Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Waterford Estate

The highlight of living in Cape Town is not the mountain, as some would lead you to believe. It is not the sea which is too cold in which to swim. It is not even the way it conveniently manages to keep poor people out of the lines of vision of rich people. It is undoubtedly its proximity to the Cape Winelands – as good a reason to live there as any. In fact, if I were to start a city I would ensure that there was a plethora of possible vineyard sites within spitting distance beforehand.

While living in Cape Town, I visited plenty of farms in and around Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellebosch, and they are all so good that it became tricky for any one of them to stand out. Until I won a prize at a press conference to spend a night at Waterford Estate (Note: I was/am under absolutely no obligation to write about it).

It is one of the few vineyards in Stellenbosch at which one can spend the night in a large, beautifully furnished room on the second floor of its main building. Breakfast and six or seven bottles of wine are provided and the view out of the bedroom is so wide guests can see sunrise and sunset from the bed.

The lounge - contemporary decoration (apologies for it being out of focus).

The eye-watering view out of the bedroom window.

What the vineyards do offer, generally, is beauty, and Waterford Estate doesn’t disappoint. Although I arrived in a crap mood because the sign for the vineyard had fallen down and I’d covered most of the roads of the Western Cape finding it, the way it was set up from the gate to where guests park was incredible. I could describe it, but rather just look at these.

Both pics are of the main building at Waterford Estate. This is what is immediately presented to all visitors here. Pretty damn decent, I'd say.

That being said, prettiness is not something which necessarily differentiates one farm from another - you’ll rarely see an ugly one. There are two stark criteria which push Waterford Estate’s notability ahead of most others.

The first is the idea of a wine safari. I am not sure of other farms do this, but Waterford boast a concept in which you taste the wine while sitting sitting by the orchard in which (at least some of) its grapes were grown. Our guide (whose name escapes me) was involved in the whole wine production process from seed-planting right through to putting the cork in the bottle, so we were given a thorough explanation on every part of the farm which we drove through (and drank near). We were regaled with tales of how crops had been affected by massive winds and fires, how grapes are selected, how the quality is maintained and so on. All the while in a stunning setting.

This is a proper wine safari - this truck having arrived at Waterford for safari purposes from Singita.

The highlight of the safari was sampling Waterford’s signature wine, The Jem. This creation of this wine was a nine-year process with a plethora of concoctions attempted before Kevin Arnold, cellar master, and his team gave it the ok. We sampled this sitting on a hill with a view that stretched nearly the whole way to Cape Town.

The wines on the safari were matched with food – we sampled olives and nuts with the white wines and droewors and biltong with the reds. It all paired up beautifully, but it post-safari that Waterford surprised us again.

Three of Waterford's top red wines: a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and it's premier product, The Jem.

I am sure most of you who have traversed wine country will have sampled the nectar alongside food. Well, Waterford Estate pairs up wines with chocolate. Usually putting two things people like together is a decent recipe for popularity. Well, how’s about two things people absolutely adore? The secret is in the high-quality chocolate provided, flavoured beautifully. A deep dark chocolate, a brown rose-water flavour and a milk chocolate accompanied with four of Waterford’s high-quality wines. I suppose the message is that wine is not just a meal accompaniment, it is a leisure pursuit too – not something wine-producing countries like South Africa need to know, but the rest of the world could be taught a thing or two.

The chocolate-pairings and the wine safari do make Waterford stand out within the region. However, and most importantly, it still provides the main top-quality aspect that one would expect anyway: superb, well-thought out wines.

It certainly gets my stamp of approval.

This is a Simon travel pointer.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes, I only found this blog now, Simon. Off to read the rest.
    Miss ya on the 'other side'.