Ready, steady, let’s traverse the trails at twilight
Explore The Western Cape through Wine with Wine Flies
Wine flies when you’re having fun: experience real wine with real people on this blast of a wine tour
“Welcome aboard family,” Lord Terrence trumpets to the minibus full of wine lovers. He’s pulled out of the parking bay and into traffic heading outbound. As we flee the city, the speed increasing because the highway gives the four-wheeled chariot room to move, our excitement increases too. The nervous energy is palpable. All nine of us have been placed in a spitoon of sorts, hailing from all corners of the world and not necessarily knowing what to expect. “We’re going to have fun with wine today family,” Terrence reassures us, and we collectively relax.
Before the fun really begins, we are given the rules of engagement. “Rule number one,” intones Terrence, commanding the attention of the minibus. “We play musical chairs; every time we get back onto the bus after a stop, you have to sit somewhere new. Number two, we leave no wine or no one behind. And lastly, no politics, religion or sex before lunch.” Heading our tour guides directive, the nine of us (a combination of Americans, Brits, Germans and, of course, the two Capetonians being myself and my partner) keep the conversation light.
When it comes to wine, more is more. With over 2000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape, deciding which ones are worth the visit can be quite overwhelming. This is where Wine Flies come in. This boutique touring company offers the experience of exploring the province through wine. With four different tour packages, you can visit up to five wine estates a day – and even more if you choose to go on a weekend away.
The 20 minute drive to Villiera Wines in Stellenbosch flies by. The cheerful driver has us laughing through a series of fantastical stories and bizarre facts while the comforting hum of Jack Johnson’s vocals set the tone for the sunny spring day.
“I’ll teach you how to find the best just by looking at the bottle,” Lord Terrance brags as he pours a generous gulp of Methode Cap Classique (MCC) into each of our tasting glasses. We’ve settled around a shaded table on the wine estate’s terrace after a comprehensive tour of the grounds and cellar. Terrence has explained the wine and MCC making process. As he pours each of us our share of drink, he breaks down the flavour combination of the drink. He shares why MCC producers can’t call the sparkling nectar champagne – much to the confusion of the American guests. “We’ve had to call ours MCC as opposed to champagne because ours isn’t produced in France. Silly reason but true,” Terrence shares. Before we begin with the tasting, our wine lord teaches us the 5 s’s needed for wine tasting: see, swirl, smell, sip and savour.
Four more glasses of wine later and our group is sharing drinking war stories; really becoming the family Terrance affirms us to be.
Mitre's Edge is our next stop. We descend the winding staircase into the wonderful lair-like tasting room hidden beneath the private home of the winemakers. There we enjoy a carefully curated cheese and wine pairing. Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a vintage blend are complemented with Camembert, Gouda, Feta and Blue cheese. As the wine flows so do the laughs and spirited conversation. At 12:30, the nibbles have only worked to whet our appetites. Terrence, no stranger to the routine, announces that we are headed to Middelvlei Wine Estate for a boozy lunch.
A black Great Dane named Merlot and a Boerboel named papsak (lining of box wine) are soaking up the sun at the entrance of the restaurant as we arrive. Maneuvering around the gentle giants, we walk into a crisp white interior with bursting bouquets of proteas accenting the space. Within minutes, our glasses are filled and plates piled high with potato salad, toasted sammies, chicken sosaties, and boerewors. Working through my meal, I fantasize about laying in the sun while my food digests, like the dogs were doing earlier.
Terrence gives us 15 minutes to let the food settle, then we head to the wine estates cellar for a tour and tasting – straight from the barrel.
We leave Middelvlei and make our way to LovanE, a small wine estate 6.5km out of Stellenbosch. “We like to go to the small, and often forgotten, wine estates in the region,” Terrance shares. To all those who still have the space for, a wine, chocolate and biltong tasting is on offer. “The closest thing Americans have to biltong is beef jerky,” the on-site tasting host explains. Choices like white chocolate and coriander bring out the woody notes of the Shiraz; the spiciness of the droewors complement the medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. “We work with the winemakers to curate the best tastings and pairings for our guests,” Terrance shares with me.
As the sweltering Friday draws to a close, we’re treated to one final wine tasting at Usana Farming Estate. The casual tasting is hosted around the pool which gives us all a chance to cool off and dip our feet in the water. By now, we’ve followed each other on various social media platforms and are making plans for the evening and the weekend that follows.
The next stop? Home. Terrence drops me off at my gate and leaves me with these parting words, “The only way to learn about wine is to practice.”
Tip: The scheduled tours Wine Flies offers run seven days a week. Between July and November, a Whale, Wine and Wors tour along the Elgin Valley and in Hermanus is available too. Wine Flies can accommodate up to 13 guests so groups of five or more can make a booking and receive a discount. Private Tours, where you and the Wine Lords plan a customised tour, can be arranged. These private tours also allow you to visit other regions outside of Stellenbosch.
The Bill: Offering great value, a Wine Flies tour is reasonably priced at R820p/p, and this includes all tastings, pairings, lunch as well as a full day’s entertainment. It’s a small price to pay for an unforgettable day in the Stellenbosch Winelands, a trustworthy and knowledgeable guide and seemingly unlimited wine and food.
By Inga Sibiya
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt? Why not try the Wine Flies duo's Forgotten Route tour to Matjiesfontein. The excusion whisks you off to a Karoo town where time stands still.
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