Fryer’s Cove wines… sipping the sea on the West Coast

A derelict old crayfish factory right at the waterfront in the bay a minute winery, a tasting room and an alfresco jetty restaurant brought back much-needed commercial activity to a village which had suffered from a declining fishing industry.

This is the address of Fryer’s Cove Wines, forged of the earth and tempered by the sea.

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The Tasting Room

Proximity to the Atlantic provided a unique energy-saving cooling system in the winery, using fresh water in a closed pipe system that is cooled by the icy seawater beneath the pier.

The icy-cold Benguela current that flows from Antartica northwards along the West Coast of Africa is the spot chosen for this unique little winery. The visionary founders planted four hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and two hectares of Pinot Noir vineyards among scrubby beach vegetation on the very edge of the coast at Bamboes Bay, a mere 850m from the icy ocean.

It rains an average of only 50mm per year and the Southwesterly wind constantly buffets the coastline. This is extreme winemaking!

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Our wine tasting experience...
Jacques, the assistant wine maker, has an extensive knowledge and admiration for the Fryer’s Cove Wines. His passion was contagious as he explained how the grapes were handpicked, sorted at the vineyard from where the good grapes are then transported to the cellar. Here is where the magic takes place! 

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Locally Grown
Fryer’s Cove wines are primarily made from locally grown grapes. It is only for the Doring Bay range that they buy grapes from other cellars and then only because they require big volumes for this popular wine range.

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The Bamboes Bay range of wines is produced one hundred percent from their own grapes. There is a significant difference between grapes from this area and other wine growing areas.

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the two cultivars that favour the cold West Coast conditions. It is the unique taste that has cultivated a dedicated following of these unique wines.

Extreme Frontiers has a very distinctive maritime taste that appealed to only two people in our group but The Jetty was an immediate favourite with us all.

The Jetty is not commercially available and can only be purchased at the cellar. A percentage of these sales are donated to the Doring Bay Local Community Fund.

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The Jetty Restaurant
At the water’s edge, right next door to the tasting room is the authentic Jetty Restaurant, located in a former Doring Bay crayfish factory. A perfect setting to appreciate the distinct maritime influence on Fryer’s Cove wines!

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By the time we arrived all the tables in The Jetty were already filled with hungry visitors and noisy seagulls. Our reserved table was inside the disused old crayfish factory, a building with no doors, no windows, a sea symphony for music and resident cormorants depicting a constantly changing decoration.

The food was locally crafted, the service authentic and the view even more spectacular !! I can go on about the vineyards, about the weather, the whales in winter, the soft-sand beaches. But it is the wine that does the talking. In a major way.

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The Fryer’s Cove Story
The original owner of the land at Strandfontein was Richard Fryer a British settler who farmed sheep and ostriches. Just outside of Strandfontein is a cove, named after Fryer and planting a vineyard with a sea view provoked an instant sense of place. A name was born.

Incidentally, their biggest client is also a gentleman named Fryer who lives in Durban. He fell in love with the Fryer’s Cove Wines at the early day tastings in Vredendal, and since then ordered pallets of wine on a regular basis; for personal enjoyment and as gifts for his clients.

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Once upon a time...
The original owner of the land at Strandfontein was Richard Fryer a British settler who farmed sheep and ostriches.Just outside of Strandfontein is a cove, named after Fryer and planting a vineyard with a sea view provoked an instant sense of place. A name was born. Incidentally, their biggest client is also a gentleman called Fryer who lives in Durban.

He fell in love with the Fryer’s Cove wines at our early day tasting in Vredendal, and since then orders pallets of wine on a regular basis; for personal enjoyment and as gifts for his clients. The dream stayed with this aspirant winemaker while studying at Elsenburg and 14 years later Fryer’s Cove was born.

. However, without a reliable water source, the venture could never get off the ground. They investigated using existing groundwater, but the salt content was too high and desalinization proved too expensive. Eventually, in 1999 Jan finally realized that the water problem will not miraculously solve itself and he built a pipeline from Vredendal – 29,5km away.

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The pipeline had to cross three adjacent farms to get there, but it proved to be a win-win situation as previously the framers had to pump water by making use of electricity or windmills. In exchange for their cooperation, the three farmers were given water from the pipeline which naturally they then monitored and repaired.

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Abalone
A small abalone farm is situated right next to the winery at the water’ edge. Although it is a private enterprise the majority share of this visionary enterprise belongs to the local community. The abalone is cultured in Doring Bay and tinned in St Helena Bay.

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“ I must tell you, these perlemoen are tough”, Johan marvelled, “ at Abagold in Hermanus the perlemoen are fed finely chopped, fortified kelp pellets and shaded under nets because they are apparently light sensitive. Here you simply cover them with kelp.”

A smiling Jan told us that after a storm at sea the locals scramble to pick up the fresh kelp from the beach and in no time it lands in the tanks.Cheaper this way as they do not have to pay to get the kelp, on which abalone feed, to the source.
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Kastaiing ( sea urchin) Pale Ale
Jan then told us the story of Kastaiing ( sea urchin), their micro brewery. They noticed that a lot of the men that came to the tastings were not big on wine but would rather have preferred something else. But then they were not a bar, the wine was their business. He and his son then did a beer making course and decided they would give it a go. The response far exceed their expectations! At first, it was trial and error, but it seems they now have a winning recipe! Kastaiing (sea urchin) beer, the pale ale. is currently only sold at the cellar.

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Their  customers become their friends
Jan was visibly proud when Debbie told him about a delivery from Fryer’s Cove Winery in Doringbaai on the West Coast to their house in Lydenburg in Mpumalanga! “We like to go the extra mile for our clients,” he said, “for me, it is important to build personal relationships with the people that buy our wines”.

Jan Ponk Van Zyl lives in Vredendal and his brother in law and partner, Wynand Hamman, in Stellenbosch, both in full-time jobs. But from Thursday to Sunday you will find them at the cellar in Doring Bay. “If you make your living out of your hobby no effort is too much”, Jan passionately quoted.

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The last word goes to a humble Jan Ponk; “Never in our wildest dreams have we anticipated the interest we have experienced right from the start. The visitors just keep on coming and coming, day after day. We are now already open every day of the week right through the year. We have created something that brought new life to this area...a very rewarding feeling”

 The future belongs to those who dream with eyes wide open.

 

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