Pinot Noir 2013 vintage is light in colour, with a silky, berry palate, reminiscent of a black forest cake.
South Hill – The venue was geared for a lazy afternoon spent soaking in the sights and tastes with a tented outside area and live music. For the ideal picnic drink, I would recommend their Miccah blend which has an evocative olive on the palate.
Charles Fox MCC Estate – Two ladies greeted us upon arrival and offered a wine glass washing service. An MCC tasting simply must not be tinged with a previously sampled red wine. Here we were treated to a wine cellar tour – always fascinating and very informative. It was especially interesting to see how second fermentation, which for MCC must take place in the bottle, is done on a large scale.
Almenkerk – This was my favourite venue. The layout was designed specifically to command a breathtaking view of the valley. There was a children’s play-area, where supervising adults could sit back and sip their wine at ease. Light meals were served in the cellar where an accordion-player provided entertainment. The Chardonnay 2013 and Syrah 2011 vintages were particularly enjoyable.
Elgin Vintners – This was the busiest venue of the day, due in no small part to the child-friendly activities on offer. There was a jumping castle and face painting all within view of the tented area with benches where parents could keep an eye on the young ones and snack on the fare provided by food trucks. I was particularly impressed with their Century Sauvignon Blanc, blended with Semillon, which tastes of tropical fruits and granadilla. Their Chardonnay 2011 vintage was also outstanding, and their Viognier is the best I’ve ever tasted.
Belfield – Here we found a Polynesian style Banting friendly food truck, enticing live music by the talented Amy Larter, and a delightful Syrah 2010 vintage.
Oak Valley – Best known for the MTB and hiking trails, this estate’s Reserve (Blend) 2008 had my taste buds singing.
Lothian – The last stop of the day, and the swimming pool which overlooks the dam was displayed to its best advantage in the sunset. We arrived there just a few minutes shy of 5pm, the official closing time for the festival, but the party showed no signs of abating any time soon. The Chardonnay 2013 and Pinot Noir, with its palate of fresh cherries, were great choices to end off the day.
Elgin valley is both far and near enough to be a quick weekend getaway from town. Besides, there are so many highly rated wineries in the area that it would be a shame to spend anything less than a weekend sampling the district’s hospitality. On top of that, a ticket to Elgin Cool Wine and Country Festival is in fact a weekend pass, so you don’t really have any excuses.
That being said, a day trip is just as pleasant. Putting a little more thought than usual in planning the route leaves you with enough time to enjoy what each estate has to offer as well as soaking in the beautiful landscape during the drive in between. Indeed, it is my firm belief that wines tasted in their native setting are presented to their best advantage. Much more so than had you tasted them anywhere else.
Review also posted on Freda’s Blog: Chronicles of a Banter.
The Elgin Cool Wine and Country Festival runs from 2 to 3 May 2015.