Pam’s Favourite Cape Wine Estates

PAM’S FAVOURITE WINE ESTATES IN THE CAPE:

Below are some of my favourite wine estates, most are included as they offer some of the best wine in the Cape, others because they are a great experience to visit, some because they offer both!  This list will help you to plot out your visit to the Cape’s winelands.  A note to remember is that you will never conquer them all in a day and in addition, make sure you get a map out and plot the route before choosing the wine estates you wish to visit.   I have lost count of the number of people who have arrived and presented me with a list that includes three wine farms in three different regions – a technical impossibility!

Note that many of the estates operate from Monday to Friday during the day and close at lunchtime on a Saturday.  For this reason it is best to plan your day out in the winelands on a weekday.

For a serious wine enthusiast, I would highly recommend purchasing a John Platters guide prior to setting out on your tours.  This guide is immensely useful as they taste all of the wines in the industry, provide you with some background on each estate and maps.  It can be purchased from bookshops, wine specialist bottle stores, Pick n’Pay (generally the best price) and from many of the wine estates. www.wineonaplatter.com

Note appointments are generally not needed at most of our wine estates – if they are required I will advise below.

To plot out your trip in the Stellenbosch wine region – print out the map from  http://www.wineroute.co.za/maps.asp

1.  STELLENBOSCH WINE REGION

Note that this region is really large – so take out a wine map to plan your visit to the area or else you will be driving from one end to the other all day! Stellenbosch is recognized as our best red wine region in the country.   This region is divided into separate wards as the terroir changes quite a lot from one ward to another.

Make sure that while you are in the area, you take time to visit the town of Stellenbosch, as it is our 2nd oldest town in the country.  The oldest part town boasts a “white” house theme with a mix of Dutch and British architectural themes – representing the two Eurpoean nations that conquered us.   The two main roads to explore would be Dorp street for the archticture and Kerk (Church) Street for the shopping and for sitting at pavement cafes watching people pass by.

HELDERBERG WARD:

This region is about 45 minutes drive from Cape Town and is nestled among the suburbs of Somerset West.

  • Vergelegen: This farm should be number 1 on your hitlist if visiting the Cape.  It is Vergelegenone of our most historical estates dating back to the early 1700’s.  The history is fascinating and worth delving into.  The estate boasts extensive gardens that can be explored.  Do not miss out on visiting the Rose Garden in summer.  At the estate you can explore the historical Cape Dutch Homestead, the gardens, the camphor forest, the yellow wood forest (note that this forest is very young) and see the Cape’s oldest camphor tree and the oldest oak tree (be warned it is small!).  Note that Vergelegen often walks off with many of the wine awards each year – as such a wine tasting is a definite requirement when visiting.  Additional attractions would be to book for a cellar tour and to book for a picnic in the camphor forest.  Note that this is one of the most civilized picnics you will ever go to.  They set the tables for the picnic randomly around the forest.  You arrive and report into the kiosk in the Rose Garden and a waiter brings your prepared picnic basket to your table.  It is a serviced picnic – so a waiter will pop by every now and again to check if you need more drinks.  If you have the time in your itinerary, plan to arrive late morning for the cellar tour (must book this in advance) and spend the afternoon enjoying the picnic.  It is an amazing day out. Click here for booking details.  NB book your picnic well in advance in summer as it is often booked a month in advance (Note that the picnics only operate in summer.)  There are also two restaurants at Vergelegen – Stables which is a lovely Bistro with a great play area for kids and Camphors – which is more fine dining and not at all kid friendly.
  • Morgenster: Directly next door to Vergelegen is Morgenster.  Morgenster is noted for its very good Bordeaux red blends and its award winning olive oil.  Visit Morgenster to do a wine, olive and olive oil tasting.  They do a formal olive oil tasting – yes, you smell the nose…….and actually sip the oil.  A scratchiness at the back of your through indicates that it is a fresh extra virgin olive oil. The farm has a wonderful setting with views of the mountains.  The tasting room is stylish and the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  It is a really fun experience not to be missed. Open Mon – Fri 10am – 5pm, Sat & Sun & public holidays 10am – 4pm.
  • Waterkloof WinesThis is an architectural masterpiece located on top of a mountain with panoramic views over Somerset West/Strand and False Bay.  It is gorgeous and well worth popping in to visit for a wine tasting or for lunch.  The estate is organic and biodynamic.  They even use horses to plough their fields.  The wines are fantastic – I particularly like their white wines and their rose!  If you want a seriously romantic restaurant that will blow your partner away – then book a table for lunch here.  It is beautiful!! Address – Sir Lowry’s Pass Road – you head out of Somerset West and start looking for the sign on your left!  Tel no:  021 858 1291/2.  (Tip – if you are planning to head this direction for a wine tasting on a weekend – call first as they do shut when they have weddings there!)  Open daily for wine tastings.  Restaurant open daily for lunch.  Closed Sunday nights
  • Lithos Wine - this is a hidden tiny artisanal gem.  If you like to find the smaller guys who are madly passionate and off the beaten track……..then track these guys down.  My suggestion would be to make this the main destination for your day.  You need to book this one in advance and my suggestion would be to go for a full morning.  Book to do a walk through the vineyards with the winemaker, a tasting with the winemaker and lunch which is a food pairing with his wines.  He is also making bottle fermented beer, which is interesting!!  This visit is 100% passion and 110% fabulous – If you have the time to play in the Cape this is well worth the effort of getting there.  They distribute locally and to the UK……….if you are from elsewhere – it may be an expensive exercise to get the wine home!!  (Note this is in the same area as Waterkloof wine – just further along the same road – so these two are a good combo to do in a day)  Ps ask them for directions when you book as this one is tricky to find!  Location: Wedderwill Country Estate, Somerset West  Tel: +27 (21) 8581851
    Email: info@lithos.co.za #greatsouthafricanchardonnay

Note that if you have kids with you or animal lovers, it is worth planning to stop and visit Cheetah Encounters while you are in Somerset West.  Click here to read more on this inspirational project and stop to pet the cheetahs while you are in the area.

These estates below are classified as part of the Helderberg region – however, you now head away from Somerset West Town onto the R44 in the direction of Stellenbosch to start exploring the following estates:

