Tag Archives: wine estate

Indian Runner Ducks and a Market at Vergenoegd in Stellenbosch (2016-10-15) Markets | Photo Gallery 22 APR 2017

Following some delightful deli delicacies from the upmarket Asara boutique hotel outside Stellenbosch one early Saturday morning in October last year (the original plan had been to pick strawberries at Polkadraai Farm down the road in case you are wondering), we next popped our heads in at nearby Vredenheim – where we promptly decided to much rather head further down the road to visit the newly revamped Vergenoegd Wine Estate for the first time – and man are we glad that we did!

Despite being the third oldest wine farm in the Cape (having been established way, way back in 1773), Vergenoegd has never really been a part of Stellenbosch’s famed (and super lucrative) wine route tourism market – a fact that has only now recently been rectified, following a change of ownership in 2015.

The new owners have done an amazing job of renovating and breathing new life into this grand old dame of a wine farm, allowing for Vergenoegd to very much become the new Stellenbosch destination darling that everyone seems to currently be talking about!

(Seriously, whomever is handling their marketing needs a massive raise. That team is doing a brilliant job of putting Vergenoegd very firmly on Stellenbosch’s tourism map!)

Front and center in terms of popular attractions is of course their amazingly well trained herd of Indian Runner ducks, tasked with keeping the vineyards snail and bug free.

The famous duck parade (the girls LOVED it!) is of course a massive hit with the kids, and in fact, has done so well for Vergenoegd that they now even host full on, informative duck tours!

In terms of dining offerings, they have a lovely restaurant area in front of the manor house, as well as a range of artisan picnic options to choose from.

Then of course there is the wine tasting covering their various well made wines, and even more interestingly, a range of interactive wine, olive oil, tea and coffee blending experiences that teaches you about the source and technique behind some of the Cape’s best food and drink products.

Naturally, as just about every other place in the winelands is doing these days, Vergenoegd is also home to its very own Saturday farmer’s market, with both adults and kids well catered for.

Given the market’s runaway success, the team has now further expanded on the this experience by hosting live music events, bringing in some surprisingly popular local musicians in the process!

(Oh, and they also have a weekly, family friendly fun run/walk through the vineyards.)

In other words, it is really, really hard not to like this place.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we kind of just wandered onto the estate without knowing anything about it other than there was a pretty cool duck parade to be seen. The market was certainly a pleasant (and welcome!) surprise, and we ended up having a great afternoon out there on the day, soaking up the vibe and enjoying the live music.

As always, I snapped a few pictures which does nothing to do the place any sort of real justice, but serves well enough to give a decent idea of what you can expect to find any given Saturday afternoon at Vergenoegd:

In summary: The little ones are of course guaranteed to get a kick out of the ducks, but that said, the restaurant location is fantastic, not to mention the new market. Well worth a weekend outing then.

Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Wine Tasting at La Bourgogne in Franschhoek (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 22 APR 2017

Having tasted wine at both Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence, and lunched at Le Petite Dauphine’s Cafe BonBon, next on our wine tram experience was a wine tasting at La Bourgogne wine farm, itself a subdivision of the farm Bourgogne which was among the first Huguenot farms, proclaimed way back in 1694!

Shaded by 150 year old oaks, the farm house at La Bourgogne is the heart of this working farm which today produces quality wines, export quality plums and pears, and some rather good olive oils to boot.

It also boasts a couple of rather fine, secluded riverside cottages.

We were there of course to taste some wine, but to be honest, most of us were already pretty much done with wine for the day, which is probably why Chantelle immediately settled for a dessert, while Monty opted to try some olives.

So we sat and enjoyed some wine, olives and cake, overlooking the lush green, rolling lawns behind the tasting room, surrounded by vineyards, accompanied by the local St. Bernard dog, observed by passing horse riders, and completely satisfied in the tranquility of the surroundings.

So yes, it was rather nice.

At this point then, everyone pretty much agreed that the day had now drawn to a close. The wine had been good, the company great, and besides, it was still a long drive back home for everyone involved!

Related Link: La Bourgogne Wine Farm | Franschhoek Wine Tram

Cafe BonBon Lunch at La Petite Dauphine in Franschhoek (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 21 APR 2017

The third stop on October last year’s fabulous Franschhoek Wine Tram excursion (having had already tasted plenty of wine at both Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence) was La Petite Dauphine, an estate that bills itself as a guest farm – which translates then essentially to superb accommodation nestled on a historic working fruit farm, with a particularly good wine collection and some fine dining options to boot.

