In early 1997, Andrew Gunn, an engineer by training was contemplating his next career move. Having always loved the outdoors, the prospect of farming appealed to him and feeling young and energetic enough to start a new career, left the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg to begin the search for the ‘perfect’ farm.
After months of searching and 40 farm visits later, Andrew and a very tired estate agent stumbled upon a solitary run down apple farm on a mountain top overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The prospect of a suitable farm in Elgin intrigued Andrew and on driving through the valley, he became excited by the beauty of the area. Surrounded by the Kogelberg Biosphere and Forestry the property had no agricultural neighbours. The rolling hills and the drive up the mountain to where the farm was situated, 420 meters above sea level, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, was unlike anything he had ever seen. It was love at first sight.
This beautiful farm, named “Geelbeksvlei”, after the yellow billed ducks that inhabited the marshy area around the property, although planted to apples and pears, was proving unprofitable. In the old farming fraternity this is the point where you wait patiently for better days, but not being one to sit idle, Andrew set about immediately trying to find an alternative to apples. Having always been a lover of wine and on subsequent investigation into climate and soils, he arrived at the overwhelming conclusion that “wines are made in the vineyard, and that the best wines come from cool to moderate temperature climes, with low summer rainfall and low potential soils”.
Bearing this in mind, and with the help of his uncle, Professor Ronnie Savigear, a well know geomorphologist (the study of landforms), Andrew was able to establish that the farm was unique in the South African context, with a climate somewhere between Bordeaux and Sancerre in France but with the advantage of a lower summer rainfall, a warmer Spring and Autumn and with the post glacial alluvial soils, making it perfect for the production of high quality wines —- in theory.
Iona is the coolest vineyard in the Cape, 420m above sea-level, high above the picturesque Elgin Valley. An extremely long growing season, harvesting up to 2 months after Stellenbosch, results in diverse, complex flavours and uniquely fresh and elegant wines. Long renowned for their Sauvignon blanc, their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; recently awarded 5 stars in Platter, are also very fine.
Iona Reisling – Hay Wines
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