Sunday, September 25, 2016

Race against time

Any race normally spells pressure, compromises, tension, but above all complete focus on the task at hand. This all goes with the territory and when you’re on a tight wine tasting schedule with clients that flies in and out on the same day, you had better have your act together.

Actually it started four days earlier when the visit was confirmed. I felt up to the challenge as I’ve twice before arranged similar visits for a client from Shanghai with one even set up on a Sunday to visit five cellars the next day.

The day starts at two o’clock the morning when the rain wakes me. Dressed in my best and with my Navy rain coat I don’t feel the 14°Celsius outside. It’s perfect weather for tasting red wines, our mission for the day. Meeting Austin and Gwen 15 minutes after arriving, we move out in pelting rain, arriving at Cavalli 30 minutes behind schedule - miss-timing on my part. On top of that I lose the sole of my brand new leather shoe before we even step into this very classy complex.
arra barrel maturation cellar
Next stop is Arra and now we are 50 minutes late while I lose my second sole when stepping out into the mud. The smartly packaged cheese and mini-compotes help still the hunger of our guests. By the time we reach Slent the car looks like we’re doing the Dakar rally. Taking off our shoes the wooden floor is warm underneath, with a fire and several heaters creating comfort.  My first words to Michela are “We’ve only got 45 minutes.” Despite tasting through five wines and having lots of laughs about the antics of the baboons in the vineyards we move out on time, but not before Attilio gives me a bunch of his prized artichokes, freshly harvested.
artichokes & moon cookies
When we stop at Mont Rochelle for lunch with Dustin we’re only 15 minutes late. This is crucial as he has an executive meeting at three. So skipping everything we settle down at the table in front of a cosy fire, with rain coming down hard on the roof. At ten to three Dustin tells me "No, it's been cancelled." A really great atmosphere and finally we have time to relax. All of us are hungry and when Austin sees the braised brisket he mentions “We got up at four and this looks good.” It was!  
Mont Rochelle cellar
Our last stop is De Zoete Inval in Paarl which I only set up the night before. On the farm I stop next to a roofless house on a muddy dirt road and call Robert “Where’s your house?” “Turn back, it’s the big one that you passed first.” Immediately when he sees the state of my shoes he says, “Take them off, I’ll fix it just now.”  When a guy takes a big Leatherman out of his pocket you know he can fix anything. So while I present the Kudu biltong and dry wors that Robert puts in front of me, he gets to work on my shoes.
De Zoete Inval vines
Having clawed back to our original time schedule, the biggest challenge is yet to come – getting our guests onto the plane on time. Gwen is somewhat anxious, but we’ve been travelling against the traffic all day and I’m confident. There is still a small hurdle, the samples are packed, but the cartons need to be sealed and labelled. This happens at the airport after a super-fast journey on the N1. Seven minutes before the boarding gate opens they pass through security and my job is done.

Back home I don’t sit down else I’ll fall asleep. Almost in automatic mode I shower and jump into bed. This total focus on the job does come at a price though. Gwen tried her best to take photos while I was driving, but here I should have stopped.  En route from Franschhoek to Paarl we see the most amazing waterfall – it must’ve been 100m high with another one of 20m a little above that. Two long, thin white streams of water glistening white against the green mountain. A minute later we see the most incredible rainbow on the right, a widespread band of lights shimmering in the late afternoon sun against the mountain.

Photo credits:
Arra barrel maturation cellar, Gwen Huang
Artichokes & moon cookies, Anton Blignault
Mont Rochelle cellar, Gwen Huang
De Zoete Inval vines, Gwen Huang

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town