My friend Sue is in Cape Town on holiday and, as we always do, we planned a day of adventure and catch up chats. I decided to share with her some of the cool spots that Analize and I have discovered on our wine tasting PQs (we still haven’t shared with you what that means yet) and it turned up some huge surprises. Mostly good. But one very surprisingly bad.
The day started out rainy (happiness and consternation all rolled up in one) so we headed for the mountains rather than the sea. And there – right there – is the beauty of living in Cape Town. How many people can wake up and choose mountain or sea and know that either way it will be a wonderful day out? So, mountain it was. I googled wine farms with fireplaces, because in the Cape it’s still freezing in late September, while the folks up north are sitting in a sweltering heat wave. As it turns out – pretty much all the wine farms have fireplaces.
The theme of the day was wine farms with a difference. First stop was Vergenoegd, to watch the duck run. The farm has over 1000 ducks and geese, which are used to control the snails and pests in the vineyards. We got there a few minutes late, because someone (not me) overslept and someone (of course me) got a teeny bit lost along the way. The ducks are fascinating, with so very many different breeds. The Bali, Runner, Call and Crested ducks are amongst the award-winning ducks bred on the farm. It was so sweet to watch the toddlers trying to catch the ducks, then run squealing into mommy arms when they almost did. And the ducks must be used to it all, because they made such a game of teasing the tiny tots.
Although the sky was dark and dramatic, with a fine drizzle falling, there was a young couple sitting on a blanket on the grass, feeding each other, instead of the ducks. They’d obviously planned a romantic picnic for the day and refused to give up on their future perfect memory. That made me all warm and fuzzy to see. By then we needed coffee and food ourselves and the fabulously stocked deli and wonderfully helpful staff at Vergenoegd came to the rescue. After a few bites of an almond croissant (and a long conversation about how the French possibly pronounce kwaasaant) I charged off to take photos of the dark clouds and then ran back with arms swinging like a windmill, calling to Sue “let’s go have fun!”. Apparently, my sugar rush had arrived like a hurricane! So off we went to have fun.
On the way out we passed these small vines, and Sue asked if they were “new vines”, but I heard her say “are they Gluhweins?”. A very confusing conversation followed… but wouldn’t it be great to grow Gluhweins? How about vegan eggnogs?
Next stop was de Morgenzon. Why? Because of the classical music that’s played into the vineyards 24hrs a day to encourage the vines to produce spectacular grapes. Sue was blown away by that. And the guard very kindly agreed to let us walk up the private road to have a look at the flowers planted alongside the vineyards. It’s absolutely breathtaking… the number and variety of beautiful plants. There were squirrels as well. I love squirrels. Some people say they are just rats with cute tails, but I love squirrels. We saw one chase a nut along the road then race up a tree and fly from branch to branch like an avatar. What would life be without classical music, squirrels and wine. De Morgenzon naturally is one of my favourite wine farms.
There was a rather serious group of people doing a wine tasting when we arrived, so we decided to head off to Jordan (the wine farm, not the country) for a quick lunch. The guard was so upset! “Where are you going?” he asked us, in a very “this was not the agreement” tone. He reluctantly let us go (with a big smile) when we told him we would be back. Jordan proved to be the perfect lunch spot. The restaurant was warm and cosy and we were greeted with equal warmth by the waitrons. We ordered the Vegetarian Flammkuchen, which Charity patiently pronounced over and over, until we could pronounce it too. Flammkookken I think is how it’s pronounced. It was delicious!! Basically it’s a pizza base with crème fraiche instead of cheese and with butternut, feta and some kind of smoked onions as the topping. Delicious!! Oh.. and they made a plan to serve us the freshly squeezed breakfast juice of orange, apple, ginger and carrot, even though it was lunchtime. Delicious food, fantastic staff and a spectacular view… I recommend Jordan if you’re looking for a day out and a great lunch.
We didn’t do a wine tasting at Jordan because we’d promised the guard at de Morgenzon that we’d be back. I know that I will be going back to Jordan for a lunch and wine tasting sometime soon though. Our guard was surprised, but very happy, to see us back. Inside we were introduced to Benjy the cat, who was sleeping in front of the fire so soundly and at such an impossibly squashed up angle that I had to check to see if he was alive. A young man came rushing over to say how pleased he was to see us back and how concerned he’d been to see us disappear earlier. de Morgenzon’s wines have won multiple awards and have some very interesting characteristics. The wine maker remains true to the traditional methods while introducing a South African aspect to the Spanish and French influenced wines. I heard about petit syrah for the first time. I’m going to investigate this further.
