Esona Boutique Wine Farm

Nestled in the Robertson Wine Valley between the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges with the Breede River running though the valley, is a beautiful boutique wine farm called Esona (Xhosa for “the very one”).

About the farm
This little 17 hectare farm was bought by owners Rowan and Caryl. They transformed this once vegetable farm into a vineyard in 2004. They released their first Esona wine in 2010 and they have been going strong ever since. Their most recent accolade is three of their single vineyard Chardonnay’s being rated in the top 12 of 78 wines to be listed in a blind tasting. With the 2011 Chardonnay taking 3rd place… What an achievement!

image

A SINGLE VINEYARD refers to the vines and the fact that the grapes are separated from other grape varieties within the farm. This means that a section of the farm is purely for Chardonnay grapes, another section is purely for Shiraz grapes etc. This type of farming allows the farmer to grow more superior grapes. During harvest time, all the grapes are handpicked and none of the grapes are mixed with any other varieties. This is why vertical tastings (tasting the different years of the same wine) is so important to Esona because each year will yield a different crop giving you a slightly different wine.

image

The farm is split in two by a canal with the silt soil at the bottom which is ideal for the Sauvignon Blanc grapes and the deep loam soil enriched with lime, is at the top, which is perfect for the Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. So much care has gone into this little farm and with the amount of attention that has gone into how they grow and produce their wine, it is no wonder that the accolades are beginning to stream in.

Esona_12

*Above picture taken from Esona website*

Wine tasting
My sister works at this little gem of a place and we could sense her passion and love for this industry the moment we walked through the doors. All of a sudden, this was serious business and we were not family but guests of the vineyard. She wanted our experience to be as authentic as possible making sure we were comfortable and looked after.

image

image

We were taken through the old cellar and seated at the tables on the deck. The setting is absolutely beautiful that you can’t help but get swept away by the beauty of your surroundings.

We started with a vertical tasting of the Sauvignon Blanc (2014 and 2013). The 2014 was tropical on the nose and crisp and sharp on the palette but the 2013 had settled down a little with the extra year in the bottle and more earthy flavours.

image

The Chardonnay, of course, was my favourite. We tasted the 2013 and 2012 vintages. The 2013 has wonderful tropical flavours. You smell the wine and immediately you are taken to the beach holidays of your childhood with fresh pineapple and coconut aromas. Truly sublime!! The 2012 is more typical in Chardonnay flavours such as butter and vanilla… These Chardonnays are wooded and spend 9 months in the barrel (3rd filled barrel). Due to the fact that the grapes are still very young the winemaker uses barrels that have been used twice before hence, 3rd filled barrel…

image

We then moved onto the Shiraz 2013. We couldn’t taste the 2012 as it is sold out. The Shiraz spends 10 months in a 3rd filled barrel. I love Shiraz and this one in particular does not disappoint. This wine is typically spicy on the nose and peppery on the palette. Much of what you would expect from a Shiraz. Just lovely!!

Riedel crystal glasses
Esona is unique in the Robertson Wine Valley due to the Riedel glass tastings that they offer and we had the privileged of experiencing this. It is believed that not only the quality of the glass affects the taste of the wine but also the shape of the wine glass. It has been tested with blind tastings and wine tasters who have tasted the same wine but in different glasses believe that they tasted completely different wines.

image

Esona offers you the opportunity to taste the wine in a regular wine glass and then the same wine in a Riedel crystal glass that’s shape is specifically designed to enhance that specific grape variety. All I can say is WOW!!! You CANNOT believe the difference! Matthew and I actually had a giggle because we couldn’t believe the stark contrast in aroma and flavour. The wine is smooth and more refined with a lingering aftertaste that increases your wine tasting experience. I can strongly recommend a Riedel glass tasting if you ever have the opportunity.

