Like wine, tasting rooms have their fans. Ask anyone for their favourite and you've launched a debate.
For some, it's about architecture; others, the view. There are tasting rooms that are great because they're like the local pub; a place about people. And still more that have a following because of the art or the frogs (keep reading) or the vibe.
Among them the luxurious Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines and classy La Motte of Franschhoek; the hip-and-happening Kunjani wines and venerable Annandale of Stellenbosch; the chic Raka of Stanford; the airy Beau Constantia and elegant Buitenverwachting of Constantia.
The list goes on.
If you're planning a roadtrip, here are some more ideas of local favourites; times apply to the summer season and may even be expanded. If you're going out of traditional business hours, it's always best to phone ahead to make sure they're open.
Gabriëlskloof – The winery sits atop a hill that overlooks fields, orchards and vineyards. With a small flock of sheep often grazing nearby, it becomes picture-perfect. Winery owner Bernhard Heyns started planting vines in 2002. Construction on the winery was completed in 2009. It encompasses lawns, water features, a deli and restaurant, and reflects an austere elegance of design.
Open: Mon-Fri 09:00-1700; Sat 11:00-15:00
Steenberg – A winery steeped in heritage that goes back to the very beginning of wine in SA, Steenberg offers a selection of tasting experiences, with a wine bar, lounge and outdoor terrace. There are infinity pools and reflective water features set before remarkable mountain and vineyard scenery.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-18:00
Durbanville Hills - The spectacular winery with equally impressive views of Table Mountain and Table Bay, was designed by Visser Kapperer de Bruin architects. It's sprawling, double-volume interior incorporates the wine tasting area, restaurant, meeting rooms and shop, with large windows and a balcony.
Open: Mon 12:00-18:00; Tue-Thurs 10:00-18:00; Fri 10:00-19:00; Sat 10:00-16:00; Sun 11:00-16:00
Klein Roosboom – Like Weltevrede and Esona in Bonnievale, Klein Roosboom has also converted its old concrete fermentation tanks as part of the tasting room experience. These have been individually decorated, providing an intimate and unusual wine activity. Adding to its facilities, the winery plans to open a new restaurant in the coming year.
Open: Tue-Sun 10:00-16:30
La Petite Ferme - Lebanese interior decorator Claudia Chahine oversaw the decor renovation that was completed in 2016, soon after the property had been sold by long-time owners the Dendy-Young family. Given modern, fresh appeal, the venue remains a highlight for the views of the valley, especially from its outdoor wine tasting deck.
Open: Tutored tasting sessions from 10:30, with the last one at 15:15
Creation - The winery refers to its "unique enclave" on the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge that offers views of the mountains and valley. Inside, it's elegant and light. Creation was established in 2002 by Jean-Claude and Carolyn Martin; the design of the visitor centre and winery was undertaken by Hermanus-raised Andrew Finlayson of FVDM Architects.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-17:00
Bouchard Finlayson - Built on the hillside above the vineyards, the elegant homestead is architect Anton De Kock’s modern interpretation of the timeless Cape Dutch style. Magnificent valley and ocean vistas from the courtyard take advantage of the surroundings. Below the living space of the grand house is a vaulted wine cellar and visitor centre. The winery's "theatrical" ambience is provided by deep brick arches and low-level uplighting.
Open: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00; Sat 10:00-13:00
Newstead Wines – Owned by Sue and Doug Lund, the winery is one of a few on the burgeoning wine scene in this part of the world. "Our tasting room is very much the way we hope people will think of our farm: welcoming, authentic, intimate," says the website. It was designed by the Lund's and company Draftech.
Open: Tue-Sat 11:00-16:00
Springfield – Lounging on its shaded lawns beside a farm dam and tasting room is just as memorable an experience of this farm as its long tree-lined entrance and stone buildings. Brother-and-sister Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer head up operations, ensuring an elegant and hospitable country experience.
Open: Mon-Fri 08:00-1700; Sat 09:00-15:00
Zandvliet - Zandvliet is owned by ANB Investments, which revamped the tasting room area in 2016. Called the Kalkveld Lounge, its name is inspired by the eponymous flagship Shiraz. Interior designer Philip Pikus took the concept of a working farm and integrated that into the interior with elements of old and new. The opening of the Kalkveld Lounge was the first stage of a comprehensive re-design of the area surrounding the historic Cape Dutch homestead.
