Well, I am a bit late with this report of my first experience of Wine on the River, but best to get it out there nevertheless. Especially since I attended the Wacky Wine Weekend for the first time this year too, and now have ample information to do a relatively biased comparison. You kind of lose comprehensive use of your objectivity goggles after roughly the fourth glass of wine, so hopefully I will be able to make this useful.
Most of the variables were the same. Same accommodation, same crew, same time span. The only difference was the way this festival works. And boy does it work! We decided to only attend on the Saturday, which cost R160. This included a dizzying amount of wine tastings, live music and spontaneous smiling all round. I was very impressed by and grateful for the fact that we did not have to drive to Goudmyn, where the festival was held, but could use the free transport that was on offer at regular intervals all weekend. We were dropped off at the entrance too, so didn’t have to walk very far to get in. Of course, we cheated a bit, because the wait looked long and hot. As I may have mentioned before, queuing is a part of my English heritage that I did not inherit with glee, so this suited me just fine.
Look, the name of the festival is pretty spot on, in an idiomatic sense. You literally walk up and down the river along the many stalls from the various wine producers in the Robertson Wine Valley and taste wine. Swirl, sniff, swoosh. Glug, glug. Ad infinitum. Then, once you have tasted, picked and bought your favourite(s) in the size of a bottle, you head on over to one of the food stalls and buy some food, and then find a spot to sit under the trees, perhaps even a hay bale to sit on, next to the river. And for those who want to take the festival name literally, a boat ride can be had at the extra cost of only R30. What a trip! We never got that far. Why, you may ask?
Oh, we were having too much fun, you see. It was also very hot and we had pretty much imbibed at all the stalls. It was really time to sit down. And eat. And this is where the official review ends. The rest is where I just tell you what happened.
We had the Cat’s hat there, but not on my head this time, and the wearer ended up in a tree. I went to wet my feet in the river and almost went for an involuntary swim. We danced too, towards the end (the music was really good, those Robertson folk are rather talented!). And I flirted with the guy my gracious host mistakenly overlooked in a valiant attempt for her to change her mind. I think my plan kind of scuba’ed, but one never knows …
At 6pm, we were told that we had to leave now please. So we went to the home of my gracious host’s boss to watch the remainder of the World Cup rugby game between the Springboks and Wales. For some reason, someone decided that I was to be in charge of the bottle of Villion MCC that we were busy with, and I dutifully sprinkled the shaggy carpet with it after my bag was not able to contain it anymore. Seemingly no-one really cared … (I have such good friends!)
We left shortly after the game ended. I was shattered, tired beyond belief, but happy. When we got home, I went to lie down “for a few minutes” and woke up about two hours later. Dazed, I tore through some braaivleis and potato bake, took a long bubble bath (as I did with Wacky Wine) and returned to my bed. I can’t recall when last I slept for almost 12 hours straight. It was almost perfect!
The next day we had left overs for breakfast and took the long way home, stopping at farm stalls and luxuriating in driving past the mountains and through the valleys of the Breede River Valley, on towards Villiersdorp, Franschhoek and finally back in Stellenbosch.
If forced to choose between the two festies, by a big guy in a trench coat with a violin case, in a dark alley, I’d have to go for Wine on the River. The only reason being that it cuts out the driving hazard and time. You make friends with your neighbours, if only for a few hours. You focus on the task at hand. Relaxing by way of wine tasting. You don’t have to make strenuous decisions about which farm to visit next. You just take a step to the left or right. In fact, the only other big decision is whether or not you are going to be a stoutgat and jump in the river anyway, despite it being forbidden during the festival.
That said, I’d go to both again, but only because I have such an excellent crew to go with.