Robertson sure has a lot of wine festivals. In fact on any given day, as you leave the town you’ll spot a billboard advertising the next wine festival (which incidentally is the Hands on Harvest in February). Because of this, they are getting better and better at them and there’s generally one for everyone – Wacky Wine Weekend is well-known as being the festival that attracts the slightly wilder young bunch, while the Robertson Slow Festival takes things at a slightly, er, slower pace.
However, I may have discovered the one wine festival that encompasses everything – Robertson Wine On The River. This festival, held on Goudmyn Farm inbetween Robertson and Bonnievale, has something for everyone, whether you are young and wild or prefer things to be a little more sedate. Here are ten reasons why you will love this wine festival (and should book for next year, now).
This is not one of those wine festivals where you pay for your ticket and then when you get there you end up paying for everything on top of it, making it an expensive affair (depending on how much you drink of course). At Wine On The River all tastings are included in the ticket price. There are approximately 300 wines from 40 wine farms, which means a lot of wine for your money! In fact I doubt you’d get through them all in one day (even I didn’t manage to do that). You can of course buy wine by the glass too and this year that cost a reasonable R25. Food is an added extra, but with prices ranging from R20 for pancakes to R65 to a good portion of lamb cutlets with chips, you are bound to find something to eat within your budget. The boat cruise only costs R20 (for half an hour) and at that price, everyone can enjoy sipping bubbly while cruising down the Breede River.
You need to get there when the gates open and only leave when it closes if you want to get through as much as possible. I only got there a bit later in the day and felt quite alarmed when I realised that I had only seen a fraction of what was on offer. The result was a whirlwind few hours trying to see everything, taste everything and eat everything. My advice would be to get there early and take a stroll through all the tents, decide which wines you want to taste, buy a bottle or two of your favourites (cellar door prices which means many wines are about R40 a bottle), grab some deli items (there are olives, cheeses, pickles, breads, pestos, biltong and more) and find a picnic spot along the banks of the Breede River. Then watch the world go by while enjoying a veritable feast. Or you can taste your way through all the tents and grab a meal when you feel like it, from tummy-lining lasagna to decadant oysters.
Being a parent and wanting to go to a wine festival is not always an easy thing to do (and we all know that parents in particular probably need more wine than most people). At Wine On The River there are plenty of things for the littlies to do while their parents can enjoy a glass or two while keeping an eye on their progeny. There were play areas with trampolines, jungle jims and sand pits as well as horse rides.
Non-smokers will be pleased to know that Wine On The River is a smoke-free zone, so you won’t get smoke in your face while eating your oysters and no children will be harmed by secondary smoke. Before all the smokers (and yes, dare I admit I am one too) get upset, there are spots by the river where you can smoke, on the other side of the picket fence. These spots are right on the river so you have a great view and you are not far from everyone else so you won’t feel like you are being stuck in a corner somewhere. Everyone is happy!
At Wine On The River, you literally are right beside the Breede River and it’s simply beautiful. That day the sun was shining (always a bonus) and the water literally twinkled like the champagne glasses in the sunlight. There can be no more sublime spot to sit on a hay bale under an umbrella and enjoy the spoils of the day.
You cannot go to Wine On The River and not go for a cruise ON the river. As mentioned before, these cruises were affordable at R20 per person for half an hour. Obviously it’s popular, so make sure you get your tickets early. I chose a sunset cruise and ended up enjoying my Klipdrift cocktail and sushi (from Mimosa Lodge – so good!) with a group of youngsters who proved to be quite entertaining while the sun started its descent. Apart from the frivolities on board, the Breede River is beautiful and the cruise really shouldn’t be missed.
To add to the whole vibe there were various South African artists playing during the course of the day. By the end of the day, things got a little busier (as they do when wine is flowing and the sun is shining!) and people were dancing to disco tunes being played by DJs. This could be the reason they close the festival at 18h00 – I reckon most of us would’ve stayed a lot longer and danced the night away!
Apparently these have been around for a while, but it was the first time I had ever come across one. A wine cooler that is perfect for summer days outdoors. Just pop in some ice and your wine or bubbly is kept nice and cold. At R40 a bag they were the perfect accessory for a picnic next to the river. Plus, not only are they useful, they look quite snazzy and apparently can be used as a vase for flowers too! I wonder if I will ever use mine as a vase though?
What goes in invariably has to come out and I think the single thing that everyone hates about festivals are the portaloos. We’d rather go the whole day feeling uncomfortable than stand in the queue to use the smelly and sweaty temporary toilet facilities. I have good news – the portaloos at Wine On The River were excellent. The queues were long and appeared daunting, but moved quickly (I only waited about 10 minutes) and everything was clean thanks to a team of efficient cleaning staff. There was loo roll too!
Best of all, these guys provide a FREE shuttle between the festival to Robertson, Bonnievale and Montagu. Yes folks, you pay nada to get to your accommodation safely. The shuttle runs at various times during the day with the last ones leaving when the festival closes. So there is absolutely no excuse for you to drive after quaffing your way through 300 wines. Besides that, everyone else has to walk a fair distance to the festival upon arrival and then back to their car whereas the shuttles drop you right at the festival entrance and collect you from there too. Now that’s both convenient and sensible!
It’s taken me seven years to finally go to Wine On The River and it is now going to become an annual must-do. If you haven’t been yet, I suggest you make a note in your diary to go next year between 17-19 October 2014. You won’t be disappointed. See you there!
My first forays into the world of wine involved me going to the store and finding the cheapest bottle. To be honest, not much has changed. Today my wine knowledge still remains limited, but I like to think that my tastes have definitely become a little more refined! However, my greatest joy comes from not what is in the bottle, but where I am drinking it. From beautiful wine estates to wine festivals with friends, nothing brings me greater joy than finding a great place to enjoy a glass or two. Which in turn, I will share with you.
Tagged Bonnievale, Breede River, Goudmyn Farm, Hands on Harvest, Robertson Slow Festival, Robertson wine festivals, Robertson Wine On The River, robertson wine on the river festival, robertson wine valley, Wacky Wine Weekend, wine festivals