There are few things I love as much as writing, wine and taking the road less traveled.
I live in Mossel Bay, in the Garden Route of South Africa. This not-so-little-town has quite a bit to offer, but that is not what this article is going to be about. I’ll leave that for another day. Today I want so share the first of four hidden gems (of the wine-kind) with you – all of which are about 45 minutes, to an hour’s drive away.
South Africa is well known for its export quality wines, all of which are found in the greater Western Cape area. The wineries I will be writing about are are a lot smaller, which in turn makes them more charming, inviting, and casually intimate.
A Hidden Wine-Tasting Gem
The first one is Jakkalsvlei, which is a little off the track, but aren’t the best places always?
Directly translated, Jakkalsvlei means Jackal’s Marsh. It is situated just outside the little farming community of Herbertsdale. The tarred road is well sign boarded, although there isn’t much to see in the line of scenery. You’ll pass by Gondwana, a locally-owned game reserve, so you may spot an Impala, Springbok or if you’re really lucky, a giraffe. A word of caution – always take a hat and sunscreen, and something warm, because the weather may end up being entirely the opposite of what it is in Mossel Bay as the farm is a little more inland.
Nestled at the foot of the mountain, you will find the tasting room which has the look and feel of its bigger counterparts in the Boland, Constantia and Stellenbosch, the atmosphere is not at all pretentious. My experience at some of the more well-known tasting rooms has been almost-awkward, as if I may be rapped over the knuckles for possibly sneezing unexpectedly, or heaven forbid, talking at a decibel level above a whisper. No, at Jakkalsvlei, the mood is relaxed, comfortable and easy-going – so much so, that even the winemaker, Jantjie Jonker, may be seen donning shorts and a T-shirt, animatedly chatting to the visitors.
What are the Costs Involved?
There is a small selection of wines to sample and the charge is ZAR 30 (about US $2.10) per person. Add to that a lunch, averaging about ZAR 120 ($8.75) and you’re pretty much set for an enjoyable experience. An added bonus about Jakkalsvlei is that it has a huge lawn, where the little ones can play – tag, or catch, or fetch with the lovable dogs owned by Jantjie, Fifa (a gentle-hearted Staffodshire Terrier) and Google (a Border Collie with boundless reserves of energy) – while their parents enjoy each other’s company, and a meal on the umbrella-covered deck.
Wine Tasting: The Wines on Offer
The tasting is kicked off with their Sauvignon Blanc, which for my palette is a little too acidic, but the fruity nose is evident. The River Cuvee, a blend of the Sauvingnon Blanc and Chenin Blanc is crisp and refreshing – a wine I could recommend with chicken or salads. The only Rosé available at this winery is the La Perlé, a blend of Pinotage and Red Muscadel, which is jazzed up with a bit of CO2 gas to give it a bit of a sparkle. It is not sweet, as one would expect it to be. I enjoy a glass as a summer sundowner. On to the warmer, more full-bodied wines, the reds.
The Cabernet Sauvignon is gently robust – quite easy-drinking. It is recommended that this wine be paired with lamb or oxtail. This is followed by the slightly drier coffee-Pinotage. It is smoky, sensual and would be a sublime match with a medium-rare rump steak and roasted vegetables. To finish off the tasting, there are two dessert wines on offer – the white, Hanepoot, which is a golden yellow ray of sunshine in your throat and the red, Muscadel, which is smoother than its predecessor and less saccharine. Both of these dessert wines would do well to ward off the winter chill and would complement a cheese platter.
For those patrons not looking to drink wine, there is a varied amount of non-alcoholic drinks available to order, as well as their own craft beer, The Jackal. The latter is a honey coloured, non-too-bitter, thirst quencher. It is best served ice-cold, something which is a challenge on the very hot summer’s days.
Hungry? Food, Glorious Food!
To food selection leans towards all budgets – either build your own pizza, with an array of toppings from which to choose, such as the run-of-the-mill-conventional meats and mozzarella, to blue cheese, preserved figs and peppadews. If pizza is not your thing, enjoy a cheese platter, which you too can build yourself, or order one of the daily board specials, like snoek, or the trio of soups. For those of you who enjoy a salad, you can’t afford not to try the roasted vegetable salad.
What Else is There to Do at Jakkalsvlei?
For those of you wanting to spend a little more time surrounded by the vineyards, mountains and fresh air, book a ticket for one of the events Jakkalsvlei has on offer, such as their summer concerts or a food and wine pairing. These events sell out quickly, so be sure to get yours as soon as they’re available. The best way to keep in touch with the farm and upcoming occasions is to follow them on Facebook.
For those of you looking to enjoy a bit of the scenery, take a walk around the tasting room to the dam, or if it’s that time of the year, bring your scissors and your basket at pick your own grapes. If you’re a little more adrenaline-fueled, bring your mountain bike and head out on the single trail and view the farm from the comfort of your saddle.
The tasting room is open from 10:00 to 16:00 daily, Mondays to Sundays. Come for an hour or come for the day – either way, you’re going to be glad you did. Jakkalsvlei doesn’t just offer wine-tasting and a meal, it offers you time with friends and family to make memories – and that, my dear readers, is worth more than any amount of money could buy.