A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about wine

Cheers to Stellenbosch


View Africa 2019 on JackiesJourneys's travel map.

  • *sadly my photos are taking forever to load tonight. So I’m not putting many here. Hopefully FB will cooperate to post them instead**

This morning there was no time to dawdle as we needed to be packed up and down in the lobby by 9:00. Breakfast eaten and some photos snapped, we got down there just as Ian was arriving. There were some problems with his tour company’s smaller vehicles, so we ended up having an entire mini bus to ourselves 🤷🏽‍♀️ Nothing like traveling in style 🤣

On the way out of town, we got to see the roads to nowhere. There are actually sections of the highway system that have been sitting incomplete since the 1960’s. Ya just look up and see the end of an overpass that connects to absolutely nothing. He said we’ve probably already seen them as they’ve been used in various movies over the years. Just so strange!

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With about an hour or so to our first stop, we had plenty of time for a history and wine making lesson. On the history side, I liked that some of the first settlers coming to Africa thought zebras were wild horses. Yeah, they didn’t have much like taming them though 🦓 As for wine, the western cape has 4300+ farms that are growing different varietals of grapes 😳 Considering the first time wine was made from cape grapes was February 2, 1659, that’s a lot of farming action taking place in just 360 years.

Grapes aren’t the only fruit grown in this area. We also drove by guava trees and olive groves and blueberries and citrus trees. It just strikes me as odd since I guess in my mind I always picture Africa as either sandy desert or wild animals 🙈🙊 That is definitely not the case.

Our first photo op stop was by the prison that Nelson Mandela was released from in 1990. Out front there is a statue of him commemorating his Long Walk to Freedom. We also heard some rather interesting and morally colorful facts about his former wife Winnie. Who knew?!

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[Disclaimer: we are now entering the actual wine tasting portion of the day. I am by no means a connoisseur, nor am I generally a lover of red wines 🤷🏽‍♀️ I’m convinced I’m a supertaster - someone who experiences certain tastes, particularly bitter, with greater intensity than most everyone else. So if you’re looking for some phenomenal reviews, you’re not going to find them here.]

But alas we were rolling into Franschhoek (the French corner) and our first stop at Lynx Wine Estate. Jason, the winery manager, took us in the back room to explain the process. Since this is a very small operation, only an 11 hectare farm, they do everything by hand. Then they contract a bottling and labeling company to bring the equipment right to the estate and handle that for them. We had the little veranda, overlooking the vineyard with the mountains in the background all to ourselves. And then we proceeded to try 5 different wines. Both Brenda and I liked the white Viognier. In terms of red, she liked the Shiraz and I preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon.

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So far so good with counting our tastings and keeping track of the number of bottles. We’ll see if that continues or not (spoiler alert...it did not).

Another couple quick photo stops helped to spread out the wine consumption. The Huguenot Monument is dedicated to the cultural influence of the French and Belgian Protestants that fled to South Africa in the 17 & 18th centuries. Then Pniel Congregational Church goes back to 1843 when the village was a mission station for freed slaves working on nearby farms.

Our second, largest and most fun wine tasting was at Muratie Wine Estate. Dating back to 1685, this is one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa. At 48 hectares, it’s also quite a bit larger than Lynx. They like to capitalize on their history and the stories that go along with it by naming and labeling their bottles to highlight certain people. Our wine helpers here were Tanya and Leland. And well this is where the count went off the rails. I think we were supposed to try 5. Ian added a 6th. And then somehow we had a 7th and maybe an 8th special treat 🤷🏽‍♀️ We had a list where we were checking them off, but neither of us seems to be able to find that list now. So yeah, we’ll have to count the bottle photos sometime 🤦🏽‍♀️

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Luckily I did take notes on what we liked, so here’s that. Brenda liked the Marin Melck Cabernet Sauvignon, where as I still liked the Lynx version better. We both loved the Amber Forever sweet dessert wine. The “Amber” referring to the owner’s mistress back in the 1940s. We both also loved the Ben Prins, Port-style liqueur wine. Not an actual Port as those can only come from Portugal. What we noticed is the sweeter wines tended to have a higher alcohol content. I gave Tanya a good laugh when I said, “well no wonder I like them then...more bang for my buck.” We liked those sweet ones so well, we actually bought a bottle of each. I mean we are staying in Stellenbosch for 2 nights so why not?!

It was time (probably past time) to get some food in our systems to help soak all that wine up. Happily the Delheim Winery, where lunch was happening, was just a short drive down a bumpy road. Yet again we were blessed with the best table...this one being outside, with views for miles. Literally miles as we could just make out the tip of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head way off in the distance. I stuck with the Cape Malay chicken curry, while Ian and Brenda went with the bratwurst and sauerkraut platter. In Brenda’s words “tastes like home.”

Since we were running a little later than expected, we just did our final tasting over in the cellar right there. Pinotage is South Africa’s unique grape varietal and we got to try three versions of it. To me they were just bitter, bitterer, and bitterest, but I don’t think Brenda minded the first one we had. Yet again the sweet Spatzendreck got a thumbs up, although maybe a tad too sweet for Brenda. And it may have won the labeling competition (if we had thought to do that) with its nod to sparrow’s poop 😝

Tastings done, finally we headed into Stellenbosch, a university town that is the second oldest in the province (after Cape Town). We are staying right in the center at an absolutely grand place called Oude Werf. I think I may have audibly gasped when we walked into the lobby. So decadent and charming with an old world British twist. There’s this show on PBS both of us watch called “Indian Summers,” and this place totally gives us that vibe. And would you believe yet again it’s all magical around here with an over the top perfect room, which just happens to have a beautiful patio right next to the pool. With temps tomorrow forecast for 92 degrees and full sun, we may just decide to partake in a bit of swimming.

