Mountain of Destiny
Erny and I met in July 1995 in France during my backpacking travels. I had been given his contact details by a mutual friend in South Africa with the back story that Erny loved South Africa, and if I found myself in France craving a decent meal I should make contact. I never gave him another thought until the girlfriend I was travelling with fell ill in Nice and needed to rest for a few days.So I phoned him and arrangements were made for him to pick us up at a train station in Provence.
It was love at first sight, both of us taken completely by surprise by such sudden and obvious chemistry. What followed was a whirlwind of travel, visiting his home town in Germany and being introduced to family and friends all over Europe. As my time in Europe was coming to an end, we needed to make a decision about the next step. As Erny had been visiting South Africa for many years enjoying summer holidays he had made quite a few good friends, and he knew the country. So when he asked me where I would like us to start our life together, and I said South Africa, he was quite happy to give it a go.
In 1996 we started searching the winelands for a farm or a piece of land. After 6 months we were feeling very disappointed – nothing we had seen had sparked any magic. Just about to give up, we received a call from an estate agent, encouraging us to take a look at some land which had just been put up for sale. There was no road, just a dirt track, and as we bumped along the track, with bushes and branches scraping the sides of our car, we shared a mounting sense of excitement. We finally stopped at the very top of the hill. The sun was setting. Table Mountain was clearly visible in the red orange glow of evening. And Erny and I looked at each other – this was it – this was our Mont Destin.
And our pioneering adventure began. We became the proud owners of untamed farm land, the perfect terroir for vineyards. But we had to start from scratch. There was no water, no electricity, no telephone lines [these were the days of the fax machine…] So we started drilling for water – after 3 attempts and at a depth of 120 meters we struck a huge vein, with enough water to plant vineyards and start developing. The closest electricity supply was 2 km away so we laid underground electric cables. Then we contracted some machines to dig soil test holes all over the land. Erny joked that it looked like a Swiss cheese…A soil specialist was hired to advise on the soil types; a renowned viticulturist recommended suitable cultivars to plant. We were on our way…
It was a steep learning curve for us – it was all so new. I had studied a Bachelor of Commerce at University and Erny had built a successful recycling business in Germany. Nothing could prepare us for wine farming. There were many challenging moments when we came close to giving up; when we questioned what we were doing, when we thought that we must be crazy!
But we kept going, persevered through the years and continued to follow our dream: of a wine farm with a guest house, restaurant and cellar.
The wine cellar was our very special project: the brief was that it should be designed so that I could manage it easily with an assistant.It was the most well-planned and technologically advanced cellar for its size –every part of the winemaking process was given attention – the grape bunches were sorted by hand at a vibrating table; after the bunches were destemmed the berries were sorted by hand on another vibrating table. Pumping was kept to a minimum. Only ripe and healthy berries were fermented into wine
We had created a winemaking process which respected the purity of the fruit of the vine.
The first wine which Erny and I made together was a shiraz in 2002. It was at this time when I fell in love with the winemaking process and shiraz. There was always music playing in the cellar – myfavourite, Shirley Bassey, was singing La Passione with such emotion -we were on a high, encouraged to keep dreaming, to follow our passion. We were inspired and elated, and decided to name this wine the Destiny.
Each vintage we would select the 2 or 3 most extraordinary barrels of Shiraz to create the Destiny. We were determined that our ethos of handcrafting this wine should also be reflected on the outside of every bottle. So I hand wrote each bottle number on every label; Erny and I signed the back labels; we glued the labels on by hand; and finally the piece de resistance: the Bürgin family ring was pressed into gold wax on the front of every bottle. The Destiny Shiraz was a true symbol of ourlabour and love!
In 2004 our biggest dream became a reality: we welcomed our son into the world. It was the beginning of another chapter when our lives took on a greater meaning; struck with the realization that there is more to life than work and material things.
And then in 2011 we were confronted with the dreaded news that Erny had cancer. What followed was 4 years of various cancer diagnoses; constant doctor and hospital visits; and Erny courageously fighting each new battle. As many of our friends and family will attest, he never gave up the fight, refusing to accept each prognosis.
Towards the end of 2015 it became clear that Erny was not going to win the war. With this realization his wish was to pass away at home. I was sitting next to him when he took his final breath just after midnight on 19 December 2015. I had lost my soulmate and the love of my life.
The months which followed were filled with so many twists and turns and unexpected challenges. In 2017 I found myself in a position where I had to sell the farm. Packing up 20 years of memories, and driving out of the farm for the last time, were some of the most traumatic moments of our lives.
We decided to start our new life in Franschhoek. My son is closer to his school and we are now part of a community which does feel rather good after years of living quite isolated.
I have kept ownership of the name and our new home is called Mont Destin.
After losing Erny I started questioning my future and if it still could be about wine. I felt that part of my heart had died and with it my passion for making wine. Perhaps some of this passion will return and I start to walk a new wine path.
At this moment I wish to celebrate Erny’s legacy and what we created together. The Destiny Shiraz symbolizes all of this: dreams, love and passion. That nothing is impossible; no challenge too great.
I truly hope that you will make your very own unforgettable Destiny memory when you open a bottle. Perhaps you can even imagine Erny and I on our journey together as you savour every sip.
My story continues…