On a cloudy winters Saturday in Cape Town, the Southern Africa Travel team speed out of the city, to Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch amongst much joking about our “grape drive”. We assure Richard that there will be wine and no Big Five spotting, the only way we get him to agree to join us! We reach the estate along a windy country road; geese meet us along the driveway lined with fragrant lavender beds and rows of fruit trees. The surroundings are reminiscent of a Tuscan farmhouse, low terracotta colour buildings, intricate (local) stonework and a red tiled roof all set around their signature fountain in the central courtyard. Deep verandas are comfortably furnished with soft couches.
Kevin Arnold, cellar master, winemaker and shareholder, greets us with a welcoming glass of sparkling wine. A brief introduction before we take a short walk through the cellar, glasses in hand, where red stained oak barrels line this cool, dark space. I feel a sense of magic and romance, knowing what love, passion and dedication Kevin puts into these soon to be exceptional bottles of wine. The estate produces 75% red and 25% white wines.
Back in the sunshine, we clamber onto our 10-seater safari vehicle (grey not green!) and head off into the vineyards for our 2 hour discovery with Sean and Shaun, or “Shaun squared” as they jokingly refer to themselves. Passing Pecan Stream (another of their labels) we drive on alongside a grove of 100 year old wild olive trees, Sean giving us some of the history and information on the terroir of this magnificent 120 hectare estate.
At our first tasting stop, alongside a small dam, in the shade of an oak tree, we savour Rose-Mary their easy drinking Rose as well as a delicious Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and tropical Chardonnay.
The setting is breath-taking with vineyards and mountains stretching behind and above us. A crisp white table cloth, fresh crusty bread, rich olive oil and plump green olives complete a perfect picture.
We bump on, past Pebble Hill, slowly winding our way up to a wooden deck with views as far as Devils Peak. The farm lies below us, a patchwork of autumn colours, the only sound the wind in the pine tree beside us. Now onto the reds, Kevin Arnold Shiraz, an intense Cabernet Sauvignon and the incredible flagship, The Jem – truly like drinking liquid velvet. All washed down with biltong, droëwors and salty cashew nuts.
We return enthusiastic and relaxed to the winery, for our final indulgence, wine & chocolate tasting. Dark and milk chocolate, paired with two reds and a natural sweet wine are a taste sensation and the perfect ending to our day of discovery. As Kevin says, “why taste indoors, you could be anywhere in the world”, this really is the only way to taste and learn about wine, in the fresh air, amongst the vineyards where this precious commodity is grown.