Category Archives: Local

When a box of wine wants you to travel

It goes without saying that we do like ourselves a fair bit of travelling. The great outdoors, the great indoors, stopping for a Wimpy coffee at the side of the highway and ordering a sandwich in Enrique Iglesias’s mother tongue – if it’s different to my coffee and sarmies at home, then you may sign me up.

So imagine the squeals of delight when a box filled with Tangled Tree wine arrived at our doorstep. And won’t you know it, they were made for travelling – neatly contained in slender, chic plastic bottles as opposed to glass that goes ka-klunk ka-klunk while you’re driving on a dirt road.

And here’s the best part – it was still early April, so we had an overindulgent amount of South African public holidays to look forward to. With time in our pockets and wine in our boot, we decided to take our wine places. So in the words of Cosmo Kramer: Giddy up.

Hello sunset, meet my friend sauvignon blanc

There is nothing (nothing) like a Cape Town sunset. We gawked at a couple in Thailand, missed a couple in Mexico and got engaged during one in the Czech Republic, but a Cape Town sunset is just magical. Now many folks will tell you that the best place to watch the sun setting over Cape Town is >insert an infinite amount of places here<. It’s all relative – and very, very subjective. But one that really grabs you by the ears and says to your face ‘this is real beauty, son’, is watching the sunset from Bloubergstrand. To your left the city hides in the mountain’s shadow, right in front of you lies Robben Island and in between it all some gallons and gallons of salty seawater, gently slopping about. So we decided to crack open our first bottle there and then. The wine was easy on the palate, we were easy on the conversation and the sunset was just beautiful. Sunsets and sauvignon blancs should really get hitched. They were totally made for each other.

 

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Nice, huh?

 

Elgin. Elkin. Tomato. Tamato. 

Since moving to Cape Town, we realised that not all things are pronounced equal. In Joburg we say ‘muslin cloth’ and in Cape Town they say ‘maslin cloth’. In Joburg we order ‘rotis’* and in Cape Town they order ‘rooties’. Which brings me to our second travel destination. Elgin – the real home of the big apple(s).  Now we pronounce it with the ‘g’  like the ‘g’ in engine. But I’ve heard two people, who I trust dearly, pronounce it like the ‘g’ in Goethe. But seeing that I didn’t take phonetics at university (and I didn’t grow up in the Western Cape) I cannot say with any authority what is what. What I can say with authority – thanks to my dear friend Google maps – is that Elgin is a leisurely 56-minute drive from our apartment in Gardens. That is if you head straight for the apple trees. But you shouldn’t. Because there is a restaurant/deli/farm stall called Peregrine en route that will turn any low-carb disciple into a gluttonous glutenite. Oh the breads! Oh the pies! Oh the tarts! It’s a feast for the eyes. Rumour has it that their pecan nut pie is worth driving 56-minutes for.

Elgin is the kind of place you meander through gently. Roll down the car windows, have a friendly argument about what album to listen to and check out them apples. That’s basically what we do every time we go there. You never really stop anywhere specific, but the views are so spectacular that you tend to stop everywhere. We decided to pair the bottle of Moscato Rosé with them apples. They blushed. We blushed. It was the perfect pair.

 

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A pink drink for the pink ladies in the tree.

 

Chocolate. ‘Nuff said.

Our third bottle, the Chocolate Cabernet Sauvignon,  didn’t make it outside of our apartment. We hosted an Easter brunch with mimosas, which turned into an Easter lunch with wine and leftover Easter eggs. The bottle had ‘chocolate’ written all over it, we had chocolate written all over us, so it seemed like a good match. It was.

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No caption needed.

