It’s a Monday morning and I’m in a vineyard on a wine farm in Bot River. A cool sea breeze dances teasingly around my person, bringing a momentary respite from the relentless South Africa sun beating down upon my back. In fact, I am in the Pinot Noir block on the farm and the winemaker, William, has just popped a bottle of the farms 2013 Methode Cap Classique Brut Rose. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning of this adventure.
My friend Kerry, who writes the travel blog Kerry Travels, and I are in the Winelands of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. We are here following a conversation that started, funnily enough, over a few glasses of wine at a recent chef’s table we attended. We were captivated by the stories of winemaking. The business, and processes, of winemaking in South Africa, appear to be undergoing a radical rethink in terms of practice and sustainability. Old ways are being challenged by a new generation of those with the fruit of the vine flowing strongly through their veins. And so Kerry and I are adventuring through the Winelands in search of these, uniquely South African, stories.
Late Sunday afternoon Kerry and I arrive at the first stop on our adventure, the Wildekrans Wine Estate in the heart of the Bot River Valley. A mere 10km from the seaside town of Hermanus, Wildekrans offers spectacular views of the Overberg Mountains. The farm was originally known as Keerweer when its title was granted in 1864.
The greater Bot River Valley was used by 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century travelers as an outspan post for oxen and wagons. As these travelers descended the Houwhoek Pass (see my recent post on the pass here) they called the vast expanse of the Overberg mountains Canaan, meaning promised land. Today Wildekrans continues to evoke a similar sense of awe upon arrival, as you enter the beauty of its surroundings.
We set about exploring the beauty of Wildekrans at our own pace, walking amongst the vineyards and taking in the dramatic Overberg-detailed backdrop. Kerry christened my Adidas trainers My Vine Boots as we ventured forth, eager to get a start on that which had brought us here.
Following our late afternoon exploration stint, we decided on a more appropriate manner to connect with the essence of Wildekrans. Taking a bottle of the Estate Blend red wine, we enjoyed an impromptu picnic, amidst the very vineyards of Wildekrans.
After some time spent contemplating our surroundings, in the splendid company of the Estate Blend, we retired to our luxury cottages at the Endless Vineyards Boutique Lodge, located on the farm; to be our accommodation for the evening. These self-catering, two and three bedroom cottages, were originally the homes of farmworkers, but have since been wonderfully restored to ensure you stay as close to the vineyards as possible. Each cottage has an exterior fireplace/braai to further enhance your stay in a true South African pass time. The communal boma’s located between the cottages, provide a wonderfully social environment for guests to while away evenings around a campfire.
Meals are available to order from the Forage Restaurant located on the property, should you wish to experience a unique creation with ingredients foraged from the farm. Products are foraged and sourced from local artisans and farmers found within a 100km radius, with menu options evolving with the seasons.
The following morning Kerry and I headed off on a guided tour of the farm and vineyards, in the expert company of farm manager Braam Gericke and winemaker, William Wilkinson. This experience is what we had come for, an opportunity to connect with those directly involved in the operation of the farm and time amongst the actual vineyards.
Our time spent with Braam and William revealed two men who are deeply passionate about the land and how they work it, to produce the fine wines found at Wildekrans. No sooner had we begun our conversation than it became apparent that Wildekrans undertakes farming practices from a very innovative perspective. South African wine farms have long had a dubious reputation around living and working conditions of farm workers. But things are changing, particularly at Wildekrans, in no small way due to the continued efforts of Braam and William.
Alternative crops have been introduced at Wildekrans to make the farm productive throughout the year, thereby ensuring employment for workers on a more regular basis. Farm workers are also incentivised through ownership in a particular vineyard block on the farm, allowing them both insight and participation in the full viticulture process. Annually profits from the block are paid out to the workers.
We ended our tour in the Pinot Noir block, used to produce the 2013 Wildekrans Methode Cap Classique Brut Rose, which William shared has won several medals of late. A bit of bubbly on a Monday morning, nothing wrong with that! And also the point at which this post started, but certainly not the end!
Be sure to catch my video below for more from both Braam and William on our farm tour.
Having returned from our tour, Kerry and I headed off to the Tasting Room with William, to sample the final product. The Wildekrans Tasting Room is located in the original cellar built on the farm during the 1920’s and 30’s. We sampled the Wildekrans Barrel Select Reserve range, produced from selective harvesting. Vines used to produce this range produce fewer grapes, resulting in a richer, more complex style juice. This was very apparent in the Chenin Blanc which was my wine of choice and a pleasant surprise from a wine I would not normally select.
Having winemaker William on hand ensured that our lunch was well paired with a fabulous midday meal from the Forage Restaurant, ensuring we truly got to savour every aspect of the farm.
After lunch, a tour of the original cellar brought our time at Wildekrans to an end. As we drove out of Wildekrans, I could not but help feeling overwhelmed by what I had experienced over the last two days.
If asked to distill Wildekrans into one word, it would be passion. A passion for the craft of winemaking, a passion for the land and the people who work it, a passion for hospitality and a passion for making my stay on Wildekrans beyond what I had expected. But most significantly, a passion for doing things differently, which impacts upon us all, whether guest or farmworker. Now that speaks to my soul.
Our time on Wildekrans was rich in experiences which often cannot be distilled into mere words. I put this little video together in the hope that you will gain a sense of this wonderful place.
Our Wildekrans experience was made possible by the friendly folks at Thompsons Holidays, who seamlessly arranged every detail. Thompsons bulk buying power means your trip, to literally anywhere, can be booked directly with them and covers all aspects of your holiday, from flights, car hire and accommodation. A Thompsons package translates into savings, leaving you with more to enjoy on your holiday. Go on, put them to the test! Thompsons Holidays have a deal to get you to Wildekrans Wine Estate with accommodation at the Endless Vineyards Boutique Lodge, including flights and car hire, right here.
Have you visited Wildekrans Wine Estate and the beautifully appointed Endless Vineyards Boutique Lodge, perhaps you are planning to? Tell them Ryan sent you and share some of your photographs with me on social media!