Black Oystercatcher in the beautiful Cape Agulhas have lots going on in December! Visit them between Christmas and New Years to enjoy their annual Sauvignon Blanc and Oyster Festival (26 & 27 Dec), Vineyard to Wetland Cycle Challenge (28 Dec) and their Traditional Food and Music Day on 29 December.
In Africa, there is an easy answer to the question ‘Would you like a Gin and Tonic?’, but when it is a local artisanal brew from up the coast at Stilbaai and is graciously offered with a twist of bright orange peel in a sublime setting, it is an even easier answer.
And so the tone was set for three days during a recent long weekend at the end of Winter, flirting with Spring, as we drove through fluorescent Canola fields down to stay at the De Hoop Collection – a unique and memorable place situated in a nature reserve near the tip of Africa.
We stopped for lunch at the wine farm Gabrielskloof in the Overberg – over Sir Lowry’s Pass past Hermanus. We shared a quality charcuterie and local goat’s cheese platter, accompanied by home-made bread and olive oil off the farm. The signature Magdalena wine, a Sauvignon- Semillon blend was the perfect accompaniment – not to mention the gorgeous views encompassing countless Blue Crane’s – South Africa’s elegant national bird.
In Bredasdorp we had a whistle-stop tour to admire the spectacular display of vynbos including mountains of proteas at the local showgrounds as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom expo.
Four hours after leaving Cape Town, including an half an hour on a good gravel road from Bredasdorp, our group of 6 girlfriends arrived at the De Hoop Collection situated in a nature reserve managed by Cape Nature overlooking the Indian Ocean and teeming with whales.
Entrepreneur and owner of the De Hoop Collection, William Stephens has a friendly, avuncular disposition and it is clear his staff like and respect him. A hands on owner, his staff know what is expected and rise to the occasion. He clearly invests in his staff and it shows. They proudly engage with guests about what training courses they have recently been sent on or completed. Nothing is too much hassle for the staff – from the personal chef, to the manager, housekeeper, guide and driver we were extremely well looked after.
De Hoop is an organic project – growing and developing. A spa is about to be added to the complex overlooking the large De Hoop vlei where a flotilla of Pelicans happily while away their days fishing.
The three days spent at De Hoop were filled with excellent food, wine, fun outdoor excursions and plenty of time to rest and soak up the tranquil atmosphere. On numerous occasions I found myself sighing – exhaling really – the stresses of city life in an atmosphere of complete peace. Nature’s balm was working her magic. The house we stayed in Melkkamer is the most exclusive and we experienced the fully catered option. Sitting down to a 3 course meal the first night, we were treated to local wines from Strandveld – the Southernmost winery in Africa, Black Oystercatcher and Sjinn wines owned by David Trafford and situated close by on the banks of the Breede River.
The beauty of the De Hoop Collection is that whatever your budget or group size, there is something for everyone. The democratic nature of the set-up is appealing with everyone able to experience the unique beauty and pristine nature of its setting. The Melkkamer house was perfect for our small party – it can sleep up to 8 people in 4 suites. The wooden floors, high ceilings and romantically draped 4 poster bed as well as comfortable linen ensured an excellent night’s sleep. After a hot bath in a Victorian style bath I climbed contentedly into my king-size bed – complete with a hot water bottle. The generator was switched off and the flickering paraffin lamps reminded me of a bygone era when life was much simpler. It’s more remote location – only accessible by boat for part of the year made it even more special.
Over the course of the next two days, we experienced the diversity of what De Hoop has to offer. We went on an interpretive boat ride around the vlei having some of the 250 bird species pointed out to us, accompanied by piping hot chocolate, flaky croissants and extra blankets to keep us warm.
We hiked along the vlei to a delicious picnic lunch of quiche, salad, more Gin and Tonic as well as dessert. Local chef, Philip Lottering generously shared some of his life story and recipes. Back at the main restaurant and hub of the Opstal area – we decided to go Quad biking. This is a guided, controlled activity but was rather loud having become accustomed to the tranquillity. Supper that night was a delicious lamb potjie, or stew cooked on an open fire in a black three legged cast iron pot. It was preceded by a retelling of the history of the homestead built in 1907 by the Anderson family as well as local ghost stories – it was wonderful to sit around a crackling fire in the darkness far removed from city lights with the soft murmur of the ocean over the distant dunes.
