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Vineyards below mountain

Day Trip out of Sapporo to a Winery

Hakkenzan Winery, Hokkaido, Japan

On one of the days we were in Hokkaido on our last visit, our hosts Satoshi and Max took us on a really interesting day trip: to a winery. Rod had read that Hokkaido was producing some wine, so we were very interested to see how and where that was taking place. Besides being a new crop/product in Hokkaido, the vines and winery are in a lovely setting below a famous mountain. Satoshi and Max explained that Hak=8, Ken=peak, and Zan=mountain.

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Inside the winery

So, the meaning is 8-peak mountain and the winery sits below a mountain that does indeed look like that; some even say it looks like the back of a Stegosaurus. We also went through a tunnel of the same name to get there.

Hakkenzan Winery is an interesting place, unlike any other winery we’ve been to in various countries (and we’ve been to many!). The location under the peaks is very pretty, and the notion of producing wine in Japan’s northernmost island is new and fairly revolutionary.

Trial viticulture started in 2006, and the building was constructed in 2011, the same year the first vintage was produced. It’s apparently a co-op with around 120 shareholders.

It’s not a traditional-looking wine place, but then it’s not in a traditional wine growing area! The building and surrounds are a bit ramshackle and the rooms set out a bit haphazardly, and not well signed or organized inside. If we weren’t with Satoshi and Max we wouldn’t really know what was going on, but then if we weren’t with them we wouldn’t have even known about such a place.

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Us in front of winery building

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Vines labeled in Japanese and English

seibelbottleTasting is offered but isn’t well set out—just some open bottles on a table with small plastic glasses, sip-size.

But, that being said, the guy was very friendly when approached in his office to the side of the tasting area and this whole idea of wine here in Hokkaido is a relatively new venture. So, they are still in the process of learning how to do it. The terroir is totally different to, say, France or South Africa; the cultivars are different; and therefore the resulting wines are too.

The soil of the vineyard is clayey with a lot of gravel. He said that in the test field they are cultivating about 25 varieties of grapes, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

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Kerner grapes

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Riesling vines

The rows of vines outside are neatly labeled and it was fun to see those in such an awesome setting and all with English and Japanese names. We noticed some German cultivars (such as Kerner, Seibel, and Riesling) and some hybrids, so it’s still an experiment really. The owners are searching for new cultivars that work here and therefore produce a good local wine that reflects the terroir. In the vineyard there are not many vines though and some are yielding rather meager bunches. As I said, a whole new venture. It’s a small operation, but you don’t need many vines to make some wine.

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Sauvignon blanc grapes

meagreWe tried a couple of wines: they weren’t great (not unexpected, given the climate and soil) but the Portland white had a good flavor. This is a white cultivar that grows well in the US Great Lakes region too. They working on improving things and appear to be making some profit.

When Satoshi asked, the owner did have a pamphlet in English. We discovered that one of their wines is called Kanonz. The name comes from the name of the mountain, as another name for Hakkenzan is Kannon-iwayama. Kannon is the name of one of the Japanese Bosatsu (Buddhist deities). The wine is a blend of Seibel, Merlot and Riesling.

They also sell jams, sauces, sparkling water and a few curios.redgrapesEntrance and tasting are free.

It’s about 20km SW of Sapporo city and easily drivable.

www.hakkenzanwinery.com

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How’s that for a view!

Rustenberg—Gardens, a Labyrinth, and Wines

A Stunning Combo

Tranquil, beautiful, lush, green, pastoral are words that sprung to mind as we drove up, past pastures with cattle, small estate houses, and vineyards.

Rustenberg is a lovely wine estate in a really gorgeous setting up on a hill, overlooking vineyards, in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountains. It’s literally at the end of the road on one of the wine-route roads north out of Stellenbosch, but is well worth the drive.

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Gorgeous Cape-Dutch architecture

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Schoongezicht, the old Cape-Dutch homestead

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Part of the gardens

What do we find?—lots of pretty, white gabled Cape-Dutch buildings; an impressive, modern tasting room; and lovely gardens ringed with huge oak trees. The gardens have small ponds, a gazebo, flower beds, and the jewel—a labyrinth.

Founded in 1682, the estate has a long history and heritage. The Barlow family has owned it since 1941, and various generations have been very involved in all aspects of wine making there. (The Barlow family had made a fortune with an engineering supplies company established in the early 1900s, also buying and selling woolen goods and Caterpillar machinery, among other things. The company expanded into neighboring southern African countries too. The family had also owned Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West from 1941-1987, so were very involved with wine estates).

