Just before the weekend of the 10th Clarens Craft Beer Festival, I saw a social media post about a Vineyard near Clarens. I contacted Trish & John Critchley, the owners of the Rose House and the Mile High Vineyards to arrange a visit to the farm before the Clarens Festival.
From Clarens, take the R711 to Fouriesburg. The road from Clarens to Fouriesburg is magnificent. Take your time and enjoy the view.
Although it was raining during my visit to the Critchley’s, my timing was very good, because I could watch John and his team crushing the grapes.
John took the time to explain the age old process of making wine with his very basic equipment. John has an arrangement with the restaurants in Clarens to collect empty wine bottles which are then recycled and used to bottle the Bald Ibis Wines.
The wine is named after the Southern Bald Ibis which is endemic to the montane grasslands of the Eastern Free State Highlands and like John’s wine, relatively rare.
At close to 1700m the Mile High Vineyard is possibly the highest producing vineyard in the country and a truly cool climate terroir.
In 2008 John planted about two hectares of Shiraz, Pinotage and Pinot Noir grapes.
John, a retired quantity surveyor, has lovingly restored the old sandstone buildings with great effort and passion. He pointed out that some of the old buildings are build along contour lines with the one I could see about a 2 meter drop.
The Cellar is open for tasting and sales between 10.00 and 16.00, Tuesdays
to Saturdays, otherwise by appointment.
I look forward to enjoying my Bald Ibis wine on our family farm in Mpumalanga where we are fortunate enough to have a colony of Southern Bald Ibis.