Open: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00; Sat 10:00-17:00
Esona Boutique Wine – The winery is owned by Rowan and Caryl Beattie and incorporates a first-floor deli and viewing deck. Tastings are also done in the old, converted cement wine tanks. "It’s rustic, it’s original and it’s old…Esona Old Cellar with its underground fermentation tanks (kuips) takes you back into the bygone years of wine making," says the website.
Open: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00; Sat 10:00-16:00
Misty Mountains – The winery ranks as a local favourite. Gauteng businessman André van Vuuren acquired the 46ha property in 2004 and established its vineyards, which currently take up 15ha. It is located off the R43 between Hermanus and Stanford.
Open: Mon-Sun 09:00-17:00
Vaalvlei – Mention Vaalvlei wine farm and most people who've been will exclaim: "Frogs!" The farm Vaalvlei was established in 2005 and headed by Naas Terblanche and family. There's a 3ha vineyard that produce wines that share focus along with the endangered Western Leopard Toad resident on the property. There's a permanent display of local frogs in the wine tasting room.
Open: Mon-Sun (Call ahead on 072 782 3431 to make sure the owners are home)
Delaire Graff Estate – The estate enjoys an elevated perspective from its home along the Helshoogte Pass. Completed in 2009, its design was undertaken by DHK architecture, urban design and interior design and incorporates a winery, tasting room and restaurant. A stone wall connects them all, as well as the use of common materials and architectural elements. Dramatic art and landscaped gardens are features along with its views.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-18:00
Idiom – An architecturally dramatic building connects the winery's contemporary focus and the Italian heritage of the owners. The mountain-facing tasting bar offers views of the granite apex shaped rock that is Idiom’s signature. The building was designed by architect Thomas Leach, who describes the design as "a restrained palette of natural materials [that] bring warmth and an artisanal feel". It was completed in 2016. "Stone found on the site was used to build the arches. The wooden structure celebrates specialist carpentry techniques and is made from locally sourced alien timber."
Open: Tue-Sun 11:00-16:00
Peter Falke Wines - German-French couple Peter Falke and Danièle Görtz acquired the winery in 1995. Danièle, an interior designer, undertook the project and used furnishings and art to adorn the existing historic Cape Dutch building with a modern spin.
Open: Tue-Sun 11:00-19:00
Bartinney – The winery is located at the end of a gravel road that reveals a magnificent perspective of the Banhoek Valley. The tasting room, whose interiors were designed by Stellenbosch-based SKEP, provides these views from its first-floor deck. The venue is a double-aspect space draped with fynbos from the farm nursery, and a chandelier from old vines.
Open: Mon-Thurs 12:00-17:00; Fri 12:00-08:00; Sat 10:00-15:00
Delheim – The long-time property of the Sperling Family, Delheim's tasting room is known for its lush gardens and atmospheric “downstairs” cellardoor. Inside are arches and alcoves, soft lighting and wooden bench-style seating, along with family memorabilia.
Open: Mon-Sun 09:00-17:00
Muratie – The farm's own website calls this gem of a winery at the foot of the Simonsberg an "old 'ruin' a treasure to be enjoyed" and "as old as history itself. The buildings are indeed old and shrouded by giant oak trees. The ancient fermentation tanks in the cellar are encrusted and stained by wine residues; there are weathered carpets, wooden antiques and original art. It has been under the ownership of the Melck Family Trust since 1987, but its history goes back to 1685 and the buildings sure do reflect it.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-17:00
Vergelegen - Part of a sprawling and historic estate with diverse experiences including vast nature areas, landscaped gardens and a top restaurant, the tasting centre overlooks an extensive octagonal-shaped herb garden and guests have the option of tasting inside or outside on the patio. There are ooking is advisable.
Open: Mon-Sun 09:00-16:30
Waterkloof – The story goes that France-born wine importer Paul Boutinot took over the property just before the 2004 harvest. The first vintage bottled under the Waterkloof name was however from the 2005 harvest. The eye-catching winery atop the Schapenberg was built in 2009 - a project of Australia-based Castle Rock Design. “Waterkloof is committed to making elegant wines in the most honest and authentic method possible,” Waterkloof’s architect Mitch Hayhow of Castle Rock Design, said at the time of completion. “Clearly, the building must be a reflection of this commitment. The principle of the design is based around honesty, transparency and authenticity."
