It’s an area where the place names are as diverse and unpretentious as its people and the wines they grow. Gifberg, Maskam, Kobee, Koekenaap, Knersvlakte, Bamboesbaai … these names describe the mountains and villages of the Olifants River, the Western Cape’s northernmost winemaking region. Here they dance the riel to the strains of the blikkitaar and talk in a poetic Afrikaans found nowhere else in the country. The Olifants River wine region comprises three districts: Lutzville, Citrusdal Mountain and Citrusdal Valley, and four wards: Koekenaap, Spruitdrift, Vredendal and Bamboes Bay.

This region has always been known for bulk winemaking and today is home to three of the biggest cellars in the country: Namaqua Wines, Klawer Cellar and Lutzville Vineyards. But over the past few years boutique cellars have popped up across the region. The region has a relatively low rainfall, but thanks to their proximity to the coast some vineyards enjoy cool ocean breezes for most of the day, while inland vineyards bask in the midday heat. Soils vary from sandy alluvial soil to red loam, resulting in a delightfully diverse wine offering that’s worth the drive to sample.

THE FOODIE’S WEST COAST

Wine tourism is not new to the area. The first documented wine sale in this region was recorded by French explorer Francois le Vaillant in the late 1700s. He wrote he bought “strong liquor” from the widow Van Zeijl.

For a true West Coast experience, there’s no better place than the Fryer’s Cove Vineyards tasting venue in the Doringbaai harbour. As the vineyards are literally next to the Atlantic Ocean, Fryer’s Cove makes cool climate wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir You can sample these with a cheese platter while enjoying the ocean view. The brave of heart might even be tempted to leap from the jetty into the icy Atlantic!

The Jetty Restaurant is a community-driven initiative run by locals who are extremely proud to serve fresh West Coast fare but warn, “good things come with time”.

About 20 km inland you find Lutzville, home to organically grown Seal Breeze Wines whose creator, Joan Wiggins, uses no modern equipment to make her wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz grapes grow snugly on the banks of the Olifants River and Joan produces only three tons of each cultivar.

If pairing your wine with roosterkoek sounds like fun, visit Lutzville Vineyards with its tasting venue complete with a restaurant situated on a golf course. Try the Lutzville and Diamond Collection ranges.

On the way from Lutzville to Vredendal stop at Bellpost Wines. The Thiart family’s main activity is to cultivate grapes for wine producers, but they reserve a special portion of their harvest for their own Bellpost label. You can enjoy their wines and craft gin at the Thi Art restaurant in Vredendal, where they claim to make the best coffee in the district.

Often parents with young children steer clear of wine tasting excursions as there’s little for the youngsters to enjoy. But at Die Keldery, situated at Namaqua Wines’ Spruitdrift cellar, kids can enjoy their own pairing of Jelly Tots and grape juice. Parents can try the biltong and chocolate wine pairings or dine at the restaurant with sweeping views of the Maskam Mountain. Thursdays are kraffie evening, where every chef selection meal is accompanied by a carafe of wine.

Visitors to Teubes Family Wines in Vredendal can spend a leisurely afternoon on the big stoep while sipping Karoobossie MCC. Three generations farm side by side to make premium-quality wines. They also produce organic olives.

African Ruby is the name of a special wine made by Klawer Wine Cellars. It’s a sweet wine infused with rooibos, also indigenous to the area. The Michelle Sparkling Wine is one of their most popular offerings. Should you head this way on 24 September, you can join in the fun at the Heritage Day braai competition. Or head for Cape Rock Wines to try wines with intriguing names such as Asylum and Amnesty. The wines are made using natural fermentation and as little sulphur as possible. Remember to call first – they are open by appointment only.

Rosslo Wines is one of the oldest cellars in the region and renowned for their flagship Rosslo Jerepiko. Winemaker Anton Rossouw started making wine as a hobby in 2001 and today Andries Botha makes wine in his memory. The wines are served exclusively at the estate’s Voorsorg guesthouse. They also offer guests an authentic braai experience with a supply of wood, homemade sosaties and bread to enjoy with the wine.

Craft beer enthusiasts can sample Maskam Brewing’s best with a wood-fired pizza on the Botha family farm near Vredendal. Sample the blonde and amber ales, Weiss beer or cider while the kids play in the garden or explore the petting zoo. There’s also a nine-kilometre mountain bike trail on the farm.

Cederberg Private Cellar boasts several award-winning wines. Try the floral Bukettraube for something different. The Nieuwoudt family now also has a microbrewery on the farm where they make a lager, and an ale and India pale ale named after the C Louis Leipoldt characters, Boggom and Voertsek. l

THE OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST’S WEST COAST

From June to October, Namaqualand is resplendent with vast expanses of colourful wildflowers to wow city blommekykers. The region is renowned for its spectacular biodiversity and many endemic species are represented in the region’s fynbos, salt marshes, vygieveld, gannabosveld, renosterveld and strandveld. Call the Flower Line on 083 910 1028 to make sure you home in on the most spectacular spots.

The 30-km circular Viswater Mountain Bike Route meanders from Doringbaai to Papendorp and back again. Hard-core campers will revel in the desolate Hardeveld which lies north of Koekenaap and can rough it at Brand-se-Baai and Skaapvlei. With thousands of migratory birds, the Flamingo Birding Route in the Olifants River estuary is a birders’ paradise.

To plan your trip to the West Coast Wine Route go to visitnwc.com or call 027 201 3376 or 082 608 7554 for more info.

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