Archive for October 2017

The Dog Sandwich

Xena

Xena. The first pic I saw…

Slinky Toykie

Skapie Slinky Toykie

The Dog Sandwich

Don’t worry, this is not a recipe. At least not for a meal or a snack.  It is a recipe for joy though.  As with food, I suppose it will not work for everyone, but it works for me. It is a staple that I live on.

I lived outside of South Africa for about nine years.  My son was small and we always knew we would not be in a place for longer than a year. I always wanted a dog; I grew up with dogs and always had dogs after that, but when we went oversees our two dogs went to live with my parents on the farm.  My son was three then. Getting a dog was difficult because transporting animals between countries is costly and sometimes complicated. Our longest stay at the same address, or at least in the same city, was Dubai, where we lived for five and a half years.

By the time my boy was nine, I thought it was just too sad to let a child grow up without a dog. We then adopted Bandit the Beagle.  He is no longer here but I still think of him and miss him. I could write a whole book about Bandit the Beagle, but let me do that some other time.

Today I want to write about how I moved out of the darkness into sunnier, lighter days, as the filling in a dog sarmi.

Skapie, aka Slinky Toykie is my long dog.  She has, surprisingly, a long body on fairly short legs. Nope, she is not a sausage dog.  Probably a bit of German Shepherd and a bit of Border Collie, and then a bit of something else that is a lot smaller and would account for the short legs.  She is a beautiful dog though!  I fell in love her the first time I saw her at an acquaintance’s house.  She greeted me at the gate and had the friendliest face and the nicest smile. Her owners also had kittens and she carried the kittens around as if they were her own puppies.

This poor dog has been through a lot and I suspect I don’t even know the bulk of it. She was picked up by the Animal Welfare Society in Gordon’s Bay as a stray dog.  Named Carrie, she stayed at AWS for 8 months and didn’t get adopted.  Then, someone I was Facebook friends with adopted her. They had her for 6 months before they sold their house and moved into a complex where they could not have dogs.  That was how Slinky Toykie came to me.

She was scared and nervous at first. As the weeks progressed, she slowly became incredibly playful, loving and protective. I have had her for almost 2 years now, and she is a happy, well-adjusted dog who loves her Mom.

I lost a dog in the dark months when this blog started. A Spaniel. He was not mine, but my partner’s and I loved him to bits. He loved me too.  A lot. We were close, him and me, and we had many good times, and as many bad times together. He made himself a man cave in my cupboard and would sleep there whenever he got gatvol with the women in his life. There was this one night his human mom spent in jail and I came home around midnight after trying to get her out, to find Mr. Spaniel covered in cow poo. I bathed him at that time of the night and dried him as much as I could and tried to reassure him because he suffers from separation anxiety when his mom is not with him.

She thought I had finally had it with her and was going to leave him outside in the cold, but the truth is, that is just not who I am. Besides the fact that I could never be mean to an animal, I loved her, and the dog, too much. Maybe one day I will be able to post a picture of him. For now, I can’t bear to look at those pictures. It hurts too much. I miss him more than I can describe, and Slinky Toykie missed him for long, and frankly, I don’t even want to think about it all.  I only brought it up to set the scene and make people understand the significance of what I want to get to next. Bear with me.

In the winter of this year, 2017, a friend of mine’s mother sadly passed away.  She had a little dog.  Anita, my friend, could not keep the doggie and started looking for a home for her.  She showed me a picture of a little black and white spaniel, sitting between yellow flowers, looking up at the camera.  It was the brown eyes and the smile on her face that hooked me immediately.

I tried to resist because I couldn’t really, and actually still can’t, afford another dog, but to make a long story short – Xena is now the one slice of bread in the dog sandwich. I could not resist. I lost one Spaniel, and although I don’t believe you can ever replace someone, be it canine or human, I am very, very happy to have found a new Spaniel.  Little Xena is amazing.  Cute like you can’t believe, and she laughs. Really, she makes a little laughing sound when she is happy. She was depressed at first. Remember her human mom is no longer here. Now she is getting happier, showing her personality, and laughing more and more.

