Travel Uncategorized

{travel} Elgin Cool Wine Festival 2022 – a seriously cool affair!

June 10, 2022

A chance to explore yet another of our province’s award-winning wine regions is one that should be grabbed by the bunch and whole-pressed to the very last drop. A welcome reprieve from the confines of the pandemic, Tim and I gratefully accepted an invitation to explore the Elgin Valley under the umbrella of the Elgin Cool Wine Festival. My first visit to this popular celebration, it’s one I’ll pencil into my hedonistic little diary for years to come.

Introduction

The premise of the Elgin Cool Wine Festival is simple and fuss-free, perfect for a day out or a weekend break. A two-day pass allows you access to participating wine estates, who have flung open their doors and wine cellars for the weekend. Many of these wine estates are usually closed on weekends, so this is a sterling opportunity to explore the area with very little commitment to a schedule or a plan.

An armband and a tasting glass allow you free wine tastings over the weekend, sipping on the Elgin Valley’s finest whilst you have a walk around the gardens, enjoy a snack or a sit-down lunch, or just park off on the grass for a few hours, accompanied by the jazzy sounds of live music.

The most rewarding part of the Elgin Cool Wine Festival is precious access to the local winemakers themselves in a casual environment as they pour you a glass of wine. The hospitality and generosity of the Valley is uninhibited, and there’s always time for chats and cheers’es.

For the weekend, we found ourselves a beautiful little cottage in Grabouw, which I’ll write about in a bit.

Oak Valley Wine Estate

A beautiful start to our weekend. Massive oak trees provided a shady reprieve from the midday sun as we started our tasting at the pop-up wine bar on the sprawling lawns of Oak Valley. A great venue for the kiddies and furkiddies, the open spaces and beautiful gardens allow for more than just a few breaths of fresh air. Their stunning restaurant, The Melting Pot, sits poolside, tucked into the garden, waiting to receive you with the finest local produce.

Tim particularly enjoyed the Fountain of Youth Sauvignon Blanc and the Sounds of Silence Pinot Noir. My little hedonistic heart belonged to the Stone and Steel Riesling with its subtle minerality. How beautiful are the names of the wines, though!

Lothian Vineyards

Next we headed out to Lothian Vineyards, which is a beautiful drive off the beaten track. If you ever get a chance to visit Lothian, please do. Between the location, the architecture, the views and the wines, you will have a luxuriously Insta-worthy day. We spent quite a bit of time sipping wine and eating mid-afternoon pizza at a table on the lakeside, watching the day turn peachy over the exquisite landscape of Elgin.

The Mourvèdre Rose was simply stunning and the perfect almost-sundowner tipple. Again, we found the Pinot Noir lovely – bold, dark and filled with luscious berry aromas. We left very reluctantly.

Elgin Vintners

We ended our first day of the Elgin Cool Wine Festival at Elgin Vintners. Familiar with most of their wines, it was great to visit the place where the magic happens. Tim and I made ourselves ridiculously comfortable on plump beanbags on the manicured lawns, ready to be embraced by a lazy sunset as we relished in the last sips of wine for the day.

The lawns were dotted with families and friends. Pouring from magnums of their best wines, we delighted in the salmon hues of the Belle Amie Merlot Blanc de Noir – a wine I have cherished since its first release. We dragged out the last sips of Merlot until the sun curled up behind the mountains and a chill rose from the earth. It was time to go home, until tomorrow. What a beautiful place to end the day.

Iona Vineyards

The next morning, we woke early, keen to continue our exploration of this wine valley that is quickly crawling into our hearts. We started at the bottom of Viljoenshoop Road, at Iona Vineyards. We arrived early, but not too early for post-breakfast wine tastings, as there were already huddles of people warming up outside on the haybales with glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. With the vines dressed in their brightest yellow autumn jackets and chickens and ridgeback dogs coming to sniff at your feet, it was a serene place to while away the morning.

Letting out one big sigh of pure indulgence after the other, we fell in love with all Iona’s wines. From the Sauvignon Blanc to the Chardonnay, of course the Pinot Noir and then…the Iona One Man Band, with that delicious savoury tail leading you further into temptation.

Charles Fox Wines

Because no wine festival is complete without bubbles, I made sure Tim included a stop at Charles Fox Wines when we planned our route over dinner the previous night, if only for my own self-indulgence.

With a prime seat on the stoep overlooking the vineyards from a height, we luxuriously relished in the delicate change of pace to tasting a Reserve Brut, Reserve Rosé and Reserve Nectar. At Charles Fox, the time stands still, and everything becomes quiet, except for the occasional bird call and a popping cork from the tasting room. With a selection of classically elegant Cap Classiques, Charles Fox reminds you of all the good things in life, and of everything we have to be thankful for.

I would have loved to do the cellar tour, but that is a reason to return to the beautiful home of Charles Fox.

Highlands Road Estate

To my utmost embarrassment, we almost skipped Highlands Road, for no other reason than pressing time. But as we made our way up Viljoenshoop Road, Tim decided to leave no man behind. The mysterious Sine Cera was the one who intrigued him enough to impulsively change our plans. It was the best spontaneous turn of our lives.

We arrived to suitable merriment next to a crystal lake, with little wooden tables dotted along the banks, sheltered under swaying willow trees. There were dogs and kids and laughter and music and wine. We waited on the grass for a table to open, and giddily raced over to stake our claim on the panoramic view over the lake when one became vacant.

A few hours and a walk around the lake later, we realised the day was drawing steadily to a close. We could easily have spent a few more hours in the company of Highlands Road’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and that enigmatic Sine Cera. We bought a few of each before saying our goodbyes.

Paul Wallace Wines

Suitably hungry, we swung in at Paul Wallace Wines, where we found a considerable crowd basking in the sun on the haybales. We quickly spotted the food truck and ordered a couple of egg and bacon rolls to accompany our first tasting of the Little Flirt Sauvignon Blanc. One of the farm’s actual black dogs came and sat by our feet, probably because of the smell of crispy bacon, rather than out of companionship, but either way, I was happy. I was particularly happy when I had a tasting of their Black Dog Malbec in my glass, an intensely juicy and deeply fragrant red that settled deep into my soul. Tim’s heart belonged to the Brave Heart Pinot Noir.

Almenkerk Estate

Decidedly our last stop for the day, I’ve always wanted to visit Almenkerk Estate. A beautifully landscaped garden pedestalled the courtyard high above the vines, which at this point on a Sunday afternoon was packed with sun dwellers and wine lovers. There were a few kids trying their hand at the barrel rolling game on the lawns, whilst families and friends chattered and laughed into the dwindling light.

We found a comfortable little table conveniently close to the Wicked Waffle food truck, with the smells of Belgian chocolate and crepes permeating our immediate surrounds. The Chardonnay was delicious, and an apt wine to end the weekend with, as it tasted like the sun-soaked goodness of the Elgin Valley. The 2014 Syrah was also spectacular, poured like dark rivers from big bottles.

Two decadent chocolatey waffles and cuddles with a beautiful Great Dane later,  we could hardly believe it was time to untangle ourselves from Almenkerk’s embrace.

In conclusion

An enticing taste of the Elgin Valley, the Elgin Cool Wine Fest is now boldly penciled into my social calendar for years to come. A gorgeous little breakaway from the daily grind, we left the valley feeling invigorated and inspired, having filled our lungs with fresh air and our hedonistic little hearts with all the good stuff in life.

Thank you to all the participating wine farms for your absolute generosity, hospitality and warm welcomes!

Second photographer: The Tall Hedonist, aka Timothy P. Gibson

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.

 

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