This picturesque winery has a lot to offer the day-tripper. The Spice Route is situated in the Swartland area, overlooking hills and mountains, with Table Mountain in the distance. From Cape Town, it is about an hour's drive northwards on the N1.
We set out towards Franschhoek on a lovely autumn day, without wind and without a cloud in sight. Our first stop was The Goatshed Restaurant in the Fairview Estate for a tasty lunch. If the meal at The Goatshed had not filled us up as well as it had, our wallets would have been trembling. From there we drove about 800m down the road to The Spice Route. It was somewhat familiar as we had been there before for a wine tasting. This time we were not there for the wine, but for the beer.
From the parking lot (one with an excellent view), we walked passed delicious smells of The Spice Route Restaurant and the Barley & Biltong Emporium. To satisfy our curiosity we did a quick tour of the Red Hot Glass shop. The inside was filled with plenty of unimaginable shapes and a mix of vibrant colours and finishes. On the left there was a vacant workshop where we could only imagine a skilled person combining together a myriad of colours and forming that molten glass into the fantastical shapes in front of us.
Once outside the shop, we lingered to enjoy the view before ambling on the new CBC Brewery under the oaks. We each received a little sticker to indicate what type of beer tasting we had paid for and went inside. The interior was open-plan, with very impressive-looking brewing machinery in the background, enormous and shining silver behind reflective glass. Not being a beer connoisseur, I would class myself as someone who likes ale and cider, someone who would opt for a Weiss much rather than a stout.
Although I can't offer you an expert's description of all the beers we tasted, I can tell you that it was very informative. We had a chance to smell the hops and barley for each beer that we tasted and were told where it was from and what particular flavour to taste for. The hard-working brewmaster, Wolfgang Koedel, came out to chat to us passionately about the new tastes and flavours that he has been experimenting with. He describes his beer as "Clean, crisp, craft beer which is produced using the most advanced modern technology and the best raw materials available." He revealed that a new chocolate stout could be at the next tasting.
Six beers later we stumbled onwards to the last experience of our three-stage outing: De Villiers Artisan Chocolate. The chocolate makers create melt-in-the mouth chocolates from raw beans. The beans are selected from 25 different locations around the world and each one has a unique taste that allows them to offer a very wide range of tasty possibilities.
You may think that chocolate is chocolate, and cocoa beans are cocoa beans, but the differences are something that you really need to experience for yourself! The beans and the resulting chocolate vary in bitterness, spiciness, acidity and fruitiness. It was a treat to learn to taste in new ways, to learn to look for flavours, to taste patiently. At the end of the chocolate tasting (which consisted of 6 pieces of dark chocolate) we had the opportunity of tasting even more chocolate! Flavours included espresso, dark milk (51%) fleur de sel (sea salt), latté and rooibos!
We walked away with many new and rich experiences, and didn't feel much poorer for it. You can't say that about many day-outings. The tastings and the views were thoroughly enjoyed and are heartily recommended.
If you are interested in the CBC Beer Tastings visit: http://capebrewing.co.za/
For all the information you could hope for on The Spice Route, visit: http://www.spiceroutewines.co.za/. Read more about the glass shop at: http://www.redhotglass.co.za. For further contact details and information about the chocolate-makers, visit: http://www.dvchocolate.com.