  • Grangehurst Winery: This is an absolute gem and I would highly recommend a visit to them.  For those that are looking for a small family owned estate that offers exceptionally good wines and is off the beaten track – this is it! If you are keen on red wines and red blends this is well worth detouring for.  The tasting room is small and the service and explanations really in depth.  This estate may be a bit dangerous as you will end up taking a few bottles to hide in your luggage or even worse, end up shipping some home! Open daily for tasting (with slightly earlier closing time of 3pm on weekends)
  • JP Bredell Wines: This estate is well worth visiting if you have a sweet tooth and like Port.  They are noted for really good ports.  The tasting room experience is nothing special – but I do enjoy their ports! Open on weekdays only for tasting.
  • Ken Forester Wines: Ken is known as the “King” of Chenin Blanc in this country – not a shabby position to be in now that Chenin has been back in fashion!  He has been walking off with lots of awards in the last few years and this spot is worth stopping for a tasting.  They have a nice little tasting room and if you are peckish you can get a wonderful platter of Dalewood cheeses to enjoy during your tasting.  Dalewood are one of the best cheese manufacturers in the wine region – so it is definitely worth indulging.  Note that if you are in the area and are hungry, 96 Winery Rd Restaurant is just around the corner and is always good for relaxed hearty country dining.  Expect to find some of the regions winemakers relaxing here too.
  • Le RicheNote – they have moved to the Helderberg Region and are now open for tastings by appointment only. Etienne Le Riche is the rated as one of the top producers of cabernet sauvignon in the country. Nearly every year they walk off with a 5* from John Platters for their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. On a visit to the estate you are usually looked after by the assistant wine maker – Mark or Etienne’s wonderful daughter Yvonne. You must ask Mark to show you their cellar and how their operation works – it is small and traditional and really fun to see. Le Riche buys in their grapes – they however are very involved with monitoring the vineyards where they source their grapes. Note also that as a very small number of people pop in, they do not keep their full range of wines open for tastings, as such you may have to trust my advice and immediately buy a bottle of the Cab Sav Reserve without tasting it!  To book an appointment email: wine@leriche.co.za or call 021 842 3472  Click here for directions to Le Riche
  • Uva Mira: This estate is well worth a visit – it is a breathtaking drive through the estate as you travel over the mountain to get there.  The tasting room offers panoramic views where you can see all the way to False Bay.  They are famous for their chardonnay and keep winning a huge number of accolades.  It sells out fast though – so it is worth checking before you go if they have some!   However – this estate is worth visiting regardless as it is quite simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in the world.  The rest of their wines are also lovely – so go!  I am trying to find out if they are doing their summer sundowner evenings on their terraces  for early 2015 – and will update this once I find out.  They ran these last summer on Friday nights and it was awesome!!  Closed on Mondays. Tues – Thurs close at 4pm, Fri, Sat & Sun they close at 6pm.  Tel: +27 (0) 21 880 1683 E-mail: info@uvamira.com  Location – follow the signs from Annandale road and head high up into the mountains (same turn off for Ernie Els & Hidden Valley) #greatsouthafricanchardonnay
  • Hidden Valley estate: Next door to Uva Mira.  The wines are good here and it is hidden valley tasting room good shot (Small)worth a stop if you lovely contemporary architecture.  The building comprises of the cellar and Overture Restaurant – which is one of the top restaurants in the country.  The  view is panoramic and breathtaking  – I know that sounds dramatic – but trust me this region is dramatic! ) The wines are fantastic here and they do a lovely chocolate and wine pairing and can also do cheese boards.  Overture is one of my absolute favourite restaurants – they do tasting menu’s that pretty much start at 3 courses.  You select your courses from the options available that week.  The restaurant is all about creativity and the menu changes weekly.  Book well in advance.  Note that over summer bookings are essential as Overture is extremely popular.  Don’t try and pop into the restaruant without an appointment.  The tasting room and Overture are now open 7 days a week!
  • Ernie Els Wines – next door to Hidden Valley.  Once again panoramic views with extremely modern architecture and excellent wines.  What do you get when you combine one of South Africa’s most well known personalities and one of our top winemakers?  Excellent wine that can be marketed at a really high price!  The tasting centre is stylish and they offer a very stylish tasting. Tip – ask them to show you around the cellar once you have done your wine tasting – it is a gorgeous cellar.  Note this was a partnership between Engelbrecht & Els where they cleverly built two brands – Ernie Els and Guardian Peak.  In the divorce Els kept the Ernie Els brand and Engelbrecht (of Rust en Vrede) took the Guardian Peak brand.  The two are neighbours.  Guardian Peak boasts well priced wines aimed more at the local market. It also has a restaurant on the property.  One can also book to do lunch at Ernie Els – with such a beautiful view – it is a great spot to spend the afternoon relaxing!  Note the estate is closed on a Sunday.  There is no need to book for wine tasting – but to book for lunch: Call +27 (0) 21 881 3588  E-mail: info@ernieelswines.com
  • Rust en Vrede -note that this estate is really close to Ernie Els estate – so if you are in the area, you should visit Rust en Vrede as well.  This estate is home to an wine, which is simply called the Rust en Vrede Estate blend.  It has been rated by US Wine spectator as one of the TOP 100 WINES in the world in most years out of the last 15 years – so it is well worth a visit to experience it!  Note that the Rust en Vrede Restaurant is extremely highly rated and worth booking to eat at – it is however only open in the evening.  The restaurant offers tasting menu’s from 4 courses upwards ………so go hungry! Closed on Sundays – tastings and restaurant.

STELLENBOSCH HILLS WARD:

  • Meerlust – This is one of South Africa’s top wine estates and also one its oldest.  They are most well know for their Meerlust Rubicon.  This is a Bordeaux style red.  Meerlust was the first estate in the country to try and produce a Bordeaux style red.  This wine definitely has icon status in our country.  A visit to the estate is a definite “must include” for any visit to Stellenbosch.  True to their terroir, their focus is mainly on reds.  They do however have one white – a chardonnay that is quite oaked and quite delicious!  Meerlust is also one of the few producers of Pinot Noir in the country.  The tasting room is located in the old wine cellar and posters of art from various art galleries around the world surround you (now alternating with art exhibitions and the sale of local art).  It has a feeling of being really filled with history and boasts a lovely Cape Dutch homestead (private so take a picture from a distance!).  I would highly recommend a visit.  Closed on Sundays & Sat Afternoons
  • Spier –  I always think of Spier as the Disney of the Winelands.  It is the best example of brilliant marketing that there is in the Wine region. It is now one of the Top 10 places to visit when you visit Cape Town.  Dick Enthoven transformed Spier from a simple wine estate with a historical homestead to a place where people come and spend half a day or a few days.  On the one end of the campus he has given ground to  Eagle Encounters (a raptour rescue project).  The raptour project is non-profit and they have wonderful flying shows of the raptours – this is very interactive as the birds actually come and perch on your glove – well worth taking kids of all ages as the show is great.  For times check out  Spier’s website for details .  On the same campus, you can head through for a wine tasting – the wines have improved leaps and bounds over the last few years or stop for a picnic on the dam (note no private picnics) or book before lunch for a Segway Tour through the gardens & vineyards, if it is summer check out what is on at their open air theatre – they have some wonderful productions, book a conference on the estate, stay at the hotel, charter a train to take you through to Spier Station if you are a company, go horse riding, play golf……….location 15 minutes from Stellenbosch town.  This is perfect if you have kids as there is also a nice play area for them.  SPIER UPDATES 2015 – Moyo has closed down on the estate and the cheetah outreach program has moved to Somerset West.  Click here to find where the Cheetahs have moved to! 
  • Van Ryn – For those interested in Brandy, Van Ryn do a fantastic brandy and chocolate pairing.  They first do a talk on each of the brandies and the history of Van Ryn and then explain the pairing.  They also do cellar tours at 10h00, 11h30 and 13h00.  Van Ryn has won numerous international awards for their brandy. www.vanryn.co.za
  • Raats Family Wines – (Tasting by appointment only) – Bruwer Raats has created a small boutique winery and decided to focus on wines that are suited to the geology of his land as well as varietals that would stand out from the pack.  As such he has focused on chenin blanc and cabernet franc only.  A visit to Bruwer is a geology lesson.  The man is extremely passionate about wine making and his excitement is infectious.  He is inspirational and his wines are excellent.  www.raats.co.za
  • De Toren – (Tasting by appointment only).  De Toren simply keep bringing in the awards for their red blends – Z and Fusion V.  If the technical side of wine production fascinates you, this is a definite to include in your day.  Your visit will be conducted by either the owner, the winemaker or the viticulturist.  De Toren believe in minimum intervention in the cellar and as such focus on using gravity and as such allow no pumping of the wine.  An appointment for a tasting is a tour – so expect to spend at least an hour there.  They are highly technical on the viticulture – it is fascinating and I love visiting them.  www.de-toren.com
  • Jordan – in an area known for red wines – this estate boasts good whites and reds and is well worth a visit.  They have a good sauvignon blanc, are one of the few estates to offer a blanc fume, have excellent chardonnay and make sure you do not leave without a bottle of Cobblers Hill – a Bordeaux blend that just gets better with time. Note that one of the Cape’s top restaurateurs has opened a restaurant on the estate.  This is a must include for foodies.  In addition, the restaurant offers the most fantastic views of the vines below.  Note that the Cape culture is to spend the entire afternoon at lunch – so don’t expect to get out of their fast.  Details for the Restaurant at Jordan with George Jardine are on their website. www.jordanwines.com
  • Middelvlei – is a family owned winery.  I am particularly fond of their pinotage, which is made using the free run juices only from the press.  The Momberg family are very warm and welcoming and it is well worth making an appointment with Ben Momberg to do a cellar tour.  The cellar tour includes barrel tastings.  If you are a group you can also organize to do a fun exercise in wine blending with them.   They have recently launched a restaurant on the estate that offers the opportunity to come and experience a traditional South African Braai (BBQ) on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch.  As Braaing is a large part of our South African culture I would strongly recommend booking for it.  Here you get to sample Roesterbrood (roast bread), our Boerewors (Farmer sausage), pampoenkoekies (pumpkin fritters with cinnamon) and a traditional South African dessert such as Malva pudding or Milk Tart.  It is a fun relaxing afternoon (note you will not get out of there – so write off the afternoon) and is a perfect estate to take kids.  They have a large pen with all different farm animals, tortises, pot belly pigs, donkeys……….etc.  In addition they bring a cart through pulled by donkeys where the kids can go for rides on the farm (only on days where they have the braai) www.middelvlei.co.za
  • Dalla Cia – is owned by Georgio Dalla Cia who was the former wine maker at Meerlust where he won numerous awards for his wines.  As such from when he broke off on his own, he has been a man to watch as he is immensely talented.  Should you wish to pop in and taste his wines, the tastings are done from his wife’s restaurant (Pane e Vino Food & Wine bar) that is next door to the cellar.  Grorgio is a also very well known for his grappa that he makes.  A tour of the process of making grappa can be organized with them by appointment and the cellar and still are next door to the restaurant.  Note that they are NOT on a wine farm and are located in a small industrial area on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. www.dallacia.com
  • Villafonte – (visit by appointment only and charge for tasting is fairly high) – This warehouse cellar is located next door to Dalla Cia.   This is a really interesting venture between Mike Ratcliffe (MD of Warwick wines and son of the famous Norma Ratcliffe) and Americans Zalma Long & Phil Freese.  They produce two exceptionally good red blends – Series C (Cab dominated blend) and Series M (Merlot dominated blend) www.villafonte.com, www.villafonte.blogspot.com

