Cap Classique

In 1991 my Mom and Dad planted a block of Pinot Noir PN52, a Burgundy clone selected for use in the production of Pongrácz, Methode Cap Classique.

Thirty years on, with the vineyard still in pristine condition, it seemed time to produce our maiden vintage of The Hills Cap Classique. Time to call on the expertise of Matt Krone.

Grapes were picked by hand and delivered to the cellar.

Cap Classique undergoes two fermentations: the first in a tank (or barrel) to create a light, still, base wine and the second in the bottle where the future bubbles are formed.

But I am getting ahead of myself. After the primary fermentation, our base wine was bottled with a small quantity of yeast and sugar and closed with a crown cork.

Carbonic gas formed as a by-product during secondary fermentation, will be absorbed under pressure to eventually be released in the glass as those tingling bubbles. This natural process should not be rushed and despite my inquisitiveness, I must wait for a year or two to continue this story.

Relocation of a Swarm of Bees

Every now and then a swarm of bees will rest for a while in an oak tree, a vine or under the eaves before moving on.

Recently however, a swarm decided to occupy an old wine barrel.

Time to call in the help of a local beekeeper.

After a little smoke and some patience, they started to leave the barrel.

Including the Queen Bee!

With the Queen in the box and a little encouragement, the whole swarm soon followed to be safely relocated.

Relocation of a Cape Cobra

Some time ago, Alan and I attended a snake handling course.

Our initial encounters on the farm included a resident, non-venomous Mole Snake and a harmless Aurora House Snake

As well as a mildly venomous Spotted Skaapsteker.

Then one day Owen alerted me to a snake that had been harassed by a pair of Common Fiscal shrikes and had sought refuge in a woodpile. Armed with my tongs and bucket, I kept watch while Owen slowly removed the wood from the pile.

Suddenly the snake emerged. I missed it on my first attempt but caught it on the second. A highly venomous Cape Cobra!

After a quick lesson, Owen helped me get the snake into the bucket.

After lots of photographs, Owen and I released the snake into the fynbos on a hill of a neighbouring farm.

Whilst I have the kit and the training, I hope not to have to do this too often!

Feathered Friends

All our birds are special. Some are resident, some stay for a while and some simply fly by.

Fiery-necked Nightjar

So well camouflaged that we nearly didn’t see her!

29 September 2022

And then a little miracle!

24 October 2022

Protected by the parents.

28 October 2022

07 November 2022

Then left to fend for itself.

Last seen on 25 November 2022.

Hopefully safe!

Spotted Eagle Owl on window sill

Spotted Eagle Owl resting in oak tree for the day

Those long nights can be quite tiring!

Female Spotted Eagle Owl nesting

While protective male seeks shelter from the wind in the vineyard.

Sadly the nest was eventually abandoned.

Resident Western Barn Owls

Jackal Buzzard

Black Shouldered Kite Fledglings

African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)

Grey Heron

Malachite Sunbird

Red Winged Starling

Helmeted Guineafowl

Chimanimani Bird Sightings (resident, visitor or flying by)

  • African Black Duck
  • African Darter
  • African Fish Eagle
  • African Goshawk (juvenile)
  • African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
  • African Hoopoe
  • African Paradise Flycatcher
  • African Pipit
  • Alpine Swift
  • Bar – Throated Apalis
  • Barn (European) Swallow
  • Black Shouldered Kite
  • Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover)
  • Black Sparrowhawk
  • Blue Crane
  • Cape Bulbul
  • Cape Canary
  • Cape Robin-Chat
  • Cape Sparrow
  • Cape Spurfowl
  • Cape Turtle Dove
  • Cape Wagtail
  • Cape Weaver
  • Cape White Eye
  • Common (European) Starling
  • Common Fiscal (Shrike)
  • Common Waxbill
  • Crowned Lapwing (Plover)
  • Diederic Cuckoo
  • Egyptian Goose
  • European Honey Buzzard
  • Fiery Necked Nightjar
  • Fiscal Flycatcher
  • Fork Tailed Drongo
  • Giant Kingfisher
  • Great White Pelican
  • Greater Striped Swallow
  • Grey Heron
  • Hadeda Ibis
  • Hamerkop
  • Helmeted Guinea Fowl
  • Jackal Buzzard
  • Karoo (Spotted) Prinia
  • Kelp Gull 
  • Klaas’s Cuckoo
  • Laughing Dove
  • Malachite Sunbird
  • Olive Woodpecker
  • Pied Crow
  • Pin-tailed Whydah
  • Rock Kestrel
  • Sacred Ibis
  • Southern Double-collared Sunbird
  • Southern Red Bishop
  • Speckled (Rock) Pigeon
  • Speckled Mousebird
  • Spotted Eagle Owl
  • Spotted Thick Knee (Dikkop)
  • Spur Wing Goose
  • Steppe Buzzard
  • Western Barn Owl
  • Western Cattle Egret
  • White Stork
  • Yellow Billed Kite
  • Yellow Bishop

Preparing For The Next Harvest – Spring & Summer

With the Wisteria in full bloom, Spring is upon us!

Wisteria 2017-09-17 10.26.25


And “Bud Burst” in the Pinot Noir not far behind!

Bud Birst 2016-09-16 12.26.47

2017-10-10 07.55.45


Did you notice the stick insect (Phasmid)?