Sue is getting married soon and thought the beauty and elegance of de Morgenzon would be perfect as a wedding venue. The wine farm is owned by Wendy Applebaum, who is currently the richest woman in Africa. I can see why she is such a phenomenal success…. If her staff are anything to go by. She clearly understands the value of connecting to the customer. And, of course, anyone who believes that playing classical music to vines will bring out the best in the wine is absolutely someone that I can relate to. Getting back to the wedding venue… apparently only friends get to have their wedding at de Morgenzon. So, because Sue is such a special friend, I plan to become a great friend of Wendy Applebaum, because I can’t imagine a more beautiful or elegant setting for a wedding. “Good luck with that” I hear you say. “Challenge accepted”, I reply.
On to the Canettevallei lavender shop we went. “Wow” is all I can say. They have lavender soaps and lavender jams, honeys, candles… you name it. Sue bought me candles, soap and strawberry and lavender jam for my birthday, which is coming up. I haven’t had jam in my home for 4 years now because I’ve weirdly been waiting for the perfect jam. I think this is it! I’m excited!
Now… this is where the day takes a rather dark and unhappy turn. Bear in mind that we were in the general area of Stellenbosch at de Morgenzon and Jordan, which is faaaar away from Somerset West. I decided to show Sue a wine farm that in the past has been a favourite, and one that I have always taken my visiting friends to: Waterkloof. We arrived at 16:40, which granted was very close to their advertised closing time of 17:00, but I’ve never been turned away from a tasting by any wine farm, ever. Until today. We were told that the wines were “locked away” at 16:30. Even though they advertise that their wine tastings are open till 17:00. I asked if they could accommodate us in anyway, because I’d especially brought my Joburg friend to experience their wines. No, sorry. After some persuasion they agreed to let us buy a glass of wine. At R90 a glass. I’ve tasted wines at over 100 wine farms and I can assure you that no Waterkloof wine is worth R90 per glass. “Could we sit on the deck and enjoy the view?” we asked. No, the deck was closed. Why? Nobody knows. And so we left. The restaurant had one table of diners. It would have been no trouble to accommodate us. They just couldn’t be bothered. I won’t be taking any more of my friends to Waterkloof. Why would I, when I can take them to Vergenoegd, de Morgenzon or Jordan?
I was grumpy, but Sue is a wise soul, and on the way back from what we did next, she pointed out that what we had experienced in the day was exactly what we needed to experience, for whatever reason. And by then it all made sense.
After the Waterkloof disaster Sue said she was hungry (I’m a terrible host sometimes) so we headed off to a tried and tested favourite spot… Peregrine Farmstall. Aaaah their pies are awesome! They have vegetarian pies to die for, unlike the Houw Hoek pie spot, which has a million pies but not one vegetarian pie. There’s nothing like a pie and coffee at Peregrine. It’s one of those Cape traditions that I love. And while we were enjoying our feast, Sue explained the fun and amazingly simple concept of pure distilled emotions. She’s a relationship counsellor guru so she has a cool way of looking at things in a way that makes it all ok. We feel 5 basic emotions: mad, bad, sad, glad and fear. I said to her that I was feeling disappointed that I’d been unable to share what I’d anticipated would be an amazing experience at Waterkloof, and she said perhaps I was mostly feeling sad. And I was. But not for long.
Because… on the way back, we stopped at the lookout point which overlooks Gordon’s Bay and Strand. The same dramatic clouds from earlier were now swirling, lifting and falling above the mountains like one living, breathing entity, but this time glowing with the pinks of a drama queen Cape sunset; yellow wild flowers everywhere; the sea far below shining silver with the bits of breakthrough sunlight. Sue and I both share a Pantheistic type belief, so we were both very aware of the energy of the beauty we were experiencing. All the while, I was eyeing the crosses on the hillside with fantasies of a late night chainsaw and ridding my friend Analize of a huge irritation. Wicked grins all round. And so… the day panned out exactly as it was meant to. I felt glad.