STELLENBOSCH BERG WARD

  • Waterford – I am in love with the Waterford Cab, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and the chardonnay – it is definitely worth a visit to the estate to experience all of the wines.  The estate is co-owned by Kevin Arnold (one of South Africa’s most talented wine makers with a reputation for excellent Shiraz) and Jeremy Ord a businessman from Joburg.  Together they have taken this estate and built the winery from scratch.  This is one of the most stylish tasting experiences around and they have consequently won awards for having one of the best tasting experiences.  A visit to Waterford is an exercise in relaxation.  Note that offer a chocolate and wine pairing experience that is well worth doing.  Additionally you can ask to taste the JEM, which is their most expensive wine – but they will charge you a fair amount to do so! The chocolate and wine tasting starts from R40 if you just do it with 3 of their wines – you miss out on the sauvignon blanc and the chardonnay!  www.waterfordestate.co.za
  • De Trafford – Small family owned wine estate that offer exceptionally good reds.  They are particularly well known for their Shiraz which got 5* in the John Platters (our most definitive wine guide) this year. Also interesting with the come back of Chenin Blanc is that they are making an interesting Straw wine that is really good.  Note that the tasting hours are strange: Friday and Saturday 10 – 1.  They will however make appointments for tastings for wine enthusiasts!  Note that this estate is close to Waterford – so they are a good combo when in this area. www.detrafford.co.za
  • Dornier – This estate is in the same area at Waterford and De Trafford and has a wonderful restaurant called Bodega on the property.  The setting could not be prettier as the cellar is an innovative design that looks like half a fish and when it reflects on the dam, it looks like a full fish! The mountains in the background make this spot jaw dropping and the food is pretty good too.  A really fantastic spot.  It is also completely Kid friendly with a wonderful play area to keep the kids occupied as well as a Kids menu.  www.dornier.co.za

Note Stark Conde is part of the same ward, it is however located in the Jonkershoek valley and are as such is no where near to the wine estates above.  To get to them you will have to pass through Stellenobosch town.  A useful tip to note for Stellenbosch is that the street names are all on the pavements ie no street signs!

  • Starke Conde – is owned by the inspirational Jose Conde – a self-taught wine maker.  He is making exceptional reds and this is definitely worth a visit.  The Three Pines range, which consists of a Cab and a Shiraz, are exceptionally good.  The tasting room is also novel in that it is a Bali style “hut” which has been located in the middle of a dam.  This tasting room boasts panoramic views of the surrounding mountains – so even if the wines were not exceptional – this would be a fabulous place to visit.  They will be opening a little restaurant on the property in November 2010.

GREATER SIMONSBERG WARD

  • Rustenberg – owned by the Barlow family (one of our most wealthy families) and dating back to 1683.   The drive to the tasting room is so gobsmackingly beautiful that an inclusion of Rustenberg is a great addition to a day out in the wine region.  They are one of our most highly acclaimed estates and well worth a visit by any wine connoisseur.   In addition the gardens are magnificent and it is well worth doing a stroll past the historical Cape Dutch homesteads to explore the gardens after you have been tasting.  Rustenberg recently sold off their Brampton range of wines and are finally allowing visitors to taste their top end wines again – making a visit well worth it! www.rustenberg.co.za
  • Glenelly – press release – fairly new: Glenelley estate –  located at the foothills of Simonsberg in Stellenbosch. GLENELLY used to be a fruit farm, but May-Elaine de Lencquesaing, the Grand Dame of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, acquired the property in 2003 and transformed it into a wine farm. A 600 ton contemporary cellar was built, in which gravity plays a huge role throughout the processing stages to assist with traditional winemaking techniques and to obtain the best quality. Their portfolio will ultimately be crowned by their flagship red blend, the Lady May, named in honour of our Grande Dame. The Lady May will be Cabernet Sauvignon based, with a touch of Petit Verdot (To be released in 2010). The core of our range is the Glenelly, which is a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend, reflecting the partnership between a classical lady with a modern vision and a new world country with a historical terroir. In the near future, the Glenelly white will be released. This will be a lightly wooded, mineral Chardonnay drawing on inspiration from Burgundy. Zebra by Glenelly rounds off the range and is a fun loving red blend made in an easy drinking style to be celebrated with friends and family. www.glenellyestate.com (Pam would recommend it for the wonderful architecture and the fun in finding it! – We will have to reassess on the wine once they have more to taste! The selection is very limited at the present)
  • Tokara – is owned by GT Ferreira ( a wealthy local who went into this as his retirement venture – so there was no shortage of funds setting it up!) and the wine maker is Miles Mossop ( a hugely talented young wine maker who is also rather good looking!)  Tokara is well worth visiting just to see the architecture and the views.   It is an exceptionally modern design which offers sweeping views of the Stellenbosch valley.  I am a big fan of their sauvignon blanc which they produce from grapes from different regions – it is great fun to do a vertical tasting of them to see the differences that terroir and style make on the taste.  Do not exit Tokara without tasting the really good Tokara flagship white and red blends.  Mr Ferrira’s wife has concentrated on developing an olive oil business on the property.  Her oils are excellent and I stock up by the 6 pack when I am there.  What is interesting is that they press the different olive varietals separately and sell them separately as well as a blend.  It is possible to taste the different varietals while you are there if you ask.  However for a superior tasting experience you can book to do a tutored tasting of the oils with a talk at Tokara Deli.  Note there are two restaurants at Tokara – the main restaurant which is next to the tasting room offers contemporary winelands cuisine and will be offering tasting menu’s paired with the Tokara wines.  Richard Carstens – who is one of South Africa’s award winning chefs is starting with a new venture there in October 2010.  The second restaurant is Tokara DeliCATessen.   This is a better option if you have kids as it has a play area and is a relaxed outdoor restaurant – they offer light meals, kids meals and a light healthy buffet.  Note that the buffet is small so if you turn up after 13h30 – you are unlikely to find much left on it to eat.  www.tokara.co.za
  • Thelema – is home to the really talented wine maker Giles Webb.  The Stellenbosch property is located on the mountain pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  Consequently they have the ground at different altitudes and facing different directions – allowing them to have hot and cool slopes.  As a result they can do really good white and red wines.  As such there is a broad spectrum of wines to try from really nice sauvignon blancs, a great chardonnay and their flagship cabernet sauvignon.  In addition they have purchased land in Elgin (which is a cooler region) and you will be able to also taste wines from that region on the farm.  Note that this estate is really beautiful – so it is worth a drive in to see the setting! www.thelema.co.za
  • Delaire-Graaf – was bought by Mr Graaf of the London jeweller fame.  He has poured millions of pounds into the property developing a jaw droppingly beautiful restaurant and hotel.  To me, this was always the one property in the winelands that offered the most magnificent view – so it is great to see the view maximized!  So if you are looking to spoil yourself while you are doing your wine day or for a spot to do a romantic lunch – this is a definite for inclusion.  It is well worth a stop here to check out the art and the landscaped gardens.  www.delaire.co.za
  • Camberley – excellent red wines – small family owned estate.  It is safer to call before popping in to check if they are home for a tasting tel: +27 21 885 1176.  www.camberley.co.za
  • Oldenberg Vineyards - This is a relatively new kid on the block in the region – as such it is not as well known.  Half the fun is the drive to get there.  The turnoff is just off the Hellshoogte Mountain pass and then you meander through the most gorgeous countryside, before arriving in a hidden valley that is just quite simply jaw dropping!  As if that is not enough – the tasting room is worth visiting just for the architecture and the decor – it is gorgeous!  To top that the wines are fantastic!  Jaw dropping chardonnay and Cab Franc.  The Cab Franc 2009 is worth the drive if you are a fan of this varietal!  The range also includes a chenin blanc, a cab and a syrah.  All really good.  This is indeed a Stellenbosch Gem.  So if you are looking for something that very few people have discovered – here is the next one to go searching for!! I highly recommend this spot!

