Esonas irrigation canal, renovated cellar and young vines. A decade ago, it was a neglected vegetable farm.
Esonas irrigation canal, renovated cellar and young vines. A decade ago, it was a neglected vegetable farm.

Cape Town - There are still people who remember when muscadel was harvested before Christmas in the Breede river valley.

Cellars were built below ground to escape the heat – the earliest surviving featuring walls of river-stone and arched ceilings.

A century on and some of these are proving to be cool – even romantic – venues for candlelit tastings, like the interleading cellars at Esona, a riverside farm not far from Bonnievale.

Rowan and Carol Beattie fell in love with the region and its people and spent many weekends looking for a small farm as their country getaway. Groenland was a neglected vegetable farm when they bought it a decade ago, but they saw its potential, its valuable riverside position where water from the Brandvlei’s life-giving canals snake through vineyards and orchards, keeping all green during the fiercest summers.

Today, Esona boasts a trio of fine single vintage labels: a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and shiraz, made by Lourens van der Westhuizen whose passion for wine that reflects the soil and climate of the region is well known. From their maiden vintage in 2010, these wines have attracted high scores and local and international praise, and visitors can savour a vertical tasting of Esona wines underground, augmented by chocolate and fruit preserves (R85) or enjoy a free tasting at ground level in the renovated cellar.

By the time the summer season is in full swing, a deli will be operating for do-it-yourself lunches and umbrellas will shade tables on the upstairs viewing terrace.

Van der Westhuizen’s own farm, Arendsig, lies on the far banks of the Breede river, where he turns his considerable talents to various vinous projects.

But, making single vineyard wines of excellence remains his raison d’être, and his range extends through sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, shiraz and cab to chenin made from old bushvines and a natural sweet viognier.

Both Esona and Arendsig will be presenting their ranges at the Robertson Wine on the River, taking place from October 18 to 20 at Goudmyn farm on the R317. More than 40 wineries will be at this popular annual get-together where the living is easy, the hospitality legendary and the culinary and vinous delights unlimited. It’s the place where canny winelovers stock up for the festive season as all wines are sold at cellar door prices.

Tickets cost R125 for Friday, R160 for Saturday, R105 for Sunday or R250 for the weekend. Book through and see for details.


Veritas: KWV triumphs as best wine producer

The 2013 Veritas results are out and it’s time, once again, for consumers to comment on the winning wines and brandies.

KWV continues its journey on the comeback trail, triumphing as best wine producer, followed by Nederburg, Boplaas Family Vineyards and De Grendel.

In the brandy division, Van Ryn took the lead with three double golds, followed by Boplaas, Oude Meester, Klipdrift Gold and Flight of the Fish Eagle.

The Knysna tasting takes the form of a food and wine pairing dinner on November 13 at R250 a head, followed by a sit-down tasting the with snacks the next day at R125. To book, call Jenny at 044 382 0135.

A tasting will be held in Port Elizabeth on November 12 at Squires Legendary Grill, for R110 a head, including snacks. To buy tickets, call Jacques van der Merwe at 083 406 3354. See or e-mail [email protected] - Weekend Argus