Exploring The Robertson Wine Valley
Set along the scenic Route 62 spanning Robertson, Bonnievale, Ashton and McGregor, the Robertson Wine Valley offers wonderful experiences that you can enjoy any time of year. Once a year a bunch of these experiences are grouped together for the Robertson Slow Food and Wine festival. It is based on the concept of slow food being the antithesis of fast food, requiring time and care to prepare.
This is, after all, what this whole area is about. I Love Foodies travelled out to explore the Robertson Wine Valley in one jam-packed weekend for the festival. Here are some of the highlights of the weekend – and the Robertson Wine Valley!
I started my jam-packed weekend at the gorgeous Jan Harmsgat Country House. A pomegranate farm with a vineyard offering exclusive and divine wines, their small yields ensure quality over quantity.
We began the chilly winter’s evening with a 5-course food and wine pairing in their renowned Just Amy restaurant, with the roaring fire providing a cosy ambience. We started with the Oxtail, Pecan Nut and Hummus stuffed Arancini Ball with a smoked paprika dressing, beautifully presented with edible flowers. The textures worked phenomenally well together and it was the perfect winter warmer to accompany their wooded Chenin Blanc.
Next up was a curried-style Spinach and Cumin Soup, which went down surprisingly well with the buttery limited edition Chardonnay. The Pomegranate, Watermelon and Smoked Maple with Mint Sorbet was a refreshing palate cleanser following the soup. Then I really enjoyed the slow-cooked Beef Short Rib with Beetroot and Butternut. It went down wonderfully with the fruity but spicy Shiraz. Following this, the Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Panna Cotta dessert had a bit too much going on for my liking, but the character-filled Pinotage certainly made up for it. As an after dinner treat, I sampled their Pomegranate Honey and, man oh man, it was heavenly. They only produce around 300 jars of the floral nectar a year, and it certainly is something special.
After an excellent night’s sleep in our warm and cosy open-plan room, we were welcomed to breakfast and in for another feast. Warm and toasty by the roaring fireplace, I tucked into a fruit salad with yoghurt and muesli, followed by a platter of croissants with continental meats, cheeses, and smoked salmon. Just as I was finishing my fresh coffee, they brought out the a la carte breakfast menu and, of course, I couldn’t help myself, so I ordered a full English as well!
The Farm Tour
After breakfast we took a tour of the farm, which has stunning views overlooking the valley and about 50 wildebeest roaming around. I would love to go back to Jan Harmsgat for another city break as the food and wines were exceptional, not to mention the delightful hospitality.
Excelsior Wine Estate
Next on the agenda was wine blending at Excelsior Wine Estate. The tasting room is set on the lake surrounded by horses, which is a glorious setting for a day-drinking activity. I tasted the 2017 fruity Merlot, 2016 chocolate mocha spicy Shiraz, and 2016 smooth blackcurrant Cab Sav.
After blending experiences at Zandvliet and Nederburg, I consider myself quite the expert in this field, and whipped up a delightful 60% Shiraz and 40% Merlot mix – very easy-drinking! After blending, bottling and sealing my wine, I had the chance to design my own label. So in the spirit of making 2018 my year and feeling inspired by the beautiful horses, I named my blend ‘Wild and Free 2018’. I must admit, I preferred their reds to their white wines, but you can’t beat the tranquil setting and the novelty of creating your own wine. A fun day out for sure!
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was the tasting at Weltevrede. Having heard so much about the 4th generation Jonker family farm, I couldn’t wait to discover what all the hype was about. And it certainly did not disappoint. We were led into the 100-year-old cellar, guided only by candlelight, to a small tasting room in what used to be an old tank. From that moment on, I realised this experience would be unlike any other.
Set in Robertson’s Chardonnay valley, Weltevrede has made it their mission to convert Sauvignon Blanc drinkers to Chardonnay by showcasing the versatility of the grape and busting wine stereotypes. As a Sav Blanc girl, I was dubious to say the least but I was swayed once I tried their array of Chardonnays.
We started the tasting with the Enthios MCC, which is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. For me it was very fresh, bubbly and, most importantly, dry. Our next taster was the Lemon Zest fresh Chardonnay. This was so similar to a clean and citrusy Sav Blanc, I barely noticed the difference. The Weltevrede 1912 Chardonnay really showcases the fullness of the grape as you can taste dried fruits and mango on the palate. Place of Rocks was particularly interesting for me as it was so complex, starting off fruity and ending with butter. This would be ideally paired with oysters.
After the lesson in Chardonnay, we shifted over to the 2016 Cabernet 1912, which is a dark fruit flavoured, medium bodied wine. An even bigger winner for me was the Bed Rock Black Syrah. Grown on vines nestled in the rock, where the roots have to dig in for moisture, the result is resilient grapes that yield an easy to drink red with a peppery aftertaste.
Incredible atmosphere and great wines aside, I actually really enjoyed hearing stories of Philip Jonker’s philanthropy. From teaching Ugandan nuns how to make communion wine for their community to relentlessly persevering to regrow vines on Robben Island to make a wine for Nelson Mandela, his efforts are inspiring. Overall, Weltevrede’s wine tasting experience really blew me away. Whether it was the candlelit cellar setting, determination to convert me into Chardonnay drinker, or simply the authentic conversations had over wonderful wines, it was simply marvellous.
Esona Boutique Wines
Our lunch stop was at Esona Boutique Wines. This is a slightly newer establishment in the area with live jazz music on a gorgeous deck overlooking the vineyards. Caryl’s Deli offers huge lunch platters with local preserves, nuts, cheeses, cold meats and farm bread. Soaking up the sun on the terrace, swaying to the saxophone, it was a lovely setting for lunch and the platter portion was ideal for sharing between two.
We then ventured to the underground cellar for our wine tasting. There were quite a lot of different elements involved, including tasting different vintages, in different glasses, with food, while accompanied to music – which was all a bit much for me.
The highlight, though, was the Riedl glasses, which ensured the wine hit the palate precisely on the sweet spot, proving that glass quality is everything. Surprisingly my favourite pick was the oaked 2014 Chardonnay, which had a rich butterscotch flavour. I also thoroughly enjoyed the 2014 spicy, smokey Shiraz paired with Lindt chocolate. I definitely preferred Esona’s lunch offering on the open air terrace much more than the wine tasting. Perhaps after the candlelit tasting at Weltevrede, the cellar novelty had worn off.
Experience the Robertson Wine Valley
Here you’ll find info on all the places listed above. For more info on the Robertson Slow festival, where you can experience all of this, check out their official website here.
Jan Harmsgat Country House
Call: +27 87 095 1141
Esona Boutique Wines
Call: +27 76 343 5833
Call: +27 23 616 2141
Article Date: October 2018
All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.