A Sip of South Africa
South Africa’s Cape Winelands region boasts some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, with rolling hills nestled between craggy mountain ranges. The tradition of hospitality and refreshment began back in 1652, when the Dutch East India Company set up an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope where the company’s fleet could stop and stock up on fresh food on the voyage to and from India. As more Europeans settled into the region for good, the winemakers among them soon discovered that the habitat was ideally suited for viticulture.
Whether you prefer a hands-on, behind-the-scenes how-to of winemaking, or prefer to sit back with a cheese plate and let your taste buds do the walking, the Cape Winelands has something for you.
On a recent trip to the Cape Winelands, we visited Anura Wine Estate, where we toured the caves and watched part of the bottling process as the crew prepared crates of red and white that were destined for the South African Airways fleet. Then we wandered over to the patio overlooking a scenic mountain backdrop, to while away a couple of hours while tasting Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc paired with crackers, cheese, and a delicious carrot-ginger chutney.
That afternoon, we made our way to another wine estate, this one owned by South African golfer Ernie Els. Housed in a hilltop chateau, the estate owns commanding views of tranquil farmland, the town of Stellenbosch, and distant Table Mountain. We enjoyed a delicious, simple late lunch with wine pairings in the trophy room, and returned to the sunny terrace to digest while the golfers among us tried their hand at the chipping green perched at the edge of the terrace. As a coda to the memorable visit, our host brought out the 2010 Ernie Els Signature, a dark wine with notes of ripe mulberry, strawberries laced with balsamic, graphite and a hint of chocolate. Decanted in a snake-shaped vessel, the wine resembled the fearsome black mamba!
If you’re headed to South Africa on safari, a day or two relaxing in the Cape Winelands is definitely worth consideration!
Where to Stay: La Residence, Franschhoek
Tranquil vineyards and majestic mountains paint the stunning backdrop to the retreat of La Residence. Situated on a private 30 acre working farm, with vineyards and fragrant gardens, La Residence offers 11 luxuriously furnished suites decorated with fine antiques, exquisite Persian carpets, and an eclectic mix of objects d’art.
Activities at La Residence include swimming, mountain and village walks, private wine tasting at various estates, and trout fishing. For a wine tour with a difference, hop on to a horse and visit a few of the Vignerons de Franschhoek. Those in favor of a more sedate excursion might enjoy a carriage ride through the village and to some of the wine farms.
Special thanks to Ker & Downey, a FROSCH Preferred Tour Operator, who organized and sponsored an agent FAM trip to South Africa last March.