Slinky sleeps on her bed next to mine. Xena sleeps with me.  In the early hours of the morning, when it gets too cold, Slinky jumps on the bed and crawls up behind my back.  Xena sleeps on my other side.  They sandwich me in. That is how I wake up in the mornings. A bit happier.

 

 

 

 

Vergenoegd Wines

Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

The Place:

As far as beautiful settings go, Vergenoegd Wines is very high on my list.   It is a tranquil wine farm near Somerset West, with their famous flock of working ducks.  Seeing the Indian Runner Ducks parade past on their way to the vineyards to work, is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Their job description is to eat goggos (insects and creepy crawlies) between the vines, and I am sure they have a lot of job satisfaction as well as a good, market-related salary. Fringe benefits include tranquil lawns among the big, old trees and historic buildings, and access to the summer concerts on Sundays. There is also weekend markets and a restaurant and tasting room with beautiful antique decor that gives it a lot of character.

Because the ducks are not paid in the dop-system, the wines are left to recreational consultants like Bev and I.  What a hard job we have!  So let’s get to work and talk about the wines!

We were there on a cold, rainy Saturday, so we were more inclined to go for cozy reds than whites.

The wines:

Vergenoegd Runner Duck Red 2014

A blend of 33% Touriga Nacional, 28% Cabernet Franc, 25% Malbec, 14% Tinta Barocca.
It is a full-bodied wine with a deep red colour. I got mostly cherries and prunes on the nose, but also a bit of spiciness, maybe mixed spices like in Granny’s mixed spice biscuits. In contrast to what I have said, I don’t find it to be a heavy wine.  It will pair well with food, but I could just as easily pour a glass to enjoy on its own after work, or while cooking.
It will go well with a good rump steak, but also some chicken dishes, duck, and venison – especially Impala and Springbok. Although, at Vergenoegd I don’t want to think about eating duck… Not here, no.
I would even have it with a rich, creamy seafood pasta or potjie but I may get a written warning for saying that. I would still try it on a day when the boss is away though…

Vergenoegd Shiraz 2008

The best Shiraz I have tasted recently. I know Shiraz is supposed to go with a curry or something spicy, but when I tasted this one I could only think of one thing:

A sticky oxtail potjie, slow cooked on the fire. I think it is the white pepper and smoky taste in the wine that makes me want to repeat it in the food.  A year ago I won a competition with an oxtail recipe, and it is the perfect wine to pair with it.  Click here for the recipe: Oxtail Potjie with Old Brown Sherry. (ag okay, the stuff formerly known as sherry.)

Vergenoegd Estate Blend 2007 – Bordeaux Blend

52% Cabernet Sauvignon; 42% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc
It is an elegant, full bodied wine.  It is spicy and there are hints of chocolate and vanilla, but in an Oreo kind of way. Or a layered dark chocolate cake with a bit of vanilla in the icing.  The problem with wine is that I often sound slightly crazy to myself, but then, I taste what I taste and I would rather look silly than to say only what is expected to be said.
So yes.  Cake, with vanilla and chocolate.
Bev has been telling me about a pasta she makes with leeks, Porcini mushrooms and smoky cheese.  She thinks this will pair well with it, especially with another cheese added to it. Maybe gorgonzola that brings a blue taste in without being too overwhelming.  She will have to invite me to dinner soon!

Vergenoegd Old Cape Colony 2008

Possibly not the best name in our current political scenario, but that is the only thing about this “port style” dessert wine that is not great.  Loved it, especially the perfect balance of being sweet but not too sweet. I want to drink it in winter in front of a fire.

I would pair it with a dessert speciality of mine – mini Butternut pancakes with a dark chocolate and chili sauce, topped with nuts.  The recipe? Mmm, I would have to think about it, because it is a bit of a secret.  I would make it for you though…  Get in touch.

