Winelands fest opens window to the region
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Cape Town - The Winelands is an ideal base from which to explore what the Cape has to offer.
Not only are some of the region’s best restaurants located there, the scenic surrounds of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are ideal for wine picnics, a fresh-air getaway from the city, and to enjoy the many wine related events held throughout the year.
The best time to visit though is during wine harvest season, when one can taste young wines straight from a tank or barrel and participate in fun activities, such as grape stomping.
A number of festivals also take place throughout the season, such as the annual Paarl OmmiBerg Round the Rock festival, which is on throughout the Paarl Wine Route on Saturday.
“The OmmiBerg festival was started in 2008 to showcase the Paarl wine region and entice visitors to experience the diversity of the estates and cellars of the Paarl Wine Route, while also tasting the region’s excellent wines,” says event organiser Christel Liebenberg.
“The festival has proven a hit with wine lovers and has grown exponentially over the past nine years, from the initial attendance of 1 200 to a record-breaking 5 000 visitors in 2015, and 2016 promises to be bigger than ever before.”
Visitors will be able to taste the first batches of unfiltered wines, pick and stomp their own grapes, enjoy tractor rides through the vineyards and test their winemaking skills by creating their own blends.
There will also be cooking demonstrations, art exhibitions, live entertainment, cellar tours, jumping castles, slippery slides, pony rides and face painting.
Other attractions for wine lovers will include blending competitions, cork spitting contests, the wine barrel golf challenge, boules, jenga, croquet and vineyard horse rides.
The Cape Argus was invited to experience a taste of what will be on offer on the day. The festivities started at Mellasat Vineyards, the home of the world’s first white Pinotage.
We tried the white Pinotage during a cellar tour with Steven Richardson. It is slightly sweet and more tropical than its red counterpart.
Mellasat started making the white Pinotage in 2007 with just one barrel.
Since then the venture has grown to include exports to destinations across the world.
“I often get asked: ‘Why make a white wine?’ “ says Richardson.
“It started in a very experimental way when I first made the wine. I wanted to try and eliminate the skin factor of the grape. It was quite a process but worth it .
“We now have an increasing SA market as more and more people find out about it. Pinotage is a grape that has a love-hate relationship with the consumer.
“I always say it’s like a Marmite grape, you either love it or you hate it,” says Richardson.
Next stop was a grape stomping session at the Windmeul Kelder, on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain.
Also known as “pigeage”, grape stomping is a traditional winemaking method that was used instead of the wine press or any other machinery.
Crushing grapes in a barrel is not as messy as it sounds, but is a squishy-squashy, enjoyable barefoot experience.
The Paarl Winelands route is also home to many hidden gems, such as the Domaine Brahms Wine Estate where visitors must be sure to try the refreshing and fruity “mosproe” drink at the Toeka Tractor museum.
The museum is antique heaven – with cars, paintings and knick-knack collectibles for sale.
Lunch was a food and wine pairing at the KWV Sensorium in Paarl Main Road.
The cost is R80 per person and features five Chenin-driven wines paired with delicious canapés.
For more gourmet treats, start the day with a breakfast at Mellasat, followed by venison hamburgers and charcuterie and cheese platters at Nederburg, authentic Italian pizzas at Under Oaks and the farmer’s market at Windmeul.
The five-hour, half day media tour was jam-packed with lots to do and see, so wear comfortable shoes on the day as there will be plenty of walking and travelling between the 14 participating wineries.
Each of them have planned a special programme for the day, complete with young wine tasting, live music and children’s entertainment.
It can also get quite hot in the Winelands, so be sure to wear a hat, sunglasses and stay hydrated.
The line-up of performers for the day include Newton & Co, Bottomless Coffee Band, Ben Dey, the Concrete Lions, Slow Jack, and Wicus van der Merwe.
Rheebokskloof will play host to the popular Run and Ride The Vines, while children can enjoy waterslides and pony rides.
It will also have live music throughout the day from Tequila Band, Nicky de Kock, Gerry Liberty and Aston Wylie, with Soft Landing providing entertainment at Under Oaks.
The KWV Sensorium will also be celebrating the biggest grape varietal in the world with a special Chenin Blanc Journey Pairing, which can be booked at the venue.
“Visitors should be on the look out for two gorgeous girls dressed in red on the day of the festival.
“They will be chauffeur-driven in Audis to visit all the participating farms.
“Snap a selfie with them and tweet using #LadyInRed and #Ommiberg2016 or post it to Paarl Wine Route on Facebook to stand the chance of winning fabulous prizes,” says Liebenberg.
l Book tickets at R120 each at www.webtickets.co.za, available only to those over 18. A Festival Pass at R150 per person will be available on the day at the gates of participating wineries. This will include entry to the 14 participating wineries, a stylish tasting glass and free participation in certain events. Children younger than 18 and accompanied by an adult will have free entry. Follow the festival on @PaarlWine or #Ommiberg2016 for fun offers, and visit www.ommiberg.co.za for a completeprogramme.