As we left the comfy confines of the Kalkveld Lounge, fed and watered, we excitedly boarded the Wine Valley Safari truck, which would take us on a scenic detour to our next stop of the day, Weltevrede Wine Estate. Today was the day I got to ride a zebra, and boy, was I ready for the adventure!
Our first day of our #MagicOfWinter media stay in the Langeberg Valley was starting to slope downwards. Our last wine stop for the day before we checked into our accommodation for the night, was Weltevrede Wine Estate. And what better way to see some of the scenic sights of the valley en-route than on the back of a zebra!
Wine Valley Safari
Jokes aside, the Wine Valley Safari is one of the coolest concepts I’ve seen to date. Boasting gloriously shiny zebra stripes, the open-air safari vehicle has been cleverly modified to safely transport wine lovers in comfort and style between wine farms.
You can choose anything from self-guided hop-on hop-off routes to pre-packaged wine tasting tours, because they know we all have different tastes. They operate Mondays to Sundays and the vehicle follows a different route each day, each promising a unique adventure. The options are endless and you can view all the different routes on their website.
We thoroughly enjoyed the 15-minute gallop between Ashton and Bonnievale from our comfy saddles in the zebra truck. The valley is simply magnificent even in its winter attire. There were still patches of bright autumn leaves on some of the vines, lush fields of green after some good rains and picturesque mountains that enveloped a certain crispness in the low-lying valley.
The Jonker family has lived on Weltevrede since 1912. The farm recently swapped hands when fourth generation family wine maker, Philip Jonker, took over from his father, Lourens, who held the secateurs for the last 50-odd years. Philip is an award-winning Chardonnay specialist, and with that in mind, I couldn’t wait to taste his expressions of possibly my most favourite cultivar.
Phillip and Steyn Fullard, Marketing Manager of Weltevrede, awaited us as the zebra pulled up. After a round of introductions, Philip handed us over to Steyn for the wine tasting.
The secret of Weltevrede
One of our main reasons for visiting Weltevrede, was to experience their underground wine tasting. The underground cellars consist of 80-year-old fermentation tanks that they have interlinked by breaking through some of the internal structures. The result is an ambiatic candle-lit maze that leads you to the intimate tasting venue inside one of these larger tanks.
I have been told that it is an absolute must if you are seeking a different type of experience, and I was childishly excited to embark on this underground adventure.
As we walked up to what seemed like a modern, nondescript farm building, I couldn’t quite fathom how this would lead me underground into the cellars. Not sure what I expected, but maybe some kind of trapdoor hidden under a mat? A narrow ladder into the dark underbelly of the earth? Either way, I was the first to enter the nondescript door in the nondescript building into what I now believe was one of the most hallow interactions of my life.
Underground wine tasting
After a quick introduction by Steyn in the foyer of the cellar, our eyes were suitably adjusted to the midnight dark around us. We followed the dimly lit trail of candles-in-wine-bottles as it snaked through the silent cellars, which was an exhilarating, as well as an almost spiritual, experience for me. Absolutely enthralled with my surroundings, I completely forgot about my nagging claustrophobia for the next few hours and completely settled into this quiet, sacred space.
Our journey ended in one of the larger tanks, where a low wooden table, straw bales and dripping candles awaited our arrival, as well as a selection of wines in ice buckets. We took our seats and pulled out our cameras, hoping that we would be able to capture at least something of this experience, considering the lack of proper lighting. At one point I almost put my camera down, simply to allow myself complete submersion, but the flickering ambiance begged me to try and record elements of this moment.
As Steyn lead us through the tasting of almost their full range of wines, from the delicate Entheos Chardonnay/Pinot Noir MCC to the more earthy 1912 Shiraz, we shared many moments of quiet delight at the complete sensory journey we embarked on. With my eyes at a disadvantage in the dark cellar, it was as if my hearing, smell and taste senses were heightened to a point where I didn’t need my eyes to observe the nuances of the wine.
As we relaxed our backs against the thick stone walls, glass in hand, we listened in awe as Steyn told us more about some of Philip’s entrepreneurial ventures, and also of his generous heart. From making wine for Madiba’s 94th birthday, to resurrecting the original, ancient vineyards on Robben Island. From teaching two Ugandan nuns how to make their own wine to his countless contributions to various local and international charitable causes. The strong morals that underpins Weltevrede and its family, speak only of endless generosity.
Time stood still in the underground cellar as stories filled the small space and lightened the eyes of its guests. If only these walls could tell their own stories…
The 1912 Chardonnay 2017 summarised the experience for me in a bottle; alluring, a bit mysterious, special. Rich, intensely ripe fruit flavours with a bit of a hum, this wine has heart, and a whole lot of it.
The Bedrock Black Syrah 2016 also pulled at my heartstrings with its delicious aroma of black pepper and chocolate, with lashings of dark berries and fruits. Served best with ample candlelight and soft, classical music.
There is really something remarkable about Weltevrede, the Jonker family and their range of exceptional wines. It’s as if the love, dedication and energy they put into the soil of their vines translate directly into the liquid gold they pour into each bottle. Corked with the spirit of giving, and labelled with excellence, there is magic in each sip.
A massive thank you to Philip for welcoming us to his home, and to Steyn for leading us in an unforgettable story-telling experience.
The fine print
Underground tasting experience: R120 (booking required)
Chocolate and cheese tasting: R100 (booking required)
General wine tasting: free in tasting room
Phone: 023 616 2141
Address: R317, Bonnievale, 6730
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.