At the end of a long flight, if you’re like me, the first thing you want is a shower; the second is wine.
After twenty-two hours of transit from Washington D.C. to Cape Town, South Africa, last November Black Girls Do Wine (BGDW) took her second international wine tour, spending a day drinking through the Cape Winelands, approximately 40 miles east of Cape Town. Surrounded by lush, rolling green hills and flanked by vast mountains, the Cape Winelands is a burgeoning wine region dotted with boutique wineries known for producing Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
No wine drinker—expert or novice—visits the Mother City without finding the Cape Winelands. This edition of BGDW included a journey through three of the Winelands’ regions (Stellenbosch, the Swartland, and Franschhoek) and included tastings of Methode Cap Classique (MCC), Chenin, Syrah, and Chardonnay at three exclusive by-request-only wineries. Similar to the American Viticultural Area (AVA) system, South Africa identifies vintages, regions, and grapes through its own “Wines of Origin” (W.O.) system, signaling that 100% of the grapes in the wine come from a specific area.
An overseas wine experience is greatly enhanced by planning and utilizing an expert who can provide guidance. Our tour, organized through Explore Sideways, which specializes in creating customized wine and food tours, highlighted some of South Africa’s best wines and provided a way to garner wine gifts that would be difficult and expensive to get in the United States. The 9-hour day began at 9:00 a.m. in Cape Town, where we were picked up by our driver and guide, Jonathan Snashall, a Capetonian winemaker with over 30 years experience and an expert in South African wine. During the 90-minute drive away from the city and into wine country, Jonathan educated us on the history of the region, providing insight to each of the wineries on the itinerary.
The first winery, Le Lude in Franschhoek, is surrounded by lush, green grape vines which produce the fruit necessary for MCC, South Africa’s version of champagne. Le Lude’s MCC’s are crafted from only three grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Our tasting included Le Lude Brut NV, Le Lude Brute Rose, Le Mesnil Champagne, and a diverse selection of canapés intended to complement the bubbles. While each of the MCCs was seductive in its own right, our favorite was the Brut Rose—a light and fun accompaniment to all of our subsequent breakfasts.
Also nestled in Franschhoek, our second winery, Mullineaux & Leeu, is a short jaunt down a winding road from Le Lude. In 2014 and 2016, Platter’s Wine Guide (the South African version of Wine Spectator) voted Mullineaux & Leeu the winery of the year, and one round of tasting made it clear why. Mullineaux & Leeu, two wineries brought together, reflects a perfect marriage of style and culture. Established in 2007, Mullineaux was the operation of Chris and Andrea Mullineaux and produced exceptional wines that gained international recognition; in 2013, Indian businessman Analijit Singh partnered with Mullineaux and began producing the Leeu collection. Together, Mullineaux and Leeu specialize in Chenin blends, Syrah, and a Chenin dessert wine.
By the third winery, we were at least ten “tastes” in, and my tongue felt a bit fuzzy, so we stopped for lunch. Luckily, the TOKARA winery and restaurant in Stellenbosch was a short drive away; Jonathan had already secured reservations for our party. Known for its Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, award-winning olive oils and seasonal menu, TOKARA was the perfect restaurant to keep our palettes warm and ready. The restaurant, 1312 feet above sea level is an architectural marvel, consisting of an indoor restaurant constructed from glass, steel, and stone and an outdoor patio that overlooks False Bay, is surrounded by olive trees and built around a massive olive tree, giving the feel of having lunch inside an adult treehouse.
Ambiance set the bar high for lunch, and TOKARA did not disappoint. With a menu that changes seasonally, capitalizes on South African local ingredients, and led by the famed South African chef Richard Carstens, the TOKARA restaurant is a place to relax, strike up long conversations, and enjoy a leisurely afternoon.
After lunch, the plan was to visit another winery. But, weathered by general fatigue and palette fatigue, we opted to wind down the day by conducting a joint tasting of wine and olive oil in Tokara’s tasting room. Two favorites quickly emerged from the wine collection: the TOKARA Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and TOKARA Chardonnay 2015. Retailing for approximately $13US and $9US, respectively, both made for exclusive, and cost-savvy gifts from Cape Town for friends back home.
TOKARA’s award-winning olive oil collection is equally impressive, boasting over 19,000 olive trees on site, and 80,000 liters of five varietals of cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil produced annually. Smooth and creamy, with notes of herb and spice, most bottles retail for approximately $9US.
At 5:00, the day was over, and my liver was tired. We had spent a full day drinking our way through the Cape Winelands and had visited only three wineries. While only one day was designated for a full tasting day, a private tasting at the Woodstock Gin Company and trips to boutiques like The Wine Cellar and Wine Concepts rounded out our time in Cape Town South Africa.
Though from Michigan, BGDW members currently reside across the country. During BGDW, they sharpen noses and palates and tune their senses to understand the complexities both flavor and feel. At its core, BGDW connects black girls who do wine–and friendship, and food, and travel. Each year, BGDW discusses membership intake.
If interested in BGDW, email Blackgirlsdowine@gmail.com.