Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Wildekrans Wine Estate, Bot River - a comfortable weekend getaway with super wines & scenery

We had a lovely weekend away, re-discovering the Bot River valley. We were invited to come and stay at Wildekrans by owner Amanda Harlow when we met her and farm manager/viticulturist Braam Gericke last year at the Nedbank Green Wine Awards. They received the Best Farming Practice Award, Leadership in Community Development and for Best Value IPW for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. With busy schedules and lots of overseas visitors this year, it took a while before we could take up the invitation but we had a lovely weekend staying in their cottages
The road into the farm werf is lined with Tahitian Lime trees
The tasting room ...
... was quite busy when we arrived on Friday afternoon
Braam Gericke, the farm’s General manager and viticulturist, very kindly spent the afternoon with us telling us all about the farm, its history, the accommodation, the changes that are happening with the restaurant and their green farming philosophy. The farm is vast, over 1000 hectares of mixed farming stretching from the mountains near the Houwhoek Pass, right across the plain to the hills on the other side. 71.8 ha are under vine
We did a comprehensive wine tasting with him. They produce Chenin, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc and plantings of more Rhône and other dry country grapes are planned for the future
These are the new labels. We liked their 2014 unwooded Chenin so much that we bought some, it's on special at R30 a bottle. Francois Naude helped make their flagship wooded 2014 Chenin and the Pinotage. The current wine maker is William Wilkinson. We also liked their Cape Blend of Pinotage, Shiraz, Cab, and Pinot Noir with hints of expensive wood, raspberries, rhubarb and some dark liquorice – it’s as soft as silk on the palate. And the MCC Brut Rosé, made from Chardonnay and Pinot noir, shows well too. The 2013 Premium Shiraz with warm spice and lovely fruit is extremely drinkable. Even Lynne (not a fan of pinotage) found the 2014 Estate Pinotage, full of smoky red fruit with some violet perfume and a liquorice end, very lekker
Some history: M Kannemeyer was the owner of the farm in 1930
A once off commemorative bottle in the cellar
Braam then took us on a trip around the farm in his bakkie. These are old chenin bush vines
They also grow a huge crop of olives, mostly for oil, and we have never seen such healthy trees, absolutely groaning with ripening olives. And they have orchards of plums and pears
The olive plantation with wonderful views of the Houw Hoek mountains and the edge of the farm in the distance
Looking across in the opposite direction at the Babylonstoren mountains, the farm stretches to those black hills
They do have water on the farm from the mountains, but this is one dry pan, with what is left of the water in the dam in the distance
End of season vines; all the grapes have been harvested and no more water is being provided. We wait for the winter rains
And a rain storm was sweeping in over the mountains from Elgin as we stood there
Time to check in to our cottage for the weekend. They can sleep 34 in the various 2 and 3 bed cottages
The lounge, dining area and fitted kitchen. There is DSTV with a limited selection of programmes. We were able to watch the 20/20 cricket in India and the Super rugby
The very comfortable bed gave us two good nights’ sleep
The second bedroom. Both bedrooms have two single beds which can be zipped together
Looking back through the living room
The outside terrace has braai facilities, with wood supplied, shared with the cottage next door. There is a table and seating to enjoy the lovely views..
..which look across the vineyard of table grapes towards the hills. It is very quiet and tranquil
We relaxed a lot, just watching cloud formations and birds while enjoying a glass or two of Wildekrans Sauvignon Blanc, which they kindly supplied
An ever changing scene
There are two semi detached cottages in each house
and there are two rows of cottages
A stand of trees in the distance
Sheep, egrets and guinea fowl patrol these now harvested canola fields
We self-catered the first night, as they were in the process of changing the restaurant that weekend. The previous restaurant called Once has closed and Wildekrans have brought in Ilze Henderson and her husband Greg, who is a chef, to run both the restaurant and the cottages. She is Managing Director of the Endless Group and will run the cottages as the Endless Vineyards. They have properties in Durban too
Because the restaurant was being refitted, we had breakfast on the tasting room terrace
Good black coffee 
and a selection of juices awaited us
And a selection of teas and fruit
It was rather a chilly morning. Polar fleece blankets were provided
Lynne had the Eggs Benedict au natural
John had them with freshly smoked snoek and apricot jam
Also on offer to be served with the eggs were pulled pork and salad; creamed spinach and mushrooms or a charcuterie and paté board

On the second morning, John cheekily asked if he could have scrambled eggs and bacon rather than Eggs Benedict and he got it, beautifully soft and creamy egg with smoky well-done  bacon! Lynne repeated the plain Eggs Benedict. We both had toast with marmalade
Sunday morning breakfast. It was warmer
The tasting room and restaurant staff: L to R Enny, Alexonia, Nazlie, Zaidee, Marlon and Annaline. Enny, from Zimbabwe, was very professional, friendly and helpful
Herbs and veg in wine storage boxes for the kitchen. Chef Greg says he wants to forage locally too
They have a chapel for the weddings that are held on the farm
There are also toilet facilities for guests
Lovely views from the circular swimming pool ...
.... which is enclosed by wrought iron gates to keep children safe
And this is where the marquees can go, with the dance floor in the centre. It is right opposite the restaurant
Local birdlife. This is a fiscal shrike. There are many birds on the farm, it’s a great place for bird watching
A view of the farm from the internal gates
Old farm buildings and equipment
Vineyards looking towards a house on the estate
An old part of the farm with a stand of gum trees that look like dinosaur bird legs
Vida, the farm character, loves to play with sticks and stones. She has a lovely soft nature
The farm has many lovely dogs - this one took John for an early morning photographic walk
Such elegance. Vida says "please play with me". But she has had a dislocated shoulder, so must not be thrown things to fetch
Announcing the opening of the Henderson's new restaurant, to be called Forage
Chef Greg and MD Ilze Henderson. Ilze's third baby was due on Wednesday this week, we wish her a speedy recovery as she has taken on a huge job. We think they did a valiant job entertaining us and other guests, having just arrived to begin setting up the restaurant on Friday
Cottages at the back
Our meal was laid out for us on Saturday evening, when we returned from visiting friends and wine farms in Bot River
The menu
Our starter was a cheese platter with farm pears poached in Wildekrans pinotage
We had to put the Traditional Hoenderpastei (plain shredded chicken pies) in the oven to bake for 40 minutes. It came with a small Greek salad. Braam, very kindly, gave us a bottle of the unlabelled 2014 Pinot noir to try. It was very elegant with lovely soft fruit, drinking well now, but should mature well
Dessert was a rather soft, squidgy, underbaked chocolate brownie, a small pecan pie and a small chocolate topped caramel tart
Early morning light on the farm is always more charming. The sheep on the hill in front of the deck in the vineyards
Lynne encountered a klipspringer buck on the path that morning, he stood a while then raced off for the trees
Misty mountains over the canola fields. They will be beautiful when full of acid yellow flowers next season
Oh, we forgot the mention the very pretty pink pigs which are in very large enclosures
They came to inspect John
Making bacon!
It turned out to be a lovely hot day
The table grapes in front of the cottages
No one was stirring except the photographer
A late rosebud
Each house has a name of a previous occupant
White herons or egrets
Waiting for the worms to rise?
More herons in front of the Houw Hoek mountains that are still black with ash from the devastating fires this summer. Luckily the fire did not reach the main farm
Thank you everyone for a lovely relaxing weekend, we had a wonderful time and hope to return some day soon
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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