Part 1: WINE
After spending Friday in bed with multiple movies and a persistent cold, I woke to cheery blue skies, hopped in the pimp mobile and sped over the mountain to collect Amy. We’d planned a girls expedition to Stellenbosch for a spa and spot of wine having gotten vouchers to pamper us pretty for the new season (thank you Ubuntu Deal). And I’d nursed a burning desire to go visit de Trafford since the Hartenberg Shiraz festival. We could hardly have asked for a more purrrrrrrfect day to venture into the winelands…
The road winding wistfully up the Helderberg mountains is, in itself, a lovely little adventure and with Spring painting new life over the countryside canvas, this part of the Fairest Cape is breath taking. Waterford got the first “aahhhhhh!” for it’s white daisied paddocks and happy herd of one trick ponies (though it must be said, I find them cloyingly commercial – cough: *kitsch* – and wines too tellingly ‘thin’. One pretentious tasting with Duke D. Nile and his delinquent crew has probably soured those grapes forever…).
We drove through groves of ancient twisted trees, past rustic rambling vineyards and through the gates of Mont Fleur (what an utterly astounding venue for a conference). On we forged, running up that hill until, nestled in deep shade, we found what we’d come looking for: de Trafford’s delightful cellar.
Suitably welcomed by the charmingly down-to-earth assistant winemaker, Waldo van Zyl we settled down to taste the fine handcrafted wine. Waldo’s warmth, humour and old-school passion for making ‘proper’ wine made the experience wonderfully rich and enlightening. And there’s something deeply honest about the way they cultivate and create their wines here: it’s done slowly, using traditional artisan equipment (I could barely contain my joy at seeing a vintage wine press and when Waldo told me they actually used it, I had to stifle a cry of delight) and great care – a distinct change from the more typical mass market manufacture that’s the rage. De Trafford reds are left in barrels for longer to soften the tannins and you can certainly taste the difference: their wines are eloquently refined, elegantly complex and perfectly balanced. It’s worth the wait.
The intimate nature of the tasting room and manner in which it’s conducted also makes for a welcome change: this is what visiting a wine farm used to be like. An opportunity to meet the wine maker, chat about grapes, earth, elevation and barrels over a few open bottles of their best. Sadly so many new age (bleurgh) wine farms have turned tasting into a fast paced sushi bar conveyor belt trip: slap down R60, splash some wine in a glass, pounce about how amazing your 15 mega litres of k*k better-in-a-box balsamic asyn is and please just hurry the f*ck up already so the next taxi load of dehydrated tourists can get through these doors – we need sales, people! Here’s a strange fact: wine lovers stupidly seem to like (nay – expect) to be treated with disdain by wine merchants. In my opinion, too much time is wasted on posing and pretention in the wine world which is why I thoroughly appreciated the slip-slop hop equivalent earlier this year. Essentially I prefer the grape, love vineyards and am fascinated by viticulture so finding a wine farm so steeped in truth is a treasure.
Reformed architect (see his past echoed in the labels), wine maker and farm owner, David Trafford’s honest passion and biting humour is evident when he explains the winemaking as
“…understanding and working with the vineyard to coax something magical from the land, after that it’s hold thumbs you don’t cock it up in the cellar.”
I tasted their Syrah at the festival and was stuck by it’s lush rust complexion and sheer sophistication. Shiraz is a bold, big breasted cultivar much like Dolly Parton whereas theirs is distinctly genteel, dignified and utterly beguiling. Think Katie Melua. While Dolly’s great for a strip joint and a rowdy night out at the roadhouse, you’ll want to take Katie home to meet your mom – and marry her. My kind of wine.
Their flagship is the Elevation 393 (meters above sea level), a fresh Cab, Merlot, Syrah blend (50:40:10) – their best of the best (think Top Gun elite). All barrels are tested and only if David feels the standard is high (erhm, suitably elevated?) enough will the blend see a bottle. Which is pretty damn cool: it shows ruthless integrity. Get me Bono – I’ve found a wine U2 would love!
In addition, they boast a second line called Sijnn (naturally, I taken by the name which sounds like a clever play on words for ‘sin’ and when you consider what generally happens when drinking red, would certainly be apt… ). Amy and I were totally charmed by. Not entirely sinful, this pure bush wine (how heavenly) takes it’s name from the San word for the Breede River – Malgas area where it’s grown wild and untrestled. A unique site inspired Trafford’s team to plant hotter varietals with a Mediterranean (predominantly Portuguese) flair. The 2008 red blend (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Touriga Nacional and Trincade) is sexy and smooth, upfront and relatively uncomplicated with a delicious caramel finish. Amy promptly bought 2 bottles – one of which turned out to be a belated birthday present for me. Just who’s going to share this bottle of delirious truth and beauty with me, I wonder?
ps want to get getaway from the hustle and bustle for a romantic long weekend? Well, they even have an exclusive ‘garden cottage’ to offer you!