On Thursday it was time for wine tasting. The most famous region for wine tasting in the Cape is Stellenbosch, but at the recommendation of a friend who had been in the area a year prior, we headed towards Swartland instead, which is a little bit more north and west. This turned out to be a great choice. This region is more up in the farmlands in the area, and many of the wineries are on farms that exist for other purposes as well, like wheat or beef. The nice thing was that we were seeing more boutique kind of wineries and the people who were pouring the tastes for us were the actual winemakers.
The first stop we visited was Nassau Winery, although the wines are bottled under the Black Ridge Label. We met the farmer and winemaker, who was unbelievably welcoming and kind. He and his father own the land and the grapes, and the winery is relatively new. Immediately he brings out 6 bottles of wine for us to try. My eyes popped out of my head because I was driving and it was only 10:00 in the morning. However, we jumped right into it. We tried a 2010 sauvignon blanc and a chenin blanc, and then moved into a 2007 cabernet, shiraz, pinot noir, and a cab/mourvedre blend which is a popular blend out here. I will not bore you with our tasting notes, but the wines were refined and delicious. We had a great conversation with the winemaker about the farm, his family, what he does out here and our lives in New York. At the end of it, he said he felt bad because he didn’t have a proper tasting room (we were tasting in the barn where the wine was actually made…gee, darn) and he felt unorganized. Despite our fervent protests explaining that this was actually how we preferred it, he offered us two bottles of wine to take with us and we readily accepted.
Our next stop was Abbott’s Hill Winery, which was a bit of a mission to find, because it’s not on the map, it’s not on the GPS and there is no sign for the turn off. We ended up having to call the winemaker, Diane, who happily met us and drove us a good ways back on a dirt road to her farm. Again, we were tasting in an old dairy shed and she once again had many options for us. The first thing we tried was their first go at a rose to the point where the bottles didn’t even have labels yet. It was great, light and subtly fruity. We then tried everything else. Good lord, there was a lot. A couple of different vintages of cabernets and shiraz, and mourvedre by itself that could have almost been a dessert wine. It was all good. At the end we decided to buy a bottle of the rose and it was time to move on.
By this point, I was beginning to not feel great because my stomach was still pretty wonky, plus I had been drinking wine for 2 hours. We drove into Malmesbury, one of the towns in the center of Swartland, for lunch. At the recommendation of the first winemaker we went to Barry’s Beef & Barrel. It was a restaurant/kind of saloon in the middle of town that would have looked comfortable in the middle of wyoming or montana or something. We were definitely a little out of place, as it was mostly farmers having their lunch (with a lot of beer) and I was absolutely the only female in the place. However, the food was awesome. Surprisingly enough we had meat; Jacob ordered a burger, which ended up being a double patty open face sandwich thing, and I had schnitzel. When they put the schnitzel down in front of me I laughed out loud, because I’m pretty sure it was at least 16 ounces. It covered the entire plate, spilling over the edges. Needless to say, we had to wrap some of it to go.
Our final stop was Swartland Winery, which is the biggest winery in the region. They had a more conventional tasting room, but tastings were still complimentary. Their tasting list had probably about 25 wines on it, and they are happy to let you taste them all. Sadly, we were not able to make it through the entire list, but we did get to try some of their reserve wines and ports. In the end we bought a dessert wine that was actually closer in profile to a white port. We were also beginning to wonder if we were going to be able to fit all of the wine in Jacob’s suitcase. At this point I was sadly totally done. We had plans for a couple stops after this, but I was feeling exhausted and sick, so we cut the day short so I could get some rest before our next posh dinner.