I will be swirling, tasting, and spitting in South Africa over the next couple of weeks. While I enjoy some elements of organized wine travel with groups of fellow wine geeks and writers, this trip is with family and friends on my own time and dime. Having spent 30 years in media, organized wine immersion agendas feel like work and smack of journalists milking perquisites to supplement earnings that unfortunately never seem to scale with their talent. I am glad to avoid the requisite buses and schedules that viscerally haunt me as much as leisure group travel tours do.
We will spend some time up north in the Timbavati Game Reserve before heading south to the Cape’s Port Elizabeth, hooking up with our car and one of my favorite friends, Kirsten Keun. We like to regularly test our family’s physical limits with Kirsten who spent a summer with us in New Hampshire and now when he isn’t modeling or surfing amongst the local white sharks, is happy to guide anyone around that is comfortable galloping horses into close proximity with lions and rhinos, kayaking down mostly unnavigable white water, cliff diving, ballooning into wild life laden bush, and wading through lazy rivers and streams with nothing more than a stick as defense. We’ll spend some time with the elephants at Addo, deliver one of my sons to his summer of volunteer conservation work at Kariega, then ease our way into an examination of the Klein Karoo port wine region. We’ll camp, hike, snack on biltong, watch Kirsten surf the winter waves, and cook amazing meals to pair with more South Africa wine discovery as we cross the Garden Route en route to our ultimate mission and wine destination; Swartland.
Swartland is a relatively young wine growing sub appellation, and not fully integrated into the mainstream Cape Winelands’ tourist route just yet. But there is a bit of a wine revolution going on here. I intend to better understand why. A couple of years ago I was knocked out by a bottle of Eben Sadie’s Palladius that a Franschhoek restaurant sommelier suggested with a nod and a wink. Dry conditions, old vines, and minimal irrigation are themes that float around my brain heading to Swartland. I need to thank Philip van Zyl, Editor of the estimable Platter’s Wine Guide, for his steady generous advice and insights to insure my examination of the region would be comprehensive. I am looking forward to meeting Adi Badenhorst of Badenhorst Family Vineyards who so graciously offered the winery’s cottage as our clan’s Swartland base, Chris and Andrea Mullineux at Mullineux Wines, Craig Hawkins who crafts wine for his own label and for Lammershoek Winery, and so many more. It will also be interesting to see what Franschhoek’s Boekenhoutskloof Winery has on their mind with their organically farmed Swartland property, Porcelain Mountain, that is just coming on line now.
Our agenda is full and rich, so I will be writing a couple of pieces for Palate Press and will certainly have something more to say here at WineZag. If you are interested in these wines and region, you can follow the trip in real time on Twitter and Facebook. More on South Africa wines soon, but first a very, very long flight schedule from Boston to Atlanta to Johannesburg to Hoedspruit before launching into South Africa and its wines…my way.