Our first stop was Fairview, about 25 minutes outside of Cape Town. It was still early--only about 10 am--when we arrived, but being on holiday, we were ready to taste regardless of time. So we lined up along the old wooden bar with the rest of our tour and sampled six glasses of whichever wines we liked. (For the record, my favorites were the Viognier and the Spice Route Sauvignon Blanc.) This was followed by a "tasting" of eight different cheese from the vineyard's own dairy.
The weather was, against all predictions, once again beautiful. So we gathered around a table at our second vineyard, Simonsig, for an outdoor tasting. Simonsig is home to the Woman Winemaker of the Year and produces the number one Shiraz in South Africa. It was as nice as Fairview--but sadly didn't have any delicious cheese. The sunny outdoor seating provided unobstructed views of Simonsberg, and it was one of the few places we were able to enjoy South African sparkling wine.
These two top-tier wineries were followed by lunch at a third vineyard and then a blur of tastings at two lesser ones. We'd opted out of purchasing a bottle of wine at Fairview (even though they were only about $10 each), hoping to come across a cheaper or more delicious blend at one of our later stops.
This, we learned, is never a good plan.
It should have been obvious, but having never been on such a tour before, we had no idea what to expect. Tours--especially those by Easy Rider--begin with the best places and the best wines. They end with the last-resort vineyards, where, if you're like us, you purchase a 1.5 liter bag of Pinotage Rose for R30 (convinced that you've gotten a great deal) and realize only later, once the wine has worn off and the hangover has set in, that it's utterly undrinkable. Even for a volunteer.