De Hoop is world famous for its whale sightings and especially from June to October when Southern Right whales come and turn the bay into a giant nursery. Sadly it was raining when we drove down to the nearest beach, Koppie Alleen yet we still managed to spot some whales in the bay and enjoyed an interesting interpretive walk along the coastline with our fabulous, knowledgeable, diplomatic and agreeable guide, Dickson.
The main house is extremely comfortable and I enjoyed two afternoon sleeps in a row– absolutely unheard of but clearly attributable- in part- to the fresh air. Sitting in the cosy lounge we were able to relax before our last supper – a traditional South African braai.
It had been a weekend of rest, relaxation, good food, laughs and new experiences effortlessly aided by the hospitality of the staff and the beauty of the land – and perhaps a good Gin and a hot chocolate or two!
To book your trip down to De Hoop and create memories that will last a lifetime at the tip of Africa contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a trip down south and taste some excellent SA wines.
‘Die winter is verby, nou kom die wind’ – winter is over, now comes the wind, remarked an Agulhas local. This remote part of the world, known for its treacherous shipwrecking coastline is at a superficial level somewhat intimidating. Yet scratch beneath the harsh surface and you will find delicious wines and hospitable locals.
There is something distinctly romantic about tasting wine from vines grown at the southernmost point of the African continent, and not just ordinary wines but extraordinary, highly ranked wines competing with the best in the world. The Elim ward falls in what has traditionally been cattle and wheat country. Known for its biodiversity, the wine farmers established the Nuwejaars River Wetland Special Management Area dedicated to conservation of this unique part of the world where they have re- introduced hippo and buffalo. For those who take the road less travelled they will be richly rewarded.
Elim itself has a fascinating history as a Moravian mission station set up in 1824. Known traditionally for its thatcher’s, the name Elim is more and more associated with delicious Semillon and Sauvignon blends among the whites and full bodied reds.
If you approach the Elim wine route from Bredasdorp, you will come to Black Oystercatcher Wines. Here Dirkie Human has built a destination winery popular amongst locals and tourists. His fish braais are legendary and memorable coupled with his flagship White Pearl Sauvignon Semillon blend and a tranquil view across the Agulhas plains. The bulging organic vegetable garden which guests in the self-catering cottages are free to harvest is a foodie’s dream!
Dirkie Human is also the wine maker for Celestina, owned by Caroline Rillema of Caroline’s Fine Wines and her partner Ray Kilian. She has planted 1, 8 hectares in nearby Baardskeerdersbos and produced 2400 bottles in 2012. This wine displays the typical Cape Agulhas characteristics of minerality, raciness and gentle acidity and her sought after 2015 vintage is eagerly awaited.
A few kilometres south and only 9kms from the sea you will find, Strandveld Vineyards which claims the title of the southernmost cellar on the African continent. Their First Sightings range refers to the original sighting of the South African coastline by the Portuguese explorers in 1488. One of their flagship wines holds the name Strandveld Pofadderbos referring to the deadly poisonous puff adders to be found in that particular vineyard. The bouquet is full of white asparagus, nettle and green pepper aromas and it tastes sublime. Tasting fee is R40 which is refundable with purchase.
Changes are afoot at Zoetendal named for the Dutch shipwreck of 1673 and which will reopen to the public at the end of 2015 under the auspices of David Nieuwoudt of the Cederberg, as the new home of Ghost Corner wines. Staying with cattle and sheep the new owners from Upington recognise the quality of the soil and are happy to lease and cooperate with leaders in the industry such as Dave Hidden and Charles Bak to harness the terroir and coax delicious and memorable wines out of this somewhat harsh climate.
(Note – The Elim Fruit and Wine Festival will be held in October.)
First appeared on Food.24
For more information on food and travel tips, visit Melissa Sutherland’s Facebook page.