 How to get there:

Tom Yum Pork Stew

 

Tom Yum Pork Stew

Tom Yum actually is a Thai soup, mostly made with seafood or chicken.  The soup base is a very hot blend of chilies, lime, lemongrass, galangal and tamarind.  The flavours also go well with pork, and I thought it doesn't always have to be a soup.  I experimented with lean pork and a tom yum soup base as a stew.  This recipe was the result of the experiments and an instant favourite for all my friends who like it hot!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Fusion
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4
Author Analize Viljoen

Ingredients

  • 800 g Lean pork I used a Texan pork steak, and the Texan spices combined well with the Tom Yum
  • 2 tbsp Tom yum paste Use less if you don't want it to be so hot. You can buy it from Asian food stores, the Asian section of your supermarket, or you can make your own.
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 Onion chopped
  • 1 Green or red pepper
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 2 Carrots diced, or Julienne
  • 300g Green beans quartered
  • 150 ml Coconut milk
  • 1 tsp Brown sugar or honey
  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemon grass stem, about 3 cm long.
  • Coraiander leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Water for cooking

Instructions

  1. Brown the meat. Add about a quarter cup of water and let it cook off until the meat starts frying again.

  2. Sprinkle meat with sugar, add the onion and fry until caramelised.

  3. Add the tom yum paste, lime leaves and lemon grass. Stir well, and try to coat the meat in tom yum paste as much as you can.

  4. Add all the other ingredients except coriander, plus enough water to make a stew gravy and simmer for 20 - 30 min.

  5. Serve with jasmin rice and garnish with coriander leaves.

Yonder Hill Wines

Yonder Hill Wines

I am very impressed with Yonder Hill!  So much so that I think their Inanda could become a new personal favourite.  Also, we are going back there soon, which says something!

The tasting room is intimate and tasteful, with a display of nice olive products from Olyfberg for sale.  From face creams and body butter to olive oil, jars of olives and a lovely vegetarian tapenade. The vegetarian tapenade was an added bonus because most of them have anchovies in them, which tastes great, but excludes vegetarians. It is hard not to buy something here, so we did some shopping.  They told us they are renovating soon and opening a restaurant, which is nice, but I hope they don’t go too commercial and lose their charm.

They spoilt us with crackers, olives and olive tapenade to nibble on between tastings, which was to die for.  I made sure I bought a jar of tapenade to take home!

 The wines

Danilo Rosé

They brought the Danilo Rosé first, and although I am not the biggest Rosé fan, this was a great, easy drinking wine that i would buy for the right occasion.  It is fruity, light, not too dry, but not sweet.  It is balanced, with a lovely light pink colour.  I would drink this wine at a summer’s picnic and pair it with any cold chicken dish – chicken sandwiches, drumsticks, cocktail wings, saté, salad.  Also a simple crusty bread with butter.  For vegetarians, I will go with egg mayo sandwiches – Bev makes the best ones -and mild cheeses, tomato and green salads, or a dip like tzatziki. I think it is an easy, crisp wine to drink cold with many summer snacks and salads.

Sauvignon Blanc.

The only wine I had at Yonder Hill that I am fairly neutral about. I was not impressed but also not unimpressed.  It was a Sauvignon Blanc like many other – tropical fruits but with a slight bitterness at the end.  Not enough to be bad, but it was there. I just won’t go out of my way to get this wine.

2016 Merlot.

I loved it!  It is a pure Merlot and a wine I could easily drink every day. It was made with a process called malolactic fermentation. According to Wikipedia: malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking in which tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Read more here.

It is fruity – I got strawberries and raspberries and a very slight mintiness that some people may question. It is very smooth and soft. I think it will pair well with foods that traditionally pair well with lighter red wines, but also a whole bunch of other things that are not really the usual red, or Merlot, partners. A good moussaka, pizza, cheesy pasta, or chicken casserole with green vegetables – beans, baby marrows, broccoli, spinach.  For vegetarians, simply leave out the meat, keep the green veggies and be creative!  Vegetarian moussaka will go well with this wine! Also, spanakopita, spanakorizo, bread or crackers, the Olyfberg olive tapenade…  There are endless possibilities because it is such an easy drinking wine.

Yonder Hill Wines

Yonder Hill Wines

2013 Merlot.

If the 2016 is good, the 2013 is simply wow! The extra time, and of course the vintage, made this wine a winner – literally!

