Day 264: Big Easy

Sat. 4th May 2013

Look no hands requiredToday we are being collected at 9:30 by Keith and being taken around a selection of vineyards in Stellenbosch to try their wines. What could be easier? There were supposed to be another four people with us today but they cancelled at the last minute. Their loss as we had a personalised tour put together by Keith which evolved as we chatted.

Olde food shopAs we had only arrived in Stellenbosch late yesterday and not had time to walk around, our tour began with a drive around town to see the museum and University. It is a very pretty place and the oldest town in South Africa (Cape Town does not count as it is a city!) There is even a preserved old fashioned shop full of sweets, jams, spices, clothes, books, you name it they appeared to have it, with a great smell of the spices.

Delightful seat in the sunWe arrived at the first vineyard called Jordan a little after ten expecting to be the first tasters but there were already people there. I could get used to sitting in the sun at 10am sipping a glass of chilled white wine (only joking mum!). I am not sure if this Sauvignon Blanc was my favourite wine of the day because it was the first or if it was the taste! These vineyards are certainly set up for the punters as they all seem to have gardens set out with spectacular views over the valleys and mountains. Many also have works of art in their gardens and galleries.

Warwick wineryWe then moved on to L’Avenir to taste their Pinotage which was more to Dave’s taste than mine as their 2011 was too full of tannin and I think needed to be laid down for a while (and avoided if it did not improve with age). This was only a brief stop before moving on to Warwick, which made us think of Chris studying in its namesake in the UK. We just had to try the wedding cup and hear the love story of how it was originally designed. It is said to have been crafted by a blacksmith in a challenge set by a king to win the hand of the princess.

One of the many works of artThree vineyards before lunch so it was time to find food. Keith knew just the place and rang ahead to check it was not too busy. The Goatshed at Fairview Estates in Paarl was a lovely restaurant where we sat out and enjoyed a lovely lunch (with fruit juice not wine). Whilst there we just had to taste their cheese and wine, wearing our “official taster” stickers. The last good cheese we have had was in Australia and so we really enjoyed these, so much so we bought taster trays for lunch tomorrow. We also splashed out on a bottle of their Beacon Shiraz which was a bonus wine we tasted and very smooth.

Salute of freedomWe did have a quick stop at another prison where Nelson Mandela was held, which has a large statue outside depicting the raised fist of when he was released. Keith had thought of taking us to Franschhoek for lunch but changed the plan as we had stopped there yesterday, the advantage of having a personal tour. Keith is a great guide and we chatted away merrily (Freudian slip?) about many topics including our trip and his visits to UK.

Impressive drive to vineyardThere was just time for one more vineyard before they close at 4pm, the name of which I cannot remember (oops). Whilst we were sat an open sided truck full of tasters arrived and they were far merrier than us, as they bustled in disrupting the tranquillity. I am so glad we found Redwood Tours run by Keith as we have had a fantastic day and it certainly lived up to the glowing reviews we read yesterday on Trip Advisor. Keith knows the area well and quickly knew our tastes in wine so could tailor our day accordingly and we would recommend him to anyone thinking of a wine tour here.

Big Easy RestaurantWe arrived back at the hotel just after five in time for a cup of tea and rest before supper. Keith had shown us the restaurant owned by Ernie Els and so we just has to go and try it out. We were shown the extensive wine list but decided we could only manage a glass each especially as I wanted white and Dave red. I settled for the fixed four course meal with gammon and Dave could not resist the braised lamb. He also tried some of my sorbet and chocolate pudding with orange sauce. The restaurant was called Big Easy, being Ernie’s nickname and it just summed up our day in the sunshine being chauffeur driven around the wine cellar doors.

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