FOUR public holidays, three short weeks – so much free time to fill. Here’s an idea for next Wednesday: the May Day Meander at Allée Bleue Estate just outside Franschhoek.
Allée Bleue – so named for the avenue of blue gum trees that leads you from the entrance to the tasting room – produces a range of award-winning wines. Fruit is also grown on the farms, as well as olives, and a variety of herbs which supply huge retail chains. On May 1, you’re invited to explore and experience “behind-the-scenes” farming activities, followed by wine tasting or a picnic.
Stations will be set up at several relevant points around the farm, where you’ll meet the experts who will tell you more about all the different things cultivated here. You’ll be able to taste and sample at each stop as well. Beginning at 10am with a welcome drink, how long the semi self-guided meander takes is entirely up to you, but you’re encouraged to round up all your friends and family, and to dress with a touch of red. The idea is that you’ll be able to see the next stop from wherever you are, so it’s unlikely you’ll get lost.
When you circle back to the tasting room, you have a couple of meal options available. The tasting room serves a cheese and charcuterie platter, which is ideal for sharing if you’re not that hungry. Alternatively, pre-order a gourmet “Chicnic” basket, or a pared down Picnic-On-The-Go basket. The former is served at tables under the oak trees, while the latter can be enjoyed anywhere on the lawns surrounding the tasting room, or even in the Palm Garden. You’re welcome to bring your own blankets, or camping chairs.
We stayed over at Allée Bleue last week, and were treated to several experiences the farm offers. First it was the new herb and wine pairing, which is available by appointment only, in which five wines are paired with five jars of herb-based creations served with freshly baked bread, making it quite a substantial tasting.
First up is the entry level Starlette Blanc, 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chenin. It’s light, fresh and fruity and paired with parsley and pickled onion to pick up on those notes. The 2018 Chenin spends six months in French oak, and has hints of vanilla and nuts, and a zing of citrus. It’s paired with thyme, garlic and lemon.
The flagship Isabeau 2015 was our favourite wine, with its butterscotch, toffee and cinnamon characteristics in a blend of 66% Chardonnay, 33% Semillon, and a splash of Viognier. It’s at its peak, ready to buy and drink right now, which is wonderful instant gratification. Isabeau – which is named for the ghost of the farm, who lived there about 200 years ago and met a messy end when she went horse riding after drinking too much wine – is matched with ginger and coriander pesto.
The fourth wine is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend with a tiny bit of Petit Verdot, which spends 14 months in the barrel. The Bordeaux-style wine is herbaceous with plenty of red fruit, and sports an impressive array of award stickers. It’s paired with rosemary, olive, chilli and sage. Last but not least is the award-winning 2016 Pinotage, which goes with basil and ripe tomato. Apparently this wine can still sit for up to another 14 years – if you can wait that long to drink it.
Later, we tucked into the delights of a picnic basket for two, a combination of vegetarian and non-vegetarian. It was almost more than we could handle after having one of those cheese and charcuterie platters after the herb pairing, but we did our best.
Produce from the farm is used extensively: basil pesto (which I loved poured all over my salad, presented in a jar and already dressed with a Cab/Merlot reduction), olive tapenade, aniseed onion marmalade, chilli tomato chutney…all these marry delectably with the selection of cheeses and cold meats, olives and creamy yoghurt balls. My friend’s veggie platter included artichokes, marinated baby marrows, and hummus, and we each had a mini baguette still warm from the oven, plenty of butter, and a hot pie each. Wait – there were also wraps; mine had roast beef with herbed tomato, red onion salsa and spicy mayo. The vegetarian one was smoked feta, chick pea and tomato with a Peppadew relish.
For dessert there was lemon posset with chocolate mint cookie crumble.
Children’s baskets are also available, and there’s a jumping castle to keep them occupied with all their energy.
* The May Day Meander costs between R175 and R335 per adult, depending on the lunch option chosen, and R105 per child. The walk is suitable for everyone and a low level of fitness is required, but it is unfortunately not wheelchair-accessible. as some areas of the route are uneven due to farming activities.
The theme is red and fun prizes will be awarded to the best dressed guests. Guests can also look forward to a post-meander lucky draw. Bookings and pre-payments are essential to confirm your spot. Contact Nadia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bookings close 48 hours before the event.
Allée Bleue is at the intersection of the R45 and R310. More information about this picturesque working farm is available at www.alleebleue.com, or follow on Twitter and Instagram: @AlleeBleue.
By Bianca Coleman