These days, us two Glou Glouers very rarely have the opportunity to attend events together, let alone head for weekend’s away. Between full-time jobs and life things, our passion project sometimes has to take a back seat. However, when co-owner of Creation Wines Carolyn Martin extended an invitation to us to spend an entire weekend away in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, we couldn’t say no.
Having arrived in Hermanus on Friday evening, our itinerary for the weekend was relaxed – a welcome change to the normal hustle-bustle of weekday going-ons. The only must-do for Friday was dinner at The Wine Glass, where we happily met with Creation Brand Strategist Michael Farr and his lovely wife, Aletta. Between hearing stories from Michael and Aletta’s travels and incredible and highly accomplished careers across the globe, we enjoyed a tasting of the Hemel-en-Aarde’s finest wines, which, naturally, included Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Creation. The Wine Glass is a great spot for any wine newbie or lover, as it offers a staggering 96 wines from the region by the GLASS. Yup. So you’re bound to find something that suits your palate and pocket.
Indeed, what was also refreshing was Michael clearly didn’t have an agenda for the evening – instead he was curious to hear our verdicts on each wine (which included offerings from neighbouring farms such as Hamilton Russell, Ataraxia and Bouchard Finlayson). It was a great introduction to what the cool climate, Burgundy-style influenced area is capable of producing, and the tasting truly whet our palates for what was to come.
Following a leisurely Saturday ambling the beaches and cafes in Hermanus with Kristen’s Bengal kitten, Brunello, in a backpack (that’s one way to garner attention in a small town!), Sunday soon arrived. At midday, we headed (with Brunello) to Creation.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Michael and Carolyn and the super friendly and attentive Creation Tasting Room team. They say first impressions count, and Creation Wines does not disappoint in the slightest. Kristen and I noted how warm and inviting the Tasting Room was, with incredible panoramic views of the vineyards and near-by farms, as well as ambient music (fitting to the Heritage theme of the month) and plenty of spaces for different sized groups to relax.
Carolyn herself is a dynamic dynamo. While her husband and co-owner Jean-Claude runs the winemaking side of the business, Carolyn runs just about everything else, having her finger in many a pie. We were blown away by her enthusiasm and positive energy – she is not only very well informed about every aspect of her region and business, but she also clearly cares. She showed us some freshly picked cardamom she had been gifted by a local lady at a recent community meeting in town, which she promptly asked the chef to include in the upcoming seasonal dishes. It is this sort of attention to detail that, while it may go unnoticed to some, is EXACTLY what makes a wine farm burgeon from good to great. In fact, that’s what Carolyn and Jean-Claude have done. Not too long ago, in 2002 to be exact, what is now a lush and vineyard-lined estate was an undulating sheep farm. And just recently, as of 2018, Creation Wines was voted 49 in the Top 50 wine farms in the world. Read: in the WORLD. Not just locally. That is a true mind-blowing achievement for a brand that had to built itself from, quite literally, the dusty ground up.
Naturally, one of our favourite parts of the day was the wine and food pairing. Carolyn and Michael treated us to not just your average pairing though. This was the Creation Heritage Tasting: a 6-course wine and food taste adventure, focusing on highlighting the food-friendliness of each Creation wine and meticulously pairing each wine to a locally-sourced and prepared dish. Each dish had a backstory, about where the food was sourced, and why they chose to pair it with the specific wine. Having done our fair share of wine tastings in the past, we can honestly say this was one of the best experiences we have ever had. What is typically a 120-minute experience turned into a five-hour feast for the four of us, and we truly didn’t feel the time.
In addition to the wine, we also learnt that Creation also crafts their own olive oil (which is SO yummy and worth trying with some ciabatta when you have a chance!), as well as their own Port-style wine. Both were equally welcoming and tasty, and we were again impressed by the level of fastidious diligence with which everything is done at Creation.
As we bid our farewells and headed our of the valley back to home to Cape Town, we spoke about how impressive it is that the entire Hemel-en-Aarde valley is brimming with estates and talents of all kinds. Yet, while each individual wine farm showcases what they are best at, Creation literally created something that perhaps no one – be it in the valley or the industry – has done as aptly. Carolyn’s vision has created a destination that aims to promote regionality, wine and food lifestyle, and the local community, all under one house. It seems she was well-ahead of the sustainability curve that has now become a precursor for most brands, and she has an inherent understanding of the value of story-telling. She’s an open book, as is Creation, and that’s why, to us, it’s a best-seller.