Next Stop: South Africa’s Hermanus, a laid-back, and popular coastal resort.
The Cape Coast – Hermanus and the “Hemel en Aarde” Wine Valley
Hermanus is an hour and a half east of Cape Town on Walker Bay. Perhaps most famous for the annual arrival of the Southern Right Whales to Walker Bay for their calving and mating season at the end of September. The village itself overlooks a rocky coastline walk along its well-maintained “Cliff Walk” for superb views of the sea and its tides, as well as some gentle exercise. You can head eastwards for some 5 kilometres before the southwards bend of the bay leads to a series of sandy coves and lengthy beaches, remarkably unpopulated while we were there.
We took a number of delightful walks along the cliffs with their ever-changing views of the sea crashing against the rocks and the wide panoply of the waves flowing in and out of the sandy coves.
The rewards at the end of our hikes would be delicious seafood meals at one of the many excellent restaurants of the area, or an aperitif at The Marine, the doyen of Hermanus hotels. The most notable restaurants included “Dutchie” at Grotto Beach, to which we returned more than once for their line fishes grilled to perfection and their outdoor tables under umbrellas at the beach.
Nearby, “Burgundy” sits atop the cliffs in one of the oldest buildings in the village, with an outdoor terrace under umbrellas that allows sea vistas as satisfying as the food. This is a lively spot, where people come to see and be seen. The name is a reminder of the Hamilton Russell family’s determination to plant Pinot Noir vines in the nearby valley.
That valley, called “Hemel en Aarde” (“Heaven and Earth”), is the southern-most wine producing area of the African continent, and has become the home of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the Cape. Tim Hamilton Russell and Peter Finlayson were the pioneers, with renowned Burgundy négociant, Bouchard Pére et Fils, showing it’s approval by investing in the latter. The valley is now home to a dozen excellent producers, and well worth a morning of wine-tasting.
Hamilton Russell produce wines from a number of parcels of their estate under different names. None are disappointing, but there is no doubting the superiority of their flagship brand, although the tasting facilities were surprisingly modest. That adjective does not apply to the nearby sophisticated and extensive tasting cellar at Bouchard Finlayson, in which the Tollman family are now invested.
We also visited the Newton Johnson winery, a rising star, with its superb views over the Valley and towards the mountains of Betty’s Bay. With some time constraints, we missed visiting the Creation Winery further up the valley, yet another excellent producer.
Unlike the big city of Cape Town, Hermanus appears not to have much of a water problem, having accessed underground sources many years ago.
The advantage of farsighted municipal planners!
If you missed our summaries from the beginning of our tour, see our last posts:
Part 1: Commendable Travels in the Cape
Part 2: Commendable Travel Tour to South Africa’s Wine Region
Check back as we continue our tour update. Next Up – Zululand.
And next year, a Commendable Travel tour to Namibia, Cape Town and the Kalahari.