Esona: Taste-the-Difference Wine Tasting


So after a bit of a (much-needed) holiday, I am back into the swing of things, starting off with my lovely time in the Robertson Wine Valley towards the end of last year.

Every year, for our anniversary, The Husband and I like to head off somewhere local, just to get away for the weekend and chill for a bit. I like to stay as close to the Breede River as possible, so we usually look for a venue that has rustic log cabins overlooking the river. This time, we stayed at Olifantskrans River Cabins and we were really impressed with the accommodation. It's ideal for families too AND you can even take your dogs.

The first wine farm we visited was the gorgeous Esona Boutique Wine Estate. There, we met up with Mira from Hot Oven Marketing and Benita from Zandvliet. It had been super hot in Robertson the day before our wine adventure, but luckily for us, the weather was a lot cooler and almost gloomy-looking. But despite the cloud cover, you can still see how pretty Esona is. Esona means "the very one" in isiXhosa and it really is unique in that they still have the original wine-making rooms and you thus feel like you are transported to the days of long ago.

The owners, Rowan and Caryl Beattie, are fanatical about developing people. Through the Skills Development Fund of Pyrotec, a company owned by the Beattie family with head office in Cape Town, more than 200 individuals are getting tuition in all spheres of life. In the Robertson Wine Valley, Pyrotec sponsors learner winemakers, chef and management courses.

Pictured below, is their outside area as you walk up to the venue. It's really stunning and I could easily spend a whole day relaxing and sipping on some wine. We, however, went upstairs, where the views are even better (as if that was possible).

How pretty is this?

As you enter the building, you are welcomed by a cosy room with cool, cement walls. It feels like you are in another era. I immediately noticed the fireplace (see below) that would be amazing to sip wine in front of on those cold, wintery days.

Inside area

When you walk upstairs, you are pleasantly surprised by this cosy, indoor tasting room (see below) with, wait for it...another fireplace! Yay! (Yes, I will be going back in winter!) I love the bare, cement walls and the tin roof - it's rustic and charming and really unpretentious. 

Upstairs indoor tasting area

The real beauty, for me though, was going outside onto the terrace/deck area (see below). The views of the surrounding vineyards and the mountains in the background are just incredible! Despite the gloomy-looking weather, it was absolutely beautiful up there. You could literally sit there for hours, sipping away on their great wines. 

We did not eat at Esona (as we had planned to eat later), but the venue has a deli with platters and sandwiches that really sounded amazing! The deli is called Caryl's Deli (after the owner herself) and it supports local farmers by making use of local ingredients.

Upstairs outdoor tasting area

Whilst outside, we were treated to a glass of the lovely Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir with a really cool name: Frankly my dear. It smells like candyfloss and was really crisp and fresh - perfect for the warm weather. I was so touched to receive my very own bottle with a personalised label to take home! 🙂

Frankly my dear, this view is amazing!

After our glass of wine, we headed downstairs to the underground "kuips". The kuips are old, underground fermentation tanks that were used for wine making long ago. The cement walls kept the room cool and at a constant temperature - perfect conditions for wine making.

We were given the honour of having Hirchill as our host. He is extremely knowledgeable about the Esona wines and passionate about it's history, which he explained to us. The owners have worked hard to produce good-quality wines.

In terms of wine-making itself, Esona is fairly new. They produced their first cultivar in 2010 and are now making their own wine on the farm. They are also a 'single vineyard' farm with blocks of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. This year, they plan to plant Barbera, Sangiovese and Pinotage and will be releasing limited quantities of a wooded Chenin Blanc.

For our tasting experience, we were treated to a "Taste-the-Difference" tasting. The dark kuip and the candles made for a romantic setting (see below). 

Cosy candlelit wine tasting kuip

The Taste-the-Difference tasting works as follows: You get to taste three wines - the Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardonnay and the Shiraz. Each of the wines are served in the appropriate wine-varietal RIEDEL glass (oh, excuse me - how fancy). Riedel glasses are specifically designed to bring out the best of each wine varietal. You are then given a 'joker' glass (which is just your average, smallish wine glass) so that you can compare the difference between the two glasses when you taste the wine. 

And, trust me, there really is a difference! Once the wine is in the Riedel glass, if you hold it at an angle, the wine forms a particular shape (pointed, or rounded, depending on the wine). When you drink that, it hits your palate on the exact spot that brings out the flavours of the wine the best. Once you drink the same wine with the joker glass, it definitely does not taste as good. I found the wine to be more acidic and not as smooth in the joker glass. Also, you'll notice that some of the Riedel glasses are rather large. This is so that you can get a massive whiff of the wine before and during your sip of it - which also all adds to your tasting experience of the wine itself. (I sometimes wish I could be a wine glass taste tester as my day job.)

All the wines were served with Lindt chocolate and fruit preserves. These acted as (very delicious) palate cleansers between each wine. Also, as if that wasn't enough, we were listening to some music playing in the background - contributing to the really peaceful, wine tasting journey.

Taste-the-Difference Wine Tasting

We really enjoyed our experience at Esona. It's a beautiful spot with a fascinating history. Our experience was made all the more enjoyable by Hirchill, who took great pride in showing us the best that Esona has to offer.

We also had fantastic company: I loved Benita's sense of humour and, when you meet Mira, you just feel like you've known her your whole life. Completely down to earth, friendly and kind, Mira is an excellent travel companion. I'd recommend popping her an email the next time you're looking for a wine adventure in Robertson.

Thank you, Mira, and Hot Oven Marketing, for an awesome experience! 

Contact: 076 343 5833
Address: Route R317 between Robertson and Bonnievale, Robertson/Bonnievale, 6705

Star Rating: *****

Note: We were treated to this "Taste-the-Difference" experience by Hot Oven Marketing and Esona Boutique Wines.

Nearly-ready grapes

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