In the Western Cape, a short drive from Cape Town, vineyards and wine regions are everywhere. Constantia sits opposite Table Mountain from Cape Town, with the vineyards crawling down the backside of the Mountain. A bit further out, Stellenbosch is just as stunning, with the vineyards making their way, one after another, from the Stellenbosch Mountains to the coast. Venturing further east, on the other side of the mountains lies Franschoek, the culinary capital of the area and home stunning vineyards that seem to never end. Slightly further out, over yet another mountain range, you have Hermanus, famous for the whales that breach every year in sight of the coast. If you follow the winding route 320 to the Hemel an Aarde Valley you get to maybe the most spectacular setting of all, with the vineyards hugging the sides of the valley, looking out towards the Indian Ocean. These spectacular areas make up my favorite place in the world, the Cape Winelands.
All things being equal, this is where I would spend all of my days, sipping the amazing wines produced here, soaking up the sun and just reflecting on the amazing vistas. It is a place that any wine lover, food love, art lover, beauty seeking person should visit. Yes, it is far, but it is spectacular. A place as stunning as anywhere else in the world.
There are enough vineyards within a few hours drive of Cape Town to fill weeks of your time. I had done a fair amount of research in the time leading up to my trip but was unable to make it to half of what I had hoped. Even still, I made it to over twenty vineyards, falling in love once again with the wines and geography of the area.
My favorites of the trip were Constantia Uitsig, Southern Right, Creation, Ataraxia and Grand Provence, though I am pretty sure you will be able to find at least one wine you will like anywhere you taste in South Africa. Constantia Uitsig remains a home to my favorite wines in South Africa, the place I have started my tastings at on each of my trips to South Africa. Their Semillon is a standout, but is far from their only fantastic wine. The staff at their tasting room is extremely friendly and knowledgeable, making the visit a great way to start off your tastings. These wines are unfortunately hard to find, as the majority are sold on site and to a few distributors in Europe. While I think every wine drinker should have the chance to experience Constantia Uitsig, you will have to take advantage of any time you come across a bottle.
The entire Constantia region has some great finds, and is the closest region to downtown Cape Town. Other favorites are the famous Vin de Constance at Klein Constantia, a dessert wine that Napoleon enjoyed and reborn as a great wine that typically receives some of South Africa’s highest ratings. Right next to Constantia Uitsig is Steenberg Vineyards, home to one of the most stunning tasting rooms in the area and the fantastic restaurant, Bistro 1682. I have eaten here twice and both time it was fantastic.
Venturing a bit further out from Cape Town, you come across Stellenbosch and Franschoek. This is home to one of the most famous South African Universities and one of the original homes of viticulture in South Africa. The wineries I tasted here were good, but outside of Grand Provence there were no standouts. Grand Provence is a vacation all in itself. With a tasting room, restaurant, bed and breakfast as well as an art gallery, all set in the Franschoek Valley. The stunning setting also features some amazing wines. When you visit, make sure to take the time to browse the art gallery for some interesting works by many leading South African artists. After spending a few hours there, I wanted to buy the whole place and live the life of a wine maker, restaurant owner and art collector. The good life for sure.
Finally, the third region I visited was the Hemel-en-Aarde valley near Hermanus. This is more of a day trip than an afternoon stop, but still worth it if you have the time in Cape Town. Hermanus is traditionally better known for whale watching, but is fast becoming known for the wine produced here, including Hamilton Russell, one of the best known winemakers in South Africa. The wines were excellent, but the real highlight was the tasting rooms. My three favorites were Atraxia, Creation and Southern Right, all for different reasons.
To get to Creation you follow a long winding dirt road through the vineyards before arriving at the tasting room, which is also home to a restaurant with gorgeous views over the valley. As you make your way through the valley, Atraxia is a must visit. The tasting room is sparse, but just about perfectly located, an idyllic location set high atop a ridge. Southern Right is part of the Hamilton Russell family of vineyards and features great Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc examples as well as delicious Olive Oil. The staff here was very friendly, helping make the visit even more enjoyable.
These are my favorites in the Cape Winelands, but far from the only gems. Part of the allure of wine regions is the ability to stumble upon a new favorite. The region complements the well made wine with stunning views, making an ideal wine vacation…if only it were not so far away. Nevertheless, it is well worth the time and distance, not just for the wine, but for everything that Cape Town has to offer.
Safari Photo Gallery Part One, Day One
Safari Photo Gallery Part Two, Day Two
Safari Photo Gallery Part Three, Day Three
South Africa’s Food