On moving to the Cape around three decades ago, having explored most of the mountains of the region, what next gave me unlimited pleasure was spending weekends in the winelands. Lucky for me I was married (back then) to someone in the wine business so the world was a Champagne swilled oyster.
These days it is easy for anyone thanks to this new fangled interweb net thing. A quick squizz at just one site reveals 58 options, ranging in price from R650 for a cottage to R1 400 a person in somewhat more comfortable digs.
Partly for historical reasons I have long had my own favourite: you might have gathered by now that I have a certain thing with history. It was the first cottage in the winelands where I overnighted, meeting the owners and being totally seduced by them. And it happened to be a very historic farm. I recall raucous Port-grape stomping events in the open tanks.
The farm in question is Compagnes Drift, home to Beaumont Wine and situated where the Bot River emerges from the Van Der Stel defile and begins its meander across the wrinkled Overberg plain, what the locals call the Ruens (from the Afrikaans “ruggens” for the humpy-back terrain). This was where, in the late 17th century, the Dutch East India Company set up its first outpost in the African hinterland, and the rest is history (corollary: and that’s when all the trouble started).
There are two cottages for self catering on the farm, both old farm buildings with all the charm and character of bygone days, namely Mill House and Pepper Tree Cottage. The mill in question is a working one, and the oldest one still in working condition “over the mountain”. The farm is now part of the Green Eco Mountain Conservancy, so walks and even horse rides in the honey-scented fynbos are options for your weekend in paradise. I prefer to mountain bike.
Way back in 1974 Raoul and Jayne Beaumont bought the farm with the coin of a dream. It was also the year in which their first child, Sebastian – now the master of the vines and cellar – was born.
Jayne was an artist and Raoul a wild spirit with tattoos of the anchor and mermaid variety. He was happiest on one of the numerous Harleys he owned and she painting or working in the wine cellar. Back those days the wine was made by another maverick, Niels Verburg, the gentle giant of a Viking and now master of Luddite wines which he started on a piece of land close by.
With what now seems like 20-20 hindsight they planted Pinotage and Chenin Blanc vines and 20 years later, the year South Africa emerged from its disagreeable political chrysalis, they released their first vintage. Among the current offerings are the Hope Marguerite Chenin and Bordeaux style Ariane , both named after family members. Not their “premier cru” but perhaps most fondly offered is the Raoul range of easy drinkers including a white, a rosé and two reds. It was named in honour of the patriarch who went off riding his celestial bike in 2013. They say, on certain nights, after a glass or two of his wine, you can see the exhaust sparks of his Harley flashing across the sky.
Now that winter is seriously icumin in here at the Cape of Storms, sitting around a fire in an historic Cape cottage set on an idyllic wine farm becomes something of a regional contact sport. I recommend some of the foot-stomped Tinta Barocca Cape Vintage (“the dirtier the better,” Niels would urge, insisting foot germs were good for the process of Port making). Although more effete campers might prefer a bottle of slender-necked Goutte d’Or, a pure Chenin noble late harvest.
The cottages come with fresh bedding and bath towels, as well as an unlimited supply of firewood. Food you have to supply yourself and prepare on the wood burning stoves. The wine, well that’s kind of obvious, so long as you arrive at shop-open time (although I am sure they will part with a few bottles at any hour in a time of need).
I must say that these days, after a lifetime of travelling, I most like to sit on the bench which sits on the dock of our own Cape family cottage and watch the sun paint the lake and mountain view in a vivid palette each evening. It’s made from staves of old Puncheon barrels I stumbled over behind the cellar at Beaumont Wines. Raoul had had something in mind for them but allowed me to liberate a half dozen at R10 a two-metre stave.
That was around 15 or 16 years ago and, even though the heady aroma of red wine that once emanated from the dark Limousin oak has long faded, that bench has served us extremely well. Cheers to that.
To book accommodation at Beaumont Wines, click here.
- David Bristow has written multiple books and magazine features on travel, nature and African culture.