After hopping off the Wine Tram bus, we made a beeline straight to Café BonBon, the main restaurant at La Petite Dauphine to make good on the lunch reservation that Chantelle had earlier organized for our group.

Although you can dine in the 200 years old, restored wine cellar, we instead opted to take full advantage of the amazing weather and sat at a large table outside, where we set about investigating the mouthwatering lunch options on the menu.

Naturally, wine was ordered, conversation flowed, and mouths salivated at the food eventually placed down before us.

Surrounded by large oak trees all around, the setting is one of serenity and tranquility, and once combined with the excellent food on offer, the experience is definitely one to savour!

So yes, definitely a contender if you are looking to stop for lunch whilst on the wine tram route then.

Next stop for us on the day though? A final tasting at La Bourgogne!

Related Link: Cafe BonBon Country Restaurant | La Petite Dauphine Guest Farm | Franschhoek Wine Tram

Wine Tasting at Grande Provence in Franschhoek (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 APR 2017

Last year saw Chantelle and myself tackle the fantastic Franschhoek Wine Tram experience once more, and following our first tasting over at the Rickety Bridge Winery, our next stop came in the form of the grand, art rich and 300 year old Franschhoek institution, the Grande Provence estate.

We were very excitedly telling our companions all about the fantastic massive elephant and horse rider statues guarding over the entrance at Grande Provence, which I guess then is precisely why when we did finally pull up via our tractor drawn carriage, neither of those two statues were anywhere in sight!

(Turns out, as we found out later following some inquiries, some wealthy American took a liking to the statues and had them shipped out back to the States. Which makes complete sense when all the beautiful pieces on display are actually there for sale purposes in the first place!)

Not that it matters in the slightest though. We were after all there to taste some wine, and indeed, the wine that we got to taste was very good indeed!

Grande Provence was slightly on the busy side when we arrived, so Chantelle and I opted to do our tasting inside the tasting room while the others waited to be helped outside. We got talking to the gentleman helping us with our tasting, and he surprised us by letting us taste some of the more expensive wines which weren’t even on our tasting list for the day!

Following our tasting, Chantelle and I headed outside to explore a little more. The estate’s classic Cape Dutch architecture is enhanced by the beautifully manicured and maintained gardens, which are of course studded with clever and thought provoking sculpture pieces wherever you look.

So pro tip: keep this in mind if you are there for only a short amount of time – be sure to set aside a good couple of minutes for yourself to be able to amble around the gardens and take in all the artistic sights.

Unless of course you really are there only for the wine! ;)

As for us on the day? Next up, lunch at Café BonBon on the La Petite Dauphine guest farm!

Related Link: Grande Provence Wine Estate | Franschhoek Wine Tram

Wine Tasting at Rickety Bridge Winery in Franschhoek (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 APR 2017

Chantelle and I did the Franschhoek Wine Tram experience again last year October, and as for most people who undertake this brilliant day out and about sipping wine, our first wine tasting for the day was scheduled at the fabulous little winery known as Rickety Bridge.

Arriving via the titular wine tram (always a lovely experience in itself), we were picked up by a bright red tractor (the usual truck was apparently in the shop for repairs), and we slowly wound our way through the vineyards (and across the titular bridge) over to Rickety Bridge’s dedicated Wine Tram tasting area.

If you are not familiar with it, nestled against the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains overlooking the majestic Wemmershoek Mountain range, the Rickety Bridge estate has a lot of history in the wine making business, having originally been part of the land that made up the original La Provence farm granted to the French Huguenots who first settled in Oliphantshoek (which they very quickly renamed to Franschhoek).

The estate itself is not particularly large, clocking in at about 50 ha in terms of size, of which only around 15 ha or so actually have planted vineyards growing on it.

Apart from its wine producing operation, Rickety Bridge does also have its hand in a couple other ventures, namely accommodation (the Basse Provence Guest House and the Rickety Bridge Manor House), hosting weddings, feeding people via its newly renamed restaurant Paulina’s, and of course tourist wine tasting – for which it operates a very nice, dedicated tasting room.

On our first ever visit to Rickety Bridge (back in 2015), we had lucked out by a) not having a lot of other people on the tour with us for the first stop, and b) getting served by a very knowledgeable lady who had no problem in staying and chatting to us about the winery, the wine and the process (as newbies we had quite a lot of questions!).

This time around though we weren’t quite as fortunate, though in the bigger scheme of things that didn’t nearly matter all that much seeing as we actually had some of our own company around the table for change!

