I don’t know how someone can say “let’s spend a day in the winelands”, unless they have no plans for eating and drinking. Which, of course, somewhat defeats the purpose of visiting the winelands.
If you’re going wine-tasting, you’re most likely to visit at least two estates. Provided you don’t commit the cardinal sin (spitting out what you’ve tasted), you’ll probably be over the legal limit for driving – a certainty if you decide to have a meal at one of the fine dining establishments that proliferate throughout the region.
I don’t know about you but I hate having to drive after a good meal accompanied by a couple of glasses of the good stuff. Over and above the threat of being pulled over by the cops, the risks inherent in drowsy driving are enormous.
Nope, the answer is the wine-estate stay over … preferably at one that boasts – or at least is very close to – a top-class restaurant. The fact that you’ll still be in the winelands for breakfast is a complete bonus!
Top of the Pops for me currently is Boschendal at the Franschhoek end of Helshoogte. It has absolutely everything to make a memorable weekend and I advise a two-night stay in one of their delightful cottages, starting on Friday evening.
A friend and I did so recently and, by prior arrangement, had an amazing three-course “pot luck” dinner delivered from Boschendal’s De Werf restaurant.
The next morning, after coffee and croissants at the on-site bakery, we explored Helshoogte’s wineries, which include Oldenburg, Delaire Graff, Thelema and Tokara. Delaire Graff and Tokara both have exceptional restaurants (the latter has two – one the flagship over which Chef Richard Carstens presides and a less formal deli-style eatery) and, fully replete after an early dinner, you can roll down the hill back to your cottage.
Other accommodation alternatives on Helshoogte include Delaire Graff, Oldenburg and Molenvliet.
Some years ago, I undertook a similar oeno-gastronomic binge in Franschhoek and based myself at magnificent Grand Provence.
My Friday night dinner was spent people-watching at Grand Provence’s award-winning restaurant and enjoying Chef Guy Bennett’s elegant dishes. The cabernet sauvignon went down a treat and thankfully I had just a few minutes’ walk back to my bed.
The next morning saw me brunching at nearby Môreson, though there are any number of cafes and breakfast nooks at which to indulge. If you want to save yourself for a full-on lunch, you could do a lot worse than Maison (almost across the road from Grand Provence) or Roca at Dieu Donné where the food is very good and the view across the Franschhoek valley impeccable.
For the ultimate romantic getaway, splurge out on Babylonstoren which is just off the R45 on the Klapmuts-Simondium road. This five-star farm hotel features six one-bedroom suites, three one-bedroom and four two-bedroom cottages set adjacent to a 3.5 hectare cultivated fruit and vegetable garden.
Babylonstoren has two restaurants: Babel which I recommend for dinner and Greenhouse which is housed partially in an old conservatory. It’s perfect for lunch the next day after sampling wines at nearby Backsberg, Anura, Glen Carlou and Vrede en Lust.
Start your wine-tasting at Vrede en Lust just after a fairly early breakfast at the Lust Bistro and Bakery. The freshly baked artisanal breads are divine!