Platter 2017 – 4 Stars;
Vitis Vinifera 2017 – Gold
Winemag Merlot Awards 2017 – 89 (Top 10)
Top12Wine Awards for Merlot 2017
• 4th – MERLOT 2014
• 6th – MERLOT 2013

It is richer, darker, has got a lot of depth and complexity, and endlessly interesting flavours. I got chocolate, dark caramel, maybe a bit of mulberry and blackcurrant… For pairings, I would throw the Merlot cliches out the window and go with ostrich steak or sausage, chicken spatchcock with mango marinade on the braai, oriental dishes with soya-sauce beef, and definitely my South-East-Aisan Pork Stew. It is a fusion dish, combining Thai and Chinese flavours for something unique but not so way-out that it becomes too “weird.”

For vegetarian pairings, I’d use vegetarian beef or chicken strips in Asian dishes, or give a vegetarian patty from Fry’s or Quorn a new spin with a Soya Marinade before cooking it on the braai. Also chickpea or brown lentil dishes.

Nicola.

This wine won a Silver – Michelangelo IWSAWARDS 2017.  I am in the minority here, from what I understand! Although absolutely amazing, I thought the tannins are just a little bit too bold, and I would love to taste this wine in a year’s time. Having said that, it is a very, very good wine!  It is layered and complex, with flavours hitting your tongue and combining in different ways creating a full-bodied taste explosion!  While it is one of their premium wines and I really liked it, I stick to my guns – I want to taste it in a year’s time. Or 3…

Inanda

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does!  Nicola may be number one, but Inanda is my personal number one.  Inanda means “Place of Beauty” and the beauty of this wine is captured in every sip!  It is a red blend, and a good one at that!

47% Cabernet Franc;
44% Cabernet Sauvignon
6% Merlot
3% Petit Verdot

It is powerful, without being pretentious.  Slightly lighter than the Nicola, and as smooth as soft rain in the Cape.  I immediately wanted waterblommetjie bredie with it. (a traditional SA stew with a type of water lily and mutton.) I probably should have been thinking about more food to pair with it, but my mind got stuck there!

From the place, to the wines and the winemaker Abe Beukes whom we met, to Sherna who served our wines, Yonderhill was one great experience.  Sherna was friendly and knowledgeable and engaged us with information and her quirky sense of humour.  Abe Beukes taught me so much about winemaking in a 20 min crash course that I want to pick his brain some more and absorb information from him. We are going back soon to taste the premium wines with a cheese platter. I can’t wait.

On our way to the next stop from there, I went to buy waterblommetjies from Mooiberge.  I promised Bev I am going to come up with a vegetarian waterblommetjie stew.  A week later, I still have no idea how I am going to do that, but I will find a way!

How to get there:

 

Go On, Label Me!

Go on, label me.

It is all in the name.

I love the names of the wine farms in the Cape.  I actually think about those names, even when it is a person’s name. Names have an origin and a meaning that is interesting to explore. Some tell a story in one word, worth digging deeper into. I have realised that I love translating the names, tasting them, rolling them around on my tongue, aerating it like the wine that is to follow soon.

Sure, you get ones like “Ernie Els” that do not require much thought and can accidentally be called “Gary Player” on a day when you have already done 3 hours of wine tasting.  As long as you have the right balls, right?  Golf balls, of course.

Then there are those with names that simply speak to those parts of ourselves that still believe in magic and mystery.  Names that promise a piece of that magic and mystery, in either the atmosphere, or the cellar, or the view, or the wines themselves. Sometimes all of those. Some deliver on the promise, others not so much.

Vrede en Lust.  Peace and lust.

Meerlust. A lust for more.

Although the word “lust” probably conjures up a sexual innuendo for many people – and let’s face it, wine can be very sexy – it also has another meaning.  In Dutch and German, it also refers to a lust for life and taking pleasure in something.

Allesverloren. Lost everything. There is a story there!

Avontuur – Adventure.  Oh yes!

Hidden Valley…  Makes you want to go and find it. Now. And spend a weekend there away from the hustle and bustle.

Morgenster – Morning Star.  A bright, shiny star, a new beginning. The mystery and magic of the stars, with a view and wines that lure you in.

