How could we not have an amazing stay spending our time outdoors, enjoying gorgeous scenery and sipping delicious wines?
There are numerous towns where one can lodge on the wine route. After much research, we decided spending two evenings in Franschhoek, which is far more quaint (read: honeymoon) than more famous Stellenbosch. However, if you are looking for more nightlife, I would recommend staying in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is a delightful town and home to the University, whereas, Franschhoek is much smaller, (although, in my opinion, more picturesque) and has a very small “downtown area” consisting of only several fine dining establishments and a handful of upscale shops.
We chose to stay in the historic “farmhouse” at the Clermont Auberge, which is a working wine farm, producing wine and olive oil.
Our accommodations were lovely and the grounds were breathtaking. The owners of the B&B clearly considered the small details for their guests – lavender sprigs on our pillows and a delicious breakfast made-to-order in the morning.
As far as wine tours go, there are options for every budget ranging from “hop on hop off” winery tours, to hiring your own sommelier to be your tour guide for the day. For our first day of tasting, we hired a sommelier for a private day tour of several wineries in Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and the surrounding areas. Our sommelier picked us up around 9:30 a.m. so that we were ready to start when the tasting room opened at 10:00 a.m. at Tokara in Stellenbosch.
Tokara is a modern vineyard, with an ultra modern and chic tasting room.
Next, we headed to a far more traditional vineyard, Rustenburg. The grounds were lovely and the buildings were traditional Dutch Cape architecture, complete with white-washed walls and thatched roofs.
Next we headed to Simonsig, which had a delightful patio and a nice array of sparkling wines as well as your more traditional South African blends.
One of many interesting facts we learned from our sommelier? South Africa is on the only country in the world that produces pinotages.
After Simonsig, we headed to Delheim for a tasting and delicious lunch.
After our late lunch, we ended the day with another tasting and cheese board at Rickety Bridge before we were dropped off at our B&B around 5:30 p.m.
The private sommelier guided tour was well worth the cost. We learned quite a bit about wine and sampled MANY. As far as the taste and quality of wines go, there was something for everyone at each winery, regardless of your wine preferences. I should also point out that since we were drinking wine in the sun for over 7 hours, I wouldn’t recommend a full day tour unless you are committed to drinking wine (or unless you are the type of wine taster that “swishes and spits”… which I am not), since it was a long (but, GLORIOUS) day.
For the next day of wine tasting, we decided to take it a little easier (since 5 wineries in one day was quite ambitious). We also took it easier on our budget by hiring a private driver rather than a driver and sommelier.
Our first stop in the morning was at Grande Provence in Franschhoek. The grounds of Grande Provence were gorgeous! After our tasting in the very modern tasting room, we enjoyed wandering the grounds and exploring the artwork scattered throughout the property’s gardens.
Next, we stopped at La Petite Ferme, which was my favorite winery. Aside from the breathtaking views, we received a lot of personalized attention from the family that owed La Petite Ferme.
The founder of the winery himself led the tours and allowed us to taste wine straight out of the barrel.
After an impressive three course lunch, I purchased a cookbook from the vineyard’s gift shop. When one of the owners saw my purchase, he grabbed the cookbook and autographed it for me. Overall, everything about our time spent at La Petite Ferme was just perfect.
Our last vineyard of the day was Haut Espoir, which was a small and rustic (but lovely) vineyard. Inside they had gorgeous paintings from local artists and outside roosters roamed wildly.
After some time at Haut Espoir, our driver dropped us off back at our B&B where we freshened up for dinner. We had planned our “wine country splurge dinner” at Ryan’s Kitchen that evening. I had read a lot about chef Ryan Smith and was looking forward to trying his innovative creations. We had our driver come pick us up around 6:00 p.m. and had sunset drinks at Roca Restaurant & Micro Brewery before heading to dinner. The views from Roca were amazing!
Ryan’s Kitchen did not disappoint either! We were sat at the chef’s table where we could watch each course being prepared by Chef Ryan and his sous chefs.
Like most of the other diners in the restaurant, we chose the eight course tasting menu. Each course was innovative and filled with surprises (think Richard Blais style cooking). My favorite course was the spiced lamb minced rooti with black pepper meringue. The meringue on my plate resembled a dessert, but tasted just like fresh ground pepper.
The food, the people, the scenery, and of course the wine, was just perfect in the South African Winelands. Many visitors to South Africa settle on a day tour of wine country from Cape Town, and if you are traveling with friends or on a tight time frame or budget, a day trip isn’t a bad choice. However, if you have the time I would highly recommend spending at least a couple days in wine country.
What’s your favorite “wine country” you’ve visited?
This post is part of a series on South Africa. Click here to read more about my time on safari, what to do in Cape Town, my time in the Winelands and to find out whether I enjoyed whale watching and diving with great white sharks!
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