Every October, The Homestead dam is surrounded by a flurry of activity from a returning population of weaver birds. The male weaver birds build nests on the reeds, and the date palm. These specific locations allow them to hang the nests over the water, protecting the eggs and the young hatchlings from predators (specifically the Cape cobra, and the Cape grey mongoose we occasionally find on the farm). The female weavers often reject half a dozen nests before their partner gets it right! Now and again, you can see a discarded nest lying in the water. Despite this rigorous quality-checking process, the males continue, undeterred. Watch the TeleView below, to see them in action.
The weavers create a good analogy for life on the farm in October. We have been frantically busy – not just in the vineyards, dealing with the rapid growth that the warming weather brings – but also with finishing The Tasting Room, the gardens, the road, and the winery (readying ourselves for bottling the 2020 red wines).
With every building project, there is always that mad scramble towards the end, to finish things on time, and at the right level of quality. In the final few weeks of The Tasting Room project, we hosted our tastings at The Homestead. From conversations with many of the guests who visited, it was clear they enjoyed the setting. For us, it was an excellent opportunity to meet people from all corners of the world. Hallelujah! It seems the fog of Covid is finally lifting, and people are travelling again.
With much excitement, we have now (re)opened The Tasting Room at Oldenburg Vineyards. Vanessa and I spent a bit of time during the month walking around Rondekop discussing the name for the tasting room, eventually settling on – simply – The Tasting Room! Our ambition has always been to create an extraordinary tasting experience, and we feel we are well on our way to achieving this. In November, The Tasting Room celebrates its 10th anniversary – and I think it is fair to say we have travelled many miles in that time.
We have not changed that much, but at the same time, we have changed everything. The old stoep is now completely enclosed in glass: ceiling, doors and windows. No longer will the wind blow the Zalto glasses over, or the rain dampen your experience. Winters will be warmer as well. I may be biased, but I do believe it is spectacular!
Stefan, our Head Sommelier, has also been adding depth to the team structure. We have been joined by George and Petronella, who will take on the roles of Somm and Junior Somm, respectively. During Covid, Stefan and the team have been busy working on the many different wine tastings we now offer. I am confident they will make a visit to the farm a delightful one. Reminder: bookings are essential.
During the month, we tasted the 2020 Bordeaux varietal red wines before they were bottled. The vintage was a great one, so our expectations were high. Nic shared with us his shortlist of contender blends for the 2020 Rondekop Rhodium; all were excellent. The 2020 Rondekop Per Se also looks like something genuinely exceptional, which is exciting. Nic has indeed been working his magic – expectations exceeded!
In the vineyards, Christo is also hitting his stride. He showed us a snippet of the detail he goes into with canopy management. To have an even canopy, he nips off about 1 mm of the faster-growing shoots, which allows the slower ones to catch up – a barely perceptible intervention, but one he believes will deliver a tangible difference at harvest time. The result will be that each shoot on each vine will be closer in length, creating more homogeneity in the grapes. This is one (of many) steps to create balance; an essential factor in our wines. He told me an old saying: the difference between a good farmer and a great farmer is – one week! It is not just about getting the detail right; it is about getting the timing of the detail right!
I am sure that, as we head into November, the whirlwind of activity on the farm will settle down to a less frantic level. We are all excited to see more feet on the farm as travellers return. The Tasting Room is the nexus between the farm, the vineyards, our wines, and our customers, and we are all looking forward to welcoming new visitors or returning guests to our home and our journey.