Note the below estates are classified as the same wine ward, they are however on the other side of Stellenbosch on the R44 in the direction of Paarl

  • Warwick – is owned by one of the first female wine makers in the country – Norma Ratcliffe.  She faced the challenge of overcoming the stereo type that all wine makers were men and as had a hard challenge setting up the estate.  When South Africa wines started entering the overseas markets again after 1990, her Trilogy and Three Cape Ladies were among the first of our wines to get a rating of over 90 points in US Wine Spectator Magazine.  Norma has now retired, her legacy of creating great wines continues with Trilogy (called Warwick Estate wine in the US) getting rated as one of the Top 100 wines in the world by US Wine Spectator Magazine this year.  Note that the Three Cape Ladies is well worth tasting – it is what we call a Cape  blend – any red blend that contains Pinotage (a varietal unique to South Africa) is called a Cape Blend.  In addition, they rarely taste their Cab Frank (excellent) – so, if you want to taste this one, you will have to purchase a bottle – which I would highly recommend!  Warwick does a delightful tasting outside on their terrace overlooking the dam.  This includes the story of the wedding cup, which is their logo.  For something different, you can book for their Big 5 Wine Safari – this is a fun little tour of the farm and takes you past their big 5 wine varietals in a 4 x 4 vehicle to the top of the farm for  a wine tasting.  The views from the top are amazing.  Warwick also offers a picnic lunch on their lawn – this is a lovely option for people with kids and there is also a jungle gym, lots of lawn for the kids to run around, games that they can hire such as cricket bats, boullle – etc.  Warwick has also started offering a special “dish of the day” on the menu each day – so if you are in the area and need something to eat – you can either get a snack, a meal or a picnic.  For the wine safari, it is best to book in advance during summer.  www.warwickwine.com
  • Laibach – small family owned estate next door to Warwick.  Part of their vineyards have now gone fully organic and their organic Ladybird range is really good – so stop for a quick tasting there before visiting Warwick. They are committed to sustainability and as such have initiated projects such as recycling water, a wormery etc! www.laibachwines.com
  • Kanonkop – a well established award winning estate boasting excellent reds.  Their pinotage is one of my favourites and comes from old bush vines on the estate.  They have a highly rated cabernet sauvignon – but it is often sold out really quickly and not available for tasting once it is gone The Paul Sauer red blend is always excellent and worth buying and keeping to age.  If you arrive and find more then 6 people at the tasting counter – rather back out as they don’t multitask well!  If you have a group of 15 or more you can book to do a traditional Snoek Braai here.  I have heard that the braai’s are amazing.  (Translation: “Snoek” a traditional Cape game fish, “Braai” – what we call BBQ!) www.kanonkop.co.za

BOTTERLARY WARD

  • Beyerskloof – anyone interested in getting to know more about the uniquely South African varietal pinotage needs to ensure that they include a visit to Beyerskloof on their itinerary.  In addition they have done a gorgeous make over of their cellar and tasting area and have included a wonderful new restaurant called RED LEAF after the red leaf oak logo of the farm.  I have personally tried this restaurant and think it is absolutely wonderful.  It is a definite recommendation for a long boozy lunch! The food is very well priced and the wine is reasonably priced.  I had one of the best steaks that I have had in a long time and my friend had the pinotage burger, which looked amazing!  Note this is a casual relaxed restaurant – not fine dining and has been discovered by the students who arrive there in mass over weekends – so if you are after a quiet lunch – this is not it.  If you want a bit of vibe – this one is fun!  www.beyerskloof.co.za
  • Bellevue – head here to continue your pinotage journey – the winemaker here is crazy about pinotage (the uniquely South African wine varietal) Their pinotage wins numerous wine awards every year.  www.bellevue.co.za
  • Kaapzicht – has excellent red wines.  As you drive in you can clearly see this is a working farm.  The tasting room is no frills and just focuses on introducing their excellent wines.  Kaapzicht focuses on reds – the Steytler Pinotage is excellent.  www.kaapzicht.co.za
  • Hartenberg – is one of our top estates and renowned for its Shiraz.  This year they received a Decanter and Platters 5* rating for the Stork Shirax as well as scores of over 90 in US Wine Spectator for the Stork and Gravel Hill Shiraz.  I have been advised that they have just opened up a new spectacular tasting area in the original underground cellar.  Hartenberg was one of the 1st estates to offer picnics and they are well geared towards the picnics with tables in the gardens – so you can chose to sit at tables or on the lawns.  They have also just introduced their wetlands trail that you can take a picnic backpack and enjoy en route.  This is also a kid friendly environment – lots of room for them to run around and there is also a jungle gym.  www.hartenbergestate.com
  • Villiera – offer value for money wines that deliver higher quality then the price point.  They have friendly staff and a lovely outdoor seating area for wine tasting.  In addition you can also do a self walk tour through their cellar – just ask them to point you in the right direction.  This is especially fun during harvest time as you can actually watch the grapes coming in and the presses working.  In addition Villiera have launched: VILLIERA GAME DRIVE AND BIRDING – 2010 Villiera has just introduced this activity in the Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary.  The Villiera Sanctuary is situated in Koelenhof and access is gained through their vineyards.  The game drive through the 175 hectares last about 2 hours.  Cisitors are guarenteed sightings of a diverse population of antelope (gemsbok, eland, bontebok, springbuck,  zebra, as well as other small mammals and birds)  On a clear day one has a beautiful panoramic view of the mountains overlooking the Cape Peninsula.  The cost is R150 pps (kids under 15 – half price).  Booking essential.  Tel +27-21-8652002.  www.villiera.com

