At Strawberry Hill Farm, we love to ride our bikes. This love is closely followed by our love of wine. Our owner and manager, Aileen, has recently expanded her wine knowledge and completed her level two WSET wine accreditation with distinction. This is an interesting and challenging course which we highly recommend. The course requires a fair amount of commitment and time but is very worthwhile. With this expanded knowledge, we touched base with Aileen to share some of her favourite local wineries and some of the local gems which you can visit when in the area. What a treat that many mountain bike trails are often located close to wine country so why not combine wine tasting with some local trails?
Over the last year, we have done our best to support the amazing local winemakers who struggled through lockdown. The winemakers below produce exceptional wine in unusual locations and are well worth a visit. Many of them offer personal, unique wine tasting experience, which transforms the wine experience into an unforgettable one. One thing that is important to remember about wine is that wine, much like art, is a personal experience. Yes, there is good and bad wine, just like there is good and bad art but, in general, it is about personal taste. There are awards and standards that select wines of superior quality, but everyone has their own pallet which determines, more than anything, what you prefer.
Here is a list of the wine farms that we recommend visiting and why we love the wine and the experience of visiting.
Esona is a very lovely wine farm, nestled outside Bonnievale and serves an exceptional lunch platter of cheese, pates, and cold meats. You can enjoy the wine and lunch with a gorgeous vineyard view. The drive from Strawberry Hill through Swellendam on the backroads is spectacular especially during canola season. Why not make it a gravel road training ride? You can do some unique wine tastings here, including paring wines with different wine glasses and different art pieces, which are beautifully displayed in their lovely cellar. We recommend their Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Shiraz
Arendsig is a boutique wine farm just around the corner from Esona which sits on the last infamous route of the 200km double century cycle route. The wine maker, Lourens can der Westhuizen, is a local guru who advises many wine makers in the valley. A truly fascinating tasting experience and the wines are all exceptional. The Pinotage is very unique and worth all its accolades. The Shiraz and Chenin Blanc are also high quality, reflecting the warmth of this terroir. However, the Grenache has a special flavour to be enjoyed on a sunny day as a light and more enjoyable alternative to Pinot Noir. Lourens is also a trail runner and mountain biker so that always makes the tasting that much more heart-warming. Lourens is trying to work with local tourism and other wine makers to promote the area for its adventure potential so ask his advice on where to run or ride.
This little gem is situated just outside Swellendam and offers a fabulous day trip, combined with a great meal. The country house is utterly charming and the food is exceptional. We recommend the Pinotage, Shiraz and Chardonnay. On the way back from a lazy lunch or brunch, we definitely recommend riding the local Swellendam mountain bike trails in Swellendam. This trails are free to access and ride and include some really excellent single track. The were built with the hard work of some talented and committed local riders from Petrichor who are involved in organising great local event like Around the Pot.
Black Oyster Catcher
In the middle of nowhere, outside Bredarsdorp, sits the gorgeous little oasis of the Black Oystercatcher. The area is famous for its cool climate wines and we highly recommend their Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. They also have exceptional food and one sometimes has to book well in advance to get a table on a busy weekend. Do not forget that the town of Bredasdorp has some quality single track that is well worth exploring and perfect for a day when it’s a bit rainy in our mountains as its often drier that side. If beer is your thing, you can also taste the craft beer, Fraser’s Folly which is fast becoming a global name in quality brew.
Situated just outside Riversdale on the N2, Baleia is an unusual location for a tasting room but its well worth a stop. Enjoy a chat with the winemaker, Gunther, who’s love for surfing almost outstrips that of wine. He knows all the secret spots! The wine has a Portuguese/Spanish influence and is top quality and one to watch. The value of the wine is exceptional which does not diminish the quality. The Tempranillo is one of Aileen’s favourite every day drinking wines and their Shiraz is equally good. For special occasions, the also have an MCC chardonnay which is dry, crisp and fabulous. We don’t recommend the “port-style” late harvest because once you try it, you can’t go back to anything else and its not cheap so you have been warned! We also think that they have run out of stock of port as most of it is currently in Aileen’s cellar.
This lovely wine farm is nestled just over the mountains outside of Barrydale and one could, mountain bike at least some of the way and trail run or hike all of the way. However, you will have to bribe a knowledgeable local with wine to show you the secret route over the mountain! The gorgeous farm serves a very yummy lunch, and the wine tasting is relaxed and informative. The wines are worth the trip alone. The Joubert-Tradouw family has been in the valley for generations and they know how to make wine. The climate in the valley, although baking hot in summer, produces some surprisingly cool temperature wines. This is because of the surprisingly high altitude. Try their Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
Olivedale Private Vineyards
Olivedale is the closest wine farm to Strawberry Hill by driving time and what an honour to have this wine farm in our hood, just outside of Swellendam. This small farm produces a remarkeable 18 different varieties on a wide range of soils on the banks of the Breede River. The wine tasting experience with the exceptionally entertaining, Carl van Wyk is definitely worthwhile but remember to book enough time for the experience and make arrangements in advance. They are the only wine farm in the world to produce a Roobernet which is a rare variety that is only found in South Africa (and you thought Pinotage was special!). Their Syrah and Tempranillo are lovely and they also have a fabulous white blend called Wild Melody which balances Viognier, Roussanne, Semillon and Verdelho. Much like their wines, the tasting experience is high quality, unpretentious and memorable.
We are not ashamed to say that this our hands down favourite wine farm for many reasons. This very special wine is made on the banks of the Breede River just on the other side of Malgas. The word Sijnn is derived from the Khoisan word meaning riverbank. It's pronounced similar to “sane” and we remember it by associating it with its “insanely" good wine. Its amazing stuff. The winemaker, Charla Bosman (ne Haasbroek) is so lovely that it would be worth taking this long windy road just to hang with her in this lovely spot. Under the guidance of Charla, the wines are reaping the rewards and its best to get there now before they become too expensive for most. The farm is owned by David and Rita Trafford from Stellenbosch who had the initial vision to coax some grape magic from this unusual terroir. They are not open every day, but on weekends they serve a lovely platter and if you arrange in advance, they can sometimes organise a mid-week tasting. They are also committed to conservation, sustainability and generally all things good. Charla also has her own label (Haasbroek) which is worth getting your hands on each year if it does not sell out before it is advertised!
Finally, a little shout out to our favourite wine shop, Platform 62 in Ashton which sells all of the above wines at cellar door prices. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful and one never leaves there without a solid wine haul. If you don’t have time to visit a wine farm in the area, just stop off here on your way home for a smorgasbord of local wine delights.
Life in a forest in the mountains