Go country at McGregor fest
Wineries, restaurants, delis and caterers aim to let it all hang out for the cognoscenti at a celebration of the senses
HERE’S a festival for those who like pottering about a village hall, sampling the wares from boutique and garagiste cellars and matching the wines to tantalising tastes of country fare.
The one-day McGregor Country Tastes food and wine festival is the most intimate and infor mal of occasions, where wineries, restaurants, delis and caterers fill the church hall and adjoining marquee in the centre of this historic village.
The wines range from affordable quaffers to top class, but never overpriced reds, whites, rosés and soetes. There will be about a dozen cellars and nearly double that number of food stalls to visit on Saturday, August 29 from mid-morning.
The date is set to tempt visitors to make a weekend of it, with spring firmly established in the Breede River valley. Already orchards are dressed in pastel pink and paths through the Krans Nature Reserve and along hiking trails are bright with patches of vygies in psychedelic hues.
Visitors will pass various cellars en route to McGregor, starting with Wonderfontein on the outskirts of Robertson, followed by Buitehof and Koningsrivier, all of which will take part in the festival. Nearer the village is Tanagra, where new owners Robert and Anette Rosenbach are installing a German still to make the valley’s first grappa. Meanwhile they will be selling existing stocks of wines at reduced prices, both at the festival and the farm before and afterwards.
Kingsriver Estate – not to confused with Koningsrivier – will be pouring its 2007 shiraz and ruby cabernet at its stand, while suggesting good food matches as well. Its pretty restaurant at the far m’s guesthouse will be tempting weekend visitors with a four-course dinner and selected wines.
McGregor garagiste John Hargreaves will have his 2008 shiraz – featuring his faithful hound Rusty on the label – for sampling; a limited edition has drawn rave reviews from those lucky enough to have tasted it.
Lord’s mountain winery, set among the fynbos in the hills above McGregor, will bring its 2008 chardonnay, sporting silver from the recent Old Mutual Trophy awards, along with the valley’s only pinot noir, vintage 2007.
Vruchtbaar, a small family cellar from Robertson, joins the festival cellars this year, and Francois Bruwer will bring his acclaimed ’05 cab, his easy-drinking Island red and his limited edition wooded chardonnay ’08.
Along with the savoury and sweet treats on hand at the hall, both established and newly opened village eateries will offer festival menus at palatable prices.
Don’t leave the village without a bottle or two of excellent and wellpriced Voor den Berg olive oil, made on a farm deep in the kloof beyond the village, and there are interesting local cheeses to try as well.
Two pairs of former residents have retur ned to McGregor to widen dining choices. Frangipani is a delightful laid back coffee shop that does home-cooked fare at pleasing prices, while Kurt and Andre le Roux have opened Karoux restaurant, presenting an upbeat, contemporary menu that is hitting the mark with many.
Along with eating and drinking and hiking and biking, visitors can savour other village attractions, such as the extended family of donkeys awaiting admiration at the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary (with charming rustic restaurant alongside), welcoming art galleries, pottery, and more.
For more information and for accommodation (there are several weekend specials), call McGregor Tourism at 023 625 1954, or e-mail email@example.com
As the 350th anniversary of Cape wine industry draws to a close, cellars continue to release labels or plant vines to mark the event. Wineries that boast a long history have been inspired, it seems, to uncover fascinating snippets and stories that are being aired on special edition wines.
Welmoed, a farm established in 1690, was inherited by Jacobus van der Heyden six years later, a former mercenary who dared to confront autocratic governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel about his corrupt acts.
His bravery has inspired a duo of blends: winemaker Stephan Smit has combined cab, merlot, cabernet franc and a little petit verdot in Heyden’s Courage red, a smooth medium-bodied food wine, while even more varietals make up the white.
The historic Meerendal estate in Durbanville elected to focus on pinotage to mark the 350th anniversary. As one of the first farms to plant this indigenous cultivar more than 50 years ago, their Heritage Block produces the grapes for their prestigious single vineyard pinotage. Last week a new vineyard was planted alongside with 350 pinotage vines, using cuttings from the heritage vineyard which was sourced from Professor Perold’s original stock. Visitors helped plant the vines in a ceremony that was recorded on scrolls, and pinotage fans can expect the maiden vintage in 2012.
OLDE WORLDE: McGregor, in part, still a 19th century townscape, is the scene of a festival for those who like pottering about a village hall sampling the wares from boutique and garagiste cellars.
GLORIOUS VISTA: Vines fringe the old road from McGregor to Robertson.
ON THE WINE TRACK: Left, the start of the Kleinberg hiking trail with McGregor village in the distance, and, right, Niel Colyn of Koningsrivier Wines, who makes bold, full-throttle reds.