We had lunch on the deck and Michelle brought out the most delicious picnic packed with local food. From the ostrich pâté to the local cheese and meat selection, this is certainly the type of wine farm that requires you to linger, relax, eat and drink some amazing wine.

image

image

*My sister and I at Esona with Hirchill who is part of the wine tasting team – thanks Hirchill for the education on Esona’s beautiful wines*

Esona has so much to offer. From food pairing and wine tastings inside the old cellar, to weddings and functions. And with that beautiful deck, it is the sort of place that people will come back to time and time again. I know I will! For me, it certainly is “the very one”

*Our wine tastings and lunch were not complimentary

Advertisements

The Robertson Wine Valley

This area of my beautiful country has very quickly become one of my favourite places on earth. It could be the fact that wine is available on tap at literally every corner or maybe it’s the fact that my lovely sister and her hubby live in this wonderful town but I think it also has something to do with the soul of the place… Not only is it absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful, the people are some of the most wonderful, down-to-earth, friendly, warm and welcoming people you are ever likely to meet! It truly is a very special place indeed!

We first encountered this amazing place in 2010 when we road tripped around the country for a month. On this occasion, we stayed at the beautiful Fraai Uitzicht wine farm which has a guest house attached to it and an award winning restaurant. We realised very quickly that we had stumbled upon a jewel within our own country!

My sister then moved to this area and got married here. Can you think of a more beautiful place for a wedding?

We now make a point to come to this valley every time we are home for a visit. I mean, this is your view in the morning!!

We took a drive to the top of a small “koppie” (hill) that has been set up for some great entertaining which boasts an enclosed boma, which includes a covered braai (BBQ) area, seating, hammocks and a deck. It was built by the farm owners and anyone living on the farm has access to it. We decided to go for some sundowners and all I can say is WOW!!!  Well, look at the view for yourself!

Of course we had to take full advantage of the various wine farms while we were there and we indulged in wine tastings every day! Unlike wine farms in Cape Town, many of the wine tastings in this area are for free. We just passed through some of the wine farms and at others, we spent a good couple hours, tasting the different cultivars and partaking in some vertical tastings (this is when you taste the same cultivar just different vintages). If I am speaking gibberish, let me break it down for you…

Cultivar: This refers to the grape variety such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinotage etc. when you talk about the cultivar, you talk about the type of grape used to make the wine, hence the wine’s type.

Vintage: This refers to the year that the grapes were harvested hence the date on the bottle

So if you are doing a vertical tasting, you are trying the one type of wine (Merlot) but trying the different years (2012, 2013, 2014). Each year yields a different quality and quantity of crop which means each year the wine will taste slightly different.

Some of the wine farms we visited were:
Arabella Wines My brother in law and I LOVE Chardonnay’s so it is always a given that we will taste at least one vintage of this but at this wine farm we also tasted the Shiraz Viognier Reserve and the Pink Panacea. I bought a bottle of the Pink Panacea and we all enjoyed it later that afternoon while watching the sunset.

Rietvallei Wine Estate Here we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz 2012 and the red muscadet which, might I say, was sublime. We bought a bottle of the Shiraz at the wine farm but we enjoyed a few bottles of their Merlot (very easy drinking, simple and delicious) which we bought in town.

Springfield Estate We love this wine estate and the staff are wonderfully friendly. The last time we were here, Emily was just a baby but it is a wine estate that we keep coming back to. My Aunt adores the “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc so we picked up a bottle of that for her while we were there. We also bought a bottle of the “Whole Berry” Cabernet Sauvignon and brought that back to London with us. This will be enjoyed on a summers evening in our garden. We were also privileged enough to try the Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is produced  from grapes harvested from some of their oldest vines. It is aged in barrels for 2 years and then a further 4 years in the bottle before release. It is simply out of this world!! You MUST try it!.

Graham Beck Wines and Esona Boutique Wines deserve blog posts of their own as we spent more time at each of these estates. I won’t go into these wine farms now but further posts on each of these wine farms will be up on the blog soon.

My tips on wine tasting:
You do not need to be a wine expert to enjoy wine tasting. If your sense of smell and taste are in good nick, you will enjoy the experience just as much as anyone else.
Enjoy responsibly. Use the spittoons provided and make sure you keep up with your water. Know your limits…
Try the different cultivars, even the ones you think you don’t like. I never thought I was a Chardonnay person until I did a number of tastings.
Let the staff guide you on the wine, they have the knowledge and experience.
Don’t be afraid to politely say you are not that keen on a particular wine. Everyone’s palette is different and this feedback will give them the information they need to move you onto a wine that is more suited to you.
Ask questions. Every wine farm has a special story and they are always eager to tell it.

