Reinventing Tradition

Summer shows Stellenbosch at its most beautiful: mountains etched against blue sky, vibrant green vineyards marching across the landscape. Here’s where to drink it all in, says MAGRIET KRUGER.


Tables on a rambling lawn, tales of derring‐do and sublime wines … What better recipe for easing into the weekend? We settle in for a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting at Winshaw Vineyards, off Baden‐Powell Drive, and the hours tick by in stories.

“My great‐grandfather was a real‐life Huckleberry Finn,” recounts Pierre Winshaw. How Charles Winshaw went from being a 12‐year‐old truant in America to a wine merchant in Stellenbosch is the inspiration behind their ‘story wines’: The Runaway Pinot Gris 2022, The Swashbuckler Chenin Blanc 2022 and Gold Dust to Grapes Chardonnay 2022.

The whites were the first wines from Pierre and his brother, JP, who started their own business on the family farm in 2010 supplying grass‐fed beef and free‐range eggs under the Usana label. They saw an opportunity to extend their regenerative farming approach to winemaking in 2013 and four years later added red wines to the offering. Charles Winshaw 2018 is a Cabernet Sauvignon‐driven blend while Bill Winshaw is a Cabernet Franc‐dominant blend that honours their grandfather, the founder of Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery.

The farm’s new eatery now brings the various Winshaw interests together in a small menu. We start with a seasonal salad (featuring the famous eggs) and roasted marrow bone, rich and delicious.

For mains we split our choice between the burger and the steak. You can have the steak with either béarnaise or chimichurri, the latter a good choice with the Malbec 2022.

The atmosphere at Winshaw Vineyards is laid‐ back, the food and wine delicious and when we see other tables extending their stay even after the bill is settled, it seems entirely appropriate.


The historic Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel and Spa in the heart of Stellenbosch is where we are staying. It’s clear why this is the town’s top‐rated place to stay, seamlessly blending the historical appeal of the original building with modern comforts and warm hospitality. Built in 1713 as a family home for Albertus Bartholomeus Coopman, it was also the residence of the current owners, André and Helena Pieterse, for more than 20 years before opening as a hotel in 2010. Today, Coopmanhuijs retains a homely feel despite the elegance of the generous sash windows and original yellowwood ceilings.

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The suites at Coopmanhuijs are elegant and supremely comfortable.

Because there are only 16 rooms, the hotel never feels frantic and you aren’t treated like a faceless guest. Our room is beautifully appointed, with a wooden armoire, brass door handles and Victorian‐style bathroom fittings that evoke a bygone era. There’s a balcony with a little table for morning coffee and a beguiling seating nook shaded from the summer sun. I can’t resist this idyllic corner and decide to kick back with a holiday read.

The mixologist at Nocturne creates classic cocktails, like the Paloma, as well as drinks that feature surprising ingredients.


Part of the appeal of Coopmanhuijs is its central location on Church Street and a short stroll brings us to Nocturne on Plein Street. Inside it is every bit a glamorous cocktail bar, with a wraparound counter where plush stools in midnight blue offer a view of the drinks display. Although the interior looks appealing, we opt for seats on the terrace to toast the return of summer’s long evenings.

The cocktail menu is impressive, spanning from classics like the daiquiri to inventive riffs on the ever‐popular martini and others, as well as Nocturne’s own signature drinks. We ask the manager, Hadge Maulana, to recommend a sundowner. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks and the one he suggests, the Paloma, hits the spot. Mixing tequila, mezcal and grapefruit soda, it’s zesty and refreshing. For my husband, a whisky lover, Hadge suggests the Ugly Bourbon, which uses Jim Beam and a botanical liqueur. The secret ingredient is brioche butter fat, which the mixologist gets from sister restaurant Dusk next door. It renders the drink smooth and moreish, and speaks to Nocturne’s philosophy of not wasting a thing, a preview of what is to come.


When we enter Dusk, the restaurant is true to its name: dim, practically dark, with sleek black downlights illuminating only the tabletops. The effect is theatrical. The stage is set in white tablecloth and the show is about to begin. Over bubbly, we snack on glazed brioche served with Diablo smoker butter and mull sommelier Bafana Zondo’s question: Do we want the Experience Pairing?

When we enter Dusk, the restaurant is true to its name: dim, practically dark, with sleek black downlights illuminating only the tabletops. The effect is theatrical. The stage is set in white tablecloth and the show is about to begin. Over bubbly, we snack on glazed brioche served with Diablo smoker butter and mull sommelier Bafana Zondo’s question: Do we want the Experience Pairing?

