For my birthday, we popped in at Glenelly Estate for a wine tasting (as you do, on your birthday). Now that we have been there, I can't believe I hadn't visited before! It's a truly beautiful place (see below), with great service and really fantastic wines.
You see the above view as you drive in. It kind of took me by surprise as I couldn't really see how far back it stretched from the road. Once you park, you are greeted with this view (see below). You have the option of doing one of three things: wine tasting, lunch at the bistro, or, a tour around the glass museum - or all of them, of course.
To do all three, you walk through this gorgeous entrance (see below). Once inside, we were directed upstairs to the spectacular tasting venue.
The tasting area is beautiful! It's a really big, bright, well-lit area with stunning views of the vineyards and rolling hills. Here, we were welcomed by Johann van der Merwe, the Cellar Door manager. He is really passionate about Glenelly and very knowledgeable about its history and great wines, and so we were truly blessed to have him to show us around.
I thought it was pretty cool that Glenelly has a map of their wine cultivars in the tasting room (see below). It's great to see things in perspective and to appreciate how much work actually goes into the whole wine-making process. (They also have a built-to-scale model in the tasting venue, but I was too busy looking at it to take a photo.)
I did, however, snap a pic of this tasting nook (see below). I loved the library feel of it and the beautiful view out the window. I did not sit there, though, otherwise I would have spent my entire birthday curled up on the couch, reading a book with wine in my hand. (Although, actually, that doesn't sound too bad...)
Johann explained the history of the estate to us: Glenelly is still relatively new as it was bought in 2003 by May de Lencquesaing, who was 78 years old at the time. She was not new to the wine industry, however, having been owner of the iconic Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, and coming from a family with nearly 250 years worth of involvement in the wine industry. Today, Glenelly is run by May's grand-children, while she keeps a watchful eye.
We then went to have a tour of the (rather impressive) cellar. First, we went into the massive wine-making room (see below). It's filled with large, stainless steel tanks that hold all that awesome wine. What's interesting is that the left side of the room is a mirror image to the right, and so the wine-making process is quite organised and thus performed more efficiently. They have very modern equipment, which includes a lift in the cellar, and a cool machine that automatically sorts the grapes, speeding up the process a bit.
The view from this room is absolutely amazing (see below). You actually have to see it for yourself as the photograph does not do it justice - the window is massive!
After the tour of this room, we went down in the lift (so cool) to the cellar where all the wine barrels are kept and this room was equally as impressive (see below).
This room was nice and cool, with vents that open up at night to let in the cool air. There were rows and rows of French Oak barrels - I have no idea how they keep track of what's what 🙂
After the tour, we went back up to the tasting room to taste the end result of all the hard work. We started off with the Chardonnay. We tried the Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (below right) which is barrel-fermented, but still really 'soft-tasting'. I am not a fan of very wooded Chardonnays, and so I really enjoyed this one. It's kept in a big barrel and so you get more buttery flavours than oaky flavours. Johann had somebody describe it as 'kinetic', which is actually quite a nice way to explain it's vibrancy. We also tasted the Unoaked Chardonnay 2017 (below left). Made in stainless steel tanks, you don't get the wood flavour but retain the yummy, fruity Chardonnay flavours. Both wines are great, but the Reserve Chardonnay is really something special.
Another favourite was the Cabernet Franc (see below right). I loved the flavours in this wine of cherries and blackcurrants - it smells divine!
But the most favourite was definitely the Estate Reserve and the Lady May. Wow! You just have to go there to try these for yourself. Here's a pic below of us tasting different years of the Estate Reserve red wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot.
The 2011 was absolutely wonderful. It's so smooth and peppery and spicey, but at the same time, smelling like cherries and berries, which I love. It's been aged for 18 months in French Oak barrels and so you get a light oak taste, making it really easy drinking (trust me).
We also tasted the 2010 one. Now, if you have been following closely, you will know that I am not good at keeping wine. I have all these good intentions, but, when good friends come over, or it's a special occasion, out comes the good wine I have been 'keeping'. But, this 2010 was amazing! Once you buy a bottle, the Estate Reserve can keep for 10-15 years. It was so fantastic to drink now, but I can't help but imagine just how wonderful it'll be in another few years or so. Time really does help to develop those flavours and so you should really try to keep your special bottles (note to self).
After our wine tasting, we headed on down to the beautiful glass museum. You can't take photos in there, obviously, so you will just have to go check it out for yourself. The glass collection is really special as it is May de Lencquesaing's very own private collection - one of the largest in the world - and some of the pieces date back to 50BC - 120 AD. There are also some beautiful modern pieces too!
On the day we visited Glenelly, we did not have time to eat lunch there, but they have a very awesome-looking bistro (see below) which serves French-inspired dishes. The menu looks truly fantastic and I can't wait to visit the bistro soon.
We truly enjoyed our visit to Glenelly. It's so pretty (see below) and you really feel like you are going on a complete journey through wine, art and food!
Address: Lelie Street, Idas Valley, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa
Star Rating: *****
Note: We were invited to visit Glenelly as we are truly blessed to call the Cellar Door Manager, Johann, our friend.