Yes, Part One, but there are no immediate plans for a Part Two just yet. But that’s not because the Elim Wine Route isn’t worth a visit, it’s just that Part One has taken a few months and a couple more visits to get around to, so don’t hold your breath.
First off – where Elim? Here Elim (although I didn’t see the big red A when we were there):
So, immediately, you can see that this isn’t going to be a nice winey day out from the Mother City, like Stellies, Paarl, Franschhoek or Constantia. But if you’re in Hermanus or Stanford (there’s a new tarred road being built from Gansbaai) or down in Struisbaai or Arniston, it’s definitely doable. We were down in Agulhas, which is one of my very favourite places as you can see from the star on the map.
The best bit about driving though from there is the amount of wildlife you can see along the back roads through the Agulhas Plain out to Elim: ostrich, springbok, flamingoes, tortoises, Cape vultures, cows (not technically “wild” but some of them looked rather scary) and the like. The drive could take about 20 minutes from Struisbaai, or it could take over an hour with constant stops to enjoy the nature.
The most notable thing about the area from a wine point of view is the decidedly cooler climate than some of those better-known wine growing areas mentioned above. In addition, the terroir here is… well… a bit mental, with various coloured ferricites, weird conglomerates (known locally as “koffieklip” or “coffee stone”) and sticky shale.
First stop is the picturesque Strandveld Winery: “the southernmost winery on the continent of Africa”.
I have mixed feelings about this place. The wine is undoubtedly good, the two ranges being the First Sighting and the Strandveld. The former is the “budget” range, but prices are still up at around R100 a bottle for the reds. Their 2011 First Sighting Shiraz is probably worth it though: it’s got loads of flavour for a young wine with bags of spice and much clove tingling the tastebuds.
And then there’s the really good stuff in the flagship range, with the pick being the 2010 The Navigator red blend. One has to question the R140 price tag though.
Because here’s the thing – we’re not all wine experts. I know I’m not, although I know what I like (and generally why I like it). So visiting a winery for me has to be about more than just the actual grape juice. It needs to be more of a holistic experience. And that’s where Strandveld lets itself down a little. Perhaps because the place is so specialised and so “boutique”, it also comes over a bit snooty to us wine plebs.
When we were there last week, there were some more serious wine buyers in the room and we were completely ignored as our hostess chased the money, rather than made everyone feel welcome.
I don’t want to go back, I want to make a point. But their wines are really good. And thus I’ll foolishly be giving them another chance next time. Damn my needy palate.
Next up, The Berrio. It’s small and no, I’d never heard of it before either, and their website is a bit temperamental at the best of times, but who cares when their reds are so… wow? And – compare and contrast – the tasting is an enjoyable, interactive, friendly experience.
Their deep, strong, dark and smokey 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is absolutely magnificent. Straightforward, powerful, simple, just good. And this from a vineyard better known (apparently) for its whites. I’m not a big fan of whites (in fact, I don’t usually even bother to taste them), but I am assured by those who do that the reputation is well deserved.
Enjoy the wines, the company, the views, the lawns and the palm trees and spend an hour here chilling out. And then be careful not to ground your car on the frankly terrifying gutter on the way out.
And then onto The Black Oystercatcher for more great red and some lunch. Best to book here, especially at weekends and in summer because it does get booked out. The food is decent fare: mostly using locally sourced ingredients (many of them from the on show kitchen gardens next door to the restaurant). There’s also a limited selection available for kids (chicken strips or calamari when we were there). In summer, plump for the outdoor tables in front of the lawn and pool, in winter, head indoors to the big log fire.
Wine wise, they have a very good Sauvignon Blanc, a very quaffable Rosé and a couple of really good red blends – the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and the all-too-easily-drinkable Triton (Cab Sauv/Merlot/Shiraz), full of coffee, pepper and blackcurrant. After a morning tasting elsewhere and a couple of glasses here with your phat venison burger, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to spend the rest of the afternoon here, and why not?
One note for those of you with your own planes: there is an airstrip just across the road from The Black Oystercatcher…
High ground with telephone lines on runway 14 approach.
Slippery when wet
You are welcome to use this PRIVATE runway at OWN RISK.
…but having seen it I’ll stick to the roads and my designated driver, thanks.
And that’s it for the moment. In short, Elim is a great day out if you’re in the area and you want to see some beautiful wildlife and enjoy some really good wines.
Hopefully, our next forray into Elim’s wine country will include Zoetendal and possibly some of the surrounding villages, possibly even generating a sequel to this post.
I KNOW YOU CAN’T WAIT!!!!1!