RoadTrip | The 'tumultuous yet inspiring' story of Seven Sisters wines and the Subaru connection


• There is a unique connection between Subaru and Seven Sisters wines.

• Seven Sisters wines are sold locally and abroad.

• Subaru Forester used to make the trip to Seven Sisters.

• For more motoring stories, go to

The star cluster Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, is incorporated in the six-star logo of the Japanese manufacturer Subaru.

So, it was befitting to visit the Seven Sisters Vineyards near Stellenbosch belonging to the Brutus sisters of Paternoster, with the latest top-model Forester.

The name of the Pleiades probably derives from the term "plein" (to sail) in ancient Greek due to the importance of the star cluster in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. However, in Greek mythology the name was used for the Pleiads, seven divine sisters and the daughters of Atlas, the Titan who held up the sky, and the Oceanid Pleione, protectress of sailing.

seven sisters,subaru

Seven Sisters Vineyard (RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott)

Tumultuous, yet inspiring

Pleiades was supposedly derived from Pleione, meaning "daughters of Pleione", but most probably the name of the star cluster came first, with Pleione invented later to explain it. Interestingly, in Japan, the constellation is mentioned under the name Mutsuraboshi (six stars, as the seventh, according to tradition, is invisible) and is now known as Subaru.

The meaning of Subaru in Japanese is "coming together", or cluster, and the logo of the vehicle manufacturer incorporates six stars to represent the five corporations which, between 1953 and 1955, merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries, owner of the Subaru brand.

The Pleiad sisters – in mythology sometimes also described as nymphs in the train of Artemis – were Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno, and Merope.

But on a sunny autumn morning (just before the Covid-19 lockdown) we made our way to Welmoed Road in Lynedoch, just off Annandale Road, to meet the Brutus sisters: Vivian, Dawn, June, Carol, Yolanda, Twena, and Odelia. Well, not all of them. Due to the imminent lockdown, only three could meet us at the wine farm. No matter, though, as Vivian Kleynhans – the real driving force behind the Seven Sisters wine brand – was to be on hand to share the tumultuous, yet inspiring story of the Brutus family with us.

seven sisters,subaru

Seven Sisters Vineyard (RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott)

Five-star Forester

Originally conceived as a crossover version of the Impreza to compete in the burgeoning compact SUV category, the Subaru Forester has matured and grown in stature with every passing generation. The latest Forester has recently been named the safest and "Best in Class Car of 2019" in the small off-road/small MPV class by the Euro NCAP safety organisation, in part due to its standard EyeSight driver assist safety system.

The Forester, now in its fifth incarnation, has played a pivotal role in establishing the brand with the Pleiades logo in Southern Africa, and after more than two decades, it is still the most popular and successful Subaru model in the region. For our trip to Seven Sisters Vineyards, we received a high-spec 2.0i-S ES CVT version, courtesy of Subaru Somerset West.

READ: Suzuki's little S-Presso and SA's homegrown Rooibos tea has a lot in common

Ideally, we would have preferred a 2.5-litre model – set for local release in September this year – but due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, this model is now only expected here in the first quarter of next year. Even so, the 2.0-litre, with a four-cylinder Boxer engine delivering 115kW and 196Nm, was a pleasant companion en route to Stellenbosch.

The powertrain, with a lighter, more efficient Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system impressed with its relaxed, laidback feel and the smoothness of the ride was again notable, as well as the Outback-like dimensions and space inside the cabin.

From Annandale Road, we turned off onto Welmoed Road and followed the rutty track towards the white gate signposted Seven Sister Vineyards and logo portraying seven dancing women, inspired by the painting "The Pleiades" by 19th century symbolist painter Elihu Vedder.

seven sisters,subaru

Seven Sisters wines (RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott)

The Brutus family

The tumultuous tale of the Brutus family commences in the West Coast hamlet of Paternoster. It tells the encouraging and heart-warming story of a family who overcame numerous setbacks and hardship to emerge as trailblazers and pioneers in the highly competitive South African wine industry.

After their father lost his job at a local fishing company, the family was evicted from the factory house they lived in and for all the children (seven sisters and a baby brother) to survive, the siblings were forced to split up and live with different relatives. They were reunited only 20 years later and then started working towards realising a vision to establish their own wine company and wine brands.

READ: The Forsaken and the Givers - Isuzu reaches out in the Eastern Cape

Kleynhans has been central to this vision and is the motivating force behind the company. While showing us around the estate with her sisters Yolanda and Odelia in attendance, she told us she launched her first wine business in 2003.

"All my life, I wanted to own and operate my own business, and I found the wine industry really interesting."

She established a company, but things did not go well and the business failed. Instead of giving up, she turned to her sisters for support and inspiration and told them about her dream.

"They thought I had gone crazy," she remembered, "but they nevertheless supported me." Kleynhans enrolled for a wine management course and attended classes during the day, while in the evenings doing wine-tasting courses at the Cape Wine Academy.

seven sisters,subaru

The seven sisters and one brother. (Seven Sisters)

Seven wines for seven sisters

In 2005, she established the African Roots Wine Brands company, and the self-taught wine entrepreneur started developing her first line of products, matching the different varietals to the personality of one of her sisters. Working with the Institute of Masters of Wine, a taste and aroma worthy of every sister was chosen, and so the Seven Sisters line was born.

Each of the wines represents the personality of one of the sisters – Vivian (Sauvignon Blanc), Dawn (Pinotage/Shiraz), June (Merlot), Carol (Cabernet Sauvignon), Yolanda (Moscato), Twena (Rosé), and Odelia (Bukettraube).

As the Brutus family enterprise started to grow, a chance meeting with Selena Cuffe, an American woman, led to a contract for overseas distribution. Seven Sisters wines were exported to the United States, and by selling through retailers, including Walmart, it has opened doors to the private labelling of their wines' States side.

According to Vivian, the evolution of the business has changed the perspective of people in the wine industry. She has trailblazed change and has dedicated the last decade of her life working for equality and transformation in the industry. In 2016, a significant milestone was achieved when they launched their first premium wines, including a Chardonnay, a Shiraz and a Bordeaux Blend, made from grapes from their vineyards.

Much like the Forester has over the past two decades contributed to building the Pleaides brand in South Africa, the Seven Sisters wine brand, started 15 years ago by the sisters in a quest to change their destiny, has built a lasting legacy for the Brutus family.

A fitting tribute to the Pleiads and divine sisterhood indeed.

Seven Sister,subaru

Seven Sisters Vineyard (RoadTrip / Ryan Abbott)

Our vehicle: Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES CVT 

Engine: Boxer, four-cylinder, direct injection petrol

Displacement: 1995cc

Maximum power: 115kW @ 6000rpm

Maximum torque: 196Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission: CVT, AWD system with X-modes

Luggage space: 520L

Ground clearance: 220mm

Consumption: 7.6-litres/100km (claimed by manufacturer)

CO2 emissions: 176g/km

Base price: R540 000

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