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A typical wine route sign

A typical wine route sign

Uva Mira

Uva Mira tasting room with Helderberg mountain behind

Uva Mira tasting room with Helderberg mountain behind—the winter season

Their catch phrase “A Celebration of Elevation”

The first time we went here, we’d never heard of this winery but it’s one of Anthea’s favorites and we can see why. In the Stellenbosch wine growing district, it’s in a gorgeous setting with stunning views of vineyards and mountains.

This boutique winery is situated at the end of the road, up on the slopes behind the Helderberg mountains. Unlike Blaauwklippen and some other wine estates, which have many activities besides wine tasting, you go there for the magnificent view—up to the mountains and down to the sea and the beaches. You go there to experience the highest wine estate and the highest vineyards in South Africa (although Delheim also claims to have the highest vineyards). You go there to experience the servers with their practiced humorous patter. And of course for the wonderful wines. They tend to be rather more expensive than some others, but the total experience is worth it. Their chardonnay is reputedly the best in the world!

Rod and Kev in the summer season

Rod and Kev in the summer season

It’s a very pleasant tasting room next to a cellar with huge oak barrels. The tasting room is all in wood, with an outside deck too and an enclosed sunroom with window ‘walls’. It’s decorated with huge vases of proteas, which they also grow (and sell) on the estate. The entrance steps are decorated with bird tiles, many roosters, a whimsical touch.

The altitude of the vineyards ranges from 420-620m (1,335-2,015 ft) above sea level, providing a cooler climate that helps to produce great wine in South Africa.

The tasting room manager is a South African Colored lady—Audrey Olckers— who is a real character with a story. She was a vineyard laborer and rose up the ranks to manager, due to her personality and ability to grasp and explain things, and after she was recommended by some German tourists when she stepped in to help the tasting room one day. Her story adds something extra to the whole tasting experience, as she explains all the wines and their characteristics to the visitors.

Relax, with a view

Relax, with a view

Audrey explains the wines at our recent tasting

Audrey explains the wines at our recent tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tasting the great wines

tasting the great wines

"What do you think of that one?"

“What do you think of that one?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bottlesThere are no real gardens for visitors to walk in and no café per se, although you can order a cheese plate or a meat platter.

We bought the sauvignon blanc 2012 for R75 (about $8.80 at the exchange rate then) and found it excellent; and Joanna bought the Uva Mira special blended red. It was R200 ($23.50) on the estate but she really liked it at the tasting and decided to buy it. It was good, I must admit, but way over our usual price range.

R40 pp to taste (about $4.70).

Located off Annandale Road, off R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. It’s at the end of the road, past a number of other wineries, such as Ernie Els and Guardian Peak.

Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm

www.uvamira.co.za

Beautiful any time of year

Beautiful any time of year

What a view---of vines on a steep slope with the Helderberg behind

What a view—of vines on a steep slope with the Helderberg behind

Whimsical tiles on the entrance steps

Whimsical tiles on the entrance steps

 

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A Stellenbosch Wine Route sign

A Stellenbosch Wine Route sign

View from Kanonkop Estate

View from Kanonkop Estate

Vines at Bilton Estate in winter

Vines at Bilton Estate in winter

Cape Wines

When in the western Cape you pretty much have to drink wine—there’s such a variety, choice, and selection, and almost everywhere you drive you’ll be in or near vineyards. Not far out of the city of Cape Town on your way to the wine towns of Stellenbosch or Paarl or Franschhoek you’ll soon get to miles and miles of rolling vineyards with a backdrop of impressive mountains.

If you’re lucky you can visit some of the wine estates to taste and buy wine there, but all the supermarkets and liquor stores carry a good range too. Generally, prices seemed quite good to us. Here are a few examples from our very recent trip (the exchange rate is roughly $1=R8.5):

Alto Rouge 2010, R64.95; Blaauwklippen Shiraz 2010, R62; Uva Mira Sauvignon Blanc 2012, R75; KWV Sauvignon Blanc 2012, R49.95; Beyerskloof Pinotage 2011, R59.95; and Roodberg 2011, R84.99.

Doing part of the wine route is a really fun activity and does reflect a way of life in this part of the world—you get to see some of the

Vergelegen Estate has lovely buildings in the Cape-Dutch architecture style

Vergelegen Estate has lovely buildings in the Cape-Dutch architecture style

gorgeous Cape countryside in addition to visiting some of the estates, many with pretty gardens or parks, many in lovely old Cape Dutch buildings. But, how to pick which ones to visit? There are just way too many to even contemplate visiting them all, plus wine tasting is a very personal experience. But, from our experiences, basically all the estates are great and you won’t go wrong with whichever ones you choose.

I’d suggest first getting a copy of the brochure “Stellenbosch and its Wine Routes”, plus the brochure for Paarl, “the little black book of Paarl.” Check out the small description of each place—hours, what they offer etc—plus locate them on the very clear maps, so you can plan to visit places that are close to each other. It also depends on where you’re staying—we were based in Somerset West, so getting to both the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine areas was very easy. You can also get information online, but the booklets are probably easier to carry around. Good sites: www.paarlonline.com (but they don’t cover all the wineries), and www.wineroute.co.za for Stellenbosch and its surrounding areas.

A big family lunch inside Fairview Estate's restaurant

A big family lunch inside Fairview Estate’s restaurant

Many estates have cafes or restaurants, so doing lunch at one is also a nice option. Many also have animals and activities for kids and/or a playground, which is useful if there’s a little one in your party (there was for us this last time). Many also have markets on certain days of the week, such as at Blaauwklippen on Sundays 10am-3pm; at Heathersage and Lourensford on Sundays once a month (different Sundays).

Note that you have to pay for tasting but it’s not a lot and it’s well worth it.

Some of our favorites are Blaauwklippen, Fairview, Delheim, Muratie, Uva

Checking out the animals at Blaauwklippen Estate

Checking out the animals at Blaauwklippen Estate

Mira, Morgenster, Vergelegen, Laborie and Bilton. Why? The wines are superb, the settings lovely and most of them have a place to eat and pretty gardens. You can picnic in most of them, if you buy the picnic food from the estate, but Muratie and Laborie allow you to bring your own picnic food. We used to like Spier a lot, but lately it seems to have become rather more touristy and that special atmosphere is not there for us any more (but the wines are still great).

Any time of year is good to visit, but the warmer months are probably best as you can sit outside and enjoy the gardens and superb views of vineyards and mountains.

Some of the excellent wines at Muratie Estate

Some of the excellent wines at Muratie Estate

Later I’ll describe some of our favorite estates in more detail. Till then, enjoy any South African wine that you are lucky enough to find.

Tasting wines at Delheim Estate

Tasting wines at Delheim Estate

Vines at Uva Mira Estate in winter---it's the highest (in altitude) estate in South Africa

Vines at Uva Mira Estate in winter—it’s the highest (in altitude) estate in South Africa

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