South African Country Life - - Sumario -

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.

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