Spookfontein – Ghost Fountain.  I mean, you can seriously play around with that name!  Unfortunately, the tasting experience did not live up to the name and was completely underwhelming. We were given three wines that we can’t remember.  The information was delivered in the 20 seconds it took to pour two tasting glasses, and was equally forgettable. It is a shame.  I mean, you have a name like Ghost Fountain!  Use it, make me remember more than your name. Make me feel something, even if you scare the hell out of me with a ghost story!  Okay, I mean, scare the hell out of Bev. It might be easier than getting me to believe in hell. Or in ghosts, but I still like the stories – of both hell and ghosts.

Then there are the wines themselves; often with their own beautiful names.

The Red Lady, The Blue Owl, The Runner Duck, Two Dogs a Peacock and a Horse, Steen op Hout (Stone on Wood), Inanda… Too many to list in this post. I like those names. I like the names of the wine cultivars too. Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc. Shiraz. Words that roll off your tongue.

I also like the labels.  Recently it has become very fashionable to say you hate labels. I know people don’t mean they hate the wine labels. It is all about the labeling of people, but while I am on the subject of labels, I want to say this:

I don’t hate labels.  Not wine labels or any other labels per se.  To me they are, in many cases anyway, just nouns, or names.  Just a common way of describing something so that we all know what we mean. I do hate bigotry though, but that is not necessarily in the name or the term. You can call me what you want; if you hate me, you hate me, and it is more in the attitude than in the word. The problem with hating labels is that you can’t consistently hate labels.  People end up hating those labels they don’t like while they use other labels freely. There will always be labels, and hating them just earns you the label of someone who hates labels.

I am a woman.  To me that is not a label. It is a way of describing me so that people know I am not a man. I am a lot of things.  I am funny, I am serious, silly, sad, weak, strong.

There are certain nouns that I will wear with pride and others I won’t like. I am not wine. To begin with, I don’t age that well. Secondly, I am not one thing, like Shiraz or Chardonnay, or even a blend of only three or four things. I am everything, at one time or another. Any label you hang around my neck describes only that one aspect of me in one context. In another, I am going to be the opposite of that. So I am weak? Yes, I am at times. More often to someone who sees depression as weakness.  To someone else, who understands it, I am strong for dealing with my depression and getting up if I have to claw my way out of a dark hole.

Labels are as diverse as people and context, so go ahead, label me if you want to.  It doesn’t change me, it describes me. Or rather, it describes who you think I am and if you are wrong it doesn’t matter what you call it, you are still wrong. If you are right in your description I will accept it, positive or negative. If you are simply using a noun against me, that is okay too. It says more about you than about me.

Having said all that, I have to point out – my favourite labels are wine labels. Or the odd Black Label.

Vrede en Lust Wine Estate

Bev, Vrede en Lust tasting area.

Vrede en Lust Wine Estate

 

When you get there you walk past the bakery to get to the tasting room.  They offer meals and artisan breads that make you hungry just by looking at it. Unfortunately, they don’t fall in my budget, so to the tasting room we went.  The entrance to this area is imposing and impressive!  You walk up the steps and the first thing you see is the fantastic view of vineyards in a natural amphitheater between the mountains.  You are served by women in red, formal dresses which I am a bit ambivalent about, to be honest.  While they looked very nice, it may be a bit much for a Saturday morning?  On the other hand, it is something different, and I like something different. Still deciding what I think!

I really enjoyed the wines, with the 2013 Boet Erasmus red blend standing out!  It is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  A complex red that I would want to have with a dish in which red meat takes center-stage on the plate. It may be a cliche, but I can imagine this wine with a good, medium rare steak. It is always a challenge to pair a wine like this with a vegetarian dish for Bev so I realised I have some experimenting to do!

I would pair their Red Lady Merlot with a mild Vegetarian Bobotie though. To me this Merlot had a subtle spiciness that I found interesting in a Merlot. I tasted cloves, and maybe a bit of nutmeg between the vanilla and red fruit. It is fashionable not to like Merlot these days and to complain about how South African winemakers can’t make Merlot, but I prefer to give each one a chance. This one was nice and would pair very well with any mild spicy dish. That is why I choose a bobotie – vegetarian or meaty.

