Let me entice you to leave your SeaSky Villa and the beach, for a day trip into our countryside.
No more than forty-five minutes away from the city of Cape Town, you will find our wine producing countryside. Comprised of a series of valleys landlocked by mountain ranges, known as the Cape Winelands. Here you will find historic towns and villages of Cape Dutch origin, some thriving tourist towns, with savvy world-class cuisine. And then some tiny rustic villages where people tell the time by the African sun that ripens the vines as they toil.
The major wine producing towns in this region are: Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Tulbagh and Wellington. The geological composition of the bastion of mountain ranges that surround the Cape Winelands, provides a very unique soil. It is this very soil that gives our world renowned wines the character and body that is so sought after by the palettes of those well versed.
Our grape cultures dates back as far as the 1600s, when those early settlers of Dutch origin came to take up residence in our land.
Due to the overwhelming amount of information that I could share with you on this topic, I’m choosing to unpack no more than two wine estates in a blog. This means that you’ll be vining and wining and dining with me at least once a month.
Babylonstoren Estate – Simondium/Paarl
You might wonder about the name of this estate…
The original owners came upon this koppie (hill) on their farm – it offers a 360-degree view of their beautiful farmland when climbed. The koppie reminded them of the Tower of Babel, hence the name Babylon’s Toren was born, and so it is.
I should warn you, that it would be easy to be held up here for an entire day – there is so much on offer to do and to see. So don your flattest shoes, sun cream and a wide brimmed hat (this doesn’t mean that you should arrive looking like the back end of nowhere)! You should still aspire to look your usual pretty, sexy, swaggering self.
The gardens span 3.5 hectares – they are a delight! Here you will experience everything from hanging gardens to cultivated fruit and vegetables and often varieties hard to come by. Long forgotten heirloom vegetables that are beginning to raise their heads again in modern existence.
You can enjoy a garden tour with a guide, but one must book in advance. I highly recommend it.
The farm hotel
A luxurious sophisticated experience, old farm cottages have been refurbished to the highest specifications, detailed with minimalist interiors from international design brands. They have employed lots of soothing white and pale oak to allay the senses of a tired city dweller’s soul.
A well curated book selection, under-floor heating and Wi-Fi are just some of the luxurious touches to be found when staying here. You will be left alone to either self cater, or you could order in from the restaurant’s kitchen.
The Garden Spa
Here you’ll be treated by highly skilled beauticians, while cosseted away in a private bamboo forest.
The Hammon treatment is on offer here, it’s an ancient cleansing ritual, excellent at reviving a tired body and spirit.
The Greenhouse restaurant
This in itself is a work of wonder, a tranquil haven constructed of dark green steel set deep into the estate. You will be pleasantly surprised by this glass tea house imported all the way from France, and erected amidst the glorious gardens. One finds it hard to believe that it hasn’t been here since the beginning of the estate; it is filled with indigenous plants and streaming sunlight and the earth under your feet becomes the floor. Here you can order home-made bakes or light meals, such as their very tasty Boerewors roll (a locally produced robust sausage filled with coriander seed), and home-made chutney – delicious!
The Babel – fine dining restaurant
Set in what once was an old cow shed, Babel is an eclectic mix of Cape Dutch architecture and contemporary glass walls. Their food philosophy is farm-to-fork and is strongly focused on seasonal produce. The gardens support the many beautiful dishes that make their way out of the kitchen to your table.
This is a must! The cuisine is a feast for the eyes with the most beautifully styled artistic creations – art on a plate!
The farm shop
An extravaganza for the senses!
All the little shops are set out in a long barn-like building, for visitors to navigate with ease.
Everything from fresh artisanal bread, fresh vegetables and fruit and yes… it is straight from their garden. The most gorgeous linens painted with botanical scenes or with a Cape Dutch influence of blue and white delft. Dinnerware, tableware and of course, there is the scented shop, where you will find exquisite smelling candles and soaps to take back home as gifts. They do the most divine gift hampers in which they include everything from their wines and chutneys, to the scented spoils.
The Tasting Room
And to the wine…
Naturally you cannot go to a wine estate and not visit their wine-tasting area. Again this area is a feast for the designer’s eye. Comfortable loungey pockets to while away an hour or two with a glass and good company. Wide open vistas coming at you from the outdoors through huge glass walls. Tables where you can indulge in the good stuff, together with platters bursting with flavour and colour. Picture fat calamata olives, hunks of crisp pink watermelon, juicy orange segments, the finest charcuterie and cheeses – all arrestingly styled.
If you are on a careful budget, taking sustenance here would be easier on your pocket than at the main restaurant.
Let’s talk about their wines
On offer: Chenin Blanc, Viognier (my all-time favourite), Chardonnay, Mourvedre Red, Shiraz, and then their Nebukadnesar – a 2015 flagship Bordeaux Blend. Not forgetting their Method Cap Classique (MMC), Sprankel 2012.
The label itself is enough to induce your credit card into premature labour, before you have even imbibed!
Travellers and holiday makers, don’t leave Cape Town without a visit to this glorious estate.
La Lude Estate Franschhoek
Without sounding too biased this is the home of my all time favourite MCC!
This estate is close enough to visit on the same day as Baylonstoren, that I mentioned above. It is a totally different experience and it’s all about Method Cap Classique (MCC).
This estate lies in the Franschhoek valley (French corner) and the area was once home to the French Huguenots who settled in the region after fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs. Wine making here, dates back to as early as 1693, so you will agree that the region has earned its credibility.
La Lude MCC
La Lude lays claim to being the first winery is South Africa to produce the artisanal agrafe, bottle fermented sparkling wine. Tierage liège is the method employed of fermenting under cork, instead of crown cap. They are a fairly young wine-producing estate when compared with other vineyards in the Cape Winelands – their first harvest took place in 2012.
La Lude boasts six MCC veriatals in total, plus a magnum selection. As I mentioned earlier, I am not a huge fan of MCC as a rule, yet I adore this particular MCC. However the MCC Rose Agrafe is first to be tasted and never to be forgotten!! A blend of 35 per cent Chardonnay and 65 per cent Pinot Noir, maturation happens over thirty six months with special imported corks. It is elegant, it is subtle and beautiful to look at with its light pink blush. Do go ahead and try it if you make it to this estate, you will be pleased that you did. You’ll be importing it back home before you know it!
And no, I don’t work for the estate, nor do I own shares in it… just saying!
The Tasting Room
Now, I need to mention the tasting room… simply exquisite. Guests are seated at leather banquettes, in a room encompassed by expansive mirrors and walls the colour of soft pea shoot green. And whilst you are tasting your MCC, you have the option to order and enjoy a fine selection of canapés from their canapé menu. Pure delight!
Added to all of this, the estate plays host to a fine dining restaurant known as The Orangerie. It is a classically beautiful experience in a beautiful conservatory. They offer French cuisine, created by an internationally acclaimed chef. The fare is focussed on seasonal and fresh. If your arrival time is post lunch, you can take advantage of the La Lude high-tea experience, so whatever time of day you arrive, you will not be disappointed.
Lily Pond House
So once you’ve wined and dined and eaten your cake, you had better hope that you have planned well, and are ready to fall into the estate’s resident Lily Pond House. This is a self-catering guest house, with space for a family – so remember last minute bookings don’t exist. It is a comfortable, private guest house situated around a body of water. It offers contemporary open plan living and two roomy double bedrooms with en suites. For those who want to get closer to the wine-making experience and live it hands on, this is for you