Castles made of sand

Our fourth bottle, the Butterscotch Chardonnay, took us all the way to Knysna. Yes. The Husband had an ‘if I take one day’s leave, we can go away for a whole week!’ moment after checking out the next round of public holidays. So we took an extended long weekend in May (just like the rest of Cape Town). We only managed to get out of the city at around 7pm (just like the rest of Cape Town). Come long weekends, they should regulate the traffic out of town like they do during dinner service at wedding receptions –  tables 1 and 2 are first to dish up, then tables 3 and 4 and so on. We could divide our neighbourhoods up in sections and then everybody will be able to get out of the city, stat. It took us 2 hours to drive 20km, and our road trip flask of coffee was consumed 5km from our home.

Now there’s one thing that every traveller to Knysna should be aware of: there are speeding cameras EVERYWHERE. If you look underneath your chair, you’ll find a speeding camera. Behind your ear? Oh yes, there it is, blinking away. The highest concentration of these cameras is between George and Knysna and within the heart of Knysna as well. So take it slow. But you’ve got every reason to take it easy because this is such a pretty part of the Western Cape, especially in autumn. We entered the town in awe, with Knysna Lagoon on our right and a siege of speeding cameras on our left. Opposite Knysna Lagoon lies Belvidere Estate, and the autumny colours prancing around in the lagoon reminded me of a scene straight out of small-town America.

Now, one does not just drive to Knysna just to gawk at the trees in autumn. The Knysna Heads is a must-see as well (although we struggled with the seeing part, because it rained really really hard). We meandered to the Red Bridge Brewing Co. at 11am, went for a hike at Pledge Nature Reserve, saw some dolphins bouncing along Buffels Bay and stopped for a spot of tea and chardonnay at Noetzi beach, which was such a good spot to crack open the last bottle of wine**.

 

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The Noetzi Castle and our afternoon teatime treat.

Some Knysna snaps, including a couple of mushrooms at Pledge Nature Reserve, stormy waters at The Heads and a quaint street corner in Belvidere.

So the moral of the story is that you should always say yes when someone asks you if they can send you a case of wine. And then you should giddy up and take it places.

*Very important footnote: The Engen garage in Gardens has the BEST vegetarian rotis. 40bucks. 40 000 tastebuds dancing with their hands in the air.

**So I left one bottle out, the Spicy Shiraz, but we had an impromptu dinner at home. Sooo, that was that for the shiraz.

 

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Small things. Big rewards

There is a direct, heartstring-strumming connection between the smallness of things and that gasp of sure astonishment it usually leads to. I recently gave birth to a small baby, and every morning, afternoon and during the wee hours of the morning I’m still amazed by the amazingness of this tiny little human. It sure is something.

But I digress (and gush), as sleep deprived mothers often do.

So back to my original point. Small cups of espressos are – and let’s be honest here – way better than milky lattes. And as far as the gastronomical blessings of my spirit country Mexico goes, tacos really are little morsels of heaven.

The same goes for small towns – they’re like those nice bite-sized biscuits you get with a coffee. They’re so good, you sometimes order another cuppa just to get another biscuit.

A while ago (I was still pre-waddle pregnant), a friend invited me to McGregor for the weekend. She’s there on a story and doesn’t want to drink alone on the stoep after sunset. Drinking alone is okay. But there’s something sad about drinking alone in a small Western Cape town after the day called last rounds.

‘Sure’, I said, while preparing my nose for another weekend of sniffing wine as opposed to drinking it.

And so we packed our toothbrushes, three lamb chops and a box of rusks and left Cape Town for the weekend. Through the Huguenot tunnel, past the landscapes of the Montagu pass, across the belly of Robertson and voila! You’ve arrived.

A bite-sized town for a bite-sized weekend

McGregor is a one street town. We arranged to meet my friend at Temenos Gardens, which is just down the main street. And snoozing in the middle of the street, right in front of the gardens, a black dog – baking in the half-baked winter sun, waiting to reach his daily quota of belly rubs. With hands smelling like dusty street dog, we went inside to look for my friend. The black dog took the lead. And with wagging tails, we entered the gardens.

