Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dinner at Beaumont Winery (Best Pinotage) and South Africa Blue Cranes at Wildekrans Estate

Sept. 23 – 24, 2012 - We returned from our trip to the ocean to check into the large plantation estate and winery of Wildekrans. This is a very impressive property where the owners are trying to bring back the original fynbos vegetation and also have a wild bird refuge. It was here that I got my first glimpse of the tall and elegant South African blue cranes (see photo below), as well as many other colorful species of smaller birds in bright yellow and red.

Dinner at Beaumont Winery in Bot River

After twenty minutes to freshen up, we boarded the van again and drove 5 minutes into the small village of Bot River to Beaumont Winery. This is a charming old wine estate from the 1700’s that was rescued by Jane Beaumont and her husband in the 1970’s. Now Jane’s son, Sebastian, runs the property with his wife. It is located on the river with old vines and a small inn, and is the home of the best pinotage I tasted during my travels in South Africa. So, if you get the chance, try the 2009 Beaumont Estate Pinotage, which is fresh, fruity, spicy and very enjoyable.

We started the evening with a small informal tasting from several Bot River/Elgin area wineries. The winemakers poured their wines, and my favorites from this tasting were: Beaumont Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, Gabrielskof Rose, Shiraz and Bordeaux Blend, Luddite 2006 and 2007 Shiraz (aged 2 years in oak and 2 in bottle), the Wildekrans Chenin Blanc (fermented and aged in 100% new French oak), and the Barton Chenin Blanc (bone dry) and Merlot again. I should mention that I was very impressed with Barton’s support of the South African Blue Crane. They give a portion of all of their wine sales to help support these endangered birds.

Dinner was served at a long elegant table in the barrel room with chandeliers overhead and white table clothes (see photo above). Since we were still full from our 3- hour lunch at Gabrielskof Winery, Sebastian’s wife made everyone happy by serving home-made feasts of spinach and broccoli soup, chicken pate with oven-fresh breads, and a big green salad. We enjoyed this excellent repast with the wines from the tasting. I ended up drinking primarily the Beaumont chenin blanc and pinotage because they were so tasty. Dessert included brownies and lemon squares served with Beaumont’s Sauternes style botrytised semillion and sauvignon blanc sticky.

When we left the winery, the stars were out and we had a good time trying to find the Southern Cross constellation in the sky. Then we climbed in the van and drove back to our Wilderkrans cabin where I stumbled into bed and was asleep by 10pm.

Wildekrans Estate – Great for Birders, Hikers and Wine Lovers

In the morning, I awoke in my comfortable bed at Wildekrans Estate and could hear the birds calling outside the window. The cabins all have a full kitchen/living room area, two bedrooms, a bath, and a large front porch. Breakfast was delivered in a basket and Mary (my bunkmate) and I enjoyed fresh muffins, pasteries, yogurt, cheese and meats with instant coffee we made.

Wildekrans is a great choice for anyone who wants to be in the country, and enjoys hiking, birding, and wine-tasting. It is also located only 20 minutes from the ocean and town of Hermanus, so you can go whale-watching as well.

The minute I opened the front door of our cabin that morning, I heard the trumpeting call of the South African Blue Cranes. When I scanned the hillside I saw them standing tall and beautiful with grey-blue feathers and elegant feathered heads in the green grass near a herd of sheep. It was a male and female (they mate for life), and I assumed, since it was spring, they were getting ready to nest and lay eggs. The male started to dance in front of the female, jumping off the ground and spreading his huge wings. I watched them for about 15 minutes, calling Mary to take a look at them. After a while we saw them flying across the small marsh and vineyards into the distant hills.

After breakfast and a quick shower (the water is colored slightly yellow, due to the high iron content in the soil, but clean), I took a stroll around the property and was amazed at all of the birds I sighted in the marsh. Other people were hiking along the trails through the vineyards, and I stopped by the tasting room, which wasn’t open yet, but looked charming. On my way back to the room, I bumped into the owner with her new puppy who was so adorable, I couldn’t stop myself from hugging him, even though he jumped on my pants and covered me with mud. Wildekrans, though slightly rustic, is a great place to stay if you enjoy the outdoors and want to see the wild beauty of South Africa.

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