Cape Town Trip: Stellenbosch wine country

Posted on December 29, 2012


Stellenbosch vineyard

1 hour drive to Helena. 2 hour flight to Minneapolis. 5 hour layover. 8 hour flight to Amsterdam. 2 hour  layover. 14 hour flight to Cape Town.    …worth every excruciatingly mind-numbing second.

It’s been three years since we’ve seen our amazing friends, Reagan and Leandra, whom we met while teaching in Korea. We finished up our respective terms in Asia and headed back home-Montana for us, Cape Town for them. In those    1080 days, Cass and I have saving up our little nuggets of paychecks, like squirrels prepping for winter, in order to afford the journey to the other side of the planet to see our ReaLea. Finally, we took our first step on the African continent.  An anticlimatic trip through immigration and customs, barely batting an eye at our now unattractive accents, we threw sweaty, stinky hugs all over our brother and sister.

We caught up, not feeling like we’ve been apart more than a week, and hit the sack because we were off and running the next morning–our tour guides had an exciting outline for us.

A rainy, turned beautiful morning, we headed out to Stellenbosch–South Africa’s massive, incredibly beautiful wine country (picture Napa located in the Canadian Rockies). ReaLea work as accountants for one of SA’s largest alcohol conglomerates; a company that owns much of Stellenbosch and the surrounding vineyards, as well as several brandy distillerys, one of which having the best brandy in the world (not my opinion, they actually won that award). We were heading to a pair of their brands for an afternoon of tasting.

JC LeRoux vineyard stellenboschJ.C. LeRoux

Following a quintessential tree-lined, wine country, winding road, we arrived at the tasting room of J.C. LeRoux. The whitewashed walls of the old Dutch-style structures were set against rich blue hues of the summer sky. Inside was a chic room of tables and chairs; modern lines and clean design of a company branding towards upscale young professionals. A wall of windows overlooked the parking lot and surrounding hillsides full of plump grapes. At each setting at our table sat three champagne glasses and stray with five candies.JC LeRoux tasting MCC

“So, we cannot call our product champagne,”  our tasting tour guide continued, “because, as you may have figured out by now, we are not located in the Champagne region of France, though we use the exact same process to create our line of MCC’s.”

We progressed from a dry MCC paired with a delicate chocolate nuggat, to a similar splash of MCC paired with something that tasted like a JC LeRoux tasting MCCStellenbosch J C LeRoux vineyardgrandmother’s perfume, and ended on a pink-colored glass of sweet beautiful. The second round consisted of two more tasters of sparkling wine with the remaining candies. As they say in South Africa, “brilliant!”

Van Ryn DistilleryVan Ryn

Not far from LeRoux, was a grey colored complex of Dutch-styled building creating the brandy distillers Van Ryn. We were handed a snifter glass of their brandy mixed with some kind of magical-tasting mango-apricot juice. The leather couches and mahogany enveloped us instantly–we became cooler just being in this building. At this tasting of brandy, we were served a tray with their 12-year, Van Ryn Distillery bar15-, and 20-year brandy, a plate of three small chocolates, and an espresso cup (both to cleanse the palate–but I’m sure you knew that already).

12-year brandy/$80 bottle=breathing fire

15 yr brandy/$125 bottle=tolerable

20 yr brandy/$250 bottle= butter

Van Ryn BrandyI was blown away at the significant differences between the tasters-particularly for a novice of my nature. I can’t really drink anything unless there’s some kind of coke product in there to hide the aweful alcohol taste. I never thought the difference between aging would be that pronounce-shows you what I know-but you certainly get what you pay for.

We rounded out the night with a treetop buffet of Kudu and Impala. Never thought I’d type that sentence in my life…

Kudu, Impala dinner