The perfect day on the Stellenbosch Wine Route
You can ask every travel guide/agent, bus driver or taxi driver in Cape Town what you should do while holidaying in Cape Town and they will all say that you must (amongst other things) make a visit to the Cape Winelands. With all that Cape Town has to offer it is easy to get captivated in the beauty and energy of the city and to forget that places like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Robertson are all under two hours’ drive from the mother city. This would however be a big mistake because the Cape Winelands have just as much to offer in beauty and history as Cape Town itself.
Stellenbosch is the spiritual home of the Cape Winelands, where it all began, ground zero. The Stellenbosch Wine Route was established by three prominent wine makers in 1971, namely Frans Malan from Simonsig, SpatzSperling from Delheim and Neil Joubert from Spier. The town and the route is situated in a valley that is surrounded with beautiful mountains, scattered with countless wine estates. The only problem with Stellenbosch is that you never know where to go or what to do because there is so much on offer. You can go wine tasting at any of the world class wine estates. You can go for lunch or dinner at any of the award winning restaurants in town or you can simply stroll through the streets of the old town and take in some history while stopping every now and then for some coffee and gelato. We came up with what we think is the “Perfect day in Stellenbosch”. A day that combines history, culture, good food, wine and breath-taking scenery together. Let’s hope you’ll get some inspiration from reading this piece, so much so that you’ll book your next winelands breakaway today!
First things first, to experience Stellenbosch in the best way possible you have to stay either close to the town on one if the wine farms on in town itself. It takes more time to experience the best of what the town has to offer than the time that a daytrip offers you. Get up early and head to Church Street in the middle of town. Here you can familiarise yourself with the restaurants and coffee shops while soak up some of the history that lurks around every corner of this picturesque town. Sit down at Java Café or Blue Orange for a coffee to recharge the batteries and take in the day to day movements of the town locals before your breakfast date awaits at one of South Africa’s most famous estates, J.C. le Roux. The breakfast spread at J.C le Roux is amazing but what draws the crowds is the Cap Classique tastings (cap Classique is South Africa’s version of France’s, Champagne). A wide variety of sparkling wines are available for tasting from the La Valle’e Rose’ to the Pinot Noir. You can also take a cellar tour through the famous J.C. le Roux cellar. Here you can buy a bottle of your favourite sparkling wine after the earlier tasting. J.C. le Roux takes the Champagne breakfast to a whole new level.
After you have warmed up at J.C le Roux it’s time to hit the wine tasting route. With so many farms to choose from it’s difficult to make a decision on where to go. Usually the best way to do it is by looking for farms that produce the wines that you enjoy the most. For red wines you need to go to the “golden triangle” in Stellenbosch. The Golden Triangle is the patch of land that lies at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains on the Annandale Road. Here farms like Rust en Vrede, Biton and Alto make the most delicious red wines that have all won numerous domestic and international awards. Stellenbosch has been traditionally known in international circles for producing great white wines. For a white wine lover almost any of the wine estates are perfect for wine tastings because almost all of them produce good quality white wines. If you want to do some tastings with a view then head to Ernie ElsWines. The legendary golfer’s estate has one of the most beautiful views of the Stellenbosch valley, the wines aren’t that bad either. Simonsig, Spier and Tokara are some of the best wine estates to visit if you’re a white wine lover. With so much places to choose from it is easy to get off track and head into any estate planned or unplanned but there are some charming gems that are must visit estates for every traveller to Stellenbosch. Muratie and Kanonkop are these two must visit estates. Both estates produce award winning wines and have history that stretches back for a couple of hundred years. In 1685 the first settlers started working on the land that is now known as Muratie. The first homestead can still be seen on the farm which is still being run as a family business, just like it has been for hundreds of years. Kanonkop is arguably South Africa’s flagship red-wine estate. This 4th generation run family farm produces exceptional wines year in and year out. There is nothing flashy about these two estates, but that is what makes them so special. Muratie has an 80 year old dinner table that is used for wine tastings. It has spider’s webs that hang from the tasting room’s roof which is situated in the old wine cellar. Kanonkop just has a different feel to it. You don’t feel like you’re on some billionaires’ farm that he keeps as a hobby, you feel like you’re just at a friend’s place, popping in to say hi.
Stellenbosch lunches are usually served late in the afternoon after you have enjoyed some great wine and even better company. There are many world class restaurant on numerous wine estate to choose from to have lunch at, but doing lunch in the town itself can be much more enjoyable. The hustle and bustle of the small streets where students and locals walk past centuries old buildings, chatting about the day’s events is what makes Stellenbosch so special. Church Street and the vicinity around it is where the old town is and where the best restaurants are situated. There is something for everyone from great steaks at Hussar Grill, Lebanese wraps at Manouche, exceptional pastries at de Oude Bank Bakkerij to fine dining at Wijnhuis. During the summer months you’ll have to book a table in advance as Stellenbosch fills up with tourists very quickly when the sun comes out.
Dinner is where the magic happens. After a relaxing late afternoon strolling through the streets of the old town, going to one of the many museums in town or taking an afternoon nap at your hotel you should be dressed and ready for a night of fine dining. There are two restaurants on different estates that stand out for different reasons. The one is Rust en Vrede and the other is Delaire Graff. Rust en Vrede has one of the best restaurants in South Africa, fine dining at its best with a 10 course surprise menu or a European style menu to choose from. The restaurant was rated the number one restaurant in South Africa in 2011 by Eatout Magazine. Rust en Vrede is one of the most intimate and romantic restaurants in the world to dine at. The wines aren’t bad either, they have constantly been named among the top red wines in South Africa and the world. The farm is the only estate in South Africa to have both a restaurant and a wine ranked within the top 100 in the world. The second option to consider will be a dinner at either the Delaire Graff Restaurant, with ‘bistro-chic’ cuisine, or the Indochine Restaurant, with Asian contemporary cuisine, both are situated on the Delaire Graff estate. The views from this estate are exceptional, it is seen by many as the most exclusive estate in the area. The owner of this estate is Laurence Graff, a world renowned jeweller based in London and founder of Graff Diamonds.
Rust en Vrede stands out because it has fine dining with a local feel. There is nothing pretentious about the restaurant, they let you feel right at home. Although it’s a fine dining restaurant it still has a laid back atmosphere about it. Rust en Vrede sums up essentially what Stellenbosch is all about, world class wines and food, combined with warm, small town hospitality. Delaire Graff is all about luxury and natural beauty. The restaurants on this estate have some of the most breath-taking views of the Stellenbosch Mountains and Vineyards. Here you can have an exceptional plate of food served on a multimillion dollar wine estate with a billion dollar view in front of you. If you have dinner at Delaire Graff be sure to have it on the viewing deck under the African sky, you’ll never want to leave.