The sunshine was glorious over the long weekend just gone and it was wonderful to sit outside, sleeveless, making some vitamin D while drinking something cool. Not a bad way to feel like you’re on holiday, although, I couldn’t help cast my mind back to a recently tranquil afternoon spent relaxing in the sun.
On the same day my sister and I had the ridiculously early call time for her TV appearance, we had also scheduled a wine tasting and lunch at the Glenelly Estate in the town of Stellenbosch . Founded in 2003 by May de Lencquesaing, I had not heard of this farm, but was delighted to include a wine tasting in my holiday, an almost obligatory activity when visiting the Western Cape.
It was barely noon when we arrived and drove across the stunning Ida Valley towards a disguised wedge-shaped building that was a far cry from the expected traditional manor house that usually forms the reception focal point upon visits to wine estates. Having been stuck in traffic in the boiling sun due to road works, we were so glad to be greeted by cool air as we entered the light and open space. Arriving a little later than planned, the reception staff were very accommodating and our wine ambassador Bronwen was ready to take us on a special pre-tasting cellar tour.
Descending into the subterranean cellar building felt like an adventure, like we were exploring and being guided behind the curtain to witness some of the magic of winemaking. The thoroughly modern structure was clean with a precise, considered feel about it and naturally cooled by being built into the existing earth. Madame de Lencquesaing had asked that a glass wall be installed at the larger end of the wedge allowing natural light to flood into the space, making a much more pleasant environment for those essentially working underground.
Bronwen was extremely knowledgeable and gave us a full run down of harvesting, fermenting and blending their range of wines. The team were in fact in the process of harvesting which explained the giant containers filled with fruit lining a couple of walls in the room. I was quite distracted by the view to be honest, and we did also stop to take some pictures with the tanks like proper tourists.
Descending even further, Bronwen showed us where their barrels were stored, the room also naturally lit by glass on one side. It was wonderful to see that even in this working space decorative art hung on the walls, creating an unexpected ambience and making it feel especially cared for. I was excited to be able to taste the fruits of the teams labour.
Whisking us up to the first floor tasting room, it seemed obvious to choose a table on the balcony complete with a breath taking view of vines climbing up one side of the valley’s gradient. It was fantastical, the kind of idyllic countryside one might consider a protagonist’s kingdom in a fairy tale, and it was about to get better. Bronwen coordinated our tasting and took us through all of the estate’s collections and I can say there were no bad apples in that basket; a variety of flavours and complexity that would appeal to many palates.
We could have stayed on that balcony all day, but soon it was time to head down one level to the Vine Bistro for lunch. The open seating allowed for al fresco dining as well as tables shaded under a pergola giving one a relaxed indoor/outdoor feeling with French inspired fare.
While the menu looked scrummy I was a bit concerned there was no vegetarian option listed. The Manager (and Sommelier) Esme was looking after us and I mentioned this to her in the hope that the kitchen could provide more than table bread to soak up the contents of my tasting saturated tummy. She returned with a couple of off menu options from the chef as well as wine pairing suggestions.
The food (on and off menu) was stunning, dessert was divine, the wine wonderful and the view heavenly. It really did feel like checking out from ones responsibilities and obligations and taking that precious sought after time to relax and enjoy. Esme really took care of us, so well in fact it proved difficult to tear ourselves away from the serenity and luxury to drive an hour back to Cape Town and to reality.
This month I see that Esme has achieved a South African Sommelier Association Level 2 Certificate, making her one of ten in South Africa to hold such a qualification and the first woman to do so. Madame de Lencquesaing can be very proud of the entire team on the estate, they are truly magnifique.
Have a look at the estate website here and the if you’re in the Stellenbosch area treat yourself to a lunch or dinner at the Vine Bistro by clicking here. It’s worth discovering your own favourite facet to this gem in Stellebosch’s crown.