Pleasingly, the wine list allowed for quite a bit of tasting across various varietals and, as expected, the wine proved to be really good – so a really decent start to the day’s wine drinking outing then!

Also, a map:

Related Link: Rickety Bridge Winery | Franschhoek Wine Tram

Visiting Wine Estates via the Franschhoek Wine Tram Tour (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 MAR 2017

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you are looking for a great outing for a group of adult friends and you are based in the Cape Town surrounds, then you really should consider the famous Franschhoek Wine Tram experience.

Chantelle and I first did it in 2015, and naturally were quite keen to do it again, so come October last year, Chantelle more than happily helped her mom organise a surprise birthday outing for her dad.

Peter and Gail joined in for the fun, and so come a beautiful Saturday morning, the six of us found ourselves meeting up for quick cup of coffee at Franschhoek’s Sacred Ground eatery (coincidentally where the Wine Tram’s unmistakable ticket office is situated), the perfect start to what would be a long wine tasting filled day!

In essence, the wine tram is a bit of a glorified shuttle service, moving you between one wine estate and the next. There are a few discounts and freebies thrown in, but essentially you are paying them for the transport and opportunity to ride along their distinctive green buses and of course titular tram (modeled after the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890).

Nevertheless, this is by far the safest (and most fun) way of exploring so many different wine estates in a day, so well worth the money in my opinion.

(They do also offer a handy service whereby they’ll store your wine purchases aboard their vehicles, allowing you to then later pick it up from the ticket office once your day out and about is done.)

The schedule is rather confusing, so best check in at the ticket office to fully understand how the system works, but essentially there is always bus/tram arriving at each estate every sixty minutes, meaning the minimum amount of time you can spend at a venue is an hour.

Naturally, if you like the venue or perhaps have decided to eat lunch there, then you simply miss your next bus and catch the one following that.

When Chantelle and I first did the run, you could pick from only two lines (blue and red), but that has since changed and there are now five lines to choose between, namely the Blue, Green, Red, Yellow and Purple lines!

The list of estates to visit is large, though realistically you can probably only fit in between four and five on a day (and these of course are dictated by the line that you choose). The list of estates available on the various routes include: Mont Rochelle, Le Lude, La Bri, La Bourgogne, Holden Manz, La Couronne, Rickety Bridge, Grande Provence, Maison, Eikehof, Leopard’s Leap, Charmonix, Dieu Donne, Boschendal, Vrede en Lust, Noble Hill, Babylonstoren, Plaisir de Merle, Allee Bleue and Solms-Delta.

Our particular outing on the day included wine tastings at Rickety Bridge, La Bourgogne, and Grande Provence, with lunch at La Petite Dauphine. (I’ve got plenty of pictures from all of these, which I’ll get around to posting up here sometime as well).

As you might then suspect, the day was a complete success. Everyone finished up considerably ‘happier’ than what they started, the wine all excellent, the scenery was of course beautiful (this is the picturesque Franschhoek valley after all), and a couple of bottles of wine even made their way home with us.

So anyway, with the photos taken from the actual stops themselves still sitting in my burgeoning “Still to Post” folder on my laptop, these are the pictures taken on the day that don’t quite have a natural home:

Definitely an experience well worth doing, particularly if you are seriously into your wine. That said, even if you are not, this is a brilliantly fun day out!

Related Link: Franschhoek Wine Tram | Facebook | Twitter

Wine Tasting at Waverley Hills in Wolseley (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 MAR 2017

Situated between Tulbagh and Ceres, close to Wolseley and at the foothills of the Witzenberg Mountain Range, is Waverley Hills, an organic estate known for three things – it’s role in nature conservation, organic farming, and perhaps the most export worthy of them all – organic wines.

An official WWF Conservation Champion, Waverley Hills champions biodiversity and as such sets aside about 20% of the estate for conservation, land containing critically endangered veld types such as Breede Shale Renosterveld, Breede Alluvium Fynbos and Breede Shale Fynbos.

Indigenous plants and animals are protected, alien vegetation kept at bay, and of course as you might expect from a setup such as this, natural predators are used to keep the vineyards clear of pests. (For example, snails are almost exclusively the domain of their lovable family of white ducks!)

So sustainable, organic farming is quite a big thing for them in other words, which translates into actions like fertilizing with composts and manures, the use of cover crops for soil improvement, irrigation with pure spring water, and obviously a complete shy away from toxic chemicals.

Interestingly enough, the very fact that the naturally diverse fynbos flora is so welcome here means that Waverley Hill’s wines often take on quite a unique herbaceous characteristic!

