Pieces of Heaven

There was something sybaritic about sitting on the wooden deck of beautiful timber-framed canvas “shed” overlooking both the Karwyderskraal road and Bosman Family Vineyards’ vine nursery in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley recently.

An early Spring weekend in Hermanus with friends was the perfect opportunity to do a bit of wine roadtripping. All too often my trips into the winelands involve heading to a specific destination, spending a few hours there for a wine launch and then heading home. Deadlines and work demands make it almost impossible to do what other folks do – just chill and enjoy the moment.

So relaxing and drinking a glass of delicious wine while mellowing out and enjoying a cheese platter was a lovely way to unwind and get into the laidback weekend vibe. Bosman’s Hermanus is a great addition to the rich pickings available in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. Calling it a “shed” doesn’t do it justice: it’s a beautiful timber-framed building clad in canvas but with a fantastic decor aesthetic. It’s about treading lightly on the land – all of which is fynbos. Tackling the nature trail up to the koppie, something restricted to only 40 walkers per day, was beyond us. It was too hot and we were only interested in taking it easy! (Another time perhaps?)

One of the things that sets Bosman apart is that they have more than 60 different grape varieties planted in their experimental vineyard patch across the road – something the well-trained staff were able to tell us about. And it’s reflected in the wines they offer for tasting – from orange wines in the form of Fides, a natural, skin-fermented Grenache Blanc, or the two ‘pet nats’ or the sun-dried dessert wine Soet Steen and its red counterpart, the Dolce Primitivo – both of which boast stunning packaging, labels and bottles.

That visit had been preceded by one to Restless River, the property of Anne and Craig Wessels. Here an appointment is necessary but the welcome is warm – and the wines are truly superb which is why they are making waves locally and abroad!

It’s exciting to hear owners tell their story with genuine heartfelt passion about travails and triumphs, about the soils, the respective special vineyards and the anecdotes about staff being given responsibility to care for their patch of vines – and living up to that responsibility and growing in confidence and ability, along with the young vines.

Restless River are known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon but there’s a Pinot Noir which will knock more than a few socks off, along with a very limited supply of Wanderlust, a Grenache which is succulent, fruity and deserves to be enjoyed by the bucketload! Sadly, because it was Craig Wessels’ little passion project/experimental wine during the 2017 harvest from bought in grapes, less than 1 500 bottles were made – so there are no bucketloads available...

The eye-catching chartreuse/lumo yellow-green label has its own tale to tell: of local printers needing a colour approval sign-off over a weekend in order to push the “Go!” button on the presses. The rolls of labels caused a bit of gulping and gagging when they arrived but somehow suit this iconoclastic bottling. Wanderlust is comfortable in its vibey garb.

Restless River and Bosman Hermanus are just two of the latest arrivals to a valley whose viti- and vinicultural potential was first punted by Hamilton-Russell, then Bouchard-Finlayson and Whalehaven just three decades ago. It has now grown to include Newton-Johnson, Hermanuspietersfontein, La Vierge, Ataraxia, Sumaridge, Domaine Des Dieux (coincidentally, the winner of the recently announced Amorim Methode Cap Classique Challenge for 2018 with its Claudia Brut), Bartho Eksteen’s Wijnskool, Creation, Storm, Spookfontein, Hemelrant/Alheit Vineyards, Seven Springs and Broad Valley, along with Jacob’s Vineyards and Mount Babylon.

It’s a relatively short stretch of road but there are more than enough options to choose from – and it doesn’t have to mean tasting only Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. There’s Albariño, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Mourvedre and a host of other wines to try.

Rich pickings indeed, especially when you’re relaxing and have the time to chill out and enjoy the scenery and the people.

-Fiona McDonald