I feel I have not even scratched the surface of what this amazing valley has to offer! There is more to the valley than wine but actually, wine is what ties the community together, it is their passion!

So much to see, so much to do and so much wine to sample!! With the beautiful surroundings, what more could you ask for, really??!!

Johannesburg – a family’s playground

If you thought Joburg was not a great city for small children, you couldn’t be more wrong!

It has been a while since I have posted anything. I had every intention of blogging while I was away but once I arrived in sunny SA, the quality time I was spending with family and friends simply became my priority. With that said, we managed to fit so much into our trip that my mind is bursting with blog post ideas!

We began our holiday in Joburg so Emily and I could spend time with my side of the family. I still needed to make Emily’s learning and development a priority and as the weather is so lovely, we could have really stayed at home and swam in the pool every day but I wanted her to see and do things that I remember doing as a child and Johannesburg has a lot to offer small children, more than you think…

Lifestyle Garden Centre
This is truly a wonderful place to be with children. We actually came here a few times during the holiday and Emily absolutely LOVED it here. While it’s primary purpose is a nursery with a vast selection of plants and gardening paraphernalia, they also have a wonderful home décor section as well as a large bookshop called Readers Warehouse that has an excellent children’s section and they host a number of kiddies activities in the bookstore throughout the year.

I have very vivid memories of spending many Saturday afternoons here when I was a little girl. This centre truly is a kid’s paradise!! The Silver Birch Restaurant is a multiple award winning restaurant that has pizza making facilities for kids.

image

Parents can enjoy a cup of coffee while keeping an eye on their children with the jungle gym right next to the outside seating area. They also have a small funfair called Playland which has a variety of rides for children. So if you are in the Northern suburbs of Jozi, do pop in!

Joburg Zoo
Emily  is such a little animal lover and has developed a small obsession with the film Madagascar. This gave me the opportunity to show her some of the animals from the film up close and personal. The zoo is enormous and Emily’s little legs could not get us to every corner of the zoo but she was delighted with the animals we had the chance to see.

image

They have family days, tours, events and dedicated feeding times for animals so the children can get involved. They also have a strong conservation and breeding programme and offer the opportunity to volunteer or adopt an animal.

One of the most popular activities is the Evening Encounters. This is to give you the chance to encounter and study the nocturnal animals in the zoo and it will certainly be on my ‘to do’ list with Emily next time we are back in South Africa.

They also have large dedicated areas for you to have a family picnic in the shade, to allow you time to recover from the South African midday heat. The Joburg Zoo, still to this day, is a wonderful day out for any family.

image

Don’t forget the sunblock!

The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve “The Nearest Faraway Place”
This nature reserve is nestled in the Cradle of Humankind which is considered ‘The Home of our Ancestors’ due to its breakthrough discoveries, in this area, in the search for the origins of humankind. This in itself is another great day out for families but the nature reserve was the focus of our attention for the day. The main reason for our visit was to cuddle with the lion cubs which we had the privilege of doing. This park, in particular, is famous for its work with white lions.

image

image

You can come with a packed picnic lunch or use their Braai/BBQ facilities at the park at no extra cost. They offer everything from restaurants, The Neck and Deck restaurant is popular amongst the avid off road cyclist as a pit stop, 4×4 experiences, game drives, and feeding times for the big cats. There is a children’s play park area for a bit of a run around and there is the animal crèche where you can encounter some of the younger animals

The park also has accommodation for those bush lovers and they will allow you to outsource activities like hot air ballooning or abseiling into the wondercave.

Once you drive through the gates and see the beautiful Springbok, Wildebeest and Zebra roaming around, you truly do not feel like you are a short drive from the busy city. It certainly is the nearest faraway place indeed.

There are so many amazing things to do with children in Johannesburg. Some restaurants offer play area facilities which are staffed so you can enjoy your meal knowing your children are being looked after.

We didn’t get to do everything but that’s ok because it means we have left a few things for next time… some of my top child friendly places for our next visit.

Jozi has proven that it is truly a city to enjoy with small children. There is plenty to see and do so… go on!! Get outdoors!!