Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our African Queen barge cruise along a river of wine

‘Pick something fabulous that you haven’t yet done in and around Cape Town and then we’ll do it together before you move to Europe,’ said my friend Susan. My first thought was a wine tasting day tour through the Hemel & Aarde (Heaven & Earth) valley in Hermanus. Or a barge cruise along the Klein River in Stanford.

Since Hermanus and Stanford are close enough together we decided to combine the two and soon got a nice festive crowd together. Gourmet coffee and deli snacks from the Hermanuspietersfontein weekend Food & Wine Market started our day right at the foot of the Hemel & Aarde valley. Once everyone was awake and ready, it was time to start our wine tasting. I quite liked the Hermanuspietersfontein Bordeaux-style Bloos, a blush wine with notes of berries and oak.

Yet, the best wines were to be found further up in the valley and we soon moved on to our favourites. The weather wasn’t exactly playing along, but we were determined to make great memories and earthy red wines from the Creation Winery soon warmed us up. With typically green rolling hills and sweeping valleys all lined with neat vines, the setting was as good as it gets. No wonder they allude to Eden when telling the story of the wine farm.

Next stop - and the highlight for me - was Ataraxia Wine Estate, with its chapel-style wine tasting room high up on a hill. Here we spent hours lingering and watching the dark clouds cast a beautiful light across the vineyards and fynbos. I bought a few bottles of Serenity 2008, a red blend made with a selection of undisclosed varietals, the winemaker’s secret in creating the perfectly balanced wine.

And so, armed with enough wine to water a small country, we made our way to Stanford to board the African Queen, for a sunset barge cruise along the Klein River. Susan had arranged a foodie feast and we soon lit both fireplaces on the barge, one to keep us warm and the other to have a braai, with steaks and boerewors, in true South African style.

Once the sun had set, it was quite cold and the wine was flowing freely. The guys all decided it would probably be warmer inside the water than out and so got rid of their kit and towed along the back of the barge holding on to tyres and tubes. Meanwhile us girls were dancing under the stars on the top deck of the barge.

Somehow we just didn’t want the good times to end and stopped at a pub in Stanford afterwards to make a good attempt at finishing all the wine in the Hermanus Winelands area. Sure, things got messy, but it was a day that I will never forget, shared with good friends who never fail to stick with me, rain or shine.

If you would like to arrange your own African Queen barge cruise in Stanford, contact Marlene on

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