2.  PAARL and WELLINGTON REGION

(Paarl wine map – http://www.paarlonline.com/area.jpg Wellington wine map: www.wellington.co.za/map.html )

  • Joostenberg Winery – If you like small family estates with rustic cellars, you will enjoy Joostenberg.  If you would like to do a cellar tour with the winemaker, it is important to contact them well in advance of your visit.  It is well worth the effort as the winemaker is passionate and it is lots of fun doing tastings with him.  Note that Joostenberg are very close to being certified organic and have been going through the transition to achieve this for the last few years.  It is fascinating to chat to them about the journey they have been on.  On the other side of the farm near the main road is Joostenberg Deli & restaurant.  One of the daughters married a very talented chef and they do a really fun five course tasting menu which is combined with their wines.  You need to book for this a few days in advance and you need a minimum of four people.  I can highly recommend the experience.  The tasting menu is also very well priced.  The restaurant offers delicious light meals, which are exceptionally good value for money.  This is a kid friendly restaurant with a large outside area for children to play.  (Note this estate is closer to the Stellenbosch side) www.joostenberg.co.za
  • Fairview – This is a must include on a wine day out.  In general I do not enjoy estates that attract large numbers of people – Fairview is the exception.  This estate is owned by Charles Back who has been an innovator in the wine industry and has continually experimented with varietals that have not been planted before in South Africa or else have only had limited plantings.  In addition to his Paarl estate, he has an estate called Spice Route up the West Coast and also sources grapes from various areas.  He is best known for his Shiraz, although, the wines are consistently good across many varietals.  Fairview became famous for its goats cheeses in the 1980’s and today they have expanded into cow’s milk cheeses.  Their cheeses are available in every supermarket in the country and as such the locals always make a pilgrimage to Fairview when they visit the Cape – which goes some way to explain the crowds when you visit.  The secret is the walk straight past the “tasting pods” in the tasting room and to head through to the quiet peaceful room at the back where you can do the sommeliers tasting of the day – in the Beryl Back room you will be able to taste 8 of their top wines paired with the farms cheeses.  Please note that you are welcome to ask to taste any of the wines that are not on that days list.  I would highly recommend this tasting experience as the wines are excellent.  PS make sure you do not leave without tasting the Malabar – this is their flagship and is always excellent!  Note that Fairview have now set up a depot in the US – this allows them to make deliveries from the depot using local couriers – as such they can do you a quote in US $ and the prices are really reasonable.  On the estate one of the highlights is the goat tower.  Here some of the goats that are retired from the herd are in a pen with a tower – it is great fun to watch the goats climbing up and down the tower.  The Goat Shed restaurant is also delightful.  They bake their own ciabatta bread and do wonderful cheese & meat platters in addition to their a la carte menu.  www.fairview.co.za
  • Seidelberg – next door to Fairview, this estate is well worth popping in to see RED HOT GLASS.  This is a glass blowing studio where you can actually watch them doing the glass blowing.  The pieces are contemporary and really beautiful.  It is well worth popping in to visit the store. www.seidelberg.co.za
  • Landskroon – next door to Seidelberg – if you have sweet tooth and enjoy Port – pop in for a tasting here.  Very reasonably priced wines and ports.  www.landskroonwines.com
  • Domaine Brahms – is owned by Gesie van Deventer who was one of the first South African women to become a wine maker.  Her struggle to make her name is inspirational.  A few years ago, Gesie won winemaker of the year – a great accolade acknowledging her wine making skills and accomplishments.  www.domainebrahms.co.za
  • Doolhof - (Wellington) – is a fun estate to find!  It is quite simply a gorgeous drive to get there.  They have a good range of wines and I particularly enjoy their Dark Lady Pinotage and the Malbec.  The tasting room staff do a great job – but if you want to spoil yourself, book with the winemaker to do a tasting with you.  He is very down to earth and it is fun to be able to chat to him.  Doolhof means Labyrinth is Afrikaans and true to the name, there is a fun labyrinth that you can go and walk around it.  Beware of the lovely horses as one attacked me from behind and bit me on the back!  (I was on the other side of the fence and he still got me!).  Doolhof is a delightful farm setting and it is gorgeous in this part of the Cape.  In addition it is well off the tourist track – so expect to have the place to yourself www.doolhof.com
  • Dunstone – (Wellington) – next door to Doolhof.  They have a fantastic Shiraz (5 * in 2010 John Platter Guide).  Note this is a really small operation and the tasting room is very rustic.  (Note it is on the same estate as Bovlei Valley Retreat) www.dunstone.co.za
  • Rheebokskloof -  offers quad biking, horse riding, picnics (must pre-book), a hiking trail, boules and a child minding service over weekends. It is a very picturesque estate and as such hosts many weddings.  Note that they are now also hosting pop concerts every month – check the website for details. www.rhebokskloof.co.za
  • Diemersfontein (Wellington/edge Paarl region) – is home to the controversial “coffee” pinotage.  This is made using barrels with a heavy toasting.  The result is a chocolate/coffee taste and nose to the wine.  It has been a runaway success in our market – however many in the wine fraternity do not agree that it is a good addition.  Feel free to bring up the debate while you are here – they get pretty steamy about it!  www.diemersfontein.co.za
  • Druk My Niet –  this is a great new estate that is well off the beaten track in the Paarl Wine Region.   Currently they have two ranges – Mapoggo (entry level red & white), the Druk my Niet single varietal red range which includes Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc – all of which are really good in my opinion.  In November they will be launching their flagship red blends – Invictus and T3 – both of which I believe will be great.  This estate dates back to the late 1600’s, boasts a beautiful setting, old Cape Dutch architecture and a passionate wine maker.  Visits are by appointment only – so if you want to discover a hidden gem and to spend time with a passionate winemaker – book in advance prior to heading out there.  For more info, read my blog on the estate. Contact the winemaker Abraham De Klerk on Tel: +27 21 868 2393 or e-mail: abraham@DMNwines.co.za or visit their website on http://www.DMNwines.co.za
  • Avondale Organic wines – this is an organic estate with EXCELLENT wines.  It is well worth a visit to try the wines – if you have the time, make an appointment with the viticulturist or wine maker to get a talk on the background of them going organic.  Avondale make use of ducks to control snails and teach them to walk up a plank into and out of the truck each morning.  They cannot leave them out at night or the wild cats will eat them!  The entrance of the tasting room is adorned with their au natural posters – their ad campaign shows that they are natural wines by showing nude girls running through the vines! www.avondalewine.co.za Read more about them on my blog by clicking here
  • Veenwouden (by appointment only between 09h00 and 14h30) – tasting room opening Dec 2012– highly rated chardonnay and merlot.   Good Syrah and Bdx Blend. www.veenwouden.co.za (on my hit list to visit – their wines are fantastic!)
  • Noble Hill – has American owners from California who have added a lot of value to the estate.  The tasting room is great and a real gourmet treat.  Here you can taste the estates wines (I love the Viognier) and their olive oils ….as well as have a light snack.  Next to the tasting room is the gorgeously decorated Cosecha (Harvest in Spanish) restaurant.  Here you can have a coffee or try out their Mexican dishes.  The food is excellent and it is brilliant value for money.  Note that the restaurant is mainly outdoors – so it is great for a lovely clear afternoon.  The setting is lovely and they have really good taste – I love the Cactus wall.  www.noblehill.com
  • Backsberg – has gone Carbon Neutral – they keep planting trees to offset their carbon footprint at the estate.  Their aim is to produce quality wines while maintinaing a strong ethos of eco-responsibility.   They offer good wines at a good price.  Backberg is fun to visit on Sundays as the restaurant has an old fashioned sheep on the spit and often has entertainment (usually a guitar player).  The lamb is available during the week, but the restaurant is most festive on weekends.  The estate is kid friendly. www.backsberg.co.za
  • Glen Carlou – is Swiss owned.  Mr Hess owns estates in California, Australia and Argentina.  One can taste the local wines, as well as the international wines here.  Glen Carlou has been one of our top estates for many years and was established as a prominent estate by the Finlayson family.  Arco Laarman has been the winemaker there for over 10 years (over old and new ownership) and the wines continue to be phenomenally good.  If you enjoy chardonnay – this is definitely worth a stop.  In addition they do a good Syrah, a good Bordeaux blend, are one of the few to do a Zinfandel and a Pinot Noir.  Note that they have an extremely modern tasting room which has been really tastefully decorated.  The view of the valley and the Paarl mountain are great from up there.  It is well worth a visit.  www.glencarlou.co.za
  • Anura – if you are a cheese lover this is definitely worth a stop.  The Brie and Camembert cheeses are great and are of the type that if you leave them out of the fridge for an hour – they start oozing on the plate!  They offer their cheeses for tasting with the wines – the brie cheeses are impregnated with pepper corns or green figs or available plain.  Last time I went they gave you a minimal tasting – so perhaps stop off and just buy some to eat en route to the next farm.  The brand is forest hill cheeses.   www.anura.co.za

