AS much as I love wine, a two-hour drive each way to taste it is a bit extreme, even for me. Luckily, the invitation to sample the new Grenache Experience in Piekenierskloof, near Citrusdal, came with the offer of staying overnight.
To break down the details, Piekenierskloof is the region, the nearest town is Citrusdal, and the property on which we tasted and stayed is Hebron, just off the N7. Logistically, Hebron makes the most sense, for reasons which tasting room manager Janine de Grijs will happily explain to you.
Janine is highly entertaining and this was easily the most fun we’ve had at a tasting since I don’t know when, which is saying a lot. In addition to the Grenache Experience, you can taste any six wines (as long as the bottles are open) for R40, Carmién rooibos teas, and/or the locally made infused gins also made by Carmién – which is just “down the road”.
Fun fact: the narrow 60 000-hectare belt along the West Coast of South Africa is the only place in the world where rooibos tea can be grown. In the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains, the Carmién farm falls within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor.
During the Grenache Experience, you’ll taste four wines from the flagship range – white, rose and two reds – paired with delectable bites prepared by Steve Oldroyd, who runs the restaurant and guest house.
The lightly wooded Grenache Blanc is paired with crostini (or “ruskie”, as Janine calls it) topped with baked Camembert and cranberry. “Then you go over to the balls, then the stick, and then dessert. There we go,” explains Janine. Just another ordinary Friday night, then.
To be a bit more proper, the “balls” are green olives stuffed with bokkoms, crumbed and deep-fried add saltiness to the “sweetness” of the Grenache rose; Parmesan cheese straws (which are irresistibly flaky and buttery) go with the Grenache, and the final pairing with the Christmas-cakey Heirloom Red blend is chocolate-dipped beetroot Turkish delight as a delicious not-too-sweet ending.
Hebron is surrounded by farmlands and beautiful views. Previously farmers’ cottages, six charming suites are individually decorated in a country style and furnished with cherished antiques. A self-catering unit has a double bed, sleeper couch and a well-equipped kitchenette.
After our lengthy wine tasting, we repaired to our room to slip into swimsuits. Although this region has the same climate as Cape Town – that is, Mediterranean with warm dry summers and cold wet winters – the temperature is usually about 10 degrees hotter or colder. Which means it was rather warm when we were there.
The pool was perfect for a late afternoon dip as the sun set, before we dressed for dinner. Obviously, this was not the same attire one would don for a five-star establishment, but something light and casual which wasn’t a bathing suit and a damp towel.
We shared a magnificent huge ribeye steak (with a fine bone for the dogs back home), accompanied by a huge bowl of fries, a salad, and a bottle of that excellent Heirloom Red purchased from the tasting room earlier. The restaurant has no liquor licence so remember to do this before 5pm. Arriving for your meal without wine will be tragic.
Our table on the veranda was reserved and set with a pot of live basil, a vase of roses, and a candle. It’s casual dining at its best and it was here we returned for equally excellent breakfast the next morning, from a menu with dishes a bit different from the norm.
Sure, you’ll get your fruit plate or your granola, but why not try spicy scrambled eggs with chilli, garlic, coriander, basil and mint? Or a Bombay fry-up of farm eggs and spicy sausage with curried potatoes and “District 6 blatjang” (chutney)? In this location you’d expect proper butter, freshly baked bread, and bitter orange marmalade made right there – and those expectations will be met. The excellent marmalade, as well as other fruit preserves and jams, are available to purchase at Tant Dollie se Huis, the small shop alongside the tasting room. Here too you can pick up a few souvenirs of your stay (or visit, if you’re just passing through) – postcards, farm produce, brass homeware and so on. Resident cats and dogs may deign to join you as you explore your surroundings, to make sure you know you are really in the countryside.
Piekenierskloof Wines and Hebron Guesthouse
Where: N7 Piekenierskloof Pass, Citrusdal
Telephone: 022 921 2595
- This story first appeared in Independent Travel on March 2, 2019