On our way back from a trip to the Pinotage on Tap event, we decided to stop off at Durbanville Hills on a whim, as we had some time on our hands on a typical wintry Sunday.

It has been a good couple of years since we visited the imposing venue. This was in all honesty due to the indifferent attitude of the staff, who seemed to be doing the world a favor for allowing anyone to experience their offering.

It soon became clear that the winery had undergone major changes in both attitude and décor and as we later found out their wine as well. We were greeted with a friendly face and welcomed after ascertaining that we had not booked for a tasting. Despite the weather, the venue was bustling and all the prime spots such as the welcoming wing back chairs next to the fire place, as well as the panoramic window seats.

It was interesting to find that they offer multiple options which include a standard wine tasting of 8 wines, a biltong and dried fruit/wine pairing, an artisanal chocolate and wine pairing/cheese and wine as well as a sweet tooth pairing.

We chose to start off with the cheese offering which was really interesting. The cheeses were of a good quality and the pairing was fairly accurate considering that everyone’s palate differs. The bowl of juicy black olives was a lovely touch, both as a palate cleanser as well as a snacky top up.

As mentioned previously we both had a certain perception of the winery and the changes made are, in my humble opinion a huge improvement on all levels.

The highlight was the Crystal tasting which allows one to select and 8 wines. The decision to try the Durbanville Hills Sparkling Blanc was a strategic one in order to try the carbonated Sav blanc. The verdict was that it was a fun refreshing alternative to the classic drier M.C.C style. In fact the bubbly was slightly reminiscent of a Prosecco, sans the apple notes.

As it was a wintry day, we decided to select the reds on offer. What became immediately apparent was that there was a new addition to their range which launched very recently.The official title of Collectors Reserve Range has turned out to be an accurate statement as the opportunity to position a premium range with good strong labels combine with a cohesive story is well executed. The commissioning of the well – known local artist Theo Paul Vorster to interprete his vision of the icons of the Cape, is in my humble opinion a masterstroke. The selection of high quality packaging and luxury labels will most certainly appeal to those looking to stock their cellars, the gift option is also well covered with gorgeous single boxes available if preferred which in themselves are highly collectible.

We elected to taste the Reserve range reds in tandem with the Durbanville hill range, and it immediately became clear that the premium range was on another level. To be fair though, the standard range offers great value for money and will certainly not disgrace your table. In fact the Shiraz was beautifully balanced with red berry notes, light wood with white pepper and cloves, a crowd pleaser of note! In contrast the High Noon Shiraz was rather closed and subtle and in need of some time to develop. This is perfectly understandable as a 2016 vintage from a single block. It is definitely a wine to watch though.

The Lighthouse Merlot is a wine which Merlot fans will love, hints of red fruit, cherries, mint and chocolate, this is a wine which deserves to be devoured with friends at a communal table though it is pricy. For those who enjoy a softer more rounded wine, the standard range is equally enjoyable and will be more pocket friendly? A slight savoury tange balances the wine nicely.

Cabernet Sauvignon, much like the Castle of Good Hope has stood the test of time, and though all the good Cabernets need extended aging, the wine is already suitable for drinking. The tannins are firm without being abrasive and the usual suspects of leather, cedar and tobacco are in attendance. I look forward to tasting this wine in a year or two and have bought a couple of bottles for this purpose. It comes as no surprise that the Hills Cab Sav is full of Black currant and Cassis that are soft and supple, still has a good backbone and lovely structure, perfect for more robust meat dishes and friends.

As a lover of pinotage and Cape red blends, I am always on the lookout for wines that somehow showcase their heritage of Cinsault and Pinot Noir. The effect of microclimates and rootstock play a huge role in the end product. The creation of the scout range using 80% Pinotage and 20% shiraz was very interesting and the result is a lovely fun and happy wine that is perfect for convivial days or nights. The Promenade is a little like that, however it is more complex and subtle with an X factor that makes me want to keep this wine to myself. I have no doubt that another year in the bottle will show the pinot Noir lineage a little more. A fabulous wine for those who love Pinotage or would like to understand the grape better or experience a wine made with skill and restraint.

There are other wines that I will be trying on my next visit which will be very soon, as I truly enjoyed the whole experience. The fact that the winery is 10 minutes away does not hurt. They also have a top notch restaurant as well as a more informal bistro which looks worth a visit.

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