We make the right decision, because Bafana’s masterly wine choices bring subtle elements of the layered dishes to the fore. A favourite is the yellowtail ceviche, served in a broth of coconut, apple and lime with ponzu pearls and lumpfish roe. Lemberg’s Lady 2021, a white blend that features the Hungarian cultivar Hárslevelü and fragrant Viognier, accentuates the aromatic dish. We find that being shrouded in darkness heightens the senses, making tastes and scents more vivid than usual.
Chefs Darren Badenhorst and Callan Austin are not content to create exceptional dishes, they are also committed to sustainability. That means in‐house fermentation – miso, garum, even limoncello – and taking a whole‐process approach to cooking so that nothing goes to waste. A striking example is getting leftover prawn shells from other establishments to achieve a depth of flavour in the bisque accompanying the pota squid second course.

We surrender to the sensory journey and reflect on our good fortune that we answered the chefs’ rallying cry: “At Dusk, we dine.”


We wake to a cracking day in the City of Oaks. You’d never guess Coopmanhuijs was in the town centre because at night it’s blissfully quiet and in the morning birds chirp outside. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to breakfast, treating ourselves to fresh fruit from the continental buffet and ordering eggs Florentine and a waffle from the menu. Suitably fortified, we’re ready for the day’s adventure.


Fittingly, the estate sets itself apart with a wine and braaibroodjie pairing and, at weekends, the lunchtime braai packs out the picnic tables. Braai maestra Pinky Tukwayo manages the food all alone; when we arrive, the fire is already roaring and her famous potbrood is developing a golden crust.

An intriguing basket waits at our table: a mix between a wine hamper and a laboratory kit. We’re about to blend our own wine using the estate’s Merlot, Shiraz and free‐run Pinotage made in 2023.

Middelvlei’s Thandi Gonye explains how to use the 100ml measuring cylinder to make test blends. There are even two dropper bottles with additives to enhance fruitier characteristics or soften the blend with wooded tones. The plan is to ultimately combine the original wines according to our favourite ratio in a large 1L cylinder.

“I will help you bottle 750ml to take home; the other 250ml is the winemaker’s reward to enjoy right away,” says Thandi. I feel more mad scientist than inspired artist as I measure out trial blends; my admiration for the professionals who do this daily increases. My husband and I taste back and forth, eventually settling on a blend to bottle as memento.


Could sunshine filtered through oak leaves be the most flattering light on earth? Or is Rust en Vrede simply the epitome of effortless Winelands style? Either way, this venerable wine estate, dating back to 1694, must be the quintessential setting for an al fresco wine tasting and lunch. On the oak‐shaded terrace, wooden café tables and chairs create an easy‐going ambience and it’s deliciously cool under the giant trees.

Toasting fine weather at Rust en Vrede before tucking in to a splendid meal: fillet served with a glass of Syrah, salmon with a glass of Steen. The 27L Goliath is equal to 36 bottles of the Rust en Vrede Estate.

At Rust en Vrede they’ve figured out that the secret to success is focus: do only a few things, but do them exceptionally well. Since the 1970s, the Engelbrecht family has concentrated on red wine, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. And it’s paid off. The Rust en Vrede Estate 1996 became the first South African red wine to feature in Wine Spectator’s choice of top 100 wines in the world (in 1998) and ever since the accolades have kept rolling in. We taste the Estate 2020, which has bold black fruit and a full body. As big fans of the cultivar, we fully enjoy the Syrah 2020, but in a different league altogether is the Single Vineyard Syrah 2018, the last to be made before the vineyards were replaced.

Rust en Vrede’s style of elegant simplicity extends to the Winemaker’s Lunch, a choice of sirloin, fillet or salmon, each paired with a wine. There’s nothing fussy or elaborate to these meals, they’re simply done in the Rust en Vrede way of true excellence.


By the time we get back to Coopmanhuijs, we’re only fit to lie around the pool. Suzaan Groenewald, the hotel’s general manager, has a hot tip: many guests have a spa treatment to recharge their batteries after a full day of wine tasting. The 60‐minute aromatherapy massage with its revitalising scents of lavender and lemongrass is a sure way to feel refreshed.

We don’t have quite enough time for a massage and still get ready for dinner, so opt to put some pep in our step with a wander along Stellenbosch’s streets. Directly outside the hotel, in front of the Old College Building, we admire Wilma Cruise’s bronze sculpture of two monkeys on a seesaw. Equally charming is Marné Viljoen’s sculptural bicycle stand of found objects, which we check out on the way to our dinner reservation. The Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust deserves a tip of the hat for the visual interest they bring to the streets.


