Overnight wine tours

The West Coast wineries

Day one

Groote Post 2013 Photoshoot on 11 September 2013We leave Cape Town along the West Coast road, with a brief stop at Blaauberg Strand for the classic view of Table Mountain from the north. We drive through typical Cape coastal dune fynbos (Renosterveld) until we reach our first winery, the historic Grootepost. The unique Dutch architecture of the winery itself reveals a dual-purpose building – both garrison and homestead for the Dutch East India Company on the important Saldanha/Table Bay provisioning route of 1676.

The Grootepost wines have achieved remarkable success at both local and international wine expositions. Winemaker Lukas Wentzel, viticulturist Jannie de Klerk, and vineyard manager Johan Pienaar have between them created some of the Cape’s best loved wines, including their “Old Man’s Blend”. After a cellar tour and introduction we enjoy a tasting of both reds and whites from this famous but seldom-visited winery.

We drive on to another estate which has had outstanding success, particularly with its pinotage. The vineyards of Cloof, part of the Darling group of wineries, blanket the sandy hills just kilometres from the icy currents of the West Coast. These are bushvine wines, and both the cabernet sauvignon and the shiraz have achieved four stars from the 2014 John Platter Tasting Team.

The lunch stop is a cultural experience. World-famous satirist and scourge of the former apartheid government, Pieter Dirk Uys, has his entertainment headquarters at Evita se Peron in Darling. Lunch guests are invited to browse the walls of both the restaurant and the theatre, where photographs and press cuttings from the career of this South African institution abound.

Late afternoon brings us to Mullineux Family Wines in the Riebeek-Kasteel area. This winery has consistently scored four or five stars for their reds and whites, as well as innumerable international accolades. Consequently it was adjudged “Winery of the Year 2014” by the John Platter tasting team.

From the dunes and rolling hills of the Swartland we enter the mountains and valleys as we make our way towards the village of Tulbagh, our overnight stop.

One of the Cape’s most energetic early Dutch governors was Rijk Tulbagh, and this mountain village with its beautiful drostdy was named in his honour. Church Street has a wonderful series of architectural gems, dating from 1700. Although many of these were razed by the devastating earthquake of 1969, the entire village was restored by the Rembrandt Foundation, following strict principles of Cape Dutch restoration.

Overnight with dinner is at Rijk’s Country Lodge, an upmarket guesthouse which has a menu to match. Over dinner we enjoy a sneak preview of the wines from the cellar, but leave the real tasting for the morning.

Day two

Groote Post 2013 Photoshoot on 11 September 2013After a leisurely breakfast and checkout, we enjoy a walk in the local vineyards of Rijk’s Private Cellar. Wines were first planted here in 1996, so the vintages are all recent, but this has not stopped winemaker Pierre Wahl from winning accolades from the start. The Tulbagh terroir is traditionally white wine specific, yet awards have also been showered on the magnificent reds (70% of plantings). We taste the entire range, including the mouth-watering chenin blanc.

From the new to the old. In Tulbagh, wine is synonymous with the Kroner family. At Twee Jonge Gezellen (established in 1710) Nicky Kroner has been making South Africa’s favourite wines for over four decades. Nicky, together with son Matthew, makes a delicious range of white wines, but his piece de resistance is his Krone Borealis Brut, the bubbly which won the Air France Gold Medal as the world’s finest Champagne-style wine outside Champagne. Nicky will show us around his winery, and explain the benefits of after-dark harvesting, before leading us in a tasting of the estate’s finest.

We leave Tulbagh and travel over the historic Bain’s Kloof Pass, the finest achievement of early Victorian road maker Andrew Bain. This incredible piece of early engineering takes us straight into the town of Wellington, recently visited by the current Duke. We stop for lunch and our final tasting at Diemersfontein, a venerable fruit estate recently planted to wine grapes and now producing some of the Cape’s best wines. This estate has won considerable accolades for its pinotage, merlot and shiraz, and we sample the best vintages after a brief cellar tour in the company of wine maker Francois Roode.

The tour ends with a half-hour drive through wine country to the drop-off in Cape Town.

Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch

Day one

Wine tours - Big Blue Sky ToursThe tour begins with a forty-minute drive from Cape Town to the Paarl Valley, one of the most significant of South Africa’s wine producing districts. Just for the experience, our first visit is to the biggest and perhaps best-known winery of them all, the Nederburg Cellars (18 000 tons). From its early beginnings in 1792, this estate has grown to its present impressive volumes without sacrificing any of the quality for which it is renowned. A tour of the cellars, followed by an hour or two in the tasting room will reveal both the quantity (8000 barrels!) and the quality of these wines – no fewer than 19 wines from the range receive four or more stars from the John Platter Team.

We follow the valley to a winery of a very different character, situated directly below the granite plutons of the Paarl Mountain.

Fairview, the farm owned over several generations by the Beck family, delivers not only superlative wines and farm cheeses, but also a very welcome dose of excellent good humour! This is the home of the world famous “Goats do Roam” wines, known and enjoyed both locally and internationally.

After experiencing their Master Tasting in their beautifully appointed private tasting room, we repair to lunch in the Goatshed Restaurant on the premises.

Travelling towards Franschhoek we stop in at one further winery before bidding farewell to the Paarl Valley. The prestigious Rupert and Rothschild Vineyards offers a range of only three wines, a result perhaps of their close links with traditional French winemaking. These are big and bold wines of exceptional quality, and we sample them in a cool and elegant tasting room.

We check in early to our overnight accommodation, the charming Akademie Street Guest House in the wine village of Franschhoek. Dinner is at Le Quartier Francais, a short stroll from the residence.

Day two

After a leisurely breakfast we pay a visit to Achim von Arnhim’s famous cellar on the Franschhoek hillside, Haut Cabriere. Although he is best known for his Cuvee Reserve, which is given a 60-month bottle maturation, Achim’s range includes a Cuvee Belle Rose and the very dry Brut and Brut Sauvage. We also taste his unique Ratafia, a sweet aperitif fortified with brandy made on the estate. With luck, we’ll watch Achim’s skills with his sabre as he opens his bubblies by chopping off the bottle tops with his blade!

Suitably light-headed from all the Methode cap classique sampled at Cabriere, we continue our Franschhoek experience by driving deep into the southern end of the valley. Here, at the end of the road, we arrive at the Boekenhoutskloof boutique winery. This is syrah and cabernet sauvignon country, and for every consecutive vintage these wines have been awarded five stars by the John Platter team. