VINTAGE WINE AND FANTASTIC FOOD IN CAPE WINELANDS
Sampling top vintages is only part of the fun when you’re exploring South Africa’s wine country, now widely recognized as one of the most innovative wine-producing regions in the world. Located outside of Cape Town, Cape Winelands offers everything travelers have come to expect from a top-notch tour of luxury vineyards: bucolic valleys, breathtaking mountain landscapes, charming farmhouses, world-renowned estates and exquisite vintages. A little bit French, a little bit Dutch and uniquely South African, Cape Winelands is an essential stop for devout enthusiasts and for foodies who want a break from the activity and nightlife of nearby Cape Town.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Franschhoek: The town of Franschhoek is a connoisseur’s dream, boasting an array of international award-winning restaurants and cellars, just an hour and a half from Cape Town. Apart from tasting world-class wines, visitors can take cooking classes, or pack a picnic of savory local specialties to take on tour in the vineyards. Car enthusiasts also get revved up at the Francschhoek Motor Museum, located on the grounds of the L'Ormarins wine estate, which houses more than 220 classic vehicles ranging from a 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar. Look also a Ford Model A, 1956 Austin Healy and a 1940 Packard 120 Convertible Coup, all in mint condition, along this fascinating ride through the automobile’s evolution.
- Stellenbosch: Situated in a lush mountainous valley about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch’s Cape-Dutch thatched-roof farmhouses and oak-lined streets lend a dramatic storybook feel. Stroll along Dorp Street, one of the oldest residential avenues in all of South Africa, and don’t miss the Neo-Gothic Moederkerk (“mother”) church, known for its magnificent stained-glass windows and beautiful grounds.
- Constantia Valley: A mere 20 minutes from the city center, this intimate spot has been producing wine for over 200 years, and is considered the birthplace of South Africa’s wine industry. Explore the vineyards in a chauffeured-driven classic car—a truly unique way to see the sights—and stop at top estates like Klein Constantia and Groot Constantia to sample some excellent local varietals.
- Biking through the Winelands: By far, the best way to explore this region and its bucolic landscape is on bike. There are a number of cycling routes that meander past picture perfect farmhouses and wine estates, but the dirt country roads, while scenic, are not easily navigable. Organized tours, which include private guides and multiple tastings, are highly recommended.
- Picnicking in the Vineyards: Several estates now offer picnic baskets filled with tasty gourmet fare for visitors to eat at their leisure. Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek packs fresh local produce and treats from the celebrated Franschhoek Kitchen restaurant, along with a chilled bottle of their celebrated rosé. In Stellenbosch, Spiers Winery offers baskets from Eight To Go, an offshoot of the estate’s acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant.
- Art Gazing: Cape Winelands is also home to some of South Africa’s top collections of contemporary art. Art in the Yard, a contemporary art space in Franschhoek, sits in a courtyard at the end of a cobbled path, and showcases the works of South African artists, photographers, sculptors and craftspeople. The popular Stellenbosch Art Gallery gallery features an extensive collection of work by Western Cape artists, including paintings, sculpture, handmade glass and ceramics.
WHERE TO TASTE
Blauuwklippen: Along the wine route in Stellenbosch, visit the 300-year-old Blaauwklippen estate and try its wonderful zinfandels. The winery also offers cellar tours, a weekly family market (complete with pony rides) and delectable pairings of wine with locally produced chocolate.
Fairview: For the ultimate wine and cheese experience, head to Fairview, a third-generation family-owned farm in the Paarl wine valley. The farm’s iconic, whimsical goat tower is a focal point, as are tastings that pair Fairview vintages with a selection of their Jersey and goat’s milk cheeses. And in summer, they offer a Junior Masters class for children to learn the fine art of cheese making.
Haute Cabrière: The home of the celebrated Pierre Jourdan and Haute Cabrière wines, this estate runs two vineyards on either side of the Franschhoek valley, along with a fabulous restaurant. Its arched interiors, original art and expansive terrace create a warm ambiance to enjoy a seasonally inspired menu, and on Saturdays visitors can watch proprietor Achim von Arnim and his son, Takuan, entertain guests by using a French cavalry saber to open bottles of their Pierre Jourdan Cap Classique.
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français: This award-winning Franschhoek restaurant offers an African-inspired tasting menu that is innovative, unexpected and world ranked. The chef incorporates seasonal produce from the restaurant’s own garden to create an ever-changing menu, and daily experimentation with locally sourced ingredients delights even the most discerning of palates. Each menu tells a story, and the dining experience should not be missed.
Overture: This acclaimed restaurant Hidden Valley Wines in Stellenbosch prides itself on simplicity. The dining room and winery are built into a hillside overlooking the valley, and blend effortlessly into the landscape. The menu, reflecting the site’s simple design, is built around dishes that are authentic and pure, using fresh seasonal ingredients to enhance individual flavors. Pair your meal with wines from Hidden Valley’s own cellar and enjoy the magnificent views from the restaurant’s deck.
REST & REJUVENATE
La Residence: Built at the heart of a private 30-acre estate, La Residence is a luxurious haven amidst the stunning, unspoiled beauty of the Franschhoek valley. Surrounded by fruit orchards and close to some of the area’s best vineyards, it was designed with highly honed tastes and an extremely refined sensibility that—quite literally—transports travelers to another world. The accommodations are plush, incorporating elegant antiques and original artwork with exquisite floral arrangements. The coup de grace is the glittering Indian chandeliers that grace the dining room, or intricate rugs and stately mirrors that line the Persian alley.
Delaire Graff Estate: The Delaire Graff Estate is situated at the convergence of art, wine and culture, in one of the most beautiful settings in all of South Africa. Occupying a magnificent expanse of land, surrounded by majestic mountains in the heart of Stellenbosch, Delaire Graff is more than just a world class luxury wine estate: it also houses the personally curated art collection of the estate’s owner, and is considered one of the most important destinations to view contemporary South African artists. The estate also includes a private vineyard, luxury spa and a spectacular garden of more than 300 indigenous flowers and plants. And the dining experience at the Estate restaurant—with a menu as creatively inspired as some of the art that lines the walls—is absolutely not to be missed.
Babylonstoren: As its' name suggests, Babylonstoren is one of the oldest remaining Cape Dutch farms. A beautiful boutique hotel set amidst the buccolic vineyards & orchards of Drakenstein Valley. Just 14 cottages spread out over 8 acres of garden, all of which have been uniquely converted from 17th century original Cape Dutch buildings. Babylonstoren offers a wide spectrum of experiences, from harvesting, cycling and boating to fine dining, wine tasting and a signature spa extravaganza including a private hammam water ritual and a bamboo sanctuary from which to lounge and regal on bottomless ripe juicy fruits. As you might suspect, the dining here is all farm-to-table, but it's a whole other ball game at Babylonstoren, because farm-to-spa applies here as well. The ingredients used to create your custom spa treatment are sourced daily from the grounds' herb garden...
WHAT TO KNOW
Cape Town and its surrounding areas have their very own weather pattern, and the best time to visit Cape Town is during the hot, sunny and dry months of November through March. This is the best time to enjoy the area’s beaches and outdoor activities, as well as absorb untainted views. Take care to account for holiday crowds, however, when planning your trip, as Cape Town can easily get overbooked at Christmas and New Year.
Those traveling with U.S. and British passports do not need a visa to enter South Africa, though it is always best to check with the consular office ahead of time to ensure there have been no changes.
All individuals travelling with children under the age of 18 will need to produce a birth certificate when entering South Africa.
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