Di-Vine Val­ley

They say the sur­round­ing moun­tains in an Over­berg val­ley are so high all you can see is heaven and earth. Wel­come to Hemel-en-Aarde

South African Country Life - - Travel - WORDS MAR­I­ANNE HERON PIC­TURES DAVID MOR­GAN

Hav­ing been to Hell – the hid­den val­ley near the Swart­berg Pass known as Die Hel – it seems log­i­cal to try the op­po­site ex­treme. And so we head for heaven, or rather its earthly equiv­a­lent, the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley in the Over­berg, about ten kilo­me­tres from Her­manus.

It has be­come eas­ier to ex­plore heaven, as the tarred R320 that once stopped halfway up the val­ley now winds up­wards through sub­lime scenery, em­brac­ing a dozen winer­ies on the Her­manus Wine Route be­fore con­tin­u­ing to Cale­don.

The val­ley is a mi­cro­cosm of the way South Africa has changed. Two cen­turies ago, a leper colony was es­tab­lished on the orig­i­nal farm Hemel-en-Aarde. The colony was moved to Robben Is­land in 1846, and in sub­se­quent decades the liv­ing made on the mixed farms in the val­ley was poor. It’s a past hard to imag­ine now, when you’re in an Ar­ca­dian land­scape of vine­yards cov­er­ing rolling hills, with el­e­gant winer­ies and restau­rants in be­tween.

We de­cide to start right from the be­gin­ning with the story of Cre­ation.

Cre­ation win­ery is sit­u­ated in a heav­enly lo­ca­tion be­low the Klein­riv­ier moun­tains, and in­stantly re­calls for us the Bib­li­cal phrase ‘In the be­gin­ning God cre­ated the heav­ens and the earth’. But there’s more than this un­der­ly­ing the name of the wine es­tate, as Carolyn Martin, co-owner with her hus­band, wine­maker Jean-Claude Martin, ex­plains.

“It’s about putting to­gether all the

el­e­ments of food and wine, and the right glasses, to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence and bring joy to peo­ple’s life,” says Carolyn, who has quite a back­ground in wine. A mem­ber of the Finlayson fam­ily, she grew up in the gar­den at Harten­berg Es­tate, Stel­len­bosch, lis­ten­ing to her grand­mother Eleanor Finlayson in­tro­duc­ing wines.

“Gran be­longed to the Tastevin Club, which is all about great food and wine, and I used to be the gofer be­tween the kitchen and the gar­den. So I learnt about gar­den­ing and cook­ing and know­ing that it was im­por­tant to en­ter­tain peo­ple. I gave my first wine tast­ing at the age of five when I couldn't find my grand­mother.”

Af­ter train­ing in in­no­va­tion brand de­vel­op­ment, Carolyn worked in Lon­don where Lau­rent Per­rier Cham­pagne was among her clients. “This is where I learnt that you don’t just eat food and have wine. You think about the way they go to­gether.”

The re­sults of her ex­pe­ri­ence show in Cre­ation’s restau­rant, three-time win­ner of the Klink Awards for food and wine pair­ing. Among the mouth-wa­ter­ing com­bi­na­tions is an eight-course ta­pas and wine pair­ing start­ing with Sau­vi­gnon Blanc paired with cala­mari risotto, paw­paw, pineap­ple, cel­ery, radish, lemon grass and ap­ples, and end­ing with the Cre­ation Syrah Gre­nache paired with lamb and rosemary, curry pow­der, sun­dried to­ma­toes and pome­gran­ate.

There is an on­go­ing story of up­lift­ment and trans­for­ma­tion at Cre­ation, with the Peb­bles Ed­u­ca­tion Project to raise funds for a school bus to take lo­cal chil­dren to sec­ondary school, and an early child­hood de­vel­op­ment pre-school with af­ter­care, plus a skills-de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.

