ON THE COVER
Chris Marais took our cover photograph of a hot air balloon rising over Oudekloof Guest Farm outside Prince Albert, with the Swartberg Dragon ahead. Read Chasing Balloons in the
with one of the largest collections of wines in South Africa. After much tasting, we spot a godsend parked on the lane, the safari-style Wine Hopper that allows visitors to enjoy wine tastings and dining, with no worries about drink driving. We catch up with one of the fleet of three
Hoppers run by the Hermanus Hop-on Hop Off wine tours at Sumaridge Estate Wines. “It’s a great idea, especially when you aren’t used to driving on the left,” says Marianne Kama, on holiday here from Holland.
It is hard to imagine more celestial scenery than at Sumaridge, where the chapellike cellars pay homage to the wine houses of Burgundy, and where views sweep over dams cradled in the valley, and on to Onrus and distant Betty’s Bay. The name comes from the Sumaras family who originally owned the estate.
The tasting-room balcony is the place to experience the cool breezes generated by the Benguela current – which make this maritime wine region so special – and enjoy a glass of Chardonnay (Simon Turner, co-owner with his wife Holly Bellingham,
calls the chardonnay grape his Golden Girl).
Another favourite to try there is a glass of Maritimus, their white blend, with a Sumaridge platter, or enjoy a tasting and a cellar tour.
While there we also hear about Holly’s novel idea of auctioning, in the UK, stays in five-star accommodation on the estate, to raise funds for the local Blackbirds rugby team in Hermanus, and a sanctuary for children with foetal alcohol syndrome.
If you feel the need to let out your inner Tarzan (or Jane), the place to go is SA Forest Adventures at the foot of the Valley, where we are just in time to hear bloodcurdling screams as participants hurtle down the series of 11 zip slides through the woods, some as high as 30 metres among the trees. But with a guide clipping up the harness for zippers and applying brakes and unclipping at the other end of each slide, it looks very safe.
“Any special instructions?” I ask, “Have fun, scream and shout and enjoy the wind in your hair,” says manager Peter Powell. Actually I feel more like shooting someone, also an option here thanks to paintball games which are very popular with hen parties apparently. “The girls really like to shoot each other and get down and dirty,” says Peter.
A more peacefeul alternative is the quad-bike rides, suitable for the over 15s (there didn’t seem to be an upper age limit for grannies), which take you to mountain terrain with awe-inspiring views, and the option to visit two wine farms (this is on the return ride and the farms are nearby,
just to reassure anyone concerned about wine tasting combined with quad-bike riding).
Ghost stories tend to exert a horror fascination, so we set off for Spookfontein and find, instead of a disembodied spirit, a resurrection in progress. The restaurant has been closed for a while and is just about to open under new management. “I fell in love with this valley 15 years ago and when I ate in the restaurant I was bowled over,” says Vaughan van Blerk who is co-owner with Francois Barnard. “Now I am here opening the restaurant and it seems like goal fulfillment." Could also be gastronomic fullfilment for diners at the Spookfontein Restaurant, judging by some of the ideas Paul, who is group general manager for a number of restaurants, has for the menu. The Pea Thief spring pea soup garnished with garlic snails is one, the pork belly served in an Asian broth another, both reflecting country cooking with a sophisticated twist. And that spook? Apparently it’s the spray from a waterfall on the farm that looks like a white spectre when blown upwards.
Appetites whetted by thoughts of Vaughan’s future menu, we set off in search of lunch at Mogg’s Country Cookhouse and end up on a mystery tour, finding ourselves among an impressive fruit-growing operation at Haygrove (sounds a bit like Prince
Charles’ country place Highgrove). The berry farm, where produce is destined for UK
supermarket giant Waitrose, is another side of this productive valley but is not open to the public.
When I stop there to ask for directions to Mogg’s I chance my arm and ask if I can buy berries. “Only if you buy a couple of hundred kilos," I am told. When we do find Mogg’s it’s closed (Monday, duh). Snuggled under the tall Babilonstoring peak it looks just the kind of place to visit when we return, especially with home-made, farmfresh produce used for imaginative dishes like artichoke, spinach and parmesan tartlets or Mediterranean aubergine, chickpea and red-pepper salad. Just the right kind of perfect dish for a hot summer’s day.
Map reference G2 see inside back cover
TOP: Anthony Martin and Hannah Skein relax in the rose garden at Sumaridge wine estate. TOP RIGHT: A godsend – Marianne and Elma Kama take the Hermanus Hop-on Hop-Off tour with driver Siviwe Cekiso. ABOVE: Peter Powell, manager of SA Forest Adventures....
RIGHT: Vaughan van Blerk new co-owner at the door of the Spookfontein Restaurant. BELOW: The innovative restaurant building at Spookfontein.