The Rose was drinkable but in my opinion not very special. That wine that you would drink if someone pours it for you, but you won’t necessarily buy if you are looking for a good Rose.
The Sauvignon Blanc I might buy. I found it rather creamy for a sauvignon blanc, which I found interesting.

They also gave us crusty bread sticks from the bakery and a small Lindt chocolate, which was very nice.  We love those little extras!

How to get there:

Rooibos Chai Scones

 

Rooibos Chai Scones

These easy rooibos chai scones put a new spin on an old favourite.  It adds the exciting tastes of rooibos tea and chai spices.  Try it, you will love it!  Delicious with strawberry jam or syrup, which complements the hint of black pepper.  Apricot jam is always good with scones too!

Pairs well with Shiraz, or the Meerlust Merlot that has an unusual trace of spicy notes.  

Course Snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 Scones
Author Analize Viljoen

Ingredients

Scones:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50 ml cooking oil of your choice
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 200 ml milky Rooibos chai

Rooibos Chai:

  • 200 ml hot milk
  • Chai Spices: half a clove, 1 cardamom pod, pinch of each of the following: cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Ground black pepper

Instructions

Milky chai:

  1. Make a cup of milky chai by adding the teabag and spices to the hot milk. Let it steep for 5 min, and cool down for at least 10 min. Remove the tea bag, clove and cardamom pod.

Scone dough:

  1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.

  2. Add the oil to the tea mixture and stir well.

  3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix through.  Don't be scared to get your hands in there and giving it a brief knead.

  4. Make balls the size of a golf ball and put in a greased muffin pan. Flatten slightly with your hand; the scones should be about 2.5cm thick.

  5. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 to 20 min, until scones are light brown on top.

Best Creamy Peri-Peri Chicken Livers

 

Best Creamy Peri-Peri Chicken Livers

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 500 g Chicken livers defrosted
  • 1 large Onion chopped
  • 1 -2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 – 2 Chillies, or peri-peri spice, to taste
  • 1 Small Red/orange/yellow pepper chopped
  • 250 ml Cream
  • 2 tbsp Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp Flour heaped
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Water
  • Salt, pepper, braai spice / chicken spice
  • 1 Chicken stock cube

Instructions

  1. Sautee the onions until they start to get brown.

    Add peppers and fry until they start getting soft.

    Add garlic and chilli/peri-peri spice, fry for half a minute.

    Remove from the pan.

    Turn the heat up, and add a bit more olive oil.

    Flash fry the chicken livers on a high temperature, but be careful not to “crowd” the pan. (there will be too much moisture, and they won’t brown.  )

    Rather do it in batches, if you need to.

    Don’t overcook them. Flash fry, till brown, turn over once.

    They must still be pink inside.

    Add the onion mix to the livers.

    Mix the flour with a bit of cold water in a cup.

    Add the tomato paste, stock cube and apricot jam, then fill the cup up with boiling water.

    Pour onto the pan with the livers, and onions etc.

    Add salt (if needed; the stock cube may be enough) and spices.

    Stir through.

    Add cream, bring to the boil, simmer for about 3 minutes, until the livers are just cooked inside.

    Remove from stove when pinkness is just gone; this way they are smooth and creamy. If you cook them longer, they will become “gritty”

    Serve your best creamy peri-peri chicken livers with rice or freshly baked, crusty bread like a baguette or Portuguese rolls.  Add your favourite per-peri hot sauce if you dare!

The Sting of a Lifetime

The view from Morgenster

The view from Morgenster

Morgenster means Morning Star. The wine estate of Morgenster is less than 10km from my shack, at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain. You drive up through a forest and past a dam to get to the tasting room.  Here you are greeted by the most stunning view of the mountains of the Winelands. It was a crisp, sunny, winter’s morning after a few days of clouds and snow on the mountaintops.

Bev had just reunited with her ex that she had broken up with a few days earlier, and we all know what happens when people make up… That means she was particularly bright and cheerful.

