04 February 2008

Open Day at Beaumont

This year’s open weekend at Beaumont Winery was sadly missing its star. Raoul Beaumont, owner and patriarch, passed away after a short sudden illness exactly a month before at the start of January.

Raoul would have loved the event. A wonderful band playing traditional African wooden xylophones (pictured above) kept up a non-stop tuneful rhythm and olives, dips, cheeses and bread were available to graze on. The lawns were full of picnickers and kids were splashing around in the lake. Winemaker Sebastian Beaumont was everywhere, pouring wine and chatting to guests.

And the old mill was working again for the first time in more than forty years stone grinding flour that was being sold at 20 Rands per kilo bag as fast as it could be produced.

Although the mill was derelict when the Beaumonts bought the farm, they kept the equipment together and the building in good repair. Then last year engineering enthusiast Andy Selfe, visiting the farm on an organised tour, recognised the mills potential and offered to restore it to working condition. The Beaumonts readily agreed. It took Andy just four weekends of putting the old equipment back together, adjusting screws, and greasing moving parts before it was working.

The mill building, which dates back to around 1800, is unusual because it contains three mill machines. The first is driven by water, however the wooden gulleys that carried water to the millwheel had rotted away long ago. But the mill was also equipped to be operated by an engine during drought conditions, so Andy Selfe brought his 1939 engine to power the leather belt system that drives the using 1920’s Stamford mill. He has also restored a 1900 Guttman portable mill to working condition and is now working on bringing the original water wheel back into production.

Visitors clustered around him as he explained the mechanisms and demonstrated turning grain into flour. The stone wheels that grind the grain would have been recognised by the ancients – the grooves scored into them are spaced identically to 2000 year old Roman mill stones – and the Greeks before them were using water wheels. But they would have been amazed by the sturdy engine that turned the wheels without the need for human, animal, or water power.

But what about the wine, you are no doubt asking. Beaumont’s 2004 Pinotage was available for tasting. Although aged, it is still sturdy with some firm tannins fronted by dark berry fruit flavours and great with a steak.

Beaumont are really on the ball -- their website already has three pages of photo's from the open days, and read their blog for Andy Selfe's report on restoring the mill.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous21:13

    Dear Peter, talking about being on the ball, you are rather quick and up to date with your posts yourself! I am very pleased you visited us during our open day. Thank you for your kind words and proper coverage of the day - you said it lovely.

    Schalk Joubert - Beaumont Wines