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pergola2The public Schoongezicht Garden, open every day, is next to the Cape Dutch homestead, Schoongezicht, which dates back to 1814. In 2001, Rozanne Barlow, wife of the current owner of Rustenberg Estate, decided to regenerate and restore the garden. She had walls constructed, and converted the 25-meter-long swimming pool into a lily pond, now home to many fish. The charming pergola, originally built by John X Merriman, is covered in climbing roses, clematis and other fragrant climbers. John X Merriman was a former owner of Rustenberg. He bought it in 1892 and helped to revitalize the estate and to promote tourism in this valley. One range of Rustenberg wines is called John X Merriman, in his honor.

The garden is essentially laid out in a formal style with four different areas linked by pathways, and because it’s so harmoniously done one doesn’t really realize that the garden is quite sizable—about a hectare. The garden is a plant-lover’s dream, best described as “English”, with roses, foxgloves, salvias, agapanthus, sedum, anemones, day lilies and many more. There is always something to catch the eye, no matter the season.

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A labyrinth is now part of the gardens

The surrounding landscape of vineyards, green pastures and the majestic Simonsberg labyrinthclosermountain backdrop all help to make this garden a magical place.

The garden is open to the public during the week from 09h30 – 16h30 and on Saturdays and Sundays until 15h00.

There’s also a private garden, the Rustenberg Garden, which is open once a year to the public on Rustenberg Day.

Making these gardens even more magical is the labyrinth.

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Outside the Tasting Room

As part of the garden make-over, Rozanne Barlow transformed the site where the old tennis court stood into an eleven-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth, laid out in half brick and river stone. Information boards explain the origin and symbolism of the French Chartres labyrinth. We walked a part of it and it is a contemplative experience. If we had more time (and no demanding kids!) it would be nice to try walking the whole thing.

After that it was fun to wander up to the tasting center to do wine tasting, which was great. The Tasting Room is in the old horse stables, which have been beautifully converted architecturally. We all thought it was a great wine-tasting experience. Our hostess lady was friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed chatting to her. The wines are world-class, from an excellent terroir—red clay-rich granite soils on a variety of slopes and elevations. No food is available here though.

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Tasting great Rustenberg wines

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An excellent rose wine

Wine tasting is R40 per person (waived if you buy some bottles). We did buy a bottle of Petit Verdot Rose (R75) to take back for dinner that night, and it was excellent. We also ordered some wines to be shipped back to USA, and you can also order them to be shipped to UK, I believe.

Wine Tasting and Sales open Mon-Fri 9-4:30, Sat 10-4 and Sunday 10-3. Every day, except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.

Where is it?

Lelie Road, Idas Valley, just north-east of Stellenbosch

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An unusual Rousanne wine

www.rustenberg.co.za

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Entrance to the cellar

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Wine tasting

Tasting and Eating at Lourensford Wine Estate is a Gourmet Experience

You can’t go wrong here

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is a lovely wine estate in so many ways; it’s easy to get to, has gorgeous views of the mountains, lovely white Cape-Dutch buildings, excellent wines and wine tasting, a snack shop, a very nice restaurant, a coffee shop and a weekend market.

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Lunch out on the patio

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The River Garden wine at lunch

Last year we did the wine tasting at Lourensford and then had lunch at their Millhouse Kitchen Restaurant, when we could sit outside, as it was warm and sunny. This year, we didn’t do the wine tasting because we had young children with us, who were clamoring for lunch! The Millhouse Kitchen Restaurant was great again, but we sat inside, as it was June (their winter) and the wind was a bit chilly.

The estate offers Wine Tasting and Wine Sales daily (except Christmas Day and Easter Friday) 9am-5pm. Winery Tours are by appointment only. You can taste at a counter in the Tasting Room in the cellar building complex or sit on the thick green lawns outside in the shade, next to the small water fountains. We opted for outside, and the young man was very happy to carry out the wines to a picnic bench for our party of 4.

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Enjoying wine tasting

I have to say that this was one of our most enjoyable wine tastings last year. For R40 per person, you can taste any 5 wines (that fee is waived with a wine purchase). We compared 2 sauvignon blancs, and tasted a viognier and 2 reds (a shiraz and a cab/merlot blend). The young guy was knowledgeable about the wines and the harvests and explained in detail, and the setting was/is superb. The wines are also excellent. He brought the wines out in the order we marked on our tasting sheets, changed glasses for the reds, and gave us two glasses to compare the sauvignon blancs. All very nice.