I was not and I knew that this day would sting; the sting of a lifetime. To me, it was one of the most emotional days I have ever had to get through. I wanted to say, in the roller coaster ride of emotional days, but then I realized it was more like that log ride than a roller coaster. You get in and ride along smoothly, for about minute. Then you get to a platform where you are pushed over the edge to go down at lightning speed until you come to a splashing standstill.

 

I was fighting back those splashing tears all day. It is hard to stay sad on such a beautiful day, at a place like Morgenster with an endorphin-dazed friend, but tell me so

mething is hard and I will show you I can do it!  I think it was one of my most quiet PQ days. Or maybe not, I don’t remember. PQ?  Sorry, no we can’t tell you what that means. The world is not ready for it. Also, it is very hard to explain; it is part of a language Bev and I are inventing as we go along. Let’s just say PQs is what we call our wine tasting expeditions, and many other adventures we embark upon.

To be honest, I am quite hazy about the whole day. I do remember that ache in your chest, the one you get when your heart is hanging in shreds.  I also remember a long  row of good wines.  Morgenster does it differently! They bring you all the wines at once, and you start on the left and work your way through 5 wines. To read about Morgenster’s wines, click here.

When we were paying for our tasting, Bev’s eye caught the tasting list and there and then we decided to do another tasting of three more wines.  For those who are wondering how we taste so many wines – we linger on the ones we love. Of some, you just take a small sip or two, but there are those others with which you want to be like a toddler and fold your arms over it while loudly wailing it is MINE! On this particular day, it would have been easy to make them all MINE. It would have been easy to get lost in the oblivion of the grape and block out everything else.

After the tasting at Morgenster, and foraging their forest for a bag of pinecones, we went on along the same route, to Lourensford.  I was almost tempted to abandon wine tasting for coffee tasting, but I resisted the temptation.

By now I have gone from toddler to teenager and couldn’t stop giggling. I talked and joked with the people in the tasting room. Everything was funny but at the same time, my mind was imploding with darkness. It is a good thing I made notes of the wines because my memory of the day is more like a black hole of despondency than a golden morning star. 

By the time we got to my house the effects of the wine had worn off. A good thing too, because I still had to ride my motorbike to my friend Lenie’s house where I was going to spend the weekend. I had people lined up to catch me because I knew I would crash into a pit I would never get out of on my own.

I walked into the emptiness where my ex had removed her things that day, as planned. At that moment, I was exactly what she has told me a hundred times during our time together: an almost-fifty-year-old woman that no-one wants.  Then the floodgates broke and the tears bubbled out. Bev just held me and said in her quiet way:  It is okay my friend.

After I don’t know how long, I started packing for the weekend, not thinking straight.  Bev realised at a point I had no idea what I already packed in my bag.  She decided to help, and would say, do you have your toothbrush and I’d go and get it.

“Get a shirt,” and I’d grab the first shirt I could find.

“Panties…” and so forth.

After Bev made sure that I was okay to drive and warmly dressed for the bike, I locked the door behind me and drove off to go and cook something – anything – at Lenie’s house.  In my bag I had six clean panties for 2 days and a red hoodie to wear over my bright green shirt.  Lenie gave me one look and poured me a glass of her standard Robertson Red. I played Linkin Park videos on my laptop, and because the day stung like there’s no tomorrow, I quietly cooked a Beef Curry with Stinging Nettles.

WARNING: SLVND

 

I commented to Analize the other day about how happy I’d been when we went wine tasting at Morgenster and how I seem to have slipped into a sad fog lately. She reminded me that I’d just reunited with my ex the day before Morgenster and that since then my ex has become a re-ex. Actually a re-re-ex. It’s always complicated isn’t it?

