On an overnight trip to Stellenbosch, world-class wine and food, postcard-pretty landmarks and memorable hospitality are a given. This time round, however, I had something different in mind: two days filled with adventure.
9.30am: Wine on a Landy. Drive through the gates of Jordan, situated at the very top of Stellenbosch Kloof Road with views towards the Simonsberg and Helderberg mountains, and you immediately feel an almost tangible sense of tranquillity.
It’s 9.30am and eager wine tasters and guests are already arriving for breakfast at The Cellar Door. But breakfast will have to wait. Jordan’s 360˚ Vineyard Tasting Experience, an outdoor wine tasting on a safari-style Land Rover, is the first on our Winelands adventure itinerary. Tour guide Albert Marais takes the wheel, and from the outset it is clear he knows this three-generation family-owned property, now in the hands of Gary and Kathy Jordan, from the inside out. “At Jordan it’s all about family. We create approachable, affordable and aspirational wine. All our vines, encompassing all cultivars, are 35 years or older and we produce approximately 700 000 bottles of wine per year. Today you’ll be tasting five of our wines at three different spots as we make our way through the vineyards’ many slopes.”
‘Bringing the vineyard to the glass’ acquires new meaning during the two-hour excursion. Albert shares fascinating facts about Jordan’s terroir and geology, all contributing to the success of the estate’s more than 15 wines. Well-known winemaker Sjaak Nelson has been working his magic here for more than 20 years.
We taste five of Jordan’s wines. Cold Fact Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Unoaked Chardonnay 2022 (Jordan boasts 42 hectares of Chardonnay grapes), Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2021, The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc 2022, and The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon 2020. To create the perfect soil environment for Jordan’s Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, more than 300 charges of dynamite were used some 40 years ago to excavate large and sub-surface granite boulders – hence the name The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon.
11.45am: The wind in your hair Down the road on the R310, Spier offers various farm activities, wine tastings, restaurants, spa, food garden and much more. Hours are simply not enough to discover all of this, not to mention the property’s vast selection of indoor and outdoor art. The guided Segway farm tour, a one-hour whizz on a two-wheeled self-balancing electrical vehicle, is calling me by my name. For those unfamiliar with these nifty transporters, the adventure includes a 20-minute training session. Gliding past some of the farm’s most popular attractions, you learn more about Spier’s biodynamic farming techniques, regenerative agriculture and inspiring history.
“For the adventurous at heart, it’s a great activity to add to your day in the Cape Winelands and a wonderful way to experience farm life. It will challenge you in an unexpected and fun way. No two Segway experiences are ever the same as it’s a real reflection of what’s happening on the farm that specific day. Tour guests will also see spaces not accessible to day visitors. The tour is a true window into the farm’s inner workings,” says Xenia van der Meulen, Spier brand manager.
1pm: Farm-to-plate dining Vadas Smokehouse & Bakery (pronounced vay-dis), over- looking Spier’s inviting The Werf and its ancient oak giants, delivers on all its promises: ethically and healthily sourced food, no-fuss dishes showcasing the quality of the produce, and oven-fresh, slow-fermented sourdough breads. Waiter Abongile Maxetuka advises choosing a variety of dishes to create a platter for two: “Our food is best enjoyed this way.” Minds made up, we order the beer-battered carpenter goujons; smoked and pulled lamb shoulder with tzatziki and salsa verde; smoked pork belly with pineapple kim- chi and peanuts; fire-roasted broccoli with mustard cider vinaigrette, smoked Stanford cheese and macadamias; and, of course, Vadas’s signature braaibroodjies with boerenkaas, red onion and tomato.
2.30pm: Wine and chocolate? “Oh, I will definitely recommend wine to be enjoyed with chocolates. It completely elevates the experience and, trust me, it will blow your mind. After our wine and chocolate pairing, many guests not only buy wine, but also the chocolates we use,” explains Spier wine educator Salinda Handi. The line-up includes four Spier wines: Creative Block 2 2022 (with guava, cinnamon and biscotti white chocolate), Creative Block 3 2019 (with olive dark chocolate), Creative Block 5 2020 (with raspberry and liquorice dark chocolate) and Spier’s Cap Classique Brut 2020 as palate cleanser. Salinda also treats us to a glass of Frans K Smit Red Blend 2017, crafted in limited quantities, and aptly named after the former and longstanding Spier cellar master. As for the delectable artisan chocolate, easily comparable to the finest Belgium has to offer, Salinda is tight-lipped: “I can only say that it’s hand-crafted in Knysna.”
3.30pm: Back in time As the second-oldest town in South Africa, Stellenbosch’s rich history and heritage go without saying, but the past becomes relatable, tangible and utterly fascinating only when exploring the City of Oaks on foot, accompanied by an expert local guide. Stellenbosch on Foot guide Johan Nepgen’s knowledge of Stellenbosch and its earliest inhabitants is simply remarkable. Who would have thought Stellenbosch, still a small village way back when, was to be crippled by not one, but three devastating fires – in 1710, 1803 and 1875. The town’s first church, and the second Christian church building in South Africa, was completed in 1687 at 30 Church Street (known today as Oude Werf Hotel) and burned down to the ground in the 1710 fire. This prompted the townfolk to rethink the church’s location. “Due to the fear of another fire, it was decided that the new church would be situated out of town. In the Stellenbosch of today, the distance between Oude Werf Hotel and the Moederkerk (completed in 1723) at 2 Drostdy Street might only be a few hundred metres, but back then things looked a lot different,” says Johan.