Hello tranquilo

Temenos Gardens was created for the sole purpose of acceptance. Everyone is welcome. Every religion, human and spirit in search for some peace and quiet. Even the neighbour’s cat left the comforts of his home and moved in. This massive garden pays homage to the world’s beliefs through little shrines, quotes or meditation areas around every corner. And for the bookish, there’s a librarianless library. Go on, have a read or a quick browse. The doors are never locked and the books are always keen for a conversation. 

The artist, the wine maker and the cinema operator

Every small town features at least one of the above mentioned. And if you’re really lucky, it’ll even throw in a candlestick maker* as well. McGregor has all three. As well as a Top of the Pops go-go dancer from way back when, an olive farmer, a German grappa distiller and a donkey sanctuary. All of this, neatly packaged in a one-street town. 

The story of the artist is the quintessence of McGregor. Painter Edna Fourie traded her city shoes for the rustic nothingness of the Renosterveld just outside McGregor, where she paints and breathes. And this open sky simplicity speaks volumes in her work. Bemind winemaker Ilse Schutte cashed in on her dream of having her own wine cellar. She ended her tenure as wine maker at the big wine estates and moved to McGregor. Today she produces a Shiraz that will make – in the words of Mick Jagger – a grown man cry. Her Bemind Shiraz smells like the leathery study of an old, rich gentleman with a fondness for literature, female tennis players and many a glass of wine.

And you know how you always rock up at a place and think ‘My oh my, let’s give up everything and open our own beach bar/yoga retreat/taco stand right here, right this moment’? Olive farmer, Annalien van der Colff and her husband did exactly that. Passing through McGregor, they fell in love with the town and the farm that was – by complete coincidence – for sale, and decided on the spot that this is it. They’re going to break up with city life and start a new life in McGregor. And they chose olives to make it happen.

The story of the cinema operator is my favourite. Why? Because he showed us a 10 minute clip of Prince Igor in the poppy fields on an unsuspecting Sunday morning? Maybe. Or because they decided it would be a good idea buy the slightly odd Moroccanesque house on the corner of a street and turn it into a cinema and live music hall? Definitely.

The aptly named Wahnfried** is the home of all cultural affairs in McGregor. In the mood for a classic movie? Go and take your seat in the Wahnfried. How about some live music? The 1873 Bechstein grand piano is very eager to share some notes with you.

And now I’m done with my story

But not with McGregor. This town will definitely see me again. Actually, we’re going back in a month’s time. Yes.

Before I go, and should you go, remember to go to these places as well

Tanagra is a definite must-visit. They produce a range of Marc (also known as Grappa, distilled from fermented grape skins) and Eau de Vie (distilled from fermented fruit). Now, the Husband (who is coincidentally also named Marc) tasted a rather fetching amount of Marc samples at 10am. The rest of his day was a hoot.

Lord’s Winery is the perfect spot to wave the sun goodbye after a long day of small town endeavours. This wine estate is just outside McGregor and it really is the most serene spot. They make a mean Pinot Noir as well.

You simply cannot visit McGregor without scratching a donkey behind his ear. Eseltjierus Donkey Sanctuary is the home of many a rescued donkey. Ask for a tour, the guides are always more than happy to introduce you to the donkeys and share their stories.

Oh yes. And give Mira a call if you need a bed. There are loads of really nice accommodation options available. You really have no excuse.

*Not too sure about the presence of a candlestick maker. Will have to get back to you on this.

**If you chop the word Wahnfried in half, you get madness (wahn) and peace (fried), which fits this vernacularly obscure space like a glove.

 

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When visiting one of the meditation areas at Temenos, remember to wear your unholey socks. Shoes aren’t allowed.
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A door and a quote en route to the meditation circle.
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Way better than Bree street in Cape Town, me thinks. Plus, you’ll always find parking here.
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The decor at Bemind Wyne is quite rad. Like this table.
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Really. How do you not want to be here?
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Dearest Carla on a tortoise photo op binge at Annelien’s Rhebokskraal Olive Farm.
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Love donkeys. Always have. Always will.