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2RARunchThe Millhouse Kitchen is run by chef Bjorn Guido, whose aim is “to create a neighbourhood feel where his guests can relax and enjoy each other’s company in the beautiful setting of the Lourensford Wine Estate.” I’d say that he succeeds admirably, as the ambience and décor are great, and the servers are all so friendly and relaxed that you do feel at home. The menu is inspired by French and Italian rustic cooking, with an emphasis on fresh pasta, bread and wood-fired pizzas.

Last year for lunch, Rod had a biltong pizza, with biltong, brie and preserved figs, which he pronounced amazing. So this year, he and Kev were hoping for that again, but sadly it wasn’t on the menu!

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2bigburger2platterWe tested the antipasti plank, the burger (huge) and a number of pizzas (all delicious). I had spinach, olives and sun-dried tomatoes pizza, and Joanna one with roasted butternut, but that one is not always on the menu, as it’s seasonal.

The house wines are the Lourensford River Garden range, which are very good too. A bottle of sauvignon blanc in the restaurant was R125 (at the exchange rate at the time, that was about US$8.50!). The same bottle to buy in the Tasting Room was R65 (about US$4.50!)2pizza

The Millhouse Restaurant is closed Mondays. Tues-Sat, Breakfast 8:30-10:30am; lunch 12 noon-3 pm; dinner 6:30pm-10pm. Sundays open 8:30-5pm (orders close at 3pm) A “light bites” menu is available for those in between hours.

 

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Lourensford Wine Estate, nicknamed “Jewel of the Cape Winelands

One of our favorite Wine Estates, and very accessible

Founded in 1700, this lovely estate lies just below the Helderberg Mountains on the

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Slave bell

outskirts of the town of Somerset West (but is listed under the Stellenbosch wine route). It was once part of Adriaan van der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate nearby, so it’s steeped in history and heritage but nowadays it also uses ultra-modern wine technology. One of the historical pieces is the old Slave Bell, used in the past to summon the slaves when needed.

 

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Saying hallo to a Cape buffalo

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A metal horse

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Vine art

Lourensford has extensive, beautifully-tended gardens and a number of whimsical outdoor sculptures (some made of metal, some of huge old vines), all with the backdrop of mountains. It’s gorgeously “Cape”—in fact, I’ve almost never seen other wine areas anywhere else in the world that look quite as lovely as this. Some are more dramatic (Switzerland), others vaster (France), others on rivers (France, Germany). Maybe it’s the combination of setting and the Cape-Dutch architecture—green nature and white buildings. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and a great place to relax, soak in the outdoors, enjoy a tasty meal and taste world-class wines.

Lourensford is a very large estate that offers a lot for the visitor. There’s the Tasting Room with a mini cellar tour; the Millhouse Restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a kids’ playground; a shop, a pottery shop, an art gallery and a coffee roasting company, which is a whole other tasting experience. Plus, there are trails and walks through the vines and up into the foothills (there are a couple of known leopards there)—in addition to rambling the Estate’s own gardens and emerald green lawns. They also cater for events—our nephew got married here and said the Estate people were pleasant to deal with.

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Coffee Roasting Company

coffeesignIt’s well worth a visit and we suggest you allocate many hours, as each part of the visit is very leisurely—don’t try to be in a rush.

Besides wine tasting, and eating in the restaurant (see next post), you should definitely visit the Coffee Roasting Company (open daily 9-5). They roast on site, giving the room that warm, smokey aroma of ground coffee. It sells coffee beans to go, as well as being a small café, with some pastries, and a few gift items, like teas, coffees, chocolates, preserves, a few souvenirs, and sometimes a lovely series of kids’ books called “In the Land of Kachoo”, about African animals.

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One family group

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Another family group

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Inside the Coffee Roasting Company

Many local people come to the Coffee Roasting Company just for the coffee, to buy bags of coffee specially roasted to go, or to sip and savor coffee in the sun under a vine trellis or other fruit trees. That’s what we did late one March, and it was a lovely outing for our multi-generational group. We did the same again this June.

There’s the Harvest Market on Sundays too.

