We were sitting on the outside terrace of Delaire Graff’s opulent Wine Lounge savoring the sweeping views of Stellenbosch Valley while our own personal “wine tutor” poured us a glass of one of their delicious wines to taste. We were on our 2nd day in the Cape Winelands, the food and wine capital of South Africa, and it was pure bliss.
Franschhoek Wine Valley
Our drive from Hermanus to Franschhoek Wine Valley covered some quaint back roads through farmlands and vineyards. On the way we spotted blue cranes, the national bird of South Africa.
Entering Franschhoek Valley from its eastern end provided an elevated view of the valley surrounded by towering mountains. We understood immediately why it is considered one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. It’s truly spectacular. Sorry Napa.
The town of Franschhoek, itself, is a charming village situated in a gorgeous valley with tons of upscale restaurants, luxury hotels and high-end boutiques. It’s no surprise that its one main road is over-run by
drunken happy tourists stumbling hopping on and off the touristy wine tram.
As expected for a wine region, the food was first rate. We ate lunch at Roca on the grounds of the Dieu Donne winery overlooking Franschhoek valley
and had a classic picnic lunch at Boschendal.
The picnic lunch at Boschendal was served on a table on a wide lawn (something that would require a reservation on a busy day). We ordered from a hut and a server then brought out a prototypical wicker picnic basket filled with standard wine accompaniments of charcuterie, cheeses, bread, fruits etc. to your table. The food was good, but way more than what we can eat.
Dinners were just as fabulous. We ate at Cafe des Arts in town and at Reuben’s on the Chamonix Wine Farm. Both meals were great, but the meal at Reuben’s was the more memorable. Having stuffed ourselves mercilessly at Boschendal’s picnic grounds we didn’t have much of an appetite going in. But one taste of their food made us suddenly find room. G was tempted to have another serving of his risotto for dessert, it was so ridiculously good. Amazingly, the total meal for two came to a little over $30USD. We are going to have a serious case of sticker shock when we are back in the US.
Wine Lounge and Wine Tutors
Wine tasting in the Cape Winelands is like going to an event. Unlike most places in Napa where we crowd around a bar and wait to be served, the wineries here provide table service with your own experienced and knowledgeable server. They also offer a selection of appetizer to “enhance your wine tasting experience”.
Delaire Graffe takes wine tasting to another level. Wine tasting here is a grand and lavish affair. Passing through the designer gardens and cheetah sculptures, we entered the opulent wine lounge and were seated at the outside terrace overlooking the stunning Stellenbosch Valley. Instead of a server, we had our own personal and extremely knowledgeable “wine tutor”. Yep we definitely needed be tutored on wine.
After paying 100 rand we tasted about 7 different wines including a yummy Chenin Blanc and interesting Shiraz. We ended up buying 6 bottles of the absolutely delectable 2014 Terraced Block Reserve Chardonnay and hoped our creative packing skills would get them back in one piece.
This was in stark contrast to the more casual Dieu Donne Winery where we ended up sitting at the bar. They too had table service where you can order a cheese plate to go with your wine tasting but the tables were all occupied. The views of Franschhoek Valley was just as spectacular but their wines were not as interesting.
Stellenbosch Wine Route
We took one day to visit the nearby town of Stellenbosch via the scenic R45, passing through grand wine estates and the farming town of Paarl. Stellenbosch, dominated by Stellenbosch University, gave the impression of a college town bustling with bars, cheap restaurants and eccentric shops. We headed to Dorp street, a section of Stellenbosch lined with historical buildings, Dutch architecture, cafes, museums and shops. Through a 90 minute walking tour, arranged through the Stellenbosch Visitor Center, we learned more about the city. Not much remains of the original town, but it was interesting to hear about the role the region played in SA history. The guide expanded quite a bit on SA history for us foreigners. We had no idea SA had Indonesian and Malay slaves at one time, but dishes like bobotie and other Cape Malay cuisine make more sense to us now.
Delaire Graffe Estate
Opulent and grand wine estate. Tasting room fee is 100 rand for 5 tasting. If you pretend like you know what you are talking about you may get an extra tasting. Our wine tutor gave us an extra 2 or 3 tasting. A rose and the 2014 Terraced Reserve.
Dieu Donne Vineyards
Adjacent to Roca. Tasting room fee is 100 rand for 5 tasting
Stellenbosch Visitor Center
The Corner House
Luxury Double Room
Lovely B&B. Host Michaela was very welcoming, informative and enthusiastic about the area. Gave us great recos on where to eat, drink and picnic. Room was spacious and luxurious with a fireplace. A complimentary bottle of wine from Leopard Leaps was included. Unfortunately, we had to leave it behind as we had no room in our luggage after buying 6 bottles from Delaire Graffe. Breakfast is extra. I would skip the breakfast and opt to eat at one of the many fine eateries in town.
On the grounds of Dieu Donne Winery. Great Food. Fabulous views of Franschhoek Valley. Make sure you get a seat by the large picture windows so you can take in the view.
Cafe Des Arts
Casual eatery tucked away off the main strip. Good food
Incredible risotto. Reuben Riffel, a South African celebrity chef, serves “globally infused” cuisine.
Over-stuffed picnic basket lunches on their elaborate grounds.