Tag Archives: wine tasting

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

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

Wine Tasting at La Couronne Wine Estate (2015-05-10) Photo Gallery 01 JUL 2015

The third stop on our Franschhoek Wine Tram blue line trip (part of our fabulous weekend away in Franschhoek) was the La Couronne Wine Estate.

IMG_20150510_134948 chantelle lotter wine tasting at la couronne wine estate in franschhoek

Originally named Champagne Farm and farmed by seven generations of the Le Roux brother, La Couronne is now named after the famed French warship of the French Navy built in 1636 by Cardinal de Richelieu. La Couronne was the first man of war built by the French themselves in accordance to Richelieu’s plans to renew the French Navy, after a series of ships built by the Dutch. The construction was overseen by the famous carpenter Charles Morieur, from Dieppe. The ship was one of the most advanced vessels of her time, equipped with 68 heavy guns, 8 firing to the bow and 8 to the aft.

Needless to say, the wine estate doesn’t really feature any heavy guns, no.

IMG_20150510_130845 wine tasting at la couronne wine estate in franschhoek

Instead, they offer a fantastic wine selection, as well as quite a well thought out wine and chocolate pairing, something Chantelle and I quite enjoyed. (By this stage of the morning, we kind of felt like wine experts already! :P)

As luck would have it, we ended up there on Mother’s Day, and because pretty much no one else other than Chantelle and myself were present for lunch, we were treated with a personal tour around their vats, operations and more importantly, barrel cellar – a definite highlight for any wine newbies like us!

IMG_20150510_132547 la couronne cellar barrel tour in franschhoek

In fact, we got on so well with the tasting expert that we ended up staying there for a hour longer than planned, enjoying cheese, chocolates and more wine than any person should be tasting in a single sitting! :)

Not a bad way to end off what had been quite a long morning of tasting wines then! :)

IMG_20150510_142759 wine tasting at la couronne wine estate in franschhoek

Related Link: La Couronne Wine Estate

Wine Tasting at Grande Provence Wine Estate (2015-05-10) Photo Gallery 29 JUN 2015

Grande Provence Estate wears her 300-year history with dignity. Sitting in the magnificent Franschhoek Valley in South Africa’s Western Cape, her lush vines spread across 47-acres with gentle vistas over the valley floor, with the rugged mountains beyond. This is heartland South African wine country at its very finest.

IMG_20150510_122414 sculptures and art at grande provence wine estate in franschhoek

The second stop on our Franschhoek Wine Tram blue line trip (part of our fabulous weekend away in Franschhoek) was the majestic Grande Provence wine estate.

This old estate has a contemporary, artsy feel to it, and its stunning French Huguenot-style buildings are complemented by loads of interesting modern art and sculpture pieces dotted all around its stunning restaurant and tasting centre areas.

IMG_20150510_115250 chantelle lotter wine tasting at grande provence wine estate in franschhoek

We opted to have our tasting session outside, and with weather as perfect as it was, this was the right choice. Shady trees, stunning art – an absolute treat for all the senses!

IMG_20150510_115411 craig lotter wine tasting at grande provence wine estate in franschhoek

The wine was great (as expected), but sadly the lady taking us on our wine tasting tour not so much, struggling with a lot of the questions that we asked of her. Sadly, if it wasn’t on her script then it wasn’t going to be forthcoming.

IMG_20150510_122140 sculptures and art at grande provence wine estate in franschhoek

Nevertheless, Grande Provence was an absolute treat and I’m certain we’ll be finding ourselves there again in the near future! :)

High class indeed.

IMG_20150510_122312 sculptures and art at grande provence wine estate in franschhoek

Related Link: Grande Provence

Wine Tasting at Rickety Bridge Wine Estate (2015-05-10) Photo Gallery 28 JUN 2015

The first stop on our Franschhoek Wine Tram blue line trip (part of our fabulous weekend away in Franschhoek) was the tasting centre at the Rickety Bridge wine estate.

IMG_20150510_104819 chantelle lotter wine tasting at rickety bridge wine estate in franschhoek

From the website: “The Franschhoek wine estate, Rickety Bridge, has a winemaking history dating back to the 17th century.

It was once part of the original La Provence farm granted to the first French Huguenots who settled in Oliphantshoek and renamed the area, Franschhoek. Over the years La Provence was subdivided and in 1797 the land which is now known as Rickety Bridge wine estate was granted to the widow, Paulina De Villiers.

Rickety Bridge wine estate is situated less than 3 kilometres from the centre of the quaint Franschhoek town and nestles against the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains overlooking the majestic Wemmershoek Mountain range. This position gives the estate a range of aspects and soil types for growing different varieties of grapes.

The lower flatland of the estate is covered by sandy soils being close the Franschhoek River which crosses in front of the estate’s lower border. The hillside provides the wine estate with decomposed granite soils which are ideal for growing high quality red grapes required for producing premium red wine.

Rickety Bridge wine estate is 50 Hectares in area of which only 15 Hectares are currently dedicated to vineyard, with a further 6 hectares under development. The remaining 35 Hectares are made up of buildings, dams and pine forest.”

IMG_20150510_104334 wine tasting at rickety bridge wine estate in franschhoek

Although smaller than most of the other wineries around the area, Rickety Bridge’s setup is very professional, and the lady that took us through the tasting course had to be on her toes (and was!) thanks to the multitude of questions we threw at her (basically, we’re first timers, so we have a LOT of questions about everything wine related!).

The wines were particularly good, as expected, the views stunning, and overall, a very polished and welcoming experience.

IMG_20150510_104814 wine tasting at rickety bridge wine estate in franschhoek

Needless to say, this was a great start to our wine tasting day! :)

Related Link: Rickety Bridge Wine Estate