* This artilce originally appeared here on Food24
This historical town is bursting with character and history, always ready to charm any of her visitors. In 1969 a sizable earthquake devastated the area and now 50 years later the campaign ‘Tulbagh Remembers’ pays tribute to that which was lost, but also what has achieved since. I decided the best way to get a taste of the town was to stay at a heritage hotel visit three of the local wine farms.
As Nieuwekloof Pass takes its scenic twists and turns, Cape Town and the Swartland are left behind and the Boland welcomes you with open arms – or rather open vines. Lemberg is one of the first wine farms that greets you in the Tulbagh Valley. Henk and Suzette are the third-generation owners with the farm being theirs since 2007. Suzette talks modesty about the “privilege of being part of nature. You don’t own the land, it owns you. It’s a love affair with the soil.”
The fruit of this love affair is a range of truly impressive wines, all hand-crafted and beautiful expressions of both cultivar and terroir. Their Pinot Noir is a prominent and surprising contester for this warmer climate, with a delicate fruitiness, subtle earthiness and notes of dark cherry and cocoa. Spencer is their Pinotage and is bursting with juicy fruit and a soft spicy underpinning – the perfect balance on palate.
In my opinion the showstopper is the Hárslevelű, a Hungarian varietal rare in South Africa. A rich and bold white wine that is a slightly perfumed with an herbaceous leaning. Lemberg’s offering has earned Suzette the unofficial title the ‘Hárslevelű queen’ and not without merit: the 2014 vintage scored a 95 from Tim Atkins.
The tasting room offers an intimate experience at this boutique winery. You’ll also likely be greeted by the adorable bulldogs, after which several of the wines are names. R50 will get you a tasting of the full range. Be sure to take home some wine and when it’s time to restock you’ll be pleased to know that deliveries from the farms are free of charge. Visit Lemberg online hereand consider joining their mailing list to be kept up to date.
Now take a drive through the scenic Church Street, and then a little further out of town, and tucked away in the in the Winterhoek Valley is Theuniskraal. This historical property is in fact South Africa’s very first white-wine estate. The internationally admired farm is now third generation family run and continues to produce the fine wine it did in the 1940’s when exporting began.
The pin oak avenue leading into the farm provides a rather scenic welcome to the estate – the last in the Tulbagh Valley before Winterhoek mountains converge, providing a dramatic backdrop. Imaging the mountains proudly wearing their winter snow-coat had me already planning a return journey in winter.
Theuniskraal produces quality and accessible wines and is most well-known for its Cape Riesling. They’re celebrating 71 years of Riesling with the first vintage in 1948. It’s dry with notes of green apple and a gentle floral component. I equally loved the unusual but attractive Semillon and Chardonnay blend with its touches of stone fruit and lovely length of flavour. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is a fruit-forward with gentle approach that doesn’t punch you in the palate. Light but certainly not lightweight.
Tastings cost a mere R10 and none of the wines cost more than R60, so if you’re needing to stock up on some easy drinking and unpretentious wines look no further than Theuniskraal. In the tasting room you’ll also discover some of the other products made on the farm: tinned fruit honey, olives and grape jam. You must however, go home with a tin or two of their trendy olive oils to adorn your kitchen – the designs are enthralling and make for great gifts. More information is available here.
Krone MCC has for decades been synonymous with South African celebrations. For the first time I visited the brand home in Tulbagh to refamiliarize myself with their family of bubblies. On the Twee Jonge Gezellen farm you’ll find a beautiful complex of white-washed buildings sprawled across the celebrated property – one of the country’s biggest bubbly producers.
The farm is the biggest producer of vintage MCCin South Africa- the decision to produce vintage wines is an intentional winemaking choice, allowing each vintage to be able to tell a story of the year. Added to the distinctive terroir of the region is the fact that the grapes are mostly night harvested, to ensure highest quality of the juice.
The farm produces one still wine, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and is a great summer wine true to varietals used in their MCC. The Borealis Cuvée Brut is a sure crowd-pleaser – Chardonnay driven with citrus and mineral notes on the palate. The Night Nectars are the increasingly popular semi-sweet MCCs, and also keep an eye out for the elusive Krone R.D – a MCC that spent an unbelievable 15 years on the lees.
Enjoy your meander through the minimalist buildings and eventually land up at the elevated tasting room. You can also purchase a bottle and enjoy it in the serene garden setting downstairs. When you’ve finished your tasting MCCs amble up the property and absorb some of the art at the on-site gallery, a partnership with WHATIFTHEWORLD in Cape Town, or simply take some time to admire the lush gardens. It’s a brand home as beautiful as the bubbly it produces, and I’ll undoubtedly be back. Visit Krone online here.
Where to Stay: The Tulbagh Hotel
If you’re looking for a comfortable stay in a Tulbagh, look no further than The Tulbagh Boutique Heritage Hotel established in 1859. Most rooms, including the restaurant and wine bar, are located in the main hotel building but a few of the suites are located in heritage buildings on the famed Church Street itself.
I was lucky to call the gorgeous honeymoon suite home: an expansive space set over several levels. Starting with a lounge that opens onto Church street and features a fireplace, moving up to the four-post bed with a view and then the bathroom spaces – including a fireplace alongside the bath!
Six Fynbos rooms, four Protea rooms and three suites are available from R750 to R1200pp for bed and breakfast. The hotel’s Olive Terrace Restaurant is a bustling diner, offering superb meals at equally great prices. Find more online hereand be sure to look out for the winter specials.