20 SA Wine Farm Gems
Considering that there are over 550 cellars in South Africa with quite a number producing world-class bottlings or offering particularly good value in some of the most beautiful winelands on the planet, coming up with a shortlist of the most highly recommended places to visit is nigh impossible, perhaps a little unfair. Much has to do with your point of departure, personal taste and what you’re in the mood for on the day. Nevertheless, here are 20 destinations that warrant serious consideration by anybody heading out to one of the wine routes of the Cape – in alphabetical order:
Skyfields Farm, off Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320) between Hermanus and Caledon
Why we like it: like a place of worship, the exterior of the tasting room looks like a chapel and, built as it is on top of a hill at the foot of a mountain ridge, the setting is spectacular; plus the Chardonnay is one of South Africa’s best.
R310 (Pniel Road), Groot Drakenstein, Franschhoek
Why we like it: a beautiful, historic property with various meal options including a traditional Cape buffet as well as a picnic lawn and gazebo between the great winery and the old manor house-cum-museum; Cape Dutch architecture; one of the Cap Classique pioneers and various other good wines including Shiraz.
Off Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, Cape Town
Why we like it: good reds including the classy Christine and white wines (especially Sauvignon and Chardonnay) with good ageing potential; a grand setting with mountain backdrop, winding driveway, Cape Dutch buildings and horses; a top fine-dining establishment and the option to picnic under the oaks.
Uitkyk Street, Franschhoek
Why we like it: the underground cellar; a relaxed bistro dining option in one of the gourmet capitals of the Cape winelands; one of the country’s leading Chardonnays as well as various other good whites and reds including one of the best Pinot Noirs from outside Walker Bay / Hermanus.
Off Helshoogte Pass (R310), Stellenbosch
Why we like it: a grand showpiece including a couple of good restaurants, a spa, luxury accommodation and one of the best views in the Cape winelands; fast becoming one of South Africa’s premier wine producers in several categories; a little over-the-top but delivering on its promise.
On Suid-Agter Paarl Road, south-west of Paarl Rock/Mountain
Why we like it: good wines at various price points; cool brands ranging from upmarket to stuff that pokes fun at the French; the cheeses, the goat tower and The Goatshed, their Mediterranean-style eatery; witty proprietor and wine marketing maverick Charles Back; the buzz.
Groot Constantia Road, Constantia, Cape Town
Why we like it: long and interesting history, old buildings and artefacts, Cape Wine’s Grande Dame; quality wines including Chardonnay and the distinctive Grand Constance Natural Sweet; beautiful property and family friendly.
On R320 in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside Hermanus
Why we like it: one of the top Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers; pioneers of winemaking in the district and today led by debonaire Tim Hamilton-Russell; idyllic setting in rolling hills, with a quaint tasting room on the side of a dam with ducks; sophisticated.
At the end of StellenboschKloof Road, Stellenbosch
Why we like it: good reds and whites, especially the Chardonnays and the red blends; scenic drive from the Polkadraai Road to the winery, past other good wineries along a narrow road with vineyards on either side; stories of Cobblers Hill and shoemakers, of chameleons and the whole Nine Yards; top restaurant.
Off R44 in the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch
Why we like it: a South African ‘First Growth’ offering great red wine, especially the flagship blend Paul Sauer and the Pinotage for which Kanonkop is famous; legendary Cape Snoek braais; the story of Pinotage – and that about the canon, a miniature of which is still fired from time to time.
R45 (Main Road), Franschhoek
Why we like it: showpiece wine farm of Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg and a beacon for art, heritage and culture, fine dining and good wines – especially the Shiraz Viognier blend; beautiful grounds, Cape Dutch architecture; multiple tourism award winner.
On Helderberg side of the R310 to Stellenbosch
Why we like it: the resilience of the brand internationally; good reds and the Rubicon tale; historic Cape Dutch manor house and out-buildings; a windmill (water pump?) all but submerged in the middle of a dam.
Off Sonstraal Road, Dajosafat, Paarl
Why we like it: good quality and interest value in the middle and at the top of their huge range; dessert wines and blends particularly noteworthy; New World (tasting room and new cellar) and Old World (manor house and old cellar); beautiful gardens and casual restaurant.
Off Annandale Road (off R44), Stellenbosch
Why we like it: reliable Estate blend, other fine reds and big bottle sizes; a succession of top winemakers; Cape Dutch architecture and an upmarket restaurant in what was once a barrel-maturation cellar; fine garden and outdoor tables in the Helderberg foothills.
Off Rustenberg Road, Idas Valley, Stellenbosch
Why we like it: top quality and good value wines with names including Buzzard Kloof and Five Soldiers; great location, with a long driveway past orchards, tree-lined paddocks and cows en route to the winery; Cape Dutch architecture; ultra-modern tasting room; beautiful gardens.
On the R310 (resort) and Annandale Road (winery), Stellenbosch
Why we like it: the restaurants and craft markets, picnic lawns and Segway vineyard tours; lovely gardens and family friendly yet also among the leading classy SA red and white wine producers with strong suits including Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and various blends.
Oude Nektar Farm, Jonkershoek Road, Stellenbosch
Why we like it: wine tasting venue across a bridge in the middle of a dam; dramatic scenery with mountains all around; the Postcard restaurant and tables alongside the dam; the top notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Off Helshoogte Pass (R310), Stellenbosch
Why we like it: great quality across the range; modern architecture and a state-of-the-art cellar; door-to-door sophistication, extending to the good restaurant with a deck and views of steep vineyards and False Bay in the distance.
Off Lourensford Road, Somerset West
Why we like it: beautiful place, beautiful wines; Anglo showpiece and workplace of winemaking dynamo André van Rensburg; huge old trees in exquisite gardens; wonderful Cape Dutch buildings contrasting with a modern cellar of unusual design and perched on a Helderberg hilltop; good restaurants and camphor forest picnic venue.
Off Blaauwklippen Road, Stellenbosch
Why we like it: a pretty place, and interesting wines ranging from great value Pecan Stream options to The Jem, a flagship made from seven grape varieties including a couple of Italians; the stone-walled winery complex “styled along terracotta design of the classic Bordeaux chateaux of France” with courtyard and fountain; wine-and-chocolate tastings…