A weekend away in Stellenbosch takes us to the pinnacle of sensory experiences, of glorious food, wine and art. With ABRI KRUGER, we meander through fynbos, vineyards and valleys, both on foot and on horseback, and are entranced by what we discover.
9.20AM: ACQUIRING SOME HORSE SENSE
We arrive at Rosenview Guest House and immediately head out to Annandale, the oldest farm in the Helderberg Valley where our weekend adventure will start at a fast trot. OK, well, maybe not so fast. More like a leisurely amble. It is difficult to imagine a more relaxing activity than a walk through the vineyards, gazing out at the majestic Helderberg Mountain towards Annandale. A sense of tranquillity and beauty permeates the ride. The birdsong and the splendour of the mountain add to the experience. We also learn more about our mounts. “A horse senses your heartbeat from 4 metres away. Horses sense your intention; they are tellers of self and mirror souls,” says Lita Potgieter, our host at Annandale. The friendly guides ensure that the more experienced riders enjoy an invigorating canter while the beginners continue at a more leisurely pace.
Riding is an appetite-whetting activity and Lita treats us to a delicious food platter and some world-class wines. One of our favourites from the platter is the homemade dhania (coriander) chutney. Delicious! We immediately buy some to take home as well.
There is a tangible sense of history on the farm that stretches back to the late 17th century. The venerable oak trees, the cellar (pre-1700) and manor house (mid-1700) put us in a receptive mood for the wine-tasting. Annandale owner Hempies du Toit wanted to keep the wine-tasting room true to the way it had always been in order to preserve its history. The cobwebs date back decades and no one is allowed to touch them. The 2018 Annandale Shiraz is amazing! And so is the Charlbert, a 2005 Merlot that graced the tables at the wedding of Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock in Monaco. Hempies, whose wines have won international awards, has been friends with the Wittstock family for many years. He specifically chose the Annandale 2005 Merlot, matured in French oak for six years, to celebrate the year when the couple met.
12.00 NOON: AMUSE BOUCHE AND BUBBLES AT CAVALLI
Monet Janse van Rensburg meets us at the stables of Cavalli’s world-class equestrian centre and we begin a tour of the estate, taking in breathtaking views of the Helderberg Mountain, the exquisite gardens designed by Keith Kirsten and the 30ha of meticulously farmed vineyards. After that we repair to Cavalli’s award-winning and Green Star-rated restaurant. While snacking on a platter of breads, tapenades and an alluring amuse bouche in the form of a savoury macaron, we open the gilded menu. Chef Lucas Carstens delights in using seasonal produce from Cavalli’s own garden and surrounding small farms. Guided by our knowledgeable waiter, we select the first course: a chilled pea gazpacho, served with a yoghurt and lemon ice cream, pea salsa and goat’s cheese. It makes for a fresh and tantalising start, the flavours pairing perfectly with the bubbles we are sipping. We marvel at the beautiful presentation of the dishes and the ingenuity of the chef as the main dishes – tuna with tempura eggplant, sherry caramel and black garlic sauce and the Karoo lamb with crème Parmentier and farm leaves – are placed in front of us.
Cavalli produces its own range of wines and the expert sommelier will help you pair your dishes with one of its creations, including the Capriole MCC. For a more in-depth experience, you can head to the lower ground level tasting room to sample the estate’s premium range. The wine bottles themselves are just as beautiful as their contents. If you leave with just one bottle, make sure it’s the Cremello, a National Wine Challenge Double Platinum winner in 2017.
The gallery at Cavalli aims to encourage the local arts, and contemporary exhibitions are presented regularly in the main gallery space. This space is one of the Winelands’ best-kept secrets, a must for any art enthusiast.
A few indulgent hours at Cavalli are not enough to enjoy all that the wonderful estate has to offer, so make sure you set aside ample time to explore this special expression of passions.
3.15PM: MAGICAL HOURS AMONG DYLAN LEWIS’S SCULPTURES
Walking into South African native Dylan Lewis’s Sculpture Garden is like stepping into another world. We rediscover a sense of childlike wonder and spirituality as we stroll through the artist’s magical
outdoor space, some 7ha in extent, situated on the slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain range. A 4km pathway leads us through the garden, offering enchanting views of the expansive landscape. As it curves and flattens, there are sudden bursts of colour contrasting with calm bodies of blue water.
This sculpture garden, developed over an eight-year period, is a full-scale visual experience, not a traditional gallery, and the more than 60 sculptures bear testimony to Dylan Lewis’s artistic development. Make sure to carve out ample time for your visit – fortunately there’s a small café for recharging.
5.30PM: CHECKING INTO AN OASIS OF LUXURY
Marcalino greets us with a warm welcome, a broad smile and a glass of sherry, perfect for a winter’s day at the Southern Sun de Wagen, our luxury accommodation. This elegant and charming boutique hotel in Stellenbosch was created by restoring and reimagining a group of historic farmstead buildings dating back to the early 1900s. The hotel is an oasis of comfort, with spacious rooms sporting everything you need, including a large fridge and a coffee-pod machine.
