Par­adise at your fin­ger­tips

Let the gor­geous scenery, de­li­cious food and su­perb wines of the Hemel en Aarde val­ley re­store your soul coun­try­breaks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - JIM FREE­MAN

IN FRONT of the mois­ture-smeared plate-glass win­dow is a steel sculp­ture that artist Jaco Sieberhagen calls Bits and Pieces Man. It’s a back­lit sil­hou­ette of a fel­low with jig­saw­puz­zle pieces in his hands and sim­i­larly shaped holes in his torso… one dis­tress­ingly close to his heart.

Look­ing at the pho­to­graph even now, I think of how I came to the Hemel en Aarde val­ley as a bits-and­pieces man and found one huge un­fit­ted part of my soul.

I can­not be ob­jec­tive about the first 7km of the R320 as it leaves the out­skirts of Hermanus and winds up­hill to Cale­don. To me it is sim­ply one of the most stun­ning pieces of South Africa – gor­geous scenery, su­perb wines, lovely eat­ing spots – re­plete with happy mem­o­ries. Top that off with won­der­ful peo­ple and you’ve got par­adise at your fin­ger­tips.

The Sieberhagen piece is one of sev­eral in the tast­ing room/restau­rant of Cre­ation, not the best-known wine es­tate on the “glam­orous” part of the Walker Bay wine tourism route, but fast be­com­ing its worstkept se­cret.

The room is full and fires are lit through­out the place, caus­ing the pic­ture win­dows over­look­ing the vine­yards to fog up while steady rains – af­ter all, it’s been the wettest Western Cape win­ter in decades – per­sis­tently wash down the out­side of the glass. The dam – re­flect­ing the not-too-dis­tant Baby­lon­sToren Moun­tains on wind-still days – is shrouded in mist.

It’s a per­fect day for wine, good food and ex­u­ber­ant con­ver­sa­tion. Coowner Carolyn Martin places a long wooden two-per­son plat­ter bear­ing a dozen canapé-sized of­fer­ings (six for each of us) from the newly opened kitchen on the ta­ble be­fore sit­ting down with a bot­tle of the Cre­ation sau­vi­gnon blanc.

“This has been a fan­tas­tic year for our wines,” she en­thuses.

Carolyn’s ear­li­est mem­o­ries of wine are from Harten­berg es­tate out­side Stel­len­bosch. “I did my first wine-tast­ing when I was five years old. Guests ar­rived and my grand­mother, who did the cel­lar tours and tast­ings, was nowhere to be found.”

Her fa­ther went on to Blaauwk­lip­pen and Glen Car­lou, but her fam­ily’s wine pedi­gree ex­tends into the Hemel en Aarde; her un­cle Peter Fin­layson owns Bouchard Fin­layson.

Carolyn de­cided to study brand de­sign. “I was liv­ing and work­ing in Lon­don when my mom called me, rav­ing about this bril­liant, cute wine­maker who was work­ing with my dad at Glen Car­lou.

“I told her there was no way I was get­ting in­volved with a wine­maker but, four years later, I met him in Switzer­land where he was fur­ther­ing his stud­ies.”

The wine­maker was Jean-Claude (“JC”) Martin, her hus­band and part­ner at Cre­ation.

“We came out to visit Un­cle Peter in 2002 and were hav­ing a fish braai at his home in Voelk­lip. JC said he could eas­ily live and make wine in a place like this: all he needed was a cool cli­mate and de­cent soils.

“My un­cle said he had a fan­tas­tic place to show him and the two of them jumped into the Land Rover and drove off.

“They came back an hour and a half later and JC told me he’d just bought a farm.”

Cool cli­mate and good soils are what make Hemel en Aarde wines so spe­cial. There are 15 es­tates in the val­ley, start­ing with Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein at the bot­tom (Hermanus Pi­eters is credited as be­ing the town’s found­ing fa­ther) and up to Do­maine Des Dieux at the top. In be­tween you’ll find well-known es­tates such as Hamil­ton Rus­sell, Bouchard Fin­layson, Ataraxia, Newton John­son, Spook­fontein, Mount Baby­lon, South­ern Right, Whale­haven, Su­maridge and La Vierge.

Cre­ation is not the only worth­while din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the val­ley. Fur­ther down the slope – driv­ing from Cale­don through bloom­ing canola fields on a fine late-win­ter day – are Moggs Coun­try Cook­house and La Vierge.

Both of­fer spec­tac­u­lar views. My favourite is La Vierge sim­ply be­cause, as out­lined at the be­gin­ning of this story, that’s where my love af­fair with the Hemel en Aarde be­gan.

It was dur­ing a more re­cent visit to the restau­rant that I met the de­light­ful Ge­off and Charlise Elske, owner­op­er­a­tors of the small Moun­tain View Manor guest house in Sand­baai, which is reached by go­ing right down the R320 to­wards the sea and cross­ing over the main road from Cape Town to Hermanus. It has four suites – one suit­able for fam­ily use – and prices are ex­cep­tion­ally rea­son­able.

Charlise is an ex­ec­u­tive chef by trade so break­fasts, light meals and din­ners (by re­quest) at her bistro are an added at­trac­tion.

If I had to be cur­mud­geonly about any as­pect of Hemel en Aarde, it would be about ac­com­mo­da­tion in the val­ley it­self be­ing ex­tremely lim­ited, but, what the hell, it’s a farm­ing area any­way.

If you’re happy with the self-cater­ing op­tion, how­ever, you can stay in the val­ley at one of the High Sea­son lux­ury farm cot­tages.

Also, make an ef­fort to turn off to the left, half­way up the val­ley, on to the dirt road to De Bos and Kar­wyder­skraal. The first part of the road is rather pot­holed, but it’s worth the ef­fort be­cause the route is par­tic­u­larly scenic.

Oh, and another madly ro­man­tic thing about the val­ley? Cell­phone re­cep­tion is very, very lim­ited.

Use­ful con­tacts ● Cre­ation: 028 212 1107, www.crea tion­ ● Jaco Sieberhagen art: www.ja­cosie berha­ ● Hamil­ton Rus­sell Vine­yards: 028 312 3595, www. hamil­ton­rus­sell vine­ ● Bouchard Fin­layson: 028 312 3515, www.bouchardfin­ ● La Vierge: 028 313 0130, www.lavier ● Moggs Coun­try Cook­house: 076 3140671, www. mog­gscook­house. com ● Moun­tain View Manor: 083 386 6948, www.moun­tain­view­

HAVEN: Ataraxia, nes­tled be­neath the Baby­lon­sToren range, is one of sev­eral spec­tac­u­lar es­tates in the val­ley.

AP­PE­TISER: Drive from Cale­don on a late win­ter’s day through bloom­ing canola fields to sam­ple the re­gion’s restau­rants.

PAIR­ING: Jean-Claude and Carolyn Martin, co-own­ers of Cre­ation.

SPE­CIAL­ITY: Duck is served as a main course at Cre­ation’s restau­rant.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.