The winelands have many markets and

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Lourensford hosts theirs on a Sunday from 9am to 3pm. It has a rustic setting at the edge of the lawns, where they’ve set up a set of wooden stands with a permanent roof structure, making it an all-weather market. You can find many different items—-from delicious foods like Lebanese hummus, to real Ginger Beer and fresh eggs, to colored glassware and aromatic coffees. Of course you can enjoy the Lourensford Wine, as well as the new Beer—ABRU—made on the premises by the Aleit Hospitality group. Come and relax and enjoy the live music and while away a Sunday in Somerset West.

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Coffee etc for sale

The estate is open daily and entrance into the grounds is free.

http://www.lourensford.co.za

 

 

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View to the Helderberg Mountains

View to the Helderberg Mountains

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASouth Africa: Lourensford Wine Estate, nicknamed “Jewel of the Cape Winelands”

Open daily

http://www.lourensford.co.za

Founded in 1700, this lovely estate lies in the fertile bowl of the Helderberg Mountains on the outskirts of the town of Somerset West (but is listed under the Stellenbosch wine route). It was once part of Adriaan van der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate nearby, so it’s steeped in history and heritage but has also espoused ultra-modern wine technology.

It’s another lovely estate with extensive, beautifully-tended gardens, all with the backdrop of mountains. So gorgeously “Cape”—in fact, I’ve almost never seen other wine areas anywhere else in the world that look quite as lovely as this. Some are more dramatic (Switzerland), others vaster (France). Maybe it’s the combination of setting and the Cape-Dutch architecture—green nature and white buildings. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and a great place to relax, soak in the outdoors, and enjoy world-class wines.

The old slave bell, from the days of the Cape Dutch traders

The old slave bell, from the days of the Cape Dutch traders

The Coffee Roasting Company

The Coffee Roasting Company

Lourensford is a very large estate that offers a lot for the visitor. There’s the Tasting Room with a mini cellar tour, plus the Millhouse Restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, a shop, a pottery shop, an art gallery and a coffee roasting company, which is a whole other tasting experience. Plus, there are trails and walks through the vines and up into the foothills—in addition to rambling the Estate’s own gardens and emerald green lawns. They also cater for events—our nephew got married here and said the Estate people were pleasant to deal with.

Well worth a visit and we suggest you allocate many hours, as each part of the visit is very leisurely—don’t try to be in a rush.

They take their coffee tasting seriously!

They take their coffee tasting seriously!

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Our multi-generational group enjoying coffee

Our multi-generational group enjoying coffee

Besides wine tasting, and eating in the restaurant (see an upcoming post), you should definitely visit the Coffee Roasting Company, open daily 9-5. They roast on site, giving the room that warm, smokey aroma of ground coffee. It sells coffee to go as well as being a small café, with some pastries, and a few gift items, like teas, coffees, chocolates, preserves, a few souvenirs, and lovely series of kids’ books called “In the Land of Kachoo”, about African animals. Many local people come here just for the coffee, to buy bags of coffee specially roasted to go, or to sip and savor coffee in the sun under a vine trellis or other fruit trees. That’s what we did late March, and it was a lovely outing for our multi-generational group.

The Art Gallery close to the Coffee Roasting Company is called Aleit & Is Art (the Aleit Hospitality Group makes a local beer on the premises—ABRU—which they sell at the Lourensford Market on Sundays).

The headless statue you see here is #3 (see below)

The headless statue you see here is #3 (see below)

Horse

Horse

In March the Gallery was hosting a special exhibition of outdoor sculptures, set up on the immaculate lawns. After enjoying our coffee we had fun walking around in the sun, identifying what the large outdoor figures were. They were all for sale, so maybe by now some lucky person can enjoy them at home or in another setting. The US $ and South Africa Rand exchange rate is roughly US$1=R11

Horse: “Let Loose”, by Florian Junge, R290,000 (roughly a bit less than $2900)

#1

#1

Number 1: “Indigenous”, by Marieke Prinsloo, cement, R76,900

#2

#2

Number 2: “Going and Staying”, by Pieter Robbetze, resin, R17,000

Number 3: I have called you by name, by Marieke Prinsloo, resin, R47,900

#4

#4

Number 4: “Elevation”, by Andre Stead, resin, R54,000

#4

#4

#5

#5

Number 5: “I want to be free”, by Uwe Pfaff, powder coated steel, R18,000

#5

#5

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