Tag Archives: wine tasting

Ending a Touchwork year at Groot Constantia and Pastis, Cape Town (2018-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 FEB 2019

Following the last year-end function at Monkey Valley in Noordhoek, 2018’s Touchwork/Hypenica year-end function moved a little closer to home with a delightful session of wine tasting at the granddaddy of Cape wine estates, Groot Constantia, followed by a delectable French-themed lunch at nearby Pastis Brasserie.

Now a provincial heritage site, Groot Constantia is recognised as being the oldest wine estate in South Africa, with this age old winery having been established in 1685 after the land was first granted to Simon van der Stel, the then VOC Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

These days, in addition to the production of excellent wine, Groot Constantia is also a major Cape Town tourist attraction (a member of Cape Town’s Big 6 to be exact), with the grounds being home to the Cape Dutch Manor House, the famed Cloete Cellar, two restaurants, a wine tasting centre, wine and cultural history museums, and walking tours of the vineyards and modern-day production cellar.

As for us on the day, we were there to taste wine, and taste wine we did.

Next up, a short stroll down the road lead the French-themed team to the Pastis Brasserie, a French inspired eatery that has been around since 2004. More wine was drunk, speeches had, Mystery Santa played, and lunch tucked into.

Great way to end off another good year for both sister companies really.

Merveilleux.

Related Link: Groot Constantia | Wikipedia | Pastis Brasserie | Cape Town

Celebratory Dessert at Postcard Cafe in Stellenbosch (2018-11-07) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 18 FEB 2019

We celebrated last year’s wedding anniversary with some delectable lunch at Sweetwell, just outside Stellenbosch. For dessert, we took a drive through the town and headed out towards Jonkershoek, making our way to the tucked away gem of Postcard Cafe, the small bistro/restaurant situated on the grounds of the delightful Stark-Conde Wines estate.

Fronted by a large open lawn overlooking a small dam, the beauty of the landscape around you is almost reason enough to pay a visit to Postcard Cafe, but of course its well crafted menu is not something to be overlooked either.

Given the beautiful day that we found ourselves out and about in the valley, we opted to sit outside on the patio, soaking up the view while tucking into our desserts and coffee. (Sadly for us though, on this particular day the desserts didn’t quite match up to our expectations.)

Nevertheless, the locale is stunning, the atmosphere tranquil, and quite frankly, it is easy to see why Postcard Cafe is as popular as what it is!

Lovely.

Related Link: Postcard Cafe | Stark Conde Wines | Stellenbosch

Fishing for Lunch at Eikendal in Stellenbosch (2017-08-06) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 11 DEC 2017

You could of course travel to Eikendal in Raithby, lying along the R44 snug between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, in order to taste and buy their award winning wines. You could even be heading out that way to stay in one of the private terraced rooms of the Eikendal Lodge, or perhaps to try your hand at fly fishing in their trout stocked dams.

Most likely though, you are probably heading towards their distinctively styled entrance to grab a seat (either inside or out) at Cucina di Giovanni, more commonly referred to as Giovanni’s among the locals.

We didn’t actually know this, but it turns out that this restaurant is rather on the popular side, and even more pleasingly, produces some particularly delicious pizza – as we found out for ourselves with an impromptu visit there one Sunday afternoon back in August this year.

(Turns out, the place we were actually on our way out to, the nearby Vredenhof, is closed on Sundays).

Eikendal itself is really worth a visit though.

Obviously there is the traditional wine tasting and food pairing that happens at the Eikendal Tasting Centre, but then there are also tours of their distinctive barrel vaulted cellar, fishing with the onsite Winelands Fly Fishing outfit, upmarket food from Giovanni’s, mapped out vineyards walks, lush green lawns, and finally a small kids play area, to enjoy.

Also, the abundant views of the vineyards and mountains isn’t too shabby either.

Chantelle, the kids and I rather enjoyed this impromptu visit, and given the fact that Eikendal lists Kiddies Tastings and Tractor Rides on their website, there is a more than reasonable chance of us returning for a more full experience sooner than later!

Related Link: Eikendal Wine Estate | Cucina di Giovanni | Giovanni’s Eikendal

Wine Tasting with Art at Saronsberg in Tulbagh (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 AUG 2017

Forged in the 2000’s and named after the mountain whose western slope is home to many of their vineyards, Tulbagh’s award winning Saronsberg, despite the farm itself’s deep historic roots, is actually a relatively new wine producer, having only produced its first vintage back in 2004.

Saronsberg Wine Cellar is known as a patron of the arts, and as such have married their wine tasting facilities with an unique art gallery, showcasing the work of a broad spectrum of famous and proudly South African artists.

I’m particularly fond of Angus Taylor’s work, and his hauntingly beautiful “From Earth From Water” (more commonly known as Lady of the Lake) sculpture serves as Saronsberg’s official mascot.

In addition to the actual wine (and nowadays olive oil) production, Saronsberg caters as a superb conference venue, and if that wasn’t enough, accommodation in the form of elegant self-catering vineyard cottages is also on the books.

As for the wine,  well two of Saronsberg’s red wines stand at the top of SAWi’s (The South African Wine Index) scored list, meaning that you are guaranteed to taste something remarkable if you ever find yourself in the area.

Which is exactly what happened when Chantelle and I paid a visit to their wonderfully modern wine cellar facilities last December.

A perfect marriage of wine and art.

(Hint: Angus Taylor’s “Conduit” stone man is a good indication that you’ve successfully navigated your way to Saronsberg!)

Related Link: Saronsberg Wine Cellar

Wine Tasting and Pizza at Val du Charron in Wellington (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 16 MAY 2017

Last year December saw Chantelle and I break away from the kids for a weekend in Tulbagh. There was of course a lot of wine tasting, eating and sightseeing, and for the drive home, we opted for the long way around, going via Bainskloof Pass and through Wellington – mostly because we REALLY wanted to stop and taste wines at the famed Val Du Charron Wine and Olive Estate.

Originally proclaimed in 1699, the working farm of Val Du Charron is currently a darling of Wellington tourism, with its offerings including both 5 star and 4 star accommodation options, a spa, wine tasting, wine and olive production, and two eating options, the first in the form of The Local Grill, and the second a new family friendly pizza-centric offering known as Piza e Vino.

Lying on the slopes of the Bovlei valley, the historic Cape Dutch architecture of the estate is framed with beautiful views of both the Groenberg and Hawequa mountains, and on this particularly hot, windless Summer’s day, we were treated to cloudless bright blue sky as far as one could see.

The wine tasting took place in a small intimate little wine tasting room, where our host took us through some of Val du Charron’s amazing wines and their associated tales – with their Black Countess sticking particularly favourably in my memory.

For lunch we opted for the busy Piza e Vino, choosing to escape the blistering heat by sitting inside the cool restaurant building as opposed to all the families clustered under the umbrellas while the kids enjoyed the water play area outside. (A sacrifice of view I know, but man, you wouldn’t believe how hot it was on the day!)

Pleasingly, the pizza was pretty damn good. (No wonder the restaurant was as busy as it seemed!)

So. Art, food, drink and a view – what more could one ask for?

Val Du Charron is a particularly beautiful space with a lot of history mixed in with plenty of modern touches, making for a very definite stop if you ever find yourself being a tourist (wine drinking or not) in the area!

Related Link: Val Du Charron Wine and Olive Estate | Piza e Vino

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

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