Image: Glenelly Estate
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In the first year of his governorship of the Cape, Simon van der Stel founded the small frontier town of Stellenbosch. Only 50 kms from Cape Town, and after boldly naming the town after himself, Stellenbosch quickly became one of the country’s forefront wine production areas. On previous visits to the town I’ve explored some of its larger wineries, but today I wanted to focus on a few smaller, boutique farms
The farm is a stone’s throw from the town and driving through the gates, you’d never guess what lies around the corner. A few hundred meters drive will give you the first glimpse of the cellar – an impressive rectangular structure that rests on the ridge, with an unbelievable 6000m2 of space and views over the adjacent two valleys. The farm is located on the ruggedly handsome Cape Fold Mountains, named after an Irish area bearing similar natural beauty, and holds to French winemaking traditions. The French-flair was immediately evident in the perfectly manicured vines that lined the hills around us. How does this translate to the wines, however? Glenelly has a varied bouquet of offerings, with some surprisingly delightful variations on the classical styles.
My favourites? Firstly, the unoaked Chardonnay; one of the finest I’ve tasted, particularly notable considering my penchant for wooded whites. It has a playful vibrancy – almost suggestive of a Sauvignon Blanc. Secondly, the Glass Collection Syrah seemed to deviate from the often-over-spicy characteristics, and has smooth balance and finish. Lastly, the Estate Red is elegantly powerful, but not too domineering, and you’re rewarded with a magnificent lingering after-taste.
With my wine craving momentarily quelled, I headed to town to explore a little further. Although Stellenbosch is now a sprawling city, walking through the older parts of the city gives you an unmistakable village feel. After a casual stroll through the Oak-lined streets, I found my lunch spot – Boschendal at Oude Bank – known by many as the old Schoon bakery.
At the mention of Boschendal, there could be some confusion as the farm itself is in neighbouring Franschhoek. Boschendal particularly wanted to have a town expression of their farm experience, and in the Stellenbosch centre was the perfect location. Every day fresh produce is brought to the shop from the farm, and in exchange fresh-baked bread is sent back. It’s a farm to table experience with a bit of a twist. While the restaurant is traditionally known for breakfast, the real buzz is around lunch-time. I tried two of the lunch menu items: for a hearty meal go for the 150g Angus beef burger with wedges, and for a lighter and healthier option, the roast chicken salad.
With strong links to the farm itself, naturally there are some wine tasting options on site. Boschendal is the second oldest wine farm in the country, (Groot Constantia is only older by three months), so with 333 years of winemaking experience, they know their wine. In 2017 their sparkling brut was awarded a top 10 spot for a French-style MCC, and their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and 2016 Chardonnay also took home coveted Veritas Awards.
The charming Busi guided us through the wine tasting; ask her to share her story of working her way up in the wine industry, to today proudly running the wine shop and tastings for this heritage winery.
My third and final stop for the day was to a special one. Six years prior, I’d visited Stellenbosch for the first time, and come for a tasting at Tokara. Not only was I new to the region, but also to wine! Six years later, and I was returning to this majestic spot to build on that very memorable first visit, particularly as I now knew a little more about wine. The drive out of Stellenbosch along Helshoogte Road is nothing short of spectacular as you wind higher and higher through the mountains. Almost at its highest point, you’re welcomed to the world of Tokara.
What about the wine? Much is to be said about their wines…there were two clear winners in my eyes. Their Syrah was again a favourite with its alluring aromas of dark fruit and spicy finish. The second wine, the Reserve Collection Chardonnay, caught my attention with its velvety-woody notes and hints of apricot and vanilla.
On this visit I was totally caught off guard, as unbeknownst to me, the farm has a magnificent Delicatessen. Where the Tokara Restaurant has a focus on fine dining, the deli is a family-friendly social experience with similarly impressive views. A short walk through the olive groves and you stumble across this special place – it was on this walk that I also discovered how serious Tokara takes its olive oil.
Gert van Dyk is the operations manager and chief oil maker at Tokara, having steered the venture for the past 4 years, and gave me a mini-education in oil tasting. Sitting around 5 different oils, I learned about the various types and tasting notes – a virgin experience for me and one I wholeheartedly recommend. You’ll never again drizzle or douse your meal in olive oil without remembering those special moments at Tokara.