Wellington Wine Walk – June 2021
Brian and I were very privileged to be invited on a WWW in 2018 by Pat Blamire from Chartered Wealth. We had a lovely time during that walk, and now living on a Mature Lifestyle Estate and chatting to friends about our various travels, we one day mentioned the Wine Walk we had done in 2018. Before I knew it, I had been nominated to get another group together and do another walk.
This time the walk was in June 2021, a little chilly in the mornings and evenings, a bit of drizzle on the first day, but other than that, wonderfully blue skies, and warm weather during our walks. We were the last group of walkers for the season – Autumn season stretches from the last week of March to approximately 10 June and Spring season starts the last week of August to end November.
There are so many superlatives that I could use to describe this adventure that it becomes a bit overwhelming, so I shall just give you a little precis of our three-day walk. In this time of Covid, with so many people not being able to travel internationally, visiting or revisiting some of our local destinations makes sense.
We had another couple within our group of 15 who had also done this walk (in 2011), and they concur that doing it the second time around was different and as enjoyable as the first time. This trip again confirmed how blessed we are to live in this beautiful country, with such spectacular vistas and passionate and committed South Africans willing to share their stories and farms with visitors. We had three non-drinkers in our group – this should also explain how popular this trip is – if non-drinkers want to do the wine walk!
All the WWW guides are fully accredited and qualified and willingly share their exceptional knowledge of the area’s history. There are always two guides with the group each day. Both guides telling us stories of the vineyards, the people, the geography, and so much more.
The adventure starts at Diemersfontein Wine Estate and Guest House, where Johann gave us our first wine tasting and spoke with such passion and eloquence about Diemersfontein, told us the history of the farm, spoke about Thokozani (sustainable economic empowerment with world-class wines) and let us taste some outstanding wines. Here the 15 of us already started filling in our order forms with gusto.
The next day was cloudy and a bit cool with some drizzle, but nothing deterred us from jumping onto the tractor/trailer to be taken up the “trekpad” through Diemersfontein Estate to start our walk. We walked through vineyards, past herb farm tunnels, admiring the spectacular Franschhoek mountains. We visited Augusta Kleinbosch (destroyed by fire in 2017 and due to be renovated shortly). Francois gave us a most interesting walk around and talked about the cemetery and old school and invited us to sample some of the most recent delicious guavas straight off the fruit trees. We stopped at Druk My Niet for our next wine tasting. Here Dorothy let us try fabulous wines (more orders flowing) and told us about the destruction to the homestead and vineyard during the fires in 2017. After a lovely picnic lunch, prepared by Sam, another local mom, we walked to Cascade Manor for our next stop.
Here, even battling through load shedding, Volker was able to give us tastings of his olive oils, and we were treated to another outstanding meal. A note to potential walkers, pace yourselves with the food – every single meal was a delight! And together with the wine, we all overindulged.
The second day’s tasting started at Elsabe du Plessis’ homestead with buchu brandy. Buchu is grown only in South Africa and has astonishing medicinal qualities – we did have to have more than one shot of the buchu brandy to make sure! These shots warmed us all up instantly, and Elsabe’s passion for her farm and her olive oil, wines, jams and preserves had us all in stitches. Elsabe told us about “stokkies”, the grafting of vines and where the term “stokkiesdraai” comes from – very enlightening. We were most reluctant to leave her home to continue our walk to Hildenbrand Wine and Olive Estate.
At Hildenbrand, we were entertained and given a splendid lunch and wine tasting by Reni (lady owner and winemaker of note). Reni is on the International Olive Oil Tasting Association and is in demand worldwide. She is also a passionate animal lover with lots of cats, dogs, donkeys, horses and other rescued animals on her farm.
A relatively quick walk to our next stop, Dunstone Country House, where we were met by Privilege and Rene with coffee/tea and the most delicious scones and cream. Another superb dinner, with lots more wine – there were no wine tastings at Dunstone, but we had experienced their Shiraz before, so copious amounts were consumed and purchased for home enjoyment. A quick show of line dancing was given by some of the group, much to the delight of the waitrons – Jerusalema was a huge hit!
Our third and last walking day saw us being shuttled up Bains Kloof pass – beautiful scenery and such history. Our first wine tasting was at Doolhof Estate by Mercia – where we even tried their gin – again, the order forms were out in full force. A short walk to Welvanpas, the home of the Retief family (yes – descendants of Piet Retief) – Dan and his wife Retha gave us a splendid lunch and more wine tasting. Our last wine tasting for the trip and the third one of the day (whooo!) was at Bosman Family Vineyards by Charlene – the biggest farm in the region, with unparalleled wines. There are 500 permanent workers on this farm, it being the largest “stokkies” farm in Wellington. Fascinating to learn how the various cultivars are grafted.
We were shuttled back to Diemersfontein to sort out our purchases, ready to be shipped to Johannesburg and then shuttled back to Dunstone for our last night before departing the following morning, back to reality.
We walked 10km, 11km, and 8km daily (most of us used Steps on our phones to measure distances which are not consistently accurate but gives an indication of distances). None of the walking was strenuous, some uphills are handled by shuttle, and most of the walking is relatively sedate, with lots of stopping to admire and talk about the view, the fynbos, the farming, wines, food, and the history of the area. There were some really exceptional walks; one, in particular, was a walk through a forest on the way to Welvanpas, whilst another was walking through miles and miles of vineyards, with the various colours, from deep red to light green.
If you are a walker, a passionate wine drinker, an armchair historian or a patriotic South African, this walk will be ideal for you and your friends. We left feeling proud to be South Africans – being reminded of our history, our culture, language and the hardships of being a farmer – every time you lift a glass of wine to say cheers, the first salute should always be to the farmers! Respect and enormous gratitude to them all!