The tour, which starts at 47 Church Street, includes fascinating facts behind the town’s first magistrate’s court (1686) where 1710’s dreadful fire started, Dorp Street’s many museums (38 in total), Stellenbosch’s oldest and highest trees, as well as the morgue (cue eerie tales about depart- ing spirits and the size of window frames), the mill and the fire station.
6.45pm: Seared and sensational The restaurateur and owner of The Fat Butcher, Rita Swart, is as charming as she is knowledgeable about serving a world-class piece of meat. And at The Fat Butcher, situated on 1 Van Riebeeck Street, size does matter: meat portions vary from 200g to a stupendous 1.2kg T-bone. Rita’s advice on tackling the elaborate (and carnivore-friendly) menu: “Take your time and enjoy the evening in stages. Try as many of the dishes as you can.” Waiter Levuyo Klaas jokingly elaborates while talking us through the evening’s meat presentation: “I would have brought the whole cow, but due to loadshedding, well …”
With bated breaths, we await the hand-chopped steak tartare, flame-grilled bone marrow (the biggest and juiciest I have ever encountered), The Grosvenor (fillet with foraged mush- rooms, Dijon mustard, sherry, white truffle oil, kataifi and black truffle) and The Drostdy (fillet with foie gras and a date-and-Hanepoot reduction). Need- less to say, The Fat Butcher can serve me a steak any day of the week.
9am: A gorgeous day for pedalling Local tour operator Adventureshop has been spearheading adventure tourism since 2000. Raino Bolz, owner of Adventureshop, says cycling tours – on normal mountain bikes or less strenuous e-bikes – are especially popular because cyclists can immerse themselves in the environment and can cover bigger distances than when hiking. “Our greatest joy is to share the very best of Stellenbosch with our clients and, in turn, to experience this wonderful town through their eyes.”
Kicking off at 1 Noordwal-Wes Road in central Stellenbosch, the exhilarating guided bike tour is one for the books. As we meander along the banks of the Eerste River, guide Severiano Tamboer is on hand with insights into many of Stellenbosch’s historical sites: Paul Roos Gymnasium, Oom Samie se Winkel, the town’s millstream, VOC Kruithuis and more. Severiano announces our next stop: via the gorgeous Jonkershoek Valley, we will make our way to Stark-Condé Wines’ Japanese-inspired tasting room. Here we sample three of winemaker Rüdger van Wyk’s creations: Round Mountain Saugvignon Blanc, Field Blend and Kara-Tara Wines Pinot Noir. For the day’s second and final tasting, impressive Lanzerac Wine Estate beckons for a private tour of its cellar and wine tasting.
“Welcome to the end of town where mountains, vineyards and oak trees converge. Enjoy the beauty, taste the tranquillity, watch the sunset and walk in living history,” reads our welcoming card at the five-star Lanzerac Wine Estate, home to the world’s first bottled Pinotage. From acclaimed wines and a sophisticated country hotel to perfectly manicured gardens and a spellbinding 331-year-old history, Lanzerac exudes charm, luxury and unpretentious refinement. This 162-hectare working wine estate, situated on the outskirts of Stellenbosch and a stone’s throw from the town’s bustling centre, needs much more than a brief two-night stay to fully imbibe its beauty and idyllic setting. It’s no wonder visitors so resolutely describe Lanzerac as “paradise”, “top in its class” and “exceptional”.
3pm: Spa pleasures With tired legs and wilting enthusiasm – cycling is anything but my preferred means of travelling – a much-needed pampering at Lanzerac Spa is just the thing to rejuvenate body and mind. Complete with heated indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, experience shower, mist room and fully equipped fitness room, Lanzerac Wine Estate’s impressive spa overlooks rolling vineyards and towering mountains. For my 60-minute aromatherapy massage, therapist Viwe Keyi’s healing hands prove invigorating as well as soulfully relax- ing. So relaxing in fact, that I doze off – several times. Whether the cycling tour or Viwe’s honed technique is the reason, I do not know. What I do know is that Lanzerac Spa scores full marks.
7pm: Where meat is king Back on vibrant Dorp Street, farewell oysters and skaapstertjies at De Vleispaleis Grillroom & Bar mark the beginning of our last evening in Stellenbosch. With a glass of Kaapzicht Skuinsberg Cinsaut 2021 and two rare on-the-bone fillets, we reminisce about two days well spent in one of South Africa’s most popular and iconic destinations. In no time, Stellenbosch will melt your heart, leaving you with an unfaltering desire to return to its vineyards, mountains and people. Stellenbosch, let’s raise a glass to many, many more unforgettable adventures.
Make the most of your visit to Stellenbosch by staying over. With a range of fine hospitality establishments, there’s something for everyone. Here is our list of some of the hidden gems that justifies a visit all by themselves.