7.00PM: A VIBEY SPOT FOR DINNER
We’re on a roll and making the most of our day in stunning Stellenbosch, a historical town developed around wine, but with a lovely youthful vibe to it. The Le Grand Domaine Enoteca Wine Bar, in Church Street, is certainly where the action continues after the sun goes down. We decide to sit inside to enjoy the cosy atmosphere. The cheese starter is a must, and the kingklip we order is perfectly cooked and delicious. The Le Grand Vin de Stellenbosch Shiraz is out of this world.
9.00PM: SHARING A NIGHTCAP WITH THE LOCALS
We make the excitement last by checking into the beautifully decorated Qbar, a new hidden gem in the centre of Stellenbosch, for a nightcap. We love the sleek interior and atmospheric lighting, reflected in the mirror-clad walls. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. A wide choice of drinks and small plates to be shared makes this an ideal hang-out with friends. For a late-night snack I have their burger – one of the best I have ever tasted.
8.00AM: BREAKFAST IN A RUSTIC KITCHEN
We enjoy a quick breakfast at De Volkskombuis and enjoy the atmosphere of this venerable building, restored and given a new lease of life, but retaining its rustic atmosphere. A cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice and croissants fortify us before we leave for Thelema, where we will go on a guided walk.
9.00AM: A RAMBLE THROUGH THE BANHOEK VALLEY
Driving through the stunning vineyards and majestic scenery of Simonsberg puts us in the right mood. On arrival at Thelema Wine Estate we are welcomed with a glass of cold Cap Classique and meet our amiable guide, Austin Lawrence, before starting our walk through the picturesque Banhoek Valley. While walking this beautiful piece of earth, our guide tells us more about winemaking, the indigenous flora and fauna and life on a wine estate in general. Our walk ends at Bartinney Wine Estate.
10.15AM: FINE WINES AND FYNBOS
We are greeted with a crisp Cap Classique upon arrival at Bartinney Private Cellar on the Helshoogte Way. The dramatic setting sets the stage for a ‘Wine & Fynbos’ experience that is multi-sensory and changes one’s perception of the wines as well as highlighting Bartinney’s commitment to conserving our unique Cape biodiversity. Smelling the various fynbos flora while sipping on a glass of wine is simply unforgettable. This tasting is accompanied by a food platter of locally sourced snacks, including cheese and charcuterie and delicious biltong, which we enjoy while relaxing on the terrace and taking in the view of the Winelands and mountains.
12.15PM: DAZZLING VIEWS AND SOPHISTICATED DINING
Four words come to mind when I think back to the dining experience at Gåte on Quoin Rock Wine Estate: food art, sophistication, elegance! The food was designed to be enjoyed and remembered. Highlights for me were the Shiraz 2017 and the Chenin Blanc paired with a prawn dish that we enjoyed while taking in the dazzling view of the vineyards and the Simonsberg. Each dish was indeed an expression of the art, innovation, craftsmanship and passion for which Quoin Rock is renowned.
4.00PM: A REFRESHING WINE AND A BRISK SWIM
We check into the Vergenoegd Löw Hotel on the wine estate of the same name and are greeted by a flaming sunset from our vantage point in the Vineyard Suite overlooking Table Mountain in the distance. With a refreshing bottle of Vergenoegd White Wine and a brisk swim in the splash pool, we are invigorated. The suite is very inviting, and we enjoy a relaxing sunset drink on the porch as we gaze over vineyards to Table Mountain.
8.00AM: ROOSTERKOEK, ANYONE?
We are ready to face another fun-filled day after a lovely coffee and breakfast at Geuwels restaurant on Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate. The working ducks come to visit on the green lawns while we absorb the atmosphere created by the oak trees and well-kept gardens. Bertus Basson’s authentic South African dishes with his signature use of fresh, seasonal and indigenous ingredients prepared with a creative twist and cultural influences are in a class of their own. What better breakfast can there be than freshly made roosterkoek, jam and cheese grilled on the fire outside?
9.00AM: A BLISSFUL SPA TREATMENT
After breakfast we stroll down to Vergenoegd Löw’s luxury spa situated in a beautiful oak forest and luxuriate in an hour-long full-body sensory essential oil massage. We leave feeling renewed and revived.
11.00AM: INDIGENOUS FOOD AND WINE PAIRING
Combining the genuine indigenous and cultural food served at the two restaurants on Vergenoegd Löw and the range of blended or single-cultivar white, red and Méthode Cap Classique wines has always been on my ‘must do’ list. It is a journey of discovery to explore the unusual flavour combinations and taste sensations when matching a plate of biltong, bokkoms, sour figs, spekboom and amasi with the Vergenoegd Löw wine range on the estate.
12.30PM FAMILY FARE A HIGHLIGHT
This was for sure one of my highlights of our weekend away. Every single dish was simply out of this world. Not just alluring, but also tasty and heart-warming. Clara’s Barn is a beautifully appointed restaurant in the tastefully restored oldest barn in the Western Cape at Vergenoegd Löw, a working wine farm. In this restaurant, looking like a modern, welcoming South African farm kitchen, the starting point is original family recipes made with seasonal, fresh, indigenous produce. Once more impressed by the variety of food cultures that form part of South Africa’s history, we enjoy the excellent service and the superb wine selection, as is to be expected in a restaurant that is part of the Bertus Basson Group of Restaurants.
Seventh heaven – but time to return back to earth. V