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All settled in, we wandered the town for a bit looking in a few shops and walking by the botanical gardens to check hours. Neither of us being too hungry, we just could not come up with any ideas for dinner. After returning to the hotel and Brenda spotting a grocery store on the map, we opted to just head there for a dinner snack of chips and call it a night. For a while there were some serious winds going on out there, but that did not deter us from sitting on the patio again for a bit. After our busy days in Cape Town and before we’ll be up early for game drives, it’s kinda nice to have this little break in the action. No set plans for tomorrow, so we shall see where the wind blows us 😉

Posted by JackiesJourneys 14:33 Archived in South Africa Tagged wine stellenbosch Comments (0)

Born Free [Safaris]

An African Adventure Awaits!!

Hello and welcome to the latest installment of “Where in the World is Jackie?!” Currently there’s not too much to report, as I’m merely sitting on my couch. But in less than 48 hours, I will be leaving on a jet plane bound for far warmer and sunnier conditions (insert dancing now) on the world’s second largest continent: AFRICA!! And since it is oh so large, there is no way to cover a lot of it in two short weeks time. But if you’re gonna go, ya might as well go all the way and just head to the southern most tip – cause really, who doesn’t think the idea of an 8.5 hour flight followed by 11.5 more hours in the air doesn’t sound simply delightful?! Tis the price one must pay to travel, but it will be oh so worth it.

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But before I launch into some logistics about what’s to come, perhaps a little backstory would be nice. First off, I will not be embarking on this journey alone. My fellow traveler is none other than Miss Brenda…who tackled Australia with me four years ago (yep, we’re all about the “A” continents!!). And well frankly without Brenda, I do not know if I would be hitting up Africa at all. It was never one of my bucket list destinations. I had plenty of other places to keep my mind preoccupied, but then she started talking about South Africa and Cape Town and safaris and all the animals and fun stuff…and well eventually I jumped on board. This all goes back to at least November of 2016 (as that is the date of the first item that is in my “South Africa” travel folder).

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So basically I’m saying this trip has been years in the making. There were other travelers that came and went from the conversation, but we just couldn’t make it work. Well more accurately, between Groupon, Travel Zoo, our own searches, and various random agencies and web sites, we could never get what we wanted for a price we were willing to pay. Then life happened and talk of Africa fell by the wayside. I went to Europe in August and had an incredible time. But as any good traveler knows, you’re mentally trying to book your next adventure before your current one even ends.

So after Europe, with one week of vacation left to use, I was on a mission to make something else happen. I was really looking for a New Year’s Eve/Birthday extravaganza, but I just couldn’t convince Brenda of that. Instead, she jumped back on board with Africa. Having been down this road before, as well as having my mind focused on other parts of the globe, I pretty much left it up to her to figure it out. First, she solved my only one week of vacation dilemma – just use my last week from 2018 and my first week from 2019. Next she was in contact with a travel agent who was coming up with some decent ideas. But then I went back to that trusty South Africa folder and discovered an email from Julianne, one of the other potential travelers along the way, and she had been working with this company called Born Free Safaris. On Monday, October 22, Brenda submitted a generic request for info and divine intervention stepped in to match us up with Neil…our Africa whisperer.

After one rather extensive phone conversation with Neil, Brenda was very impressed and practically gushing about him (if she were the type to gush that is). Being South African and having actually owned a safari lodge, Neil is a wealth of knowledge. She told him exactly what we were looking for and gave him our budget, and we left him to work his magic. He said it was gonna be tough – also considering short notice and it being summer there – but he’d see what he could do. About 30 hours later, we had a truly amazing proposal in which he was able to secure a lot of his favorite affordable (but still oh so splendid) accommodations, hitting all our requests and then some. So really the question wasn’t should we do this, it was how can we not do this?! That being the case, we were locked in and all ready to finalize things one short week after sending out that initial information request…and only 90 days from setting off on this adventure of a lifetime. And seriously, if anyone is ever thinking about Africa, let me hook you up with Neil. He’s awesome!!!! I just wish he was coming on the trip with us 😝

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It’s been kinda odd though not having to really figure anything out for ourselves. There was no master spreadsheet to create or hours of research to be conducted. There was the trip to the travel clinic and some shots and pills to procure, but thankfully nothing too crazy. And then there was the long anticipated wait for our final packets to arrive and to commence packing. I am happy to report that that is going well. One area of concern is the current situation in Zimbabwe, but we are hoping and praying to get in and out of Victoria Falls without incident.

On that note, here’s a quick rundown of where we’ll be focusing our efforts. First up is the Cape Town, South Africa area and their surrounding winelands. From there we are heading to northeastern South Africa and the game preserves around and including Kruger National Park. Finally we’ll be taking in the sights and sounds of Victoria Falls. Time and wifi dependent, I plan to check in here with some regular updates. Thanks for traveling along with us.

Have passport, will travel!!

Jackie 😎

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 21:11 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls wine south_africa victoria_falls Comments (0)

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