Saikeri? What is that? Let me break it down. First, Saikeri is two Masaai words, Saiand Keri, which loosely translate to ‘bird’ and ‘grass’, so Saikeri means ‘a place where birds eat grass’. Saikeri area used to be a very lush grassland, but over time turned into a semi-arid savannah. It’s an extremely scenic area in the Great Rift Valley, and a 2 hour drive from the capital city of Nairobi. Looking out you’ll see jagged hills, vast open plains and little urban development. There’s plenty of wildlife, and the occasional giraffe, eland and monkey walking by to say hello. Second, Saikeri makes up part of the name of my vineyard, Saikeri Estate, which doubles as the name of the wine I’m making using the harvested Barbera grapes. My name is Mukami (pronounced moo-kah-me), Kami for short, and I’m from Nairobi, Kenya. It’s a pretty dope city, I definitely recommend visiting it someday. I have lived here most of my life, aside from 3 years of living in Australia where I went to university. I love the outdoors, live music, all kinds of Asian food and having a laugh with mates, preferably over a bottle or two of Prosecco. Also, I really love wine, like really really love it. So much, I started winemaking immediately after graduation.
Wine has always been a passion of mine since I was old enough to have a glass and shout “cheers” across the table at family dinner. For me, wine is an incredible product for one simple reason – how can one thing smell and taste like so many other things at the same time? I think that’s amazing, and ever since my first wine tasting class at the University of Melbourne, I’ve been obsessed with it. A running theory which explains my love for wine is that because my ancestors have always been of coffee and tea farmers (with the expectation of my techy parents and beer brewing great – grandmother), I have a better sense of smell and taste than most, and am therefore attracted to careers that require one to do just that – taste and smell delicious products.
Winemaking started as a hobby, now it’s my full time job. I very clearly remember thinking “surely, this can’t be that complicated”, just before planting begun, and wow was I wrong. In between wildlife grazing on the vines, not understanding any viticultural jargon, bad weather and generally having no idea if what I’m doing is right or wrong, my little vineyard has gone through the most. This isn’t helped by the fact that the farm is out in the middle of nowhere and that they’re very few viticulturalists in Kenya. I sometimes wish the farm was located elsewhere, in a place where cellular wasn’t over a mile away, or getting to the local shop wasn’t a trek in the bush, but the sound of birds in the morning and beautiful sunsets in the evening are so majestic and wonderful I often why I didn’t start winemaking earlier.
I hope this very brief introduction to Saikeri Estate helps you put some context into the situation, but over the next few posts I’ll flesh out all the details. Trust me, it’s very entertaining, and hopefully my misadventures will give you some insight before you start your own vineyard. Do stick around as I tell the tales of Mukami the Masaailand winemaker.