We departed from Nairobi shortly after 9am on a sunny morning, headed to Naivasha. Our destination was the Morendat Farm, where the grapes that make Leleshwa wines are grown.
On the bus today were mostly hoteliers and a few media people. Leleshwa has only had tours for two years now, and is planning to host guests more often as part of the Kenyan tourism circuit.
The hour-long trip to Naivasha was mannerly, as people got to know one another. I was happy to sit next to a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, so we caught up.
We were welcomed at one end of the farm with sandwiches and tea, and then we hopped back on to the bus to proceed to the vineyard. A signboard said we were at Block T4, where the grapes were Sauvignon Blanc, planted in 2004. Chenin Blanc was on the other side, quite young, as it was dated 2017.
The farm is on the floor of the Rift Valley, about 1,800 metres above sea level. Temperatures range from six to 32 degrees Celsius — the climate is equatorial.
Some two decades after it started, Leleshwa produces more than 80,000 bottles of wine every year.
In 2015, the Sauvignon Blanc won a gold medal in the international Michelangelo Wine and Spirits Awards. In 2017, the Sauvignon Blanc won another gold award in the same competition, held in South Africa.
Farm manager Norman was on hand to give us a tour. “The oldest vines here are 24 years old. In some parts of the world, vines can be as old as 100, but the soils in Naivasha have a lot of sodium, so we’ll probably keep them for 50 years.”
The current area under crop is 59.5 hectares, basically as far as the eye can see.
“We harvest once a year. We get about 5kg of grapes from each vine, sometimes more,” Norman said. “Birds love to eat the grapes, and sometimes build nests in the vines. To scare them away, women come onto the farm to shout, sing and dance. We also have monkeys coming around, especially when it’s close to harvest time.”
There were bunches of grapes on the vine; some would be ready for harvest in about two weeks. The riper ones had a pale green colour and were soft to the touch.
At the end of the farm tour, hot and thirsty, we arrived at a table set up with chilled Leleshwa semi-sweet rosé. What a treat! The rosé is light, fruity and really easy to drink.
We hadn’t had lunch yet, and there was more wine waiting on the other side so we needed to pace ourselves.
We got back onto the bus, and went across to the other side of the farm. It was a clear day so the view of Mt Longonot in the distance was amazing.
There was a table laid out with canapés of fruit skewers, melon wrapped in parma ham, and several cheeses and crackers. We paired these with the semi-sweet rosé and I found the cheddar cheese pairing to be the best.
We moved over to tables that had been set out for lunch. For starters we had a mushroom and Parmesan salad served with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, paired with the Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc is a pale gold colour and smells of green apples. The crisp freshness made it a great match for the salad.
For the main course, we had some braised Morendat brisket with smashed potatoes in red wine jus. This was paired with a full-bodied Merlot Chiraz, served from a decanter to properly aerate the wine. The Merlot Chiraz was a deep burgundy colour and tasted spicy, an ideal pairing for the rich beef meal.
With our dessert of a biscuit base topped with cream and a passion fruit compote, we had the Leleshwa Sweet White, which tastes of ripe citrus fruits. Yet another perfect pairing, bringing a close to the lunch.
The ride back to Nairobi that evening was boisterous, as the group of merry people, who had now become friends, shared stories in vino veritas.