Bottelary by bike


Stellenbosch is for the birds – the wine routes that is – as they’re arranged by mountain. There are five of them, listed on the Stellenbosch Wine Routes [SWR] website www.wineroute.co.za by status: Simonsberg, Stellenbosch Berg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Hills and Bottelary Hills – which is great for birds, but pretty useless for tourists without wings or Red Bull. Perhaps Stellenbosch Wine Flight Paths would be a better name for this umbrella organization of producers. For earthbound wine tasters, terroir by roads would make more sense: Polkadraai perambulation, Klapmuts crawl, Jonkershoek jog, Helshoogte hike and the inimitable (and equally tourist unpronounceable) Kromme Rhee ramble.
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Bottelary would remain the same, as the road and hill are eponymous – saving the least fashionable bunch of Stellenbosch producers the costs of expensive label redesigns (at up to R20 000 a pop). While the Bottelary boys may be in the least fashionable appellation, they’re also the closest to Cape Town International with the most westerly member, Hazendal, located a mere ten minutes away.
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Purchased by Russian dentist Mark Voloshin in 1994, Hazendal is now managed by daughter Simone who hosts Salsa Evenings every Thursday in the restored 18th century manor house. Adding yet another exotic dimension to a farm which houses the Marvol Museum of Russian religious icons and Fabergé eggs.
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Ronell Wiid makes the wines and her 2005 bush vine Chenin Blanc is a value for money showstopper, best enjoyed in the farm’s Hermitage restaurant which specializes in classic Cape Malay cuisine such as vetkoek stuffed with fruit preserve, slaphakskeentjies, and bobotie with yellow rice. One of the oldest farms in Stellenbosch, granted to one Christoffel Hazenwinkel (hence the name) by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel (of Vergelegen fame) in 1704, the werf is well preserved with slave quarters and the slave bell still extant. Needless to say, the renovated manor house is a popular venue for weddings.

Across the road and up the northern slopes of the Bottelary Hill lies Kaapzicht – a farm which recently popped onto the radar screens of wine lovers through the activities of Danie and wife Yngvild Steytler. A feature at every wine show and entrant at every wine competition, perseverance has paid off big time, with Danie’s red blends and value for money whites attracting much interest.

If any criticism were to be leveled, it would be at the size of the range. Which sampled in its entirety in the rustic tasting room, could result in a premature end to a Bottelary ramble at only the second stop. Especially if the pot still brandy made in conjunction with Edmund Oettlé from Upland Estate in Wellington, is included in the tasting lineup.
 Bottelary by bike
Even further up the hill lies the appropriately named Mooiplaas, a farm so vertiginous it took the advent of four wheel drive vehicles to open up the vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon is a specialty – the current release is from 2000, which will come as welcome relief to wine lovers averse to infanticide – and the piercing Sauvignon Blanc with intense flavours of red grapefruit should not be overlooked. This wine will also transform if left alone, developing richness and complex flavours with some bottle age, as a recent vertical tasting back to 1999 confirmed.
 Bottelary by bike
The next right, Fischer Road, leads to Pieter Bestbier’s bucolic Goede Hoop Estate with a similar line-up of wines. The ’97 Cabernet was a Cape benchmark red for the nineties and current vintages have a commendable consistency.

Continue up the track to Sterhuis, so named as the house is so high up the hill, it looks like a star from the road. Self-taught winemaker Johan Kruger clearly learnt his trade well with Gary and Kathy Jordan at Jordan on the southern slopes of the hill. His Chardonnay in particular is a winner.

Swiss International Airlines just can’t get enough of his Sauvignon Blanc, which they serve on their international routes the world over. All that’s missing is a bit of proof reading on the SWR website which has them down as “hugging the lofty slopes of the Bottelary Hills, caressed by crisp ocean breezes from both the Atlantic and India…”
 Bottelary by bike
The next stop is a bit of an adventure, as Koopmanskloof is not even in the Platter Wine Guide or even the SWR website map. Owned by octogenarian Oom Stevie Smit, it is a hidden gem with 60 ha of fynbos recently given over to conservation. Proteas are Oom Stevie’s passion and the flowers leave the farm and end up in European salons.