Open: Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00; Sun 11:00-17:00
Hidden Valley - Capitec bank co-founder and former CEO Riaan Stassen is the owner of Hidden Valley Wine Farm on the slopes of the Helderberg near Stellenbosch. The modern architecture that defines its landscape design format makes use of natural elements of rock and wood in its construction. It is surrounded by indigenous plants and slopes of vineyard rows.
Open: Mon-Sun 9:00-18:00
Tokara - "Tokara is the embodiment of [owner] GT Ferreira’s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle," declares the website. That's the tasting room in a nutshell. It sits 400m above sea level on top of the Helshoogte Pass, in a multi-level stone building that houses an enviable art collection, the winery and award-winning restaurant.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-17:30
Cavalli – At first glimpse, it's the farm's horse paddocks and imposing stable that rise prominently on approach. The visitor centre is just as dramatic, presenting views across its 100ha property, 36% of which is under vine and fynbos gardens. The interior was the joint effort of Cavalli owner Lauren Smith and Bouwer Architects. It has an art gallery while the tasting room sits below ground.
Open: Wed-Sun 10:00-18:00
Rust en Vrede – It was at the end of 1977 that the Engelbrecht family took residence on Rust en Vrede, now run by Jean Engelbrecht. Its underground cellar was the first of its kind for a privately owned South African winery and was designed by renowned architect Gawie Fagan, which reflects the tone of care applied to this historic property.
Open: Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00; Sun 10:00-16:00
Saronsberg – The winery visitor centre at Saronsberg is a large, double-volume building known for its art and views of a farm dam and the Winterhoek Mountains beyond. The centre was built in 2003 and designed by architect John Doyle, who has also been involved at Waverly Hills, Rik's Ridge and Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards. The project at Saronsberg was undertaken for owners Nick and Mariette van Huyssteen as a wine cellar and function venue with display area for sculptural and fine art.
Open: Mon-Fri 08:00-17:00, Sat 10:00-14:00 and Sun 10:00-13:00
Twee Jonge Gezellen – Views of surrounding mountains and vineyards are highlights along with the tasteful renovation and design of the historic, thick-walled buildings, giving the space an almost zen-feel. A couple of years ago, acclaimed designer Tracy Lee Lynch was engaged for the task at the farm, which dates to 1711. Upon completion, House & Leisure magazine referred to the tasting area as "the hero of the renovated space" for amongst others, its "masterpiece" brass bar. Several South African designers and artists were invited to collaborate in the project too.
Open: Mon-Fri 10:00-16:00; Sat 10:00-14:00
Namaqua West Coast
Fryer's Cove – The winery is the only vineyard of the Bamboes Bay ward, while the cellar is situated in one of the rarest locations of its kind. It moved into the dockside location at Doringbaai in 2010, breathing life into what was once a thriving fish processing factory. It's not uncommon for the air of the outside tasting area to be filled with fine sea spray from crashing waves below.
Open: Mon-Sun 09:00-17:00
KWV House of Fire – The KWV House of Fire celebrates the creation of brandy. Visitors can learn about the brandy-making process and taste too. The venue is a triple-storey space - a fully equipped still house with rows copper potstills that was set up in the 1920s. It was decommissioned in 1988. Two years ago, it was revamped for its current purpose.
Open: There are two tours daily Mon-Fri, at 11:30 and 14:30
Babylonstoren – The farm of media company supremo Koos Bekker and Karen Roos is famous for its gardens. Visitors can easily spend a day enjoying these and other experiences, including a restaurant and hotel. The property dates to 1692 but has been comprehensively and tastefully restored under the current owners. Picture whitewashed walls of thick stone, primitive brick, ornate gables and thatched roofs. The contemporary wine tasting area almost sits atop farm vineyards, with floor to ceiling glass windows.
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-18:00
Linton Park Wines - Linton Park’s legacy started in 1699, a history reflected in the Cape Dutch manor with its distinctive gable. The Groenberg Mountain presides over the estate, which is owned by Camellia Plc, a UK-based multinational that acquired it in 1995.
Open: Mon-Fri 09:00-16:30; Sat & Sun 10:00-15:00
Doolhof Wines – The drive to the winery through the steep-sided Bovlei Valley is just as memorable as the elegant winery itself. It was bought by Dennis Kerrison in 2003 and its first wines under the Doolhof label were launched two years later. It's tasting room has a modern interior, where large windows provide natural light. It is situated in the original wagon house built in the late 19th century.
Open: Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00; Sun 10:00-16:00