Calitzdorp Winter Festival

Calitzdorp Winter Festival

Last year I attended the Port Festival in Calitzdorp for the first time, and was blown away by the amazing experience, and decided that come hell or high water, I would attend again this year. So I managed to very easily sell the idea to some friends, and in the end, there were 7 of us who went to enjoy the weekend.

The programme for the weekend promised a lot of tastings, street parties, cocktail parties, organ recitals, you name it, they had it on offer. My dilemma was trying to fit in as many of the activities as possible without overlapping each other.

So I scrambled around trying and managed very well to make bookings for all the events that we wanted to attend

The first was an Afro Portuguese tasting at Boplaas that was presented by Chef Francois Ferreira, and assisted by the students of the Francois Ferreira Academy, a cookery school based in George. Francois spoke about the food and his inspiration behind the pairing of each dish with the 5 different course, each of which was tasted with a wine and a port. Carel Nel of Boplaas and his daughter Rozanne presented the wines and the ports. My favourite pairing was the Mealie Meal Flapjacks topped with Chorizo and Tomato, which was matched with the Touriga Nacional and Boplaas Cape Vintage. There were 40 privileged people at this tasting, and they could have easily scheduled a few more of the same, there were so many people wanting to attend.

After Boplaas, we wandered down the road to the Calitzdorp Station, where vendors had set up food stalls, with others selling dried fruits from the area, clothing, preserves etc. and there were even donkey rides for the kids. I was saddened to see that the station was not nearly as busy as last year, maybe because all the wine farms in the area that were offering tastings last year, were absent. This year, if you wanted to taste and buy all the wines, you had to drive to each wine farm. The Portuguese restaurant in town, Porto Deli, was holding port, wine and tapas tastings with the other smaller cellars, like Peter Bayly, Du Swaroo and TTT.

Next door to the station was De Krans, where we were attending Francois Ferreira’s  Tango of Tastes in the afternoon. On arrival, there were pink port cocktails on offer outside in the courtyard that were being mixed by De Krans winemaker, Louis van der Riet. We couldn’t resist buying them, and went and sat in the vineyard sipping on the cocktails in the warm sunshine.

We were soon ushered into the tasting room that was all set up with 4 different snacks to pair with a different wine and a port. Francois made a grand entrance into the room and tangoed around the wooden posts to great applause. He presented the wines paired with the different tastes, and we finished off with a dessert that was served by the students again. Without doubt the best pairing was the Melk Tert Brule served with De Krans MCC and their Pink Port.

Francois disappeared all of a sudden, and re appeared again dressed as a Zulu Princess, Nandi, and gave us another tango! It was really most entertaining, with the audience enthralled by his performance!

We relaxed for a while at De Krans, and over a bottle of their chenin blanc, we built up the energy to go to the next event, the cocktail party at Calitzdorp Cellars. You would have thought that by this time we had had sufficient food and wine!

On entering the cellar where the cocktail party was held, we were treated to the most magical experience. The cellar was lit up by hundreds of candles strategically placed to show off all the different artworks on display. At the entrance, we were offered a cocktail which was served with 2 different snacks, and about 20 feet further on, there were another cocktail with two more snacks. And so we walked on where we found different cocktails being paired with different snacks at different stops in the cellar, until we came to a large open area with a stage.  Andre Swiegers came on stage, where he provided entertainment to the select audience, but his music and songs were very sombre, and not in keeping with the mood of the occasion, so we left before he finished playing.

After the surfeit of food and wine we had indulged in all day, we decided to forego the street party and braai, and headed for our beds for the night. We drove 20kms out of town to Rietfontein Ostrich Palace, who boasts to be the oldest established ostrich farm in the world.

Our accommodation was in a beautifully converted farmhouse, equipped with some very elegant antique furniture, and was extremely comfortable and warm. Elmare and Kobus Potgieter, fifth generation owners, really make you feel very welcome and at home. The electric blankets and heaters provided in the bedrooms were particularly welcome at night when it was so cold.

Sunday morning dawned mild and sunny, and it was ideal weather for the Calitzdorp Cellars Brunch. As we arrived early in Calitzdorp, we decided to pop in at Axe Hill  Cellars for a port tasting, where we met Mike Neebe, the owner, cellermaster and winemaker. I particularly enjoyed his white port, with the lovely rich Cape Vintage coming a close second.

Back at Calitzdorp Cellars for the brunch, we were greeted with glasses of the newly released MCC from de Krans, made from an unusual blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and tinta barocca, the first time a tinta has been used in a South African MCC. We sat at long tables on the veranda of the tasting room, and the ladies from the NG Kerk had really excelled themselves with the huge array of food they served. They kept bringing huge platters to the tables, with at least 5 different snacks on each platter. All this food was washed down with wines provided by Boplaas and De Krans. We were entertained with live music, and the brunch turned out to be a very pleasant sojourn, so much so that we stayed until well into the afternoon.

By this stage we were all well and truly wined out, and strolled around the village for some exercise before driving back to Rietfontein. Declining any more food and wine, we all had an early night to dream of our very memorable weekend.


Impressive wines:

De Krans: Tritonia, an unusual blend of tinta barocca, tempranillo and touriga nacional

De Krans: Cape Pink and Cape Vintage Reserve

Boplaas: Cape Tawny and the Chocolate Cape Reserve and Cape Tawny Vintner’s Reserve

All the wines from Fledge and Co, made by Margaux Nel (winemaker at Boplaas) and Leon Coetzee

Peter Bayly: Cape White

Axe Hill: Cape White


BY THE WAY; From January 2012, South African producers can no longer use the term “Port” for any wine product made outside of Portugal, so we now use the names, Cape Tawny, Ruby, Vintage etc.

Thank you to our guest blogger – Denise Lindley of the Francois Ferreira Academy