As you must all know by now, we are both wine enthusiasts so a few nights in the Cape Winelands was a must on our South African itinerary. South African wine is classified as “New World” however it actually has a long history. The first vines were planted in 1655 and by the end of the 17th century had gained an international reputation for dessert wine. Now, they are known for producing world class wines of all types. We decided we wanted to visit the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek regions as they are not only known for their wines but also the beautiful scenery.
After departing from Cape Town on the morning of Tuesday, July 22nd we made our way along the N2 to Somerset West. My newly purchased 2014 Platter’s South African Wine Guide alerted us to the fact that the iconic Vergelegen was located in this area. We found the estate and decided it was not too early to have a wine tasting if they opened at 09:30 am. It was a beautiful morning so we sat out on the patio to enjoy our tasting overlooking the gardens. After the tasting we took a walk around the estate grounds which included the 300 year old camphor trees, magnificent Cape Dutch homestead and camellia gardens that were in full bloom. After our visit to Vergelegen, we continued on the N44 towards Stellenbosch. The drive along the way was really beautiful and scenic. Our second stop on the list was Waterford Estate located in Stellenbosch’s Blaauwklippen Valley. A friend of Dan’s had recommended coming here as “The Jem” is one of his favorite wines. This time we sat outside in the beautiful courtyard and ordered the chocolate and wine pairing, with an additional tasting of The Jem. After our tasting we had to hurry to make our lunch reservation at Delaire Graff restaurant on Helshoogte Pass just outside of town. The artsy restaurant has been a gourmet destination since 2009. We started off with some oysters and an order of the beef tongue. For the mains, I ordered the northern cape lamb neck and Dan got the slow cooked sticky happy hog pork neck. After our amazing lunch, we walked around the estate and enjoyed the views of the majestic mountains and vineyards below. We then made our way to the Holden Manz winery in the Franschhoek Valley which was where we would be staying for the next 2 nights.
The next morning we had breakfast and then drove into town to catch the Franschhoek wine tram, a bus/tram hop-on hop off experience through the valley. We boarded the blue line bus which takes you to 7 different vineyards along the route with a one hour stop at each. Our first stop was La Bri where we had a tasting by the fire. The next stop was Holden Manz but since that was where we were staying we remained on the bus to Dieu Donne. The next stop was our ultimate favourite, Chamonix. The tasting room is in the old Blacksmith’s cottage built in the late 18th century. We were hungry for a bite of lunch so we ordered the charcuterie and cheese plate. We then boarded the bus which dropped us at the tram that took us to Rickety Bridge. We decided that we did not have time to go to the last stop on the tour because there was a specific vineyard we wanted to visit and needed to make it there before closing. We drove outside of town to the Boekenhoutskloof Winery for our last tasting of the day. We love “The Chocolate Block” and wanted to taste some of their other wines. We tried the Chocolate Block and wines from the Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap ranges. After our day of wine tasting we made our way back to Holden Manz where we enjoyed a nice dinner in their on-site restaurant and then relaxed back in the room by the fire. We would be hitting the road early the next morning to make the long drive along scenic Route 62 to Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo region. We were sad to be leaving the winelands but thoroughly enjoyed the wines on offer, the gastronomical delights, and the beautiful mountain valleys. A definite highlight of our South African vacation!