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October 12, 2009

Amazing Helderberg Wine Race – roaring fun with Lions Club


Late as usual, we drove to the Lions Club in Somerset West to register for the Amazing Helderberg Wine Race. Coming around the corner we saw almost 100 contestants milling about the building.

Registration went very quickly as Lions Club members ran through the rules of the race and we signed our indemnity forms. At exactly 10h00 the whistle blew and one team member rushed into the hall to collect our box of goodies and the vital first clue.

“Find Nelson Mandela.” Stumped, we scanned through all the brochures of participating wine farms and came across a photo of Nelson Mandela at Ken Forrester wine estate. Pulling out our map we found the location, jumped in our car and sped off to the local Steers to line our tummies – wine tasting without breakfast was not going to work.

Once we reached Ken Forrester we met the tasting room lady and Adrian. We tasted some fabulous chenin blancs and decided to buy a few bottles at the freakishly low cellar prices.

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Now for the tasks to be done to receive our next clue. Adrian announced that in order to score 25 points we needed to come up with a team name and slogan; 10 seconds later we were dubbed the Bloeiselblitsies (in honour of my impending birthday ... Lente ... spring ... blossoms ... anyway you had to be there) and our chant was hoeka chaka hoeka chaka (brilliance does not come cheap on a Saturday morning). Adrian was impressed and immediately awarded our 25 points.

We were then ushered outside to the back of the cellar building, where we were super-excited to discover that our next task would be trying our hand at archery. After loads of fun and having successfully completed our tasks we were handed our next clue.

I cannot for the life of me remember what our second clue was but it led us to Vergenoegd wine estate, where we tasted wine, bought wine and were asked to get little ducks back into their pens as a task.

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This was hysterical – the trick was not to let them wander into the vineyards (where they are used as a natural pest control against snails) or into the dam. We tried to move them along with clapping hands and “come on ducky” encouragements. We had to complete the task quickly to beat the previous best time of seven minutes.  Victory – we nailed it at six minutes! Elated, we received our next clue and drove off to the next farm.

The third clue led us to Ridgemor wine estate, where we were greeted by the winemaker and her two children. We were treated to some sumptuous Dutch cheese and divine wines.

After tasting the white wines we were tasked to play some golf. The object of the task was to get the ball to land within an allocated space over a distance of approximately 150m while being timed. After we eventually got it right, we decided to purchase some wines and to my utter horror I realised that I had forgotten my handbag at one of the previous wine farms. We rushed off in search of the bag.

Palms sweating, we turned into Ken Forrester and to my relief the bag was exactly where I had left it.

The race was on again and the fourth clue led us to Lourensford wine estate. Here we were led into the cellar where a lovely little row of chocolates awaited us as well as a table lined with different wines. We were given a riddle to a secret ingredient that one of the chocolates contained and while timed had to choose one person to identify the secret ingredient and the chocolate that contained said ingredient.

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I knew that Lourensford was renowned for their honey liqueur so I took a wild guess that the secret ingredient was honey. Helen opted to do the tasting and finally after nibbling on all the chocolates pointed to the winning one.

Having made good time with the chocolate tasting we settled in for part two of our task. We were asked to identify the wines that were wooded wines. Helen and I leaned over, smelled the wines and identified the viognier and another red wine as the wooded wines. Success! We had completed our tasks in record time. After we received our fifth clue we decided to lounge a bit and continue tasting the wines part of the task while we finished off the chocolates. Yum!

The fifth clue led us on a winding road all the way up the Helderberg to Uva Mira wine estate. The wine estate has magnificent red wines and we tasted them with delight. After the tasting we learned that fynbos arrangements were available for customers to purchase and we were going to have to make our own arrangements.

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Getting the numbers right and the exact arrangement style turned out to be quite tricky. Chris and Gerhard were the first to complete their fynbos arrangements (amazing men with their secret talents) and Helen and I managed to get ours right in the end as well. The cherry on the cake was being able to keep our own arrangements!

That task completed, we headed off for the rendezvous point at Waterkloof wine estate, where the different route winners would be announced and the final task for the Grand Prize winner would be performed.

The atmosphere at the stunning function hall was electric.  Finally the time for the announcement was at hand. The team winners of the red, yellow, orange and green routes were announced and lastly the blue route – it was us! We were euphoric!

The final task involved two team members pushing a barrel up a steep hill around the cellar and back down the same hill. Helen and I graciously stepped back and allowed Gerhard and Chris to take on the heavy challenge of winning us the final race and hopefully making us the Grand Prize winners! It must have been quite exhausting for the two men after a hard day’s work tasting wines and zipping across the Helderberg wine region to now push a barrel up and down a hill.

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At the start of the barrel race the blue team (Gerhard and Chris) took the lead and sped up the hill out of sight. Coming back into sight they started down the hill with the barrel gaining momentum. The trick was not to let the barrel run wild down the hill but urge it to make a 90 degree turn to the right. Chris took one for the team as he launched himself in front of the barrel, ensuring that the 90 degree was executed perfectly.  Helen and I by this time were hoarse from screaming encouragement as the blue team crossed the finish line in first place!

When we finally made it to the winner’s podium ready to collect our copious amounts of wine and gift vouchers, we all agreed this was one of the most fun days we’d had in a long time.

What made it even sweeter was the knowledge that the proceeds for the race were donated to the Lions Club, who I am sure would apply them to a worthy cause.

We then joined in feasting on a spitbraai while the defending champions contemplated entering the race again and maybe just maybe walking away with the prize again!

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