There are certain places in this world that hum with happy, healing energy – places where the frantic rat race of the world abates to allow space for joy to flood back in. Situated in a verdant and well-tended fold along one of the ridges of the Paardeberg in the Swartland, Fynbos Estate is such a place.
This is the home of Johan and Diana Simons, a retired molecular biologist and practising psychotherapist who had planned on growing some grapes and making a bit of wine for fun when they first moved out here to farm, but ended up establishing a gazetted nature reserve, organic winery, visitor’s haven and spiritual sanctuary instead.
“We are children of the 70s, and we came out of that noticing that the world is pretty much going to pot, so we decided to change that however we could and this farm is the result,” says Diana. The pair left the city two decades ago in search of a quieter life and has since turned Fynbos Estate into a hive of sustainable activity, also following a few of their own personal passions in the process.
Dragonridge Winery, which is part of Fynbos Estate, is the result of Johan’s lifelong ambition to try his hand at the age-old craft of tending the vine. The talented winemaker has a very intuitive way with his wines, and creates vintages to suit his harvests. He also doesn’t mind waiting a little to get the results he wants.
“When I started drinking wine in the 80s,” Johan remembers, “I absolutely adored Super Tuscans – red wines from Tuscany that includes non-indigenous grapes, such as blends of Cabernet and Sangiovese. These wines were very expensive and I couldn’t really afford it, so one of the first things I did when we got to Fynbos Estate was to plant a block of Cabernet and a block of Sangiovese. It took 19 years before I was able to create my own blend from those vineyards, but I did it. We harvested the Cabernet for this year’s vintage this morning and the grapes are delicious. Delicious grapes make delicious wines,” he smiles.
TOP TIP: Dragonridge wines are for sale online right over HERE or you can email them and they will courier It to you.
All of the Dragonridge wines are made in the natural style and certain vintages have been certified organic. “We use no pesticides or herbicides on the farm at all,” explains Diana. “We weed by hand and shovel, which is time-consuming, but so much better for the earth and the environment.” They also look to the harvest to dictate which wines will make it onto the shelves in the coming season.
“In 2015, for instance,” says Johan, “the harvest was simply extraordinary, so we didn’t make any blends – we bottled each wine separately. For the past two years we also chose to bottle the Viognier separately, because it just didn’t fit with the Chenin – the Chenin was much too powerful.”
Dragonridge is also known for its bubbly, which, according to Johan, often calls for some serious finger-crossing when they employ the Ancestral method, which is used to make sparkling wine by means of spontaneous fermentation. “Normally, when you make an MCC (Méthode Cap Classique), you make a still wine, then add sugar and yeast, put it in the bottle, wait a year, and clean it up. Method Ancestral – which got four stars in Platter – is made with the first ferment without any additions and you’ve got to pray a bit because you don’t know whether it’s going to work or if it will explode. We also do a Chardonnay MCC, which has just been certified organic and tasting it is a lot like drinking fresh air.”
“We developed the farm to be a sanctuary for both people and animals,” says Diana. “It took us seven long years to get the 270 hectares certified as a nature reserve, and it is our privilege to share this tranquil space with like-minded nature lovers. These days we host workshops and retreats for everyone from Buddhists to Christians and Muslims – we love it when people come here for their own spiritual development and we don’t mind what form that takes.” Fynbos also hosts academics and international tour groups as a space for reflection and learning.
Fynbos Estate also boasts with 900 organically farmed olive trees of mixed cultivars from which they make olive oil and sometimes cured olives and tapenade. The various lemon trees dotted about the farm are used to make preserved lemons and a beautiful Lemoncello – which takes 80 days to make!
Read more about this wonderful destination on their website and make a point of signing up for their Sunday Lunch Club so you can receive invites to pre-booked seasonal feasts on the farm. In the meantime, why not book accommodation for a weekend at Fynbos Estate? It’s the best way to sample all their home-grown deliciousness in person.
QUICK LINKS >> Website: www.fynbosestate.co.za | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Telephone Number: (022) 487 1153