Some 300 km’s from Cape Town the R362 winds its way up the picturesque West Coast. Along this largely unspoiled coastline lies Doringbaai, home to a small but hardy fishing community and arguably the world’s only vineyard this close to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Jetty restaurant is part of Fryer’s Cove Community Development Project and it is here where our wines truly shine. In their natural habitat paired with home-cooked west coast favourites such as Snoekkoekies (fish cakes), Kerrievis (pickled fish) and Roosterkoek, Freshly caught line fish and more. On summer days you can sit back and enjoy a fish braai on the jetty, prawn pans and the sounds of great friends coming together.
FORGED OF THE EARTH, TEMPERED BY THE SEA
Fryer’s Cove is the only vineyard within the Bamboes Bay ward, which is also the smallest ward in South Africa. The vines of Fryer’s Cove dot the hillside 500 meters from where the cold ocean throws its breakers against a rocky shore. The locals are as robust and unfettered as the landscape and it is this terroir that imbues every bottle of Fryer’s Cove wine. Fryer’s Cove wines have a distinct maritime flavour, hence our slogan ‘forged of the earth, tempered by the sea’.
In 1985 an aspirant winemaker studying at the Elsenburg Agriculture College, holidayed in the Strandfontein area, and had a dream. He shared it with his (now) in-laws and 14 years later Fryer’s Cove was born. Wynand Hamman was the student and his in-laws were Jan and Ponk van Zyl. The initial going was tough. Not only did the winemakers have to contend with the unknown factors of wind and sea, but the area was drought prone. Without a reliable water source the venture wouldn’t get out of the starting gates. They investigated using existing groundwater, but the salt content was too high and desalinisation proved too expensive. A pipeline from Vredendal – 29,5km away – was the only solution and they had to cross three adjacent farms to get there. After the neighbours agreed to the pipeline, Jan built it himself in 1999, with the aid of his farm workers. In exchange for their co-operation, the neighbours received water from the pipeline.
A buffer dam was also built on the Laubscher-brothers’ farm. The Laubscher brothers were given shares in exchange for their 10 ha of land. These 10 hectares afforded Fryer’s Cove its view of the ocean and the planting of the first three hectare vineyard commenced in 1999.
Doringbaai was first settled in 1925 when the North Bay Canning Company instructed a Dutchman named Koos Bleeker, to establish a crayfish packing factory in the West Coast area. When Bleeker arrived in Doringbay he found nothing more than an abandoned wooden shack, but there was no shortage of crayfish. So Bleeker set out to find locals who’d be willing to help with the construction of the factory and the first man he discovered was Jan Laubscher from the Sandveld. In the 2000’s the original Laubscher brothers were still farming the area and it was on a part of their farm that the Fryer’s Cove vineyards were founded. Fryer’s Cove was named after the first commercial farmer in the area, British settler Richard Fryer who entrenched a tradition of community investment in the area. The original Fryer build the first school in Strandfontein and today Fryer’s Cove remains involved in school sponsorships and job creation efforts in the area.
By the 70s the West Coast fishing industry had lost its lustre. Fish and major fisheries had begun to migrate southwards and had forced the closure of the Doringbaai factory. This set the tone for a long period of economic decline. Only through tourism and alternative commercial ventures do these authentic West Coast fishing villages survive. It’s one of the last outposts where hospitality, fresh crayfish and excellent wines come with the territory. To us, it’s a tradition worth saving.