Anyway, last year December saw Chantelle and I leave the kids with the grandparents and slip away for a weekend in the stunning wine region that is Tulbagh, and it was on our Sunday roundabout route home that we decided to pop in at the wonderful, purpose-built Waverley Hills Estate Tasting Room for impromptu wine tasting session!

The tasting area itself is actually really nice, as is the selection of wines to taste – which makes perfect sense then when you look at all the award stickers littered about.

So definitely a worthy stop on any wine tour of the area then.

(Also, it is well worth sticking around for their restaurant if you can. Apparently the food is really good, but for me that view from the balcony just looks amazing! )

Bonus: A handy map, just in case you have need of organic wine and find yourself in the area one day:

Related Link: Waverley Hills

Lunch at Skilpadvlei Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (2016-10-20) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 25 FEB 2017

Way back in October last year, on a beautiful and windless Thursday afternoon, Chantelle and I picked the girls up from their respective playschools and headed out towards the Stellenbosch winelands, making our way to the super popular Polkadraai Strawberry Farm for an enjoyable strawberry picking session. (Midweek, because that place is far too busy on a weekend come strawberry picking season!)

Anyway, following our romp in the strawberries (which the girls absolutely loved), we decided to round off the outing with some lunch, and so we did a u-turn and headed back down the road to the nearby Skilpadvlei Wine Estate, known for its local wine, accommodation options, its use as a beautiful wedding venue, and if you have small kids, it’s impressively large wooden jungle gym!

Whilst the inside of the restaurant is always a nice and quirky affair, we almost always sit outside to take in the tranquil vineyard views, and this day was certainly no different. With the place almost entirely to ourselves, we enjoyed a great lunch, with the girls wolfing down their food as fast as possible in order to maximize their play time in Skilpadvlei’s great kids play area.

Not that I was complaining mind you… ;)

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the rather unusual/charming name of this wine estate, i.e. Tortoise Marsh in English (admittedly, perhaps not the best translation), it stems from the large colony of tortoises who purportedly called the vlei home in the 1800’s.

The estate has notably been in the hands of the Joubert family since 1917, with the fully operational 78ha farm being primarily made up of 55ha of vineyards, 3ha of olive groves, and of course the rest seemingly being taken up by that jungle gym of theirs…

Also, I did my best to annoy Chantelle with my camera phone as much as I could on the day:

So, in summary, a good family stop (as always) for us.

Bonus: a handy map so that your kids can bug you to head out that way as well:

Related Link: Skilpadvlei Wine Estate | Facebook

Snacking at Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch (2016-10-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 02 JAN 2017

One Saturday in October last year, Chantelle and I decided to take the girls out for a spot of strawberry picking at Polkadraai in Stellenbosch. However on arrival at the strawberry farm it was immediately clear that pretty much the entire Cape Town must have had the same idea as us, and so we did a u-turn and headed back towards Stellenbosch, looking for something else to do instead.

Then a brainwave hit me – I’d previously visited the five star Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch for a business meeting with Distell, and have wanted to show the place off to Chantelle ever since. So I took a chance and turned in by Asara’s manned gates and stated that I was off to visit the deli (which I think I remember having spotted that last time I was there).

As it turns out, they do have a deli on-site – and surprisingly it is a pretty cool little find.

If you aren’t familiar with Asara, then know that it is an award-winning wine estate and 5-star hotel billed as being situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Breathtaking views, tranquil atmosphere, upmarket service – well you get the picture.

Previously known as Raphael’s (where I previously had enjoyed a lunch), mise en place is the new destination fine dining restaurant at Asara, while the Sansibar is their casual, bistro-style dining option.

However, the spot that we were interested in seeing as we had our two little ones tagging along with us was Asara’s main courtyard and more specifically, the deli that then opens up onto it.

I was super surprised to find the deli stocked with all manner of exciting baked treats, and was even more taken aback at how well priced the finger snacks were – pretty soon we had placed an order for all manner of niceties, before selecting a table outside and then sitting back as our array of treats was brought out to us in a manner which I’m more than happy to dub as being a ‘simple high tea’ experience! ;)

The view from the courtyard is spectacular, the service is top notch, and amazingly, this was such a cool, well priced treat that all three of my girls thoroughly enjoyed!

(In other words, I guess we’ll have to head back that way sometime soon then – though maybe without the girls this time around so that Chantelle and I can give some of their other offerings a proper go…)

As always, a useful map:

Related Link: Asara Wine Estate & Hotel | Facebook