‘Haste makes waste’ in the West Coast Wine Region

Country food and country wine, a la Cape West Coast. Life's good!

Wine, like food and most other good things in life, should not be hurried, whether you’re making it or whether you’re just enjoying it. Time is nobody’s friend, especially in today’s rat race society of instant this and instant that, but when one visits the winelands, one should take time to not only enjoy the fine wines and food on offer, but also the beautiful scenery.


I’ve been doing the “wine thing” now for about 15 years and I’m yet to get tired of visiting the winelands, meeting great people and enjoying good wine and food with them, more often than not in picture perfect surroundings. And every time I go back to a wine region I’ve been to before, I find new things to see, do and experience, new places to stay and new wines to savour.


The old adage “Haste makes waste” becomes particularly true when one visits the West Coast Wine Region. Okay, it actually applies to most wine regions, but to none more so than the West Coast. No matter how much time you put aside for a visit to a winery, it just is never enough!


Earlier this year when I received an invitation to the official opening of the Kommetjie Restaurant in Strandfontein, I hesitated for less time than it takes to blink before  accepting because I immediately knew this would give me yet another opportunity to visit some of the wine producers of this area.

 



ABOVE: Enjoying local wine and food on the quay at Fryer's Cove. What bliss!

 

I still don’t know how it happens, but every trip I’ve taken to this wine region so far, and there’s been quite a few, has started at the winery closest to the ocean, maybe in the whole wine making world, namely Fryer’s Cove (www.fryerscove.co.za) in the harbour of the old fishing village of Doringbaai. Whether you sit on the quay listening to the Atlantic Ocean slamming against the harbour walls or in the small and intimate tasting room hiding from the weather with a glass of Fryer’s Cove wine in hand and a locally prepared seafood dish to complement it, you will feel the tension and stress of everyday life effortlessly slipping from your body. It’s like valium for the soul!

 



ABOVE: Jacques Vos with some of the delicious wines I sampled that day. Aaaaah, the memories!

 

This time around Fryer’s Cove’s assistant winemaker Jacques Vos was at hand to take me through their latest vintages, and some older ones. Their wine list has grown since my last visit and they now also offer a Shiraz and a Noble Late Harvest. It’s, however, Fryer’s Cove’s Sauvignon Blanc and, to a lesser degree, Pinot Noir that have always caught my attention. Four sauvignon blancs, Fryer’s Cove’s 2013 Bamboes Bay Blanc Fumé, the 2013 Pinot Noir and the 2014 Shiraz later and I was as laid-back and relaxed as I hadn’t been for days, maybe even weeks.


A delicious pita bread followed by a delightful seafood dish for lunch in the tasting room was accompanied by a few glasses of the white wines I had just sampled. Needless to say, I did not leave empty-handed for my overnight stay at Thornby Accommodation (http://www.doringbaai-accommodation.co.za/ 027 215 1333) overlooking the harbour and bay.

 



ABOVE: Brenda Thiart and Jaco van Niekerk with the wonderful wines that took me on yet another leg of my adventure into wine. Lutzville ticks all the right boxes!

 

The following morning after a hearty breakfast at Kommetjie Restaurant on the beach in Strandfontein, I drove to Lutzville where Brenda Thiart, who is responsible for the local winery’s chardonnay, chenin blanc and muscat production, and Jaco van Niekerk, who looks after red wines and sauvignon blanc, treated me to their extensive wine list, from the flagship Francois La Vaillant range to the Diamond Collection and the easy drinking range, but not in that order. Lutzville also offers the Cape Elephant range of three natural sweet wines.


It’s when you drink these utterly enjoyable wines and look at their prices that you realize why some commentators and critics say our so-called “affordable” wines are way too affordable! I mean, R36 for a sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc that would please your palate no end, and R150 for a red wine (the Francois La Vaillant Pinotage 2012, Lutzville’s most expensive wine) that has won gold at Michelangelo can never ever be described as too expensive.

 


 

ABOVE: And if you think the West Coast and Namaqualand are only about superb country food and wine, you're oh so wrong! It's also about fine folk and loads of outdoor activities and experiences.

 

Lutzville Cape Diamond Wines is living proof that one can get quality at an affordable price, in other words, real value for money, even at so-called cooperative cellars.


If you want to find out more about their wines, visit www.lutzvillevineyards.com. You won’t be sorry.


My next stop was literally around the corner, the home of Seal Breeze wines where Joan Wiggins and I have spent many hours over the past years drinking wine and solving the world’s problems. Well, we tried anyway!

 



ABOVE: Joan Wiggins in her small and intimate wine cellar and tasting room. Here we have tried to solve many of man's problems over the years!

 

Seal Breeze (www.sealbreeze.co.za) is one of the many garagiste and boutique wineries that help make the West Coast Wine Region so special. They add so much character to a region that also boasts much larger wineries, like Lutzville Cape Diamond Wines, and others, and they all have unpretencious, down-to-earth people that make you want to stop the clock and just relax with good food, good wine and good folk.


And this is exactly what happened here. I mean, my clock ground to a screeching halt as Joan and I went through her whole range of beautifully crafted wines, from sauvignon blanc and merlot to cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. And there was even a red blend. When I look at my tasting notes, I notice an * behind the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2005 and 2013 Merlot, the 2013 Shiraz and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Need I say more!

 

LEFT: Some of Joan's many awards are displayed against the wall of her wine cellar/tasting toom.


Joan has only two hectares planted with sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, about half a hectare for each variety, she says, and her small and intimate tasting room, lined with barrels and bottles, is the perfect place to sample her creations … while discussing anything that comes to mind.


And it was while enjoying Seal Breeze wines and her company that I completely lost track of time and realized I was going to miss my next and last appointment on my West Coast meander, the home of Bellpost wines. Fortunately I was privileged to taste their wines in their cellar with the winemaker, Koos Thiart, on my very first visit to this wine region, while on a visit to the area last year to view Namaqualand’s famous flowers, I made a point of buying a few bottles of Bellpost wines in Vredendal before returning home. I have a particular soft spot for their Ruby Cabernet and C’est La Vie, a white blend of barrel fermented chardonnay and viognier and tank fermented nouvelle.


Coming to think of it, this gives me a very good excuse for visiting the West Coast Wine Region once again!

 



ABOVE: If you haven't sampled and savoured Bellpost's wines, you simply don't know what you're missing!

 

But back to the Thiart family run home of Bellpost wines. The name is a combination of two farm names, namely Bellevue and Buitepos. Bellpost’s first vintage was in 2005 and their list of wines includes Chardonnay, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet, Shiraz and the C’est La Vie.


“Our main function is to grow quality grapes for bigger cellars,” explains Koos. “A small portion of this production, however, is selected every year to produce wines under the Bellpost label.”

While Koos takes responsibility for the wine making, his father Lollies and brother Nico are in charge of the vineyards, while brother Danie started doing their marketing while playing rugby for the Blue Bulls. Okay, nobody’s perfect!


For more information on Bellpost’s wine range, visit www.bellpost.co.za.


Incidentally, the West Coast/Namaqualand is not just about good food, good wine and good folk, it offers numerous outdoor activities and has a number of cultural/historical sites, and a surprisingly rich array of flora and fauna. For more information, visit www.namaquawestcoast.com.

 

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