Stellenbosch - Wine Tour

We set off early on a Friday morning for a day of wine tasting.  We followed the narrow and curious drainage system from 22 Die Laan Guest House into town.
This statue reflected our mood:  Yay!  We're going wine tasting!
We took some time to explore Oom Samie Se Winkel, a popular general store in the area (no photos allowed inside).  The store sold a mixture of crafts, food, and antique bric-a-brac.
From here, we passed alongside a wide open field.  The bright white Dutch inspired architecture was striking against the mountain backdrop.
We boarded the local 'hop-on, hop-off' van service so we could fully indulge and enjoy our wine tasting experience without having to worry about driving.
Our first stop was Van Ryn's Brandy Distillery.
I liked this sign outside near the vines: Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy. - Samuel Johnson, English Poet.
We stepped into the tasting room which was dark and muted compared to the blazing bright sun and blue sky outside.
We were greeted at the door with a brandy and orange juice.
We opted for the R70 (~$7) brandy tasting which included a 12, 15, and 20 year old brandy each paired specially with a chocolate square and served with an espresoo to cleanse the palate between tastings.  This was a serious business...
We seated ourselves on a dark leather couch and admired our surroundings.
We gave the brandy a swirl and set about savoring the experience.  About 45 minutes later, we'd wrapped things up at Van Ryn's and were headed to our next stop, Spier.
We arrived at Spier and took a preliminary look around the sprawling grounds.
There was even a peaceful lake on the property.
We soon made our way to the tasting room and were ushered to a table in the center of the room.  Wine tastings in Stellenbosch are different than those in the US and other places.  In the US, you'd sidle up to the bar and sample wines while standing.  In South Africa, you are seated like you would be at a restaurant at a private table and the wines are brought out to you.
We admired the tasting room which featured a huge chandelier made of wine bottles.
We opted for the R38 (~$4) tasting which allowed us to sample 5 wines of our choosing.  We increased the variety of wines tasted to about 90% of those offered by each selecting different ones and sharing.
The wines were brought to the table and poured with a flourish.
We sipped our wine while admiringly our surroundings further, particularly this multi-media life-sized piece of art.
A display of old wines and miniature Cape Dutch gables were tucked away along one wall.
We decided to spend an extra hour at Spier and create our own picnic lunch.
Inside we found an array of picnic supplies including bread, cheese, pate, and deli meats.
We put together a basket for ourselves and walked out to the lake.
We settled in at a picnic table along the water and tuckered in.
We spotted a group of Egyptian geese flanking a Blacksmith Lapwing.
A bigger gaggle of geese floated on the calm water.
After our impromptu picnic, we did a lap around the lake and made our way back to 'hop-on' the van to continue our onward journey.
Our next stop was Bilton Wines.  We took a seat on the outdoor patio.
We opted for the wine and chocolate tasting where 5 wines were paired with chocolates with matching flavor profiles.
I made a new friend at Bilton in the form of this friendly dog that took up residence under my chair.  
He seemed to enjoy when I gave him a scratch behind the ears.
After we completed our tasting, we took time to explore the grounds.  The vineyard featured impressive views.
Our last stop of the day was at Alto Wine Estate.  We tasted 3 wines for R10 (~$1).
We were seated on a comfortable couch with a view of the vineyard outside.
Again, we strolled the grounds and admired the views before 'hopping-on' the van for the last time for the drive back into town.
It turned out to be a perfect, idyllic day out.

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