A Tour of Il Masin, the Leakey Vineyard

Hope, Becky, Carl, our guide Silas, and I spent a wonderful afternoon with Dr. Louise Leakey, enjoyed a tour of the family vineyard Il Masin, and sampled several bottles of wine (except Silas, who was driving).  Winemaking is certainly very different from her work as a palaeontologist.  Or maybe not.  We last met Louise in 2004 at Lake Turkana where she was exhuming a fossil (pig) and clearly her attention to detail, perfectionism, and pleasure in what she was doing were evident in both.

For several years, Dr. Leakey and friends have joined a car rally to raise funds and awareness for protecting the rhino.  The Rhino Charge, as it is called, keeps the details of roads on which they must travel secret until the night before.  The webpage describes it as “…a challenge to any vehicle. It requires team work, stamina and calculation.”  And this year’s trip was a particularly harrowing one.  If you don’t believe me, watch a 4-minute video Car 17 Rhino Charge 2012.  Words cannot adequately describe the terrain!

At any rate, when I read about a silent auction to benefit the Charge, I immediately bid on a tour of the vineyard—and then immediately forgot about it.  In June I got an e-mail saying my bid was the highest!  I e-mailed Louise to find out if we could take the tour while in Kenya and she graciously arranged it.

Louise told us the vineyard began a number of years ago when someone told Richard Leakey, her father, that grapes to make wine couldn’t be grown in Kenya.  I have never met Richard but anyone who has ever heard anything about him would expect him to immediately jump into the grape-growing business.  Which he did!  And the location outside Nairobi is gorgeous, amid rolling hills at the edge of the Rift valley.  True, some intense work to trick the plants into thinking cool weather has arrived and a very tall fence with barbed wire strung at the top to discourage baboons add to the challenge of wine-making in Kenya.  But ingenuity solved those and several similar problems.  You can see the entire winemaking process on her website.

Below are some photos of the wine bottles we easily emptied.  Delicious stuff!  Especially coupled with tea and carrot cake that Louise’s daughters, Alexia and Seiyia, baked.

(I’ll remind you about the Charge next year because, whether you contribute dollars or pounds sterling, it is an excellent tax-deductible way to help save the rhino.)




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1 comment to A Tour of Il Masin, the Leakey Vineyard

  • marybk

    We enjoyed several different wines during our visit but Dr. Leakey said this a family project so no, we did not bring bottles home. Excellent wine, however.