A paved road up to the top of the hill and the boshut was made by inmates of Koelenhof prison which explains its name: die bandiet pad (below). The boshut – which sleeps 18 – can be hired by those wishing to tarry overnight on a walk along the crest of the hills from Koelenhof to Kuilsriver train stations. Oom Stevie’s tasting room down by a homestead literally engulfed by fynbos, is a potent reminder of winemaking in an unhurried age.
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Bellevue estate lies across the road, although the wines are now called Morkel, after the family name of owner Dirkie and not because of any two year guarantees offered. The name change was necessitated by exports to Europe where Belle-Vue is variously a Belgian beer and a Bordeaux blend. Bellevue is home to the world’s first commercial Pinotage vineyard, planted back in 1953, and half a century has given Dirkie (and his dad before him) enough practice to perfect the use of this idiosyncratic red grape in a blend. Of which he has several with intriguing names like Atticus, Tumara and Rozanne, named after either daughters or horses.
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In addition to their own cuvées, the Bottelary Boys (above) make a communal Cabernet-Pinotage blend as well as a Shiraz under the Bottelary Hills label and the wines are available on contributing farms as well as the Bottelary wine shop located at the service station at the junction with the R304. Liquid proof of the co-operation that exists between neighbours who are also friends.

The Bottelary Cellar opposite Bellevue is something of a misnomer as the former Co-op was bought by an alien Co-op (Perdeberg in Paarl) a couple of years ago and now produces wines made from Paarl grapes with the word Bottelary on the label, confusing consumers and irritating the Bottelary Boys at the same time.

Just before the Devonvale Country Club lies Hartenberg, the Bottelary Boy you’ve probably heard of thanks to their value for money Cabernet/Shiraz blend, a firm favourite with restaurateurs. Thanks largely to the efforts of Walter Finlayson, who raised the game of this huge estate in the seventies and eighties. The farm was granted to a couple of bachelors Coenraad Boom and Christoffel L’Estreux in 1692 with the latter commemorated in a wine which is occasionally still made. In fact, naming wines after departed characters is becoming something of a tradition with the recent launch of the Eleanor (Walter’s mum) Chardonnay and the Mackenzie Bordeaux blend and Stork Shiraz after Ken Mackenzie who bought the farm in 1986.
 Bottelary by bike
After Hartenberg, the Bottelary road runs out of tar. At the traffic light, turn left for the N1 to Cape Town, stopping off at Villiera to see if the Italians have left any cases of gewürztraminer un-bought (the tipple is aperitif of the season in Venice). Turn right for Stellenbosch with a pit stop at Mulderbosch and mystic winemaker Mike Dobrovic for some barrel fermented Chardonnay to take to lunch at the Wynhuis. Go straight and you’re on the Kromme Rhee road with Simonsig and their delicious Chenin Blanc in your sights.

Accommodation

Devon Valley Protea Hotel 021 865 2012 – panoramic views over the bucolic Devon Valley. The hotel bar still has an amazing selection of single malts from the days when David Nathan-Maister owned the place.

Die Boshut on Koopmanskloof farm – sleeps 18 at R1000/night. For bookings, contact Tinkie Steenkamp 021 865 2355.

Restaurants

Mana Restaurant is owned by recent UK imports Heather and Jonathan Taylor. Well worth the detour into Devon Valley. 021 865 2662.

Hazendal Hermitage Restaurant 021 903 5112. Try the Russian blinis on beetroot cake with smoked salmon, sour cream and caviar.
 Bottelary by bike
Ralph’s Restaurant 021 865 2513 started out with overstuffed wicker chairs in a Stellenbosch side street before moving to the Guinea Fowl restaurant and Saxenburg and now settling on the R304. Vegetarian Buddhist Ralph van Pletzen still makes an unbeatable steak.


 
 
 
 
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