Monday, August 22, 2016

A safari tour of Waterford wine estate with Kevin Arnold

Once a year, we are invited by the management of the Vineyard Hotel to join them and other guests, pruning the vines in the small vineyard in the gardens of the hotel, on the bank of the Liesbeek river. They have kindly made us custodians of one vine
This year, we were also invited to Waterford wine estate in Stellenbosch for a tasting of the last four vintages of the wines that have been made. Waterford, one of the four wine estates which sponsors a row of vines, vinified the 2015 vintage. We were to bottle the current vintage, taste the wines and have lunch together
First we went on a Wine Drive Safari in their game viewing Land Rover, guided by Kevin Arnold, Cellarmaster of Waterford and part owner with Jeremy Ord. You, too, can do this when visiting the farm. Click here for details
We were driven to the farm by Roy Davies, MD of The Vineyard hotel, and waited in the tasting room with its warm open fire for the other guests to arrive
Than it was off through the grounds for the Wine Drive Safari. Ten passengers can be seated in the comfortable vehicle to tour this 120 hectare wine farm on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains, where only half of the land is allocated to vines
The vineyards have been dormant through the winter and are about to begin budding. Pruning is still going on in different sites. Some of the vineyards are dry land and unirrigated. You see how they embrace sustainable agriculture and how they aim to achieve an organic approach to wine farming
Waterford is lucky to have several dams and, while we have experienced drought in the last year, the dams are filling up after the recent good winter rains. You can walk on the farm and rest at this lovely bench and table under this magnificent wild olive tree
Kevin Arnold is passionate about the farm, the vines and the biodiversity of the parts which have been left untouched, where they are preserving the original fynbos growing on the blaauwklippen (blue stones), part of our rich Cape Floral Kingdom. This is the largest and most spectacular concentration of flowers and plants found anywhere on earth
Old vines, winter cover crops planted between the rows and a stand of old pine trees behind. The vines are fertilised by the good compost made on the farm from all their biodegradable waste
Coots and ducks on the dam, which also has water lilies at one end
Beyond the horse paddock, you can see the rich compost heaps
Another dam in the middle of the vineyards
We had to pass the main building, with the tasting room and wine cellars, again on our way to the other half of the farm
Neat and tidy vines recently pruned and tied for the next season
There are lovely views across the Stellenbosch valley and, on a clear day, you can see across to the City and Table Mountain
A pied crow hunting in the mist
Looking down the hill to Dornier, Kleinood and other wine farms in the valley
We stopped right at the top of the farm where they have built this platform with a table and benches. Out came some wines to taste and some snacks to pair with the wines. First, freshly baked farm bread to dip into the spicy green Waterford olive oil, some cashews, some droƫ wors (dried sausage) Biltong and mixed olives. A feast
If you come on the Wine Drive you will also enjoy a tasting up there. Kevin unpacking the wines
We tasted the lovely Waterford 2014 Single Vineyard Chardonnay; elegant, crisp and golden, with rich citrus flavours, some minerality and soft wood roundness
The view is magnificent and it is such a peaceful place to sit and ponder ones good fortune, especially with a good glass of wine. We hope to return in better weather.
Journalist Niel Pendock reaches for one of the white wines while Kevin tells us more about the farm
Three other Waterford wines to taste. The top of the range 8 way Cabernet Sauvignon led blend the 2010 Jem, an Oh so elegant melange of pencil shavings, dark berries and good wood, dry tannins, just the wine for special occasions and for spoiling someone; the classic Waterford 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, filled with cassis and forest floor and the spicy full fruit bottle of enjoyment; the Kevin Arnold 2012 Ashley Anne Shiraz, named for one of Kevin's daughters.
Poplars can be invasive but they also make an excellent windbreak and up here the wind can be fierce
Steep slopes of natural fynbos
Raindrops on pine needles
And new growth. We hated leaving this quiet, peaceful eyrie, but The Vineyard bottling and lunch called. Thank you Mr Arnold, sir
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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