Take Time to Toast to Life

Franschhoek & Stellenbosch, South Africa

Anyone who knows me knows that I love people. They also know that I love a good glass of wine. So, when our agenda listed a day-long tour of the Winelands region with a group of folks, it was an easy please in my book. Little did I know just how much bountiful beauty I was in for.

After boarding our bus on a misty morning in Cape Town, we headed north for what’s known as the “Huguenot Valley,” as this area was where the French Huguenots settled in the late 1600’s. The rain made it difficult to see the valley and Cape Dutch architecture at first, but once the weather lifted…Wow, what a place!

After a quick stop in the tourist town to peruse the shops, we made our way to the Boschendal Winery & Farm for a proper tour and tasting, followed by a stellar picnic lunch with a string quartet playing on the lawn. It was a true feast for the senses, and a lot for this girl to take in.

One of the things I loved most about the visit was learning about (and tasting) the Pinotage. This grape is specific to South Africa and was created by a professor in 1925 who decided to cross a pinot noir grape with a hermitage grape, which created earthy, fruity deliciousness. Thank you, doc! https://www.boschendal.com

One of the many wonderful perks of this trip is that I was accompanying a dear friend who plans excursions around the world, so site visits to amazing places along the way were a given. On the quick, we hopped off the bus to explore the Delaire Graff Estate. We had barely started up the hill, when a kind man in a an ATV-style golf cart appeared. We learned his name was Yilton, and he swiftly sped us past the actual tasting room and hotel, up into the vineyard itself. Pure magic! Before we knew it, we were perched high on the hilltop, overlooking the lush valley below (immediately agreeing we should plan a yoga retreat here). After soaking it all in, we proceeded to the stunning restaurant and tasting room. More kindness greeted us at the door and led us through a flight of delectable wines…which then led to the purchase of a few bottles of said delectable wines. This is just part of the process. https://www.delaire.co.za

What happened next, I could not have seen coming. My friend and I found ourselves in the valley with no cell signal and no way of calling for a taxi or Uber to get us to our destination — let alone to then get us back to Cape Town. So, what did we do? We flagged down our server (LeRoy) on his way off the property, and he was an angel to get us where we needed to go. Along the way we picked up two of his friends who had just finished their shifts at an area winery, and the five of us made our way through the countryside, listening to their choice of rap songs. I am eternally grateful for the kindness of these cheerful strangers.

Just after dusk, we arrived at yet another gorgeous location: Chef’s Warehouse at the Maison Estate. Every single detail— decor, service, vibe, wine, food—was so well done, it was utterly jaw-dropping. Having been in the service industry for much of my life, I always appreciate when people get it right. And to be met with such genuine warmth in a foreign land, was the greatest gift. After a seemingly endless tapas journey of delectableness, the very adorable (and talented) chef kindly called us a car to get us safely back to Cape Town. Off we went into the night, with a half case of wine and a bucketload of memories in tow. http://www.maisonestate.co.za/restaurant/

So, what is it about wine that I love so much? Much like the practice of yoga, I find that wine creates community — “sangha” in Sanskrit. It brings people together to enjoy it, yes, but it also takes a community to create it in the first place. Wine making is a true practice in cultivation, patience, and allowing. It is part vision, part science, part luck, and part love. Wine needs to breathe, and thus encourages us to do the same. To me, it is a celebration of living, as it heightens the senses and requires one to be both aware and present in order to fully experience all it has to offer. It’s just plain good for the soul.

As we know, this business of living can be tricky to navigate at times. So, l encourage you to take some time to slow down, gather together with friends, savor the moment, raise a glass of whatever you enjoy most, and toast to life!

Jamie Coffey