By Lee Middleton
Foodie oenophiles take notice! The destination for your next big trip has arrived: the South African Winelands. With six of the country’s top ten restaurants and its most famous wine estates just a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, the Western Cape vineyards makes a dream vacation for those with a love of fine food and the grape. Here are some ideas to plan a packed three-night tour to keep your days full and your palette peaked.
Stellenbosch: Home sweet home
First, don’t day-trip from Cape Town. Gorgeous historic Stellenbosch is overflowing with things to do, and staying here eliminates extra time in your rental car that’s better spent on another tasting. Base yourself in one of many historic hotels, like the beloved d’Ouwe Werf, a 32-room manor house dating from 1802, or the Oude Leeskamer (pictured below), where intimate owner-managed service will make you feel right at home.
Annandale Road: Foodie Heaven
Less than 20 minutes South of Stellenbosch via the R44 (Strand Rd.), Annandale Road brings you up close to the purple mountains of Helderberg and many of the country’s finest wining and dining establishments. Start your high-altitude tasting at Ernie Els with a fantastic selection of reds only. Uva Mira is a lovely boutique estate further along Annandale. With gorgeous landscaping, an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, and food to match, Hidden Valley makes a great mid-day destination.
All that "tasting" will surely build an appetite. If you’re lucky, you’ve booked lunch at Overture (pictured below), the stupendous restaurant at Hidden Valley. Didn’t bring your 3-hour lunch stomach? Nearby, Bodega serves fresh, good-value fare in a family-friendly setting on the Dornier Estate.
If you just can’t call it a day, or got a late start, head to Peter Falk, where you can enjoy a tasting on comfy couches in a lush green lawn until 7pm (most estates close by 5).
And whatever you do, don’t forget to book well in advance for the mind-bending culinary experiences to be had at Rust en Vrede, South Africa’s deservedly top-ranked restaurant, or Terroir, a rival foodie-favorite. If you prefer to sleep closer to where you eat and drink, try Majeka House, a lovely hotel with delightful grounds and great service, located just around the corner from Annandale Road.
Helshoogte Pass: Another Slice of Heaven
Driving from Stellenbosch 20 minutes in the opposite direction, the Helshoogte Pass area (towards Franschhoek) gives Annandale Road a run for its money with breathtaking views all the way. Make your first stop at Rustenberg, a historic estate with excellent vintages. For a study in contrasts, carry on to Tokara, a wonder of modern design, and enjoy lunch at their haute cuisine restaurant. Continue down a dirt road to Thelema, a friendly family-run estate with numerous award-winning vintages, including the delightful "mint" cab-sav.
Hungry for a farm-fresh lunch? Carry on over the hill to Babel, the slow-food focused piece of Babylonstoren Estate (pictured below), where fresh produce is presented in unusually inventive but always-delightful combinations. Stroll through the gardens as a digestive.
For what could be the area’s most grandiose experience, check in at Delaire Graff Estate, where great wines—-the cab sav reserve and shiraz are winners—are served in a majestic setting riddled with artwork by some of South Africa’s most famous sculptors and painters. If you really want to splash out, book one of the stunning suites, where you can enjoy this luxurious estate from your own private pool surrounded by glorious views.
Plan Your South African Food & Wine Trip