Stepping Out

It’s been a busy few days! Since Greg works during the week, I’ve booked our weekends solid.

Saturday we went to the Winelands, visiting Paarl, Franschhoek and Stollenbosch. It was a group tour done by a company that specializes in wine tours. It turns out it was just the two of us, and a woman from Dublin. So it was pretty private.

Sunday (today) we went with another driver/tour guide for a drive down one side of the peninsula all the way to Cape Point (the southern most part of Africa…the last bit of land before Antarctica) and back up the other side of the peninsula.

With wine country and coastline as the focus of our two days, there is a temptation to compare it to California. There are many similarities, but both trips were uniquely African.

Wine Tasting

Despite being called “New World” for winemaking, winemaking has been around South Africa for 300 years. There is a unique varietal here called Pinotage, a cross breed of the Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (aka, Hermitage) grapes. Our early experiences with Pinotage were with high tannins and some harsher flavors.

But the wines we experienced in our day of wine tasting were far from that. We visited four wineries. And after 20 tastes of wine throughout the day, I was certainly relieved that we had someone else driving!

I won’t go into details about the wines we drank—what a bore, particularly when none of these exports to the US. But I will say this: we have been to a few wine regions of the world (California, Italy, Portugal). Each has its own unique landscape, but it always feels like wine country. This is even more unique. It feels wilder. The soaring, sheer mountains, boulders and deep valleys create a dramatic background to the vineyards and estates.

We ended up buying three bottles at the various estates for drinking while we are still here in Cape Town. We even managed to snag a 2001 Cabernet for R22 (that’s $3US. The local version of two-buck chuck? We’ll let you know!)

We had lunch at Haute Cabriere, a sparking wine producer of note. I had braised rabbit with pasta, which was flavorful and filling.

Before lunch the notorious owner’s wife gave us a tour. She was quite a character in her own right, and told great stories about how they developed this winery. She even opened the bottles the old-fashioned way—with a sword.

I’ve been on champagne cave tours before, but on this one I learned quite a bit not just about how it’s made but also the historical stories about it. Among them:

  • When ordering oak barrels from France, you get a choice of oak forests from which the barrels are made. They are priced differently depending on the quality and characteristics of the wood. In other words, even the barrels have their own terroir.
  • The great Vivue Cloquet was the widow of a winemaker and she was the one who thought to remove the yeast left in the bottle by getting it to fall to the top of the neck behind the cork.

Cape Point Tour

We were blessed with spectacular weather this weekend. I have joked that I’ll take a Cape Town winter over a San Francisco summer.

Our driver Yaseem picked us up at nine in the morning and took us through a short tour of downtown so Greg could see Bo’Kaap (meaning “higher cape”), the predominantly Muslim neighborhood, also called the Malay Quarter. I’d already walked through there, but it was good for Greg to see the brightly colored homes and cobblestone streets.

We drove down the Atlantic Seaboard through Camp’s Bay, Clifton, and Hout Bay. Then cut across the Eastern (False Bay) side of the peninsula for a drive through several cute little coastal towns—Fish Hoek, Simon’s Town, etc., all the way down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (named by a Portuguese explorer, Bartolemeu Dias).

Click here for a map.

The dramatic cliffs soar into the skies from the ocean, creating some of the most picturesque coastal drives in the world. We often take drives through Big Sur and have enjoyed drives down the Amalfi Coast, but this can stand among the best. But they are all unique. California boasts the big redwoods and forests, and Amalfi has historic buildings. But Cape Town has almost other-worldly panoramas.

Perhaps the most dramatic event was when we were scoping out an area for a picnic. I was warned that the baboons were very aggressive and could open car doors, etc. I was standing there with a bag full of sandwiches, our driver several meters away on his cell phone. Greg was taking pictures. The next thing I know, the driver is running as fast as he could toward the car. I had thought he’d forgotten to put on his emergency brakes and the car was rolling. He quickly tossed his bag into the car and locked it. The next thing I noticed, a mama baboon and her baby came up on a boulder right behind me. Someone shouted, “She’s after your bag!” So I got it into the car, and we started this baboon down. Greg took some great close-up shots! I was too stunned to act quickly.

We ate our lunch a little ways down, but suddenly I kept looking over my shoulder every couple minutes!

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