Fish ’n chips is a South African favourite, but we’ve never had it like this. At Eike by Bertus Basson, the fish is a swordfish tartare, the chips crispy dune spinach leaves finished with a spritz of malt vinegar. It’s classic comfort food reimagined in a sophisticated dish that still manages to conjure childhood memories. That’s the beauty of this restaurant, it takes the everyday and turns it on its head, leaving you with something extraordinary.

At Eike, diners enjoy a front-row seat to the kitchen where inventive dishes such as beetroot jolly jammers and fish ’n dune spinach chips are created.

Walking in, the dining room’s interior reminds me of a cabinet of curiosities, that small collection of exotic objects from the natural world. The finishes are luxurious – velvet chairs in shades of green, a feature wall in glazed emerald tiles, accents of brass and rose gold – but nature is never far. Animal bones hang alongside the lights illuminating the chef’s station while bushels of garlic and herbs dangle from the ceiling. Basson’s appreciation for the land and its produce shines through.

From the first, we realise our expectations are going to be confounded. Among the bites served before the four‐course menu are jolly jammer biscuits with beetroot for the filling. Later on, the cheese course is styled like a crème brûlée. But it’s not only about imaginative interpretations, it’s about reverence for ingredients. One of the best things we have is a simple plate of radishes from the chef’s Jamestown garden.

Chef Bertus gets excited about cooking seasonally and rediscovering traditional ways of respecting the landscape’s rhythms. “Take the quince preserve with the cheese spuma – that’s from last year’s harvest. It’s the way our forebears used to do it.” He chats about his food garden, about pickling plums before the birds can get to them and about his favourite shop for spices, before suggesting a visit to the Rupert Museum to see the Pierneefs.

When we walk back to the hotel, our hearts and bellies are full.


To blow away last night’s cobwebs, we set off on a 3km nature trail that starts at the entrance to Hidden Valley Wine Estate. The route leads across a little stream and through a grove of wild olives that offer welcome shade. Partway up the slope, we come upon a sign: “Shhhh, porcupine sleeping.” We tiptoe past the hole and feel like we’re in on the most delicious secret. A clearing in the canopy offers a view across to our destination: the terrace of Hidden Valley’s tasting room.

The modern restaurant contrasts with the landscape. Beauty abounds at Hidden Valley.

The estate’s chocolate and wine pairing is something special, changing from year to year to reflect each vintage, explains Sonja du Plessis, manager of the tasting venue. Chocolatier Marianne Vinck infuses the finest Belgian chocolate with aromas that draw attention to the flavours captured in the bottle.

We marvel at how the pineapple and lime chocolate boosts the tropical tastes in the Sauvignon Blanc 2022 and savour the chilli and cherry in the chocolate accompanying the Hidden Secret 2018, a blend of Syrah and Tannat.

The view from the terrace is a knockout, but the Hidden Valley experience is set to become even more impressive. The new owners, businessman Patrice Motsepe and his wife, Dr Precious Moloi, have plans to elevate the experience further, starting in winter 2024.


We can’t entirely believe our eyes: is that a spaceship on the hill? As we get closer, it resolves itself into Louisvale’s futuristic‐looking restaurant, clad in gleaming Rheinzink tiles. It’s an eye‐catching counterpoint to the century‐old manor house alongside, where wine tastings are held from Monday to Saturday.

The incredible view from the Louisvale restaurant is matched by the food and wine.

Our weekend of exploring the wine routes has shown this is typical of Stellenbosch: the ability to dust off the past, to reinvent tradition.

After all the decadent dining we’ve done, we doubt our ability to do justice to the tasting menu, but the tastes are so fresh that we find our appetite piqued anew. From the amuse‐ bouche, a delicate steamed bun with slaw and flavourful pork strips, to the airy coconut mousse for dessert, we find the meal and accompanying wines delightful.

Louisvale’s clay soils and east‐facing slopes lend themselves to Chardonnay and bubblies, and the results are evident. The Unwooded Chardonnay 2022 has intense fruit aromas and a creamy mouthfeel while the Louisvale Cap Classique Brut Chardonnay has that brioche taste I associate with Champagne.

Before we leave, venue manager Mouton du Toit explains the inspiration behind the idiosyncratic building. It’s a homage to the Cape’s original inhabitants, the Khoi‐Khoin, nomadic gatherers who would exchange the coast for the shelter and sustenance of Devon Valley in winter. The rounded shape evokes their reed huts, the silver cladding the abalone shells of their meals.

That connection with the past is a reminder of the Winelands’ enduring appeal and why we savoured our time here so much. Stellenbosch is a place for all seasons. V