3.  FRANSCHHOEK

This is one of the most gorgeous wine valleys in the Cape.  It is known as the “gourmet capital” of the country and it is well worth settling in here for a few days to use it as a base for wine tasting and for enjoying some of the country’s top restaurants.  To check out the map of the Franschhoek region visit:

www.franschhoek.org.za/general/maps_and_directions/

  • Lynx Wines – is a small boutique wine farm.  The tastings are only done by the winemaker or assistant winemaker – making a visit very worthwhile.  It is however best to call to let them know you are coming as they may be off doing deliveries – but even if you have not called – it is really worth popping in if you are driving past.  Tel +27 21 867 0406.  I enjoyed their wines – it is almost as if you can taste their passion in each bottle.  They have an interesting range including a really nice viognier. www.lynxwines.co.za
  • L’Ormarins – for boys into cars – this is a definite must stop and visit estate!  Very few of us will have been privileged enough to ever have seen a car collection like this one.  There are four halls of cars and they range from the first cars ever developed through to a collection reflecting the most significant changes in style over time, through to racing cars.   This is well worth a visit and I would highly recommend it.  Check out the website for more details of the car collection.  The Rupert family of South Africa owns this collection.  (See also La Motte that the same family own) www.fmm.co.za
  • La Motte – wow! They have just undergone a revamp and the property is now going to be a huge draw card to visitors to the region.  On the estate they have a wonderfully warm and welcoming tasting area with very friendly staff.  The wines are excellent – so it is well worth a stop.  My favourites are the sauvignon blancs (one is organic) and the shiraz.  They have an art gallery with a huge collection of Pierneef – a very famous South African artist and have opened a beautiful restaurant called Pierneef on the property.  There is also a really lovely country store, giant chess pieces that you can play with and a demarcated hiking parth around the farm.  There is no lack of money here, as the estate is owned by Hanneli Rupert.  The Rupert family are one of the most wealthy families in South Africa.  Make sure you add this one to your “must do” wine farm list.  www.la-motte.com
  • Graham Beck is a complete contrast to Lynx – although individually owned by Graham Beck, this is a large commercial winery that produces large volumes.  Graham Beck’s estate in Robertson produces some of the best champagne in the country.  His full range can be tasted at the Franschhoek winery.   The building hosting the tasting room is a really interesting piece of contemporary architecture.   The décor inside is equally slick and gorgeous and overlooks the bottling machinery.   The staff are very well trained and the tasting experience is good – but be prepared for a lot of people visiting the tasting room during summer season.  Note that the range offers something for everyone – from whites to excellent reds and excellent champagne (note that champagne is referred to as MCC in the Cape due to EU regulations.) www.grahambeckwines.com Note this estate has now been bought by Johan Rupert – I see the sign on the gate says RUPERT – so I am not sure if the Graham Beck Brand name will be kept under Rupert – we will have to check this one out! 
  • Moreson – has a nice little tasting area, a fabulous little deli where chef Neil Jewell sells his chucuterie meats and a lovely restaurants called Bread & Wine.  It is one of my favourite spots to sit all afternoon in the sun eating and drinking and relaxing.  I would highly recommend the restaurant.  Note that they also do bread making lessons and give you an opportunity to cook with the chef – but only on specific dates – so check their website out for the details. www.moreson.co.za
  • Glenwood – is a fun drive as they are little bit off the beaten track.  I find their tasting room charmingly eclectic! They are renowned for their chardonnay.  Chardonnay will keep featuring as it is one of the best varietals for the valley as the soils and the climate allow the grapes to ripen slowly with great intensity.  Following the demand for unwooded chardonnay – they offer both the unwooded and wooded options – both are great.  They also have a good merlot and syrah.  Their credo is “Simple, Natural Quality” – as such they have joined the eco-conserving Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI).  www.glenwoodvineyards.co.za
  • Charmonix – well known for excellent wooded chardonnay.  This quaint little tasting room and is located on the edge of the village.   If you enjoy French cuisine – try out Mon Plaisir restaurant which is located across the road from the tasting room.  www.charmonix.co.za
  • Cabriere (and the home to Pierre Jourdan champagne) – this estate is a must for those that are in love with champagne.  You can visit at 11am or 3pm on weekdays to do a cellar tour and learn how champagne is made.  The tour is fascinating.  On a Saturday at 11am they include Sabrage in the cellar tour and the tour is often conducted by the owner of the farm or by a family member.  The Saturday tour will well worth doing as it is informative and lots of fun.  Note that Cabriere also do a really interesting pinot noir and chardonnay blend as well as the Tranquille – which is a still champagne.  This estate is also perfectly located for anyone who does not have a car and is staying in the village as it is within walking distance of the village.  Note that the estate has an excellent restaurant on the estate.  The restaurant is however located inside a cellar and as such to me it is best as a dinner venue.  About one block further up the hill is the restaurant La Petite Ferme.  La Petite Ferme offers one of the best views of the valley and a really lovely lunch experience.  Tip: Ask them to let you sit in the garden and place your order from there.  They will call you to your table once your food is ready.  Note it is recommended that you book for both La Petite Ferme and Cabriere during summer as they are both extremely popular. www.cabriere.co.za
  • Boekenhoutskloof – this is the best wine estate in the valley and should be the first stop for “wino’s”! www.boekenhoutskloof.co.zaBoekenhoutskloof have four brands:
    • Porcupine Ridge, which is their second label and is sold at a reasonable price for everyday drinking
    • Chocolate Block – this is a blend of 5 varietals and its name comes from the spicy and chocolate nose and taste.   What is interesting is that the grapes for this wine come from a variety of areas.  This wine has become enormously popular and sought after.
    • Wolftrap – the local legend goes that Franschhoek used to have wolves that roamed the mountains and that with gnashing of teeth used to howl at night and scare the villagers into their homes. They thought it was only a legend until they found a wolftrap on the farm.  The Wolftrap red is a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache.
    • Boekhoutskloof – this is their premium range and consists of a Semillon (Noble late harvest), Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon (they only open one out of the three each day for tasting – so you will have to look out for the others on wine menus and make sure you experience them as they are all exceptional)
    • Haut Espoir – a fantastic small boutique wine farm that I would highly recommend you visit.  For wino’s who want a more in depth insight into the farm, try and make an appointment with the owner Rob Armstrong or the winemaker Nikey van Zyl or simply take a chance and pop in – it has a regular tasting room that you can pop in and visit.  The welcome at Haut Espoir is always warm.   They are one of the few estates that bottle a single varietal petit verdot.    www.hautespoir.co.za
    • Stony Brook – Family owned and run, half the fun of visiting lies in the drive to the farm, which is gorgeous.  It has a intimate tasting room with a fireplace for winter and a lovely outside area for tasting in summer.  The wines are extremely good and to me it feels like you can taste the wine makers passion.   I would highly recommend a visit.  It is best when you find a family member behind the counter, but still a good experience when the tasting centre lady is there.  www.stonybrook.co.za
    • La Petite Ferme – This is a boutique winery and a restaurant.  The location of the restaurant is one of the best in the winelands and boast sweeping views of the Franschhoek valley.  I would strongly recommend you make a booking for this restaurant if you are in the area.  A visit is an exercise in relaxation.   Ask to sit outside on the lawn and to order from there.  When your food is ready they will call you in to your table.  Locals usually plan on spending the whole afternoon there.  After lunch we retreat back to the lawn and relax and enjoy the view.  All of the estates wines are available by the glass – so pair each course with one of the estates wines.  Particular favourites of mine are: the rose, chardonnay (Mark Dendy Young’s favourite varietal and the blanc fume (one of the few estates that make it).  www.lapetiteferme.co.za

