Staying at a vineyard for the first time in a wine growing region you’ve only studied of is best enjoyed in harvest season. Right? Right? Or so I thought.
When we landed, we were welcomed with expected lower temperatures (courtesy hemisphere change) and lots of rain. In the words of our talkative driver “It’s supposed to be sunny but, Cape Town’s weather never fails to surprise us.” This lack of sun honestly got me a little worried about our outdoor picnic set up for the next day. Shivering, we couldn’t help but notice the greenery on our 20-minute drive to Spier, one of the older wine farms in Stellenbosch, a beautiful wine growing region in South Africa.
“Farm” does complete justice as part of their name because they’re helping the earth and their people in so many ways. Spier recycles 97% of their solid waste, teaches disadvantaged local communities how to grow food in an eco-friendly manner and helps local entrepreneurs in running their small businesses, among many more of their initiatives. When you walk into Spier, you’re living an experience that goes beyond tasting their delectable wines.
Having said that, despite it being 1:00 PM and my shivering, I happily gulped on the zesty Sauvignon Blanc they offered us as we checked in. Armed with a map of the farm bursting with nooks to explore, we headed to our afternoon wine tasting. Yes, that’s what I felt could rescue me from this gloomy weather. 3 whites, 3 reds and a sparkling later 2 wines really stood out. One was their 2023 vintage Chenin Blanc with strong flavors of Guava. My partner (a teetotaler) and I lapped it up. The second was a Creative Block 5, 2020. This they said was an inspiration from the famous wines of Boudreaux. Shining with flavours of Blackcurrant, Chocolate and Cherry, it’s a blend of 5 grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. And I personally love the word “Creative” for this appropriate blend.
I’m sure you can see from that satiated grin, that the amount of wine that had been consumed was enough for us to withstand the cool weather and walk around the huge pastures of greenery and Spier boasts of. That evening, we also made a very special friend in our warm and lovely server Andile, but more on him later, I promise.
The next day, the sun specially made way for our picnic, illuminating the garden and all the picnic spots across Spier. With a spring in our step, we walked around the river, savoured the crisp view of the Helderberg Mountains and then went off to collect our sweet picnic basket. We sat under a beautiful tree, setting up our bench ready to chit – chat and soak in the sunshine on an otherwise cool day. Our basket of goodies had a soup, starter, main course, dessert and a bottle of wine. A revelation in this hearty meal was the East African Chicken with raisins, a combination I was unsure of, but ended up loving. Listening to the birds chirping and observing a squirrel stalk our bench, made us grateful to be there off season, unhurrying.
You can go through our mouth-watering picnic menu above. Oh! The Pasties de Nata, I can still feel it melting in my mouth.
Okay, enough about the lip – smacking food, the versatile wines or the noble initiatives Spier has for sustainability. Let’s talk about the backbone of this hospitality experience. The people. Yes. The People.
We encountered interactive people at the wine tastings, storytellers at the sales shop with an extra anecdote of the family run farm, and the wonderful man who makes yummy lattes at their café. But it was our server who stuck with us throughout our 4 day stay – Andile who still makes us smile. Every evening (and sometimes at lunch), he’d welcome us warmly and chat us up giving us recommendations of which area to explore at the farm.
Now, might I give you some background, as we landed in Cape Town, I had a sore throat which only got worse as the days passed at Stellenbosch, with an uncontrollable cough. When I wasn’t busy sipping on warm items, I’d just be sneezing or coughing loudly wherever we went. Andile had heard me cough and made a concoction which he got to our room so that I could sleep easier. Honey, Ginger, Rosemary, Clove and Mint is what he’d mixed which helped my cough. For the remaining 3 nights he’d prepare this for me on a daily basis regardless of whether we’d see him or not. The cosy fireplace, lots of warm drinks, cough drops and Andile’s concoction, coupled with rest made walking by the Helderberg Mountains on a cycling track and exploring sound art a wonderful memory for our last day at Spier.
The Helderbeg Mountains along the cycling track at Spier.
“Good to the Earth. Good to People.” Yes, I understand your motto now. So simple yet so true and empowering. You are educational, cultural, relaxing, accepting and so unique. We can’t wait to be back. Here’s hoping I’ve inspired you to visit Spier, or to visit a vineyard or to travel. And if any of you do end up going to this charming place, please have an extra goblet of wine from me and say hi to Andile.