 

I think people come into relationships with different weapons of choice, which they hide in their emotional basement until the day after you fall in love with them. For some it’s just a very small stick that they use to prod and poke you over years until finally they draw blood. Others have those sharp knives and the skill to get it in between the ribs and into the heart with one thrust. I like that. But my most current ex. Re-ex… re-re… She is what I imagine Mr Bean would look like if he stumbled upon a semi-automatic gun. Gleefully tossing it around and playing with it in odd amusing ways – until it accidentally goes off and hits you in the leg. Not a mortal wound but incapacitating for a while. Bean seems concerned and tries to patch up the wound. But while trying to figure out the bandage the gun gets dropped and a shot goes off, hitting you in the chest but just missing the heart. Before you have time to look down Bean has tripped and trodden on the gun which fires a round straight through your eye and into your brain. Even if you wanted to… you can’t at this stage see a way to forgiveness or think of a single reason to go back. And Bean… realising what has just happened… drops the gun and runs away, legs and arms flailing about in a way that would make you laugh if you hadn’t just been riddled with their guilt. (It’s the V in SLVND- btw and FYI)

 

I still have a soft spot for her though. But I am sad. And that is what wine and friends are for. To help one to forget and to create the space for new people and experiences to come into one’s life. Festivals are the best tonic. Hundreds of friendly strangers on the same mission – to get through as many wine farms in one weekend as possible. Remembering them is optional. The wine farms that is. The people – well the interesting ones stick in one’s memory. The circumstances – not always. I have a very clear memory of solemnly pinky-swearing something with an American woman at the Franschhoek festival. I just cannot remember what. It may have been related to throwing tennis balls into a tyre in the lake to win a bottle of brandy, that’s where we were at the time, or it may have been something very important. It worries me – because for me a pinky swear is my word and my bond. And then there was Frank. From Tanzania. Or Nigeria… Zambia maybe? Somewhere north of Cape Town. He comes to South Africa every 3 months to look for “wine”. He wants to setup a “wine” collection and have private “wine” parties with his friends. We swopped numbers so that I could be his contact in South Africa for sourcing “wine”. He did say wine. I don’t know why I’m using the quotation marks. But you never know. I can’t really remember. (Could be the S… could be the D.. in SLVND)

 

We said we could only logistically do 7 wine farms in one day at the Franschhoek Festival, but we aimed to do 16 out of the 17. We made it to 10. Frank we met at farm number 6 and pinky swearing happened at farm 9. By the time we got to the last farm they were already packing up, but after we explained our epic mission to visit 10 farms (ok so we stretched our truth there) they poured us a whole glass of cab sav to celebrate. We weren’t at all sad that day.

 

And it’s not always about wine. We went to the olive festival in Riebeek Kasteel. There we got to sample every kind of olive and olive related anything, dipped in so much bread it’s a good thing I’m a carb nut. They had these tractors pulling trailers of hay bails which one could hop onto and ride to the wine farms in the area. We made it to one farm. We sat drinking our wine in amongst the vines until eventually someone came and told us they were closing and we had to leave. We thought ok, we’ll just catch the next tractor uber back to the town and our car. Not to be. The tractors had stopped running and we had to walk back. It’s the first time I’ve ever used walking maps on my iPhone. It’s scary when they say “in 1.5km turn left” when you’re walking and the sun is setting and you’ve had a day of drinking lovely wine. Scary that is until you realise that you are just one of many, many walkers with maps, giggling as the person mispronounces “Raybeek Kustell”. (It’s the L part of SLVND)

 

And then there’s the Wacky Wine festival in Robertson. Three days of non-stop wine farming. No time to be sad there. I was baptised in the wine tradition my first year in the Cape.  Normally I wouldn’t dream of diving into a pool of any description in the middle of June in the Cape, yet somehow diving into a pool of red wine seemed like a good idea at the time. The idea was to dive for treasure at the bottom of the pool to win a prize. I didn’t win a prize. Firstly, you can’t see anything in red wine. Duh. And secondly it was cold! If it wasn’t a wine festival and everything that goes with it, I would have been like a cat when it hits water. You’ve seen that haven’t you? They twist themselves into pretzel shapes while their legs run so fast that somehow they jump out before they get wet. I reeked of red wine all of that day. Nobody noticed. (It was almost the N of SLNVD)

 

And this is why the Western Cape is the best place in the world to be sad. Because you just won’t be. You can’t be – not for long. Every week there is some or other festival. And on those wine festival-free weekends when you’re wallowing in sad self-pity, you get to do so with spectacular views and a beer in your hand. Because it’s October… and this is the Western Cape.