4.  DURBANVILLE

This is a small wine region that is very close to Cape Town city and is technically part of Cape Town.  The area is close to Table Bay and as such receives the cool sea breezes, as such, it is an excellent cool wine region.  The varietals that shine the best in this area are the merlot and sauvignon blanc.  Prior to 1994 most of this areas sold its grapes to the KWV who used the grapes in their premium ranges.  As such this area was quite unknown to the general consumer.  Since 1994 many of the estates have started making their own wines.  In the case of Durbanville Hills, it is a partnership between Distell and the local farmers in the region – as such they are keeping some grapes for themselves and providing grapes to the Durbanville Hills company that they are part of. Click here for the Durbanville wine valley map – http://www.durbanvillewine.co.za/docs/Durbanville_Wine_Valley_map_2010-08-10.pdf

  • Durbanville Hills – this estate boasts one of the most modern and high tech cellars – as such it is well worth booking for a cellar tour with them.  The tasting room is ultra modern and beautiful.  It is interesting to visit them and then to combine it with a rustic small farm like Nitida.  The contrast between the large volume Durbanville Hills and the others is huge.  www.durbanvillehills.co.za
  • Nitida – this is one of my favourite estates in the Cape.  It is really small and rustic.  You usually find the winemaker or the assistant wine maker behind the tasting counter.  Their sauvignon blanc is fantastic, as are their reds (especially Calligraphy) – in fact all of their wines are great!  It is well worth the trip just to visit Nitida.  This region is not really known to foreign tourists and as such you feel like you get undivided attention when you visit.  On the estate is a fine dining restaurant Cassia – it has gorgeous décor and a lovely view.
  • Bloemendal – this winery has been in transition since it was sold – so it will be interesting to see what happens to it in the future.  At this stage the partnership that owns it still has the original owner and winemaker as part of the team – as such the sauvignon blanc should still be as delicious as it always was.  At the wine tasting area is a delightful light restaurant that offers regional cheeses and meats with traditional home made bread.  The menu now boasts many options – but I still love their cheese platters.  Note that you will see signs saying Bloemendal Restaurant – this is NOT the same one as I am mentioning here.  While it is on the same estate – the main restaurant is on top of a mountain and boasts the most amazing views.  The restaurant itself is however very average.  www.bloemendalwines.co.za
  • Note you will spot the Hillcrest Estate with its roadside olive kiosk as you drive through this area – STOP!  Their olives are excellent and so is their olive oil – so stock up if you can! Ps the oil is not such a good idea as it has leaked on former clients I had!  However the olives are worth getting for snacking on holiday!
  • Note also that you can do Durbanville in the morning and then head through to Stellenbosch for the afternoon.

5.  CONSTANTIA

This is the most easily accessible wine region from the city area of Cape Town.  In off peak times it takes about 15 minutes to get there.  This region gets the wonderful cool sea breezes of False Bay and as such is a cool wine region.  As such the “star” varietal of the area is sauvignon blanc. www.constantiavalley.com

  • Groot Constantia – this is one of the Cape’s oldest wine farms and is well worth a visit for those who enjoy history.  The estate was granted to Simon van der Stel in the late 1600’s to say thank you for his contribution as governor of the Cape.  During his time as governor he settled the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.  In addition he was the first governor to turn the Cape into a money making proposition.  As such the VOC offered to grant him an estate to say thank you.  He elected to take the entire valley of Constantia.  Nothing humble about him!  To thank him, they also made his son Willem Adriaan van der Stel the next governor of the Cape.  Unfortunately he was sent back to Holland by the VOC (for more info see Vergelegen estate)  and when Simon died, none of his children came back to the country to inherit the estate.  It was sold and changed hands a few times before the Cloete family bought it.  The Cloete family would make the estate famous through the production of the sweet wines of Constantia.  This wine would be consumed by Napolean Bonaparte in exile and Queen Victoria, and written about by Charles Dickens and Jane Austin.  By the end of the 1800’s the Cloete family (next generation who inherited it) would be hit first by the odium (powdery mildew) and then by the phyloxera ( a root louse that caused the wine industry around the world to collapse).  The estate would become bankrupt and would be sold off.  Finally the South African government decided to purchase the estate in order to preserve this piece of heritage for the people of South Africa.  Today it still operates as a section 21 Company.  The money generated from the wines are used to conserve the buildings on the estate.  On Groot Constantia one can visit the beautiful old Cape Dutch architecture house, the old wine cellar which is now a wine museum and was the Cloete’s sale office for the Constantia wine, do breakfast or lunch at the Jonkershuis Restaurant or at Simon’s www.grootconstanita.co.za
  • High Constantia – this is a small boutique winery producing very good wines.  The owners favourite is the MCC (South African term for champagne), he also has a good sauvignon blanc and some excellent reds.  Don’t miss out on tasting the Sebastiaan red blend.  Note you will see the entrance to the tasting room just before you enter Groot Constantia  www.highconstantia.co.za
  • Klein Constantia – was bought in 1980 by Duggie Jooste who decided with his team to try and recreate the famous sweet wine of Constantia.  Years of research followed and along with wine maker Ross Gower they were extremely fortunate to find a special clone of Muscat de Frontignan propagated from vines, which in all likelihood came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years before.  Today the Vin de Constance is sort after all over the world.  The wine has a wonderful balance of sweetness to acidity and it is well worth popping in to try the wine.  What particularly impressed me was a gentleman who came in and reported that his Vin de Constance 1990 vintage was corked – they asked no questions, simply heading into the cellar to get him another one.   Impressive!  Ps don’t miss out on trying the sauvignon blanc while you are there.  www.kleinconstantia.com
  • Buitenverwachting (meaning “beyond expectation”) – is one of the most beautiful estates to drive through.  It is such a contrast to have left town fifteen minutes before and then to be driving past rather plump cows and beautiful green fields.   Their red blend Christine has been a long time favourite of mine and it is well worth trying the different sauvignon blancs that they have on offer.   Buitenverwachting offer a lovely picnic experience over the summer (note that you have to book in advance in summer as it is extremely popular) and they are also home to a good fine dining restaurant with fairly formal service.  www.buitenverwachting.co.za
  • Steenberg – famous as the best estate for sauvignon blanc in the country. They revamped their tasting room about a year ago and it is a wonderful elegant venue with a giant chandelier that dominates the room.  Everything about the experience of visiting is relaxing in this beautiful setting.  In addition next to the tasting area is the beautiful little restaurant, which serves light meals and tapas in the later afternoon.  It is called 1682. Note that there is also a 5* hotel on the estate, as well as a fine dining restaurant called Catharina’s next to the hotel.  Steenberg is open 7 days a week for wine tasting.   www.steenberghotel.com
  • Constantia Glen – (not visited by me yet – but amazingly good wines!) – have just opened a tasting room to the public (Nov 2010) – as well as everyone else in the valley they have an exceptionally good sauvignon blanc.  In addition they have two excellent red blends – I particularly enjoyed the Constantia Saddle which is a cab-led  red blend. www.constantiaglen.com

