The Cape winelands are a treasure trove of precious experiences and hidden gems. If only you knew a local to show you around! Our Insider’s Guide is like your long-lost best friend in each of the Cape’s 10 wine-producing regions. And you’ve been invited over.Go off the beaten track this winter and discover hidden gems in the Boland. There’s plenty to see, do and taste for those with a keen eye and a sense of discovery. The Boland includes the towns of Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek and Tulbagh and their surrounds.
THE FOODIE’S BOLAND
In Franschhoek, a visit to Jacoline Haasbroek’s My Wyn on Uithoek Farm is a must. A self-taught winemaker, she makes only 2 000 bottles a year and focuses on Shiraz and Viognier. Experienced chef Chris Erasmus’ field-to-fork approach at Foliage. He forages the surrounding hills for edible delicacies such as mushrooms and wild flowers for inclusion in the day’s menu. Foliage made the list of top 20 restaurants in the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards last year. The Cap Classique Route includes 24 producers in the Franschhoek Valley and is a must for MCC lovers. Stop for lunch at the Franschhoek Kitchen on Holden Manz Wine Estate. The restaurant also makes prepacked picnic baskets.
Heading towards Paarl, there are many wine options to explore. Freedom Hill Vineyards, situated on the slopes of the Wemmershoek Mountains, overlooks Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly Victor Verster Prison, from where former president Nelson Mandela was released. Druk My Niet is a small boutique winery renowned for gems such as an old Chenin Blanc block planted in 1968. Winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg makes wine from the wide array of grapes grown on the estate, including Tannat, Tempranillo and Tina Amarelle. Druk My Niet also produces hand-crafted cheeses at its cheesery.
Bernard and Lola Nicholls of the boutique winery, Mitre’s Edge, make small quantities of good wine. The underground cellar at Mellasat Vineyards houses the Cemetery of Forgotten Wines, a bizarre and interesting collection of museum wines. The estate also offers gourmet picnics.
Conservationist and owner of Painted Wolf Wines, Jeremy Borg, donates a portion of the proceeds of his wine sales towards conservation. Try the interestingly named Stubborn Man wine range at Pearl Mountain Wines or stroll through the arboretum at Under Oaks while waiting for your pizza to be served in the old wine cellar that has now been converted into a pizzeria. The wood-fired caramels are not to be missed!
Zandwijk’s Unorthodox range of wines offers a unique take on Kosher wines. Mouthwatering picnics are served from October to March. At Mason’s Winery winemaker Derek Clift has blended four Shiraz clones to make a terroir-specific wine. Olsen Private Vineyards is owned by Dr Greg Olsen who’s only the third civilian to make a self-funded trip to the International Space Station. The land was once home to Italian prisoners of war who were instrumental in the construction of Du Toitskloof Pass.
Fancy a pie-and-wine tasting? Then head out on the Bodal Road to Imbuko Family Vintners in Wellington where you can pair four mini gourmet pies with four wines from the Van Zijl range. Windmeul Kelder is home to the Parskuip Neighbourhood Marketplace where you can buy locally sourced artisanal goods and wholesome, responsibly farmed produce.
Further afield you can enjoy an olive tasting at Oakhurst Olives in the Tulbagh Valley. The tasting centre at one of the country’s oldest wineries, Twee Jonge Gezellen, has been refurbished so you can again sample the range of Krone bubblies and table wine. Enjoy a cheese platter or pizza at Montpellier Wine Estate or visit Lemberg, where the wines are named after the bulldogs. Moniki Chocolatier is famed for its handcrafted Belgian chocolates, while Manley, a small boutique winery, is home to a restaurant managed by Michael Kenny, the singing chef. The health-conscious can sample the organic wines at Waverley Hills.
THE ADVENTURER’S BOLAND
One of the best ways to explore the Franschhoek Valley is on the hop-on-hop-off Franschhoek Wine Tram. The experience has recently been further improved thanks to the addition of a double-decker carriage. There are various lines to choose from, each stopping off at eight wine estates and showcasing a different part of the valley.
If you’re a history buff you’ll love the walking tours in Paarl and Wellington that cover the two towns’ most interesting historic buildings. Maps are available from the towns’ tourism offices. For the more daring there are the croc pond tours at Le Bonheur. Kids and adults alike will enjoy a visit to the alpaca farms in Paarl and Wellington. Bontebok Ridge Reserve offers a game drives, while hikers are spoilt for choice with the many amazing trails in the area, such as the Welvanpas hike next to the Kromme River near Bainskloof Pass and trails in the Limietberg Nature Reserve near Paarl.
At Rhebokskloof Wine Estate there’s much to do, from mountain and quad biking to relaxing in the spa. If you’re a horse lover you can book an outride at Diemersfontein. Oudekloof Wine Estate near Tulbagh offers a scenic tractor trip up the historic Oudekloof Pass to watch the sunset, weather permitting.
THE ART LOVER’S BOLAND
Wellington is home to Langkloof Roses with its 14 000 rosebushes and delightful tearoom. Saronsberg near Tulbagh houses an astonishing contemporary art collection that can be viewed in beautiful surroundings. Makers Mark Gallery at 42 Church Street, Tulbagh, combines design shopping with a unique collection of South African and Australian art. There’s also a tapas bar and deli selling local cheeses. Franschhoek boasts countless galleries and is home to several artists, not least of which is Pigcasso, a pig rescued from slaughter that now lives in hog heaven at Farm Sanctuary SA. Her biggest claim to fame is that she’s the first non-human being to have headlined her own exhibition at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The magnificent gardens at the historic Cape Dutch farm, Babylonstoren, are also worth a visit.