December 28, 2005 – December 30, 2005
Winelands of South Africa
After one month of non-stop traveling and 19 flights later the plan for South Africa was to chill out. Wine tasting and laying by the beach in Plettenberg Bay. We were ready for five days of deep relaxation before Josh went back to work and I went to India.
I had been curious about South African wines for many years. They're the world's seventh largest producer of wine but they don't get much exposure in the Bay Area since we're California, Oregon and Washington focused. I knew they produce a unique grape varietal, Pinotage. It grows on a bush vine and like Zinfandel is to California, Pinotage is to South Africa. Basically we only had one day and one night to get a taste of this region. With over 400 wineries in more than ten regions we didn't even skim the surface but what little I did taste I absolutely loved.
The winelands are incredibly picturesque. I enjoyed drinking up the views as much as I did the wine. It's easy to find your way around. Most wineries are happy to have you drop in for a taste unless, of course, it's one of those appointment-only wineries. A girlfriend of mine from San Francisco, Jen Herman, happened to be in nearby Cape Town the same time we were in Franschhoek. Jen was with two of her friends, Gabe and Jason. Lucky for us, Gabe volunteered to be the designated driver so we poured into his car and went on our wine tasting way. I arranged three winery visits but should have known better from extensive past experience. Two's enough! We wound up canceling the last appointment. It's too bad. I've heard great things about Ken Forrester Wines and his restaurant, 96 Winery Road. I MUST come back and visit more wineries and restaurants.
Our first (and favorite) tasting was right outside Franschhoek at a small boutique producer, Lynx Winery. (www.lynxwines.co.za). We emailed and called ahead to arrange an appointment. The owner/winemaker, Dieter Sellmeyer, opened the winery seven years ago and is only on his third or maybe fourth vintage. The winery yields about 90 tons of grapes of which approximately10 tons are put aside for Lynx Wines and the rest sold to other wineries. Up until last year he only produced red wine. In 2005 he started making a Rose. It must have been great because it was sold out so we didn't sample any. We tasted their John Platter award winning 2003 Shiraz, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Xanache, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. All fantastic! They also have nightly accommodations on the farm where Lynx Wines are grown. I would consider staying there next time. They have a huge gourmet kitchen onsite and a braai (African word for BBQ).
Dieter and his wife Diana joined us for lunch at Ruben's in the main town of Franschhoek. Franschhoek has the reputation for being the “food and wine capital” of the winelands region. Ruben’s rivaled that of any restaurant I've been to in Yountville or Napa or Sonoma. SOOOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!! The food was so good we couldn't help but photograph everyone's dishes. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I was one of the happiest tourists in the world ! Like I said, we didn't even skim the surface of the winelands and I have a thirst for future trips to this delicious part of the world.