584 Million years ago, give or take a year, an enormous surge of molten rock originating in the Earth’s mantle pushed its way towards the surface, where it settled, cooled, and solidified. As the millennia passed, this bulbous intrusion of igneous rock slowly but surely became exposed to open air by uplift and erosion. Today, we see this enormous igneous batholith as Paarl or “Pearl” Rock, named for its rounded shape, whitish colour due to its content of quartz and feldspar, and glittery lustre, caused by the reflection of sunlight off its constituent crystals of feldspar and mica.
Since the settlement of the town of Paarl, Paarl Rock has become its sentry and symbol, and so it’s only fitting that it takes centre stage (literally) at the annual Ommiberg “Around the Rock” festival, which features the surrounding vineyards’ rich offerings. The festival has become an enormously popular, family-friendly celebration of the annual harvest season and the diverse wines produced by the wine estates on the foothills of Paarl Rock. And it’s this region’s varied yet favourable geology, soils, and microclimate to which Paarl’s vineyards owe their fabulous wines!
The Paarl Ommiberg festival kicks off in spectacular style on Saturday, 3rd March 2018 but just to give us a taste of what we can look forward to on the day, we were treated to a special preview!
Grape stomping at Mellasat Wines
Our preview of the Paarl Ommiberg festival began in the morning at Mellasat Wines, where we were greeted with a gorgeous spread of delicious breakfast bites, coffee, and juice. After a decent graze to line the stomachs, we were taken to the cellars, in front of which had been placed a large vat filled with slushy, fermenting red grapes. The first activity – and one that Mellasat will be offering on the day of the Ommiberg festival – was grape stomping. One by one, we stepped into the vat and experienced the sensation of warm, fermenting grapes squelching between our toes – a delightful gooey mess that appealed directly to the inner child.
After that, and with feet rinsed off, we made our way into the coolness of the cellars, where we had a barrel tasting of Mellasat’s very young wines (perhaps too young to be called wine) and a brief lesson on the organic chemistry that goes into their creation by owner-winemaker Stephen Richardson. These two activities, plus on-the-go gourmet breakfasts and lunches, cellar tours, wine tasting, live music, a jumping castle for the kids, and “vino therapy” foot massages (salt rubs and fermented grape skins) are just some of the things Ommiberg festival-goers can look forward to.
What’s most exciting about Mellasat – in our opinion – is its dabbling in lesser-known varietals in South Africa, such as Tempranillo (a full-bodied red wine hailing from Spain) and its innovation of brand new wines! Mellasat is the originator and Stephan Richardson the alchemist of the world’s very first white pinotage: a rich, creamy, and nutty white wine with tropical fruit and banana flavours.
Mellasat is just one of several wine estates that will be participating in the Paarl Ommiberg festival, the others being Boland Cellar, Domaine Brahms, Perdeberg, Rhebokskloof, Ridgeback, Windmeul Cellar, and Landskroon, the lattermost of which just happened to be the next stop on our action-packed preview!
Contact Mellasat: 021 862 4525, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wine and food pairing at Landskroon
Located on the southwestern slopes of Paarl Rock, and from the vantage point of their pretty Bougainvillea framed terrace, Landskroon has a spectacular view onto farmlands, vineyards, a dam, and green fields occupied by horses and the odd Egyptian goose. This 200-hectare wine estate has been operating since 1692 and, today, crafts a fabulous variety of wines, as well as an award-winning port, or Cape Tawny / Cape Ruby as it is now called.
Landskroon also has a self-catering guesthouse (book now if you want to snatch it up before Ommiberg) and, on the day of the festival, will be offering guests cellar tours, wine tastings, picnics on the lawn, live music, grape stomping, a 10% discount on wine purchases of six or more bottles, and wine and food pairings. It was the latter to which we were treated during our Ommiberg preview, Landskroon’s Heritage tasting to be precise, which featured a flight of six wines (from Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz), each paired with a tasty food morsel of cheese, olives, droëwors, Turkish delight, and more.
Contact Landskroon: 021 863 1039, email@example.com
Grape harvesting at Windmeul Wines
While we may have spent the day enjoying the food, wine tastings, and exciting activities, it is harvest season and, at Windmeul Wines, we finally paid attention to some of the ceaseless activity going on. We watched as great loads of freshly picked grapes were hauled to the cellar and dumped into a sorting/crushing chute, where they would be turned into sweet, slushy grape juice, thereby beginning their journey to becoming delicious wine.
We were also taken on a tour of Windmeul’s cellars, where enormous chilled stainless steel tanks towered over us. Being right in the thick of harvest season, the smell was a heady mix of sweet and fermenting grapes – entirely inoffensive to the avid wine-drinker! We then sampled grape “must” or “mos” (sweet grape juice that’s just beginning to ferment and so has a slightly fizzy quality) straight out of a giant vat. Afterwards, we tried a few of their wines, the Reserve Chardonnay and Reserve Shiraz being absolutely exquisite and reasonably priced too!
Contact Windmeul Wines: 021 869 8100, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lunch and grape games at Toeka Stoor, Domaine Brahms
The final stop on our Paarl Ommiberg visit was the charming Toeka Stoor at Domaine Brahms, the latter of which was named after the classical composer. The wine estate itself is private and arrangements for tastings need to be made beforehand; however, Toeka Stoor, the restaurant and fabulous museum/private collection of car antiquities, road signs, bicycles, trinkets, and historic items, is open to the public.
It was here that we enjoyed the estate’s Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, played a relay game whilst balancing a glass of wine on a tray, and then mowed our way through a gorgeous fruit and cheese platter. At Ommiberg, this beautiful and special place will be opening its doors to festivalgoers for wine tastings, fun games, food, face painting, tractor rides, and more. Music will be provided by Bok Radio and they will be selling their wines at discounted prices.
Contact Domaine Brahms: 021 869 8570, Brahms1@iafrica.com
Get your tickets today
If our preview of Paarl Ommiberg was anything to go by, 2018 not only holds the possibility of a good festival, but a promise. With beautiful wines and food, live music entertainment, games and fun activities for the whole family, there’s no other place you should be in Cape Town on the weekend of the 3rd March, to celebrate the harvest that brings us the wine we absolutely adore.
Entry to Ommiberg is R150.00 per adult and includes access to all venues, a stylish tasting glass, tasting coupons, and free participation of events. Kids under 18 accompanied by an adult enter for free.
For more information: www.ommiberg.co.za