Jumping at any opportunity to welcome in the sunny season, I embarked on an exploration and ardent sampling of my favourite Robertson Valley wines for summer sipping.
Exploring this extraordinary part of the Western Cape – home to the friendliest people, the most breathtaking scenery and naturally some of the finest wine – makes a visit to the area an essential addition to your holiday destination list. Focussing on the latter, I’ve rounded up my preferred varietals from various local estates in and around the Robertson Valley.
Mont Blois Wines
Hop on Robertson’s own Wine Valley Safari truck and trundle your way to the home of one of the two winemaking Bruwer families in the Robertson Valley. Mont Blois is headed by Nina-Mari – the only Cape Master winemaker in the area – and her creations with the grape are testament to her talent. Sit in the tasting room – a set of newly restored and renovated grain silos luxuriously furnished in an exotic nod to the East. One of the rare Chardonnay’s I can relate to, Nina-Mari’s Hoog en Laag offering is made in a northern Burgundy style and features a full-bodied savoury sapidity with distinctive notes of bitter kumquat from it’s clay soil terroir. Perfect when paired with rich foods like Coq au Vin or creamy Moules, this is the singular Chardonnay that this staunchly Sauvignon Blanc fan would switch her cultivars for.
Esona Boutique Wines
The home of Esona is located in the centre of a vineyard. Enter and find a tastefully restored building that simultaneously pays homage to its history with rough stone floors and reclaimed wood while embracing modernity with minimalistic features that are apparent in the large picture window, the eatery upstairs and the sun-drenched patio. But what gives Esona its singular appeal is the estate’s decision to serve its wine in Riedel glasses – a detail that not only lends a touch of European allure, but also serves to enhance the flavour of each wine offered. We discovered this during their specialised “Taste the Difference” wine, preserves and crystal glass pairing in Esona’s cellar – with the estate’s Frankly My Dear rosé and their deliciously fruity 2017 Sauvignon Blanc – a slow-maturing creamy white with notes of guava, gooseberry and green fig coming out tops for me.
The Wonderfontein farm – home of Paul René Method Cap Classique and their stylish Splash of Pink bubbly event that is held in the summer of each year. Live music, food stalls and the estate’s excellent MCC ensure an afternoon of festivity for older folks whilst a swimming pool and myriad playthings keep the little ones occupied. Visitors can look forward to old-fashioned hospitality from hosts Henk and Monica van Niekerk as they welcome guests with a glass or two of icy Paul René Method Cap Classique Brut.
Known mostly for their citrus and their Shiraz, Zandvliet Wine Estate offers an intriguingly unique pairing in their intimate cellar tasting room. Partnering their wines with locally-grown Clemengold citrus, Zandvliet is able to do things with a glass of their Hill of Enon Chardonnay with a little candied citrus peel that is liable to impress even the most questioning of palates. Delicate on the nose with notes of ripe nectarine, lime, dried citrus peel and grapefruit, the Chardonnay develops into subtle wood integration of grilled cashew nuts and a creamy smooth finish on the palate – perfect when paired with buttery pastry dishes like salmon en croute or even a good old chicken pie. We also had the chance to bottle our own blend – an experience that I enjoyed on my previous visit. Naturally, I’m also a fan of their Sauvignon Blanc as it features a appetite-inducing green pepper base and the fresh gooseberry nose indicative of dry whites from the area.
Speaking of citrus, I once again had the opportunity to find repose at Zandvliet’s Enon House. Located in the middle of the ClemenGold groves, the guesthouse offers 5 en-suite bedrooms, an elegant lounge, dining room and functional kitchen, and is made for entertaining. As per my last visit, I stayed in the Glen Rosa suite – a beautifully furnished suite that opens up into the garden. An enormous bed, crisp cotton sheets and a roomy shower invites guests to unwind and take in the sweeping views from each window in the room. While Enon House is not currently available to book, it will be opening it’s doors to the public early on in 2020.
But if its something a little more high-tech you’re after, head into the foothills of the Kranskop Mountains and book a stay at theLAB Robertson. Newly launched with twin properties in Franschhoek and the Cape Town CBD, theLAB is housed in the old Rosendal manor and the juxtaposition of modern technology with classic architecture is striking. A nod to the future but also celebrating the truly hedonistic addition of voice-activated appliances, being able to access everything from automatic coffee machines, mood lighting and one’s choice of Spotify soundtrack is nothing short of titillating. What with Prince and mauve lighting setting the mood, I was able to truly indulge in my Bond girl fantasies – even if my version only involved a cup of tea, biscuit and an early night.
Definitely more satisfying than a cup of tea is Rietvallei’s Estéanna White Blend – one of the most exciting cultivars I’ve sampled yet. A combination of 45% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Chenin Blanc with a base of Viognier, the wine has forthcoming aromas of green fig and melon that follow through onto the palate – the perfect blend to enjoy over a cheese platter on sun-drenched afternoons or my smoked trout pâté.
For those wanting a Sunday drive, look no further than Lord’s Winery. Found just outside the small town of McGregor, the estate prides itself on its Pinot Noir as the hilly terroir affords Lord’s a height of 500m about sea level. This proximity to cool breezes off the ocean contributes to their elegantly light red wine that is redolent of cherries with an earthy base. Owner an founder Jacie Oosthuizen treated us to a special barrel tasting of their 2019 Pinot Noir as well as a 2017 Shiraz matured in stainless steel. I also took to Lord’s Sauvignon Blanc – with the wine’s litchi notes and gentle acidity inspiring me to pair it with another trout recipe – this time a whole fish roasted and topped off with a creamy sauce of capers and clams.
Image credit for certain shots go to the incredibly talented Dawid Botha.