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Suckering is the next major vineyard activity, where excess shoots are removed.

Pre Suckering

Pre Suckering 2017-09-28 17.30.00

Post Suckering

Post Suckering 2017-09-28 17.33.21

Again the focus is on restricting the crop to maximize fruit quality. You can’t make good wine from poor fruit!

And of course we get a little after hours suckering assistance from the elusive Grysbok!

2017-10-06 18.32.44


Flowering and fruit set follow.

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Canopies are managed throughout the growing season to ensure free air flow and exposure to sunshine without burning the bunches.



Veraison sees the onset of ripening

2017-01-05 09.51.09


With Pinot Noir being our first cultivar to ripen.



And when the March Lilies bloom, the Cabernet Sauvignon is well on its way to optimal ripeness.

2018-03-17 18.09.23

2018-03-17 18.13.18


Grapes are harvested by hand into crates



And delivered to the cellar for pressing and fermentation.



And then to slowly mature in French Oak barrels.

2016-03-29 09.44.11

Preparing For The Next Harvest – Autumn & Winter

After the harvest the vines continue to take up nutrients, creating carbohydrate reserves needed to develop early shoots in the following spring.

Shortly after this the leaves drop and the vines enter a period of winter dormancy.

Winter Dormancy 01


Winter is the time to nourish the soil by planting cereal or legume cover crops. We plant the cover crop in every second row on annual rotation. Pruned vine canes are dropped in the unplanted row.

Cover Crop Oats

Cover Crop Lupins


A healthy cover crop enriches the soil. It is not harvested but is left in the vineyard to contribute to a carpet of organic matter. This assists in suppressing weed growth and importantly helps with water retention in the hot summer months that follow.

Cover Crop Mowing


Winter is also the time for pruning.

Pruning - Before


We prune manually in three stages, with the key focus being on restricting the crop to maximize fruit quality. You can’t make good wine from poor fruit!

During July we remove excess growth in a “brush cut” operation.

Pruning - Brush Cut


In the second step around mid-August, next year’s bearers are selected in the “clean pruning” operation.

Pruning - Clean


Finally, towards the end of August/ early September, selected bearers are cut back to two-bud spurs.

Pruning - Spur


Ready for spring!

Pruning - Ready for Spring


Shortly after our arrival on the farm in 1964, I accompanied my Dad to a livestock auction near Bellville in search of a draught horse to work in the vineyards. “No pull no pay” declared the auctioneer, as my Dad successfully bid for Sussie.

It soon transpired that Sussie was in foal. I don’t recall whether it was just before the end of the year or just in the new year that Justin, a strapping young colt, was born.


On the farm, Sussie’s main function was to plough a furrow on both sides of the vineyard rows, the so called “bankie”, from which the weeds were later manually cleared or “geskoffel” using a long handled spade. After delving into family albums we found the photograph below which, with some technological wizardry, was converted to digital format. A little unclear but one can see Sussie ploughing a “bankie”, with Justin getting an early introduction ahead.

Sussie & Justin

Sussie’s duties were relieved when we acquired Mr Plod, our part Flemish draught horse.

Mr Plod

It was however, time for mechanisation and we soon acquired a 1949 Ferguson tractor, locally known as the Vaaljapie.

Vaaljapie 1 B & W

After years of working in the vineyards and trundling 2.5 ton loads of grapes to Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, our Vaaljapie was retired.

Load of Grapes

Fortunately, I not only have photographs, I still have the real thing!

Vaaljapie 2


And so began a refurbishment project.


Vaaljapie 3


2016-11-28 08.12.00


Vaaljapie 4


Vaaljapie 5


Vaaljapie 6


Now fully reconditioned and running!


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Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.36.13 AM

The Hills Shiraz

We have one Shiraz vineyard of approximately 0.75 hectare. The vineyard is established on deep, well drained weathered granite soils and is located on the crest of a hill. The vineyard is trellised and the canopy managed throughout the season to ensure optimum phenolic ripeness of the grapes. Supplementary drip irrigation is applied. The crop is reduced to between 10 and 12 tons per hectare by suckering soon after bud burst, followed by one ‘green harvest’ later in the year. This contributes to high quality fruit. Grapes are picked by hand.

Blend: Shiraz    100%

Winemaking: Fermented with selected yeasts in semi-open fermentation vats. Made in a classic, low intervention manner without extended maceration. Matured for 24 months in new, second and third fill French Oak barrels, racked at intervals as necessary. Lightly polished before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep garnet red.

Aroma: The nose is characterized by ripe berry and plum aromas, with a hint of freshly ground black pepper.

Palate: Ripe black cherry and dark plum flavours dominate, backed by black pepper and spicy notes. Fruit and oak are well integrated, with subtle vanilla flavours and a hint of mocha.

This Shiraz is a rich, full bodied wine with a complex spicy mid-palate and velvety finish.

Good to drink when released but will continue to improve over 8 – 10 years if well kept.

Currently Available:

  • Shiraz 2014
  • Shiraz 2015


  • Shiraz 2009 – WineStyle People’s Choice    – Double Gold Award
  • Shiraz 2010 – WineStyle People’s Choice    –  Gold Award

Platter’s Ratings:

Shiraz 2009 – 3 stars

Shiraz 2010 – 3 stars

Shiraz 2014 – 2½ stars

Shiraz 2015 – 3 stars