I went on my first wine tour recently. I did not know what to expect having never been to one (To be honest I really thought my first tour would be to S.A…I have this bucket list item that involves me driving to Cape Town from Joberg via the garden route…..and spending a week touring some vineyards, sampling great wine and living off good vibes and sea food.. my dreams are valid) But I digress….
I received a surprise email inviting me to be part of the first group to tour Leleshwa Winery and was like whoa! Of course I’m gonna do it. I had previously missed a day of wine tasting hosted by WOSA so I wasn’t about to miss this one and especially because it’s a local product.
Negative local perceptions still stands with people turning up their noses at what they feel is an inferior wine simply because it’s made locally (yet these same people will drink Drostdy Hof and Cellar cask) and Leleshwa hasn’t been spared.
I have to say their wines are not half bad. Rough around the edges for the red but the Sauvignon blanc isn’t bad at all.
People need to understand that growing grapes fit for making wines, in this region is very unique. The latitudes generally do not favour viticulture and the weather is seen to be unsuitable, yet Leleshwa has managed to produce some decent wine.
Admittedly, this is not your posh plonk or a wine to be saved as a vintage. It is according to winemaker, Emma, a shelf wine. It has an estimated shelf life and is meant for immediate consumption. If you made the mistake of saving the wine to be drank in 10 years, then what you would end up with is an amazing vinegar to dress your salads with.
Now, I’ll give you a little history of the brand, Leleshwa. It started as a hobby for the ‘chairman’ as he is fondly known about 20 years ago. He made the decision to start the vineyard to challenge the perception that no good wine could possibly come from Kenya. Over the years the company has grown and improved on its products so much so that just this year they won a double gold Michelangelo Award in South Africa that recognized their Sauvignon Blanc. Just to give you some context of the importance of such an award, Leleshwa was a winner in the same category of more popular vineyards such as Villiera, Nedeberg, KWV etc…
Our group was labelled ‘Wine Enthusiasts’ and actually had a few wine consultants in the group which for me was a bonus as I wouldn’t have to endure a day with non-wine drinkers giving an opinion about something they have no idea about.
The tour of the vineyards was eye opening. We took a short walk where our guide talked us through the history of Leleshwa and how far they have come. He then took us on a walkabout where we saw some cultured vines, some old vines, some new vines and had a chance to walk through a section with ripening grapes.
When we finished our walk through, we took a break to have a snack in the middle of the vineyard. The setup was very country- chic. Bales of hay piled high enough to form a table were covered with maasai shukas and then our spread was laid on top.
Crudités, bruschetta, cheese courtesy of Browns Cheese…and of course some chilled Leleshwa sauvignon blanc and Rose. In the unforgiving heat of the midday sun, the wine served as a good catalyst for louder and more humorous conversation amongst the group and plenty of photo ops.
After the refreshing wines, we huddled back on to the shuttle bus and were taken to the winery ~ where the magic happens~. It’s a small unassuming building and to be honest, if you drove by you would be forgiven for thinking it was just any old farmhouse structure.
Now, unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures of the inside but I’ll do my best to describe it.
Upon entry the first thing that strikes your vision is the size of the operation. It is ‘small’. You wouldn’t believe that they produce thousands of bottles each year from this one space. On my left were a series of talks with pipes running into and out of them. To my right was the machine where harvested grapes began their journey to making wine (I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the machine.)
Dead in front of me was an aluminum tank. Our host for this section of the tour, Emma, walked us through the process of making wine. She talked about what the different machines did and was gracious enough to answer all our questions (even the seemingly obvious ones). To cap it off, she came to a stand by the largest tank in the room. Here she explained was unfiltered white wine which is cloudy and not as clear as the finished product. She ‘tapped’ it into a glass. I tell you it was strange seeing cloudy wine. It wasn’t crystal clear as white wine should be, but she encouraged us to try it. Of course we were only too happy to oblige…
We then moved on to the final stage of the tour, lunch! The setting was rather quaint. A stretched tent in the middle of a grassy area of land that was bordered on one side by a forest of acacia trees, a vineyard to another and a beautiful backdrop of mount Longonot in the distance.
All in all, the tour was loads of fun and for those of us with an interest, it was nice to see the efforts and operations of a local company trying to do something different and succeeding at it.
As for the wines, are they the greatest, not by a long shot! Are they good, yes. They have a way to go but I would encourage people not to knock down and ignore local brands. We do ourselves a disservice by downplaying and ignoring local talent. I have and will continue to buy their wines. I firmly believe in supporting local businesses and I believe if we adopt a culture to support local businesses, we can develop much more robust industries and encourage manufacturers to keep improving their processes and produce.