Source: Steenberg Vineyards
In the year 1682, Simon van der Stel granted Catharina Ras a farm at the foot of the Steenberg Mountains. She named it Swaaneweide, meaning ‘Feeding Place of Swans’. Catharina hailed originally from the town of Lübeck in Northern Germany, a port on the Baltic Sea populated by many swans, and therefore the farm’s name was in honour of her home town. Indigenous to the Constantia region are spur-winged geese, large black birds with long necks which live on and around water. It is suggested that Catharina saw these birds and confused them with the swans of her home town.
Under Catharina’s supervision (with the help of her 5th husband Matthys Michelsz), Swaaneweide, also known as Zwaanswyk, became a remarkably successful farm. Within ten years they planted 8000 vines, as well as wheat, barley and rye. They had 600 sheep and 140 head of cattle. In 1695, once they had had enough of farming, they sold the farm off to Frederik Russouw for 800 guilders. Russouw, a powerful and wealthy member of the Burger Council made the first wines at Swaaneweide. His wife, Christina Diemer, would be the following pioneering woman to take control of the farm after her husband’s death.
Of all things, the weather conditions in Cape Town would play the next biggest role in the fate of the farm. Table Bay was not sheltered enough in winter for sailing ships calling at the Cape. In 1737, nine ships were lying in Table Bay, richly laden on the return voyage to the Netherlands from India. A wild storm raged for two days and seven out of the nine ships were driven onto the beach near the mouth of the Salt River. The beach was strewn with a valuable cargo and 208 men were lost. Looters were hanged on the beach as a warning to others not to steal.
For the full post, please visit Steenberg Vineyards’ blog Totally Stoned- News and views from under the Stone Mountain.