Twenty minutes drive from Cape Town, South Africa, high up in the hills of the Constantia Mountain Range, the city’s wine country, sits Eagles’ Nest, an award-winning boutique vineyard that has become a treasured respite for locals and travelers alike.
A mere 10-years old, Eagles’ Nest is David to the neighboring Goliaths, Buitenverwachting and Groot Constantia—wineries that have produced for generations, turning out hundreds of thousands of bottles each year. Eagles’ Nest, in comparison, makes only 75,000.
I heard about the vineyard through a fellow travel writer and South African native, Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi. In an email she wrote, “The wine is AMazing and the view out of this world…and the cheese and nibble platter I go back for time and time again.”
I added it to my itinerary.
Two months later on a sun-drenched Friday morning, my friend Josephine and I found ourselves driving the winding mountain roads towards Eagles’ Nest.
Resembling a family home, the winery sat us in the backyard where picnic tables and small sitting areas dotted the lawn. A family opting to enjoy the morning old-school-style spread out on a blanket. The atmosphere had a casual garden party vibe that was decidedly different than the more formal stops I’ve made on wine-tasting circuits in the past—a sensibility the folks at Eagles’ Nest is proud of.
“We look more to enjoy time with our guests, chat with them and get to know them. Share jokes with our regulars,” said Kaylee Moorick, granddaughter of the owner and the vineyard’s brand manager. “We will always have a focus on wine and wine sales but we also want every person to leave here with a memorable experience.”
At wine tastings, I’ve always felt obligated to listen to the winemaker prattle on about each vintage. Top line information is great but a 3 minute soliloquy? No thanks. From Kaylee’s perspective, if you want to hear about the wines, great. If you’d rather kick back and just drink, that’s good too. Her staff adjusts according to what they feel guests are most interested in.
When life hands you lemons…..make wine
For all its success, opening a vineyard wasn’t of interest to Kaylee’s grandfather, Bill Mylea, until devastating fires swept through the Southern Cape Peninsula in 2000, destroying his estate where Eagles’ Nest now stands. After the blaze he was besieged by wine makers wanting to lease his rich Constantia soil to grow their grapes.
Mylea, recognizing that there was money to be made, decided to open his own vineyard. Without any formal experience in the wine business, he hired experts from around the world to help him get Eagles’ Nest off the ground.
In 2005, Eagles’ Nest introduced its first vintage with three wines: a Merlot, Viognier, and Shiraz. In 2009, they won the Trophy for the Best Shiraz at the International Wine and Spirit Competition for their 2007 vintage, and have won accolades ever since.
Ensconced under a picturesque tree with a view of the gardens and a lovely little stream bisecting the property, Josephine and I dug into a “Craft Picnic for Two.” (Kaylee was kind enough to offer us a basket on the house.) There’s also chef, vegetarian and kiddie versions as well as small platters.
We each sat relishing the cool breeze with a crisp sauvignon blanc in one hand and warm, home-baked bread topped with fresh prosciutto and herb infused Gouda in the other. On a small table made from a wine barrel, sat a grape crate draped in a blue and white-checkered cloth filled with an array of edible delights—free range chicken liver pâté, a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, garlic and rosemary olives, sun-dried tomato pesto and the most sinful Huguenot chocolate brownies I’ve ever tasted.
We talked. We ate. We laughed. We drank.
Who could ask for more?
How to get there: If you don’t have a car, Eagles’ Nest is a stop on the Hop On Hop Off bus’ Purple Wine Tour. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to get from various points in Cape Town to the Constantia vineyards.