Also in the val­ley is the ap­ple and pear farm Kar­wyder­skraal, where horse rides with Heaven and Earth Trails are guar­an­teed to

À con­tented horses am­ble over from their pad­dock to greet us, wait­ing to take us out through some of the most gor­geous scenery.

The trails are run by Karl Götze, who as a small boy rode a pony called Princess with­out a sad­dle or bri­dle, and has been rid­ing ever since. When his sis­ter and brother-in-law So­nia and Danie van Zyl’s two horses be­came eight – it’s a long story – he pi­o­neered the rides from Kar­wyder­skraal that Danie man­ages.

Pic­nics, braais, moonlight or sun­set rides, as well as a stay in a three-bed­room, self-cater­ing cot­tage tucked away in a lush

¿ touch – lit­er­ally – Karl, a sports sci­ence

and phys­i­cal ther­apy prac­ti­tioner, also gives mas­sages to ease any sad­dle-sore mus­cles.

“A lot of peo­ple who ride with us are be­gin­ners,” says Karl. “But there are easy trails with views to Klein­mond and Betty’s Bay, through fields of flow­ers. "Trails of one to four hours also in­clude a trail through two wine farms. And it seems like a case of his­tory re­peat­ing it­self, for the farm was once owned by Ella Gor­don, a colour­ful char­ac­ter (died 1958) who was re­puted to have trained per­form­ing cir­cus horses, and kept her own beloved horses (she called them her chil­dren), on the farm.

At Hemel-en-Aarde Vil­lage, at the junc­tion of the R43 to Her­manus and the R320, we en­counter a one-eyed black sheep at Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein wine cel­lar. “He is a much-trav­elled sheep,” says Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein mar­ket­ing man­ager Anika de Goede, ex­plain­ing that the bead mas­cot ac­com­pa­nies all tours with their wines. It’s also the only cel­lar in the coun­try to use Afrikaans ex­clu­sively for its wine names and la­bels, like the charm­ingly named Bloos (Blush, a Bordeaux-style rosé).

Long ago, farm­ers in the val­ley asked Pi­eter Her­manus to teach their chil­dren Afrikaans but they could only af­ford to pay him in food and sheep. Pi­eter's re­sult­ing flock pros­pered to such an ex­tent he had to move down the val­ley to the coast, set­tling next to a spring known as Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein which, in time and with ab­bre­vi­a­tion, be­came known as Her­manus. To­day the wine farm of­fers cel­lar tours

and wine tast­ings of the fruits of their cool­cli­mate vine­yards up in the hills - " That two de­grees less in tem­per­a­ture makes all the dif­fer­ence,” says Anika – and Die Markie, a lively Satur­day morn­ing food and wine mar­ket where, glass in hand, you can en­joy treats like pan­cakes, abalone or freshly shucked oys­ters paired with live mu­sic.

It’s worth tak­ing a wan­der down the Vil­lage Lane in Hemel-en-Aarde Vil­lage to dis­cover the var­i­ous temp­ta­tions there, in­clud­ing Whale­haven Win­ery, owned by the Ital­ian Bot­tega fam­ily of Da Capo Vine­yards in Som­er­set West, and The Wine Vil­lage shop

ABOVE: At Cre­ation, this sculp­ture by Gavin Risi was erected as part of the wine es­tate’s ex­hi­bi­tion for the an­nual Her­manus FynArts Fes­ti­val.

LEFT: Carolyn and Jean-Claude Martin (wine­maker) of Cre­ation en­joy their Pinot Noir against a back­drop of Ba­bilon­stor­ing peak.

ABOVE: Jur­gen Matschke of­fers a wine tast­ing to Adele Nutt and Whan Brink at Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein tast­ing room. RIGHT: So­nia and Danielle van Zyl in the door­way of the self-cater­ing cot­tage in the se­cluded gar­den at Kar­wyder­skraal Farm. BE­LOW: Horses from Heaven and Earth Trails do some meet and greet.

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