The Elgin district is roughly an hours’ drive from the Northern Suburbs and my partner and I made of use of the time planning our route. It is well worth the effort of identifying estates with high Platter ratings beforehand and planning your route accordingly. This yields the best use of your time. The centralized ticket pick-up at the peregrine Farm Stall where you got a glass and map of the area with participating estates clearly indicated made it even easier to set a course and be on our way in minutes.
We came in with high expectations and Elgin valley did not disappoint. A few Chardonnays, Syrahs, and Pinot Noirs absolutely stole the show. Some of the highlights at the estates we visited included:
Paul Cluver - Their Estate Pinot Noir 2013 vintage is light in colour, with a silky, berry palette. It reminds me of black forest cake.
South Hill – The venue was geared for a lazy afternoon spent soaking in the sights and tastes with a tented outside area where live music could be enjoyed while picnicking. For something to drink along with said picnic, I would recommend their Miccah blend with an evocative olive on the palette.
Charles Fox MCC Estate – Two ladies greeted us upon arrival and offered a wine glass washing service. An MCC tasting simply must not be tinged with a previously sampled red wine. Here we treated to a wine cellar tour, which is always fascinating and very informative. It was especially interesting to see how 2nd fermentation, which must take place in the bottle as is required for MCC, is done on a large scale.
Almenkerk – This was my favourite venue. The layout was designed specifically to command a breath-taking view of the valley. There was a kiddies play-area, where supervising adults could sit back and sip their wine at ease. Light meals were served in the cellar where live music in the form of a guy playing an accordion provided entertainment. The Chardonnay 2013 and Syrah 2011 vintages were particularly enjoyable.
Elgin Vintners – This was the busiest venue of the day. Due in now small part to the kiddie friendly activities on offer. There was a jumping castle, and face painting all within view of the tented area with benches where parents could keep an eye on the young ones and snack on the fare provided by food trucks. I was particularly impressed with their Century Sauvignon Blanc, blended with Semillon, which tastes of tropical fruits and granadilla. Their Chardonnay 2011 vintage was also outstanding, and then I tasted what I would claim is arguably the best Viognier I’ve ever tasted. Not surprisingly, the Viognier has been awarded 4 and half stars by Platter.
Belfield – Here we found a Polynesian style Banting friendly food truck, and enticing live music by the talented Amy Larter. Here, the Syrah 2010 vintage was my favourite.
Oak Valley – Best known for the MTB and hiking trails, had The Oak valley Reserve (Blend) 2008 which delighted my taste buds.
Lothian – The last stop of the day. This venue with the swimming pool which overlooks the dam was displayed to its best advantage in the sunset. We arrived there just a few minutes shy of 5pm, the official closing time for the festival, but the party showed no signs of abating any time soon. The Chardonnay 2013 and Pinot Noir, with its palette of fresh cherries, were great choices with which to end off the day.
We went the extra length to make our excursion Banting friendly. While it’s more convenient to try the food at the different venues, we decided not to book anything in advance. Instead, we packed our own picnic – or rather, hubby packed the picnic while I was still doing makeup and printing the tickets. What an excellent idea it turned out to be. We snacked on sausage (boere wors), cheeses, olives, and cucumber in between each visit and the huge Stanley classic vacuum bottle was full of ice cold water to keep us hydrated.
Elgin valley is both far and near enough to be a quick weekend getaway from town. Besides, there are so many highly rated wineries in the area that it would be a shame to spend anything less than a weekend sampling the district’s hospitality. That being said, a day trip is just as pleasant. Putting a little more thought than usual in planning the route and your snacks leaves you with enough time to enjoy what each estate has to offer as well as soaking in the beautiful landscape during the drive in between. Indeed, it is my firm belief that wines tasted in their native setting are presented to their best advantage. Much more so than had you tasted them anywhere else.