6.  PENINSULA

  • CAPE POINT VINEYARDS – This is the only winery that falls into the Cape Peninsula region – which is fairly close to Constantia.  So if you are doing a day of Constantia, it makes sense to build in a visit to Cape Point vineyards.  The tasting room is in Noordhoek – just as you come over Chapman’s peak, you will see it on the left hand side before the farm village.  The peninsula is a cool wine region and as a result they have mainly focused on white varietals – with excellent results.  It is well worth the journey to taste these excellent wines.  The tasting room feels “cultured” and refined.  Ie antiques and pieces of interest! www.capepointvineyards.co.za

7.  ELGIN

Note that this valley is just over the mountain from Somerset West – as such it is not far from Cape Town.  When planning your trip, note that Elgin is en route to Hermanus – as such it makes perfect sense to pop in and explore the beautiful Elgin region if you are planning to go to Hermanus to spend the night.  Visit www.elginwine.co.za and click on map to get the wine route area map. The Elgin region has launched its first official wine route – click here to get the map (Oct 2012)

  • Paul Cluver – it was not long ago that this valley was only famous for apples! With the losing of the growing restrictions on areas for wine production in South Africa, the Cluvers were among the first to “experiment” with growing grapes for wine production in the region.  The results were excellent and as such many others are currently establishing themselves in the region.  This is going to be an exciting area to watch develop.  The Cluvers are very environmentally aware and have set aside half of their estate for conservation of the Fynbos plants found on the farm.  In addition they are the initiator and founders of Thandi wines – this is a Fair trade initiative where land has been set-aside for the workers to grow and make their own wines.  They have won many awards for their green initiatives.  Note that the wine is good too!   Check their website to see when the summer concerts are on – they are held in an open amphitheatre and attract a really good line up of shows.  In addition a new farm restaurant has opened called FRESH on the estate.  This is a lovely relaxed country kitchen owned by Joan.  Joan loves to come up with new recipes and delicious combinations.  This is well worth a stop if you are in the region.  They have lovely long rustic wooden outside tables and it is just the perfect spot to spend a relaxed afternoon.  www.cluver.com PS if visiting the restaurant – ask Joan to show you her fresh vegetable and herb garden – no doubt whatever is fresh on the menu will have come from her amazing garden.  (Note Paul Cluver has been awarded champion status for the BWI (Biodiversity Wine Initiative))
  • Oak Valley – is a gorgeous huge estate that in addition to wines, does fresh cut flowers, apples, pears, free range beef, acorn fed free range pigs, has a mountain biking trail through the vines and has walking paths.  Once again this is a cool wine region – as such their sauvignon blanc is fantastic and I would highly recommend trying their pinot noir.  The Oak Valley Chardonnay is also really delicious.  (Note Oak Valley has been awarded champion status for the BWI (Biodiversity Wine Initiative)) www.oakvalley.co.za
  • Iona – ok, so even if you do not make it here – you need to make a point of looking for the Iona Sauvignon Blanc on wine menus.  It is my favourite sauvignon blanc in South Africa.   There is good reason for this too.  Iona is home to the coolest vineyards in the country.  Due to this they harvest up to two months later then the other farms in the Cape.   Also try the chardonnay – which is produced in small quantities – 50% is barrel matured in French oak and of this, only 20% is new wood.  This results in a wonderfully balanced chardonnay where the fruit is not swamped by the oaking.  Delicious!  www.iona.co.za
  • South Hill – gorgeous estate with a lovely restaurant on it called Gordon Manuel @ The Venue.  Worth popping into for an upmarket country restaurant experience.  Beautiful restaurant and really lovely people who make you feel very welcome.  www.southhill.co.za

8.   BOTRIVER

This is literally next door to the Elgin region – so should be combined if you have time

  • Luddite (appointment needed) – this is a gem! Neils makes only Shiraz and it is excellent.  Half the fun is doing the tasting with him or his wife Penny.  Be sure to include this spot if you are in the area.  A Luddite is someone who does not like technology – so it will give you a clue to his winemaking style.  They are now making really interesting sausages – so be sure to make sure they allow you to sample them!  www.luddite.co.za
  • Beaumont – this is a lovely family concern with an interesting range of reds – well worth popping into – you pass it on the way to Luddite.  www.beaumont.co.za

9.  HEMEL-EN-AARDE

This valley is famous for its chardonnay and pinot noir.  Note that not many estates produce pinot noir in the Cape – so if you are a pinot noir fan – this is the main region you should visit while in the Cape.  Note that on a weekday you will have most of the farms to yourself – this trend differs radically on weekends as many Cape Town people escape to this coastal region on the weekends – especially in summer and during school holidays. Note that Hamilton Russel, Bouchard Finlayson & Newton Jonson are open weekdays and then until lunchtime on a Saturday.  Closed on Sundays. Wine route map: www.hermanuswine.com/map.php

  • Hamilton Russel – this is perhaps the most well know estate in the region.  They only produce two varietals – pinot noir and chardonnay.  Both win many awards internationally and locally every year.  The tasting room is really sweet and is located on the edge of a little dam.  www.hamiltonrusselvineyards.com
  • Bouchard Finlayson – they have a larger range – but visit for the amazing pinot noir and the excellent chardonnay.  They have a nice range of chardonnays form unwooded to quite heavily oaked – all of which are delicious!  I would highly recommend a stop here.  The lady that runs the tasting room is fantastic and you will receive a very warm welcome! http://www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za
  • Newton Johnson – I love their chardonnay! They have interesting range of wines, a great tasting room with sweeping views of the valley and a very quaint farm kitchen called Heaven.  The food is wholesome and delicious.  The key here is to book a cellar tour with the wine maker Gordon Newton Johnson.  He is such fun and so passionate.  He hops from barrel to barrel and allows you to do barrel tastings.  Really a great experience.  www.newtonjohnson.com
  • Ataraxia – owned by Kevin Grant who was the winemaker at Hamilton Russel for ten years.  He has initially been sourcing grapes from the region until all of his vines are ready for harvest.  He has been winning lots of awards – especially for his chardonnay – which is delicious.  Ataraxia’s name comes from the dictionary and means calmness, emotional tranquillity – a great tie up to the pastime of drinking wine according to Kevin.   The estate is well worth a visit to sit in the tasting room which is quite simply gorgeous.  It has chapel inspired architecture and is locate on top of a hill.  Note that you are welcome to ring the church bell.  If you wish to do a tasting with Kevin, an appointment will need to be made in advance, otherwise – just pop in to taste there range of wines.  Note that he has managed to get distribution in the USA (not an easy achievement!) twitter.com/AtaraxiaWine They do not seem to have a website.  The tasting room is just before Creation with a small sign on the left hand side en route to Creation wines.
  • Creation Wines – I highly recommend that you persevere down the untarred road to find the Creation wines – as the Platters guide says – it is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The wines are excellent and they offer a fantastic food and wine pairing of 8 “snacks” to eat with the wines.   The staff are great and give you a fantastic warm welcome on arrival.  The view is fantastic and the setting could not be more pretty.  During the height of summer 15 Nov to 15 Jan they are open 7 days a week and out of season Mon to Sat.  You do not need an appointment, however it is fantastic to do a cellar tour with the assistant wine maker Kevin who will explain his journey from fisherman to handyman to wine maker.  He is seriously in love with his profession and his excitement at the project he is working on is infectious! Book in advance to spend time with Kevin in his cellar! www.creationwines.com

Copyright Pamela McOnie, Cape Fusion Tours

One Response to Pam’s Favourite Cape Wine Estates

  1. Pingback: A day out in the Cape’s oldest Wine Regions | Cape Fusion Tours

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