Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tokara: South Africa Winery Visit

Continuing the saga of our wine and safari expedition to South Africa…
If you know only one word about South African wine, chances are it is Stellenbosch. Located about 30 miles east of Cape Town, it is the most important wine region in the country of South Africa.
The first part of our wine adventure was spent in the Franschhoek Valley region. After a couple of delightful days there, we motored high into the Helshoogte Pass to our luxurious accommodations at Clouds Estate. Clouds is is sleek, modern B&B with an outstanding restaurant, unparalleled views and even produces its own wine.
Due to the immense size of Stellenbosch District and the large number of wineries, our exploration was limited to the Simonsburg Ward. What a problem to have! There are so many outstanding wineries in Stellenbosch that you could spend weeks, if not months, exploring them all.
One that is certainly at the pinnacle is Tokara. It is an impressive marriage of exquisite art, architecture, wine and scenery. If you travel thousands of miles to South Africa and saw only one winery, Tokara, you would feel it was worth it. Such is the impact of this magnificent wine mecca.
Clouds was conveniently located less than a kilometer away from Tokara, which is nice because Helshoogte Pass is a twisty, turny road you don’t want to navigate after a long day of wine tasting. Even the view from the parking lot is impressive, with the winery silhouetted against soaring mountains and rows of terraced vines on the hillside.
Tokara is the embodiment of owner GT Ferreira’s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle. Walking into the wine cellar (as the tasting rooms are called) you pass by one of the impressive works of art on display, a metal sculpture of a tree with words gracing each branch.
The inside is impressive as well, with style and good taste in abundance. After taking in the scene, we settled in at the tasting bar for some wine.
We opened up with a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, which we found to be soft with citrus flavors. Tokara offers three ranges of reserve wine: Director’s Reserve, Reserve Collection and Collector’s Release. We next explored the 2013 Director’s Reserve White, which is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. This was rich tasting with green, grassy flavors.
We continued the tasting experience with the 2012 Collectors Release Grenache, which features 12% Syrah. This is a reserved, smooth, blend of strawberry flavors. Superb!
Reds in general are outstanding in Stellenbosch and the 2011 Syrah, although from the lower range Reserve Collection, was no exception. It is a delightful, Old World style Syrah, with deep plum colors and briary fruit.
The tasting crescendo continued with the Director’s Reserve 2011 Red. This Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. This is a wine capable of aging for another three years or more, but offers delicious black cherry and berries for those who can’t wait.
Our report wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Tokara Deli. For those of you who might think this is a little sandwich shop, think again. It delivers dishes to delight any “foodie” in spectacular surroundings. We dined outside there twice – once by plan and once by chance.
After our first visit, we enjoyed a great lunch accompanied with some chilled rose. The next day we traveled to a nearby winery for a tasting and lunch, at least we thought. The power company had scheduled a rolling blackout, so the restaurant and cellar door were both closed. We hightailed it back to Tokara Deli and this time enjoyed the spectacular mountain views with our meal and a glass of Methode Cap Classique sparkling wine.

Tokara is a feast for the senses. It’s an exhilarating experience for the wine lover, but also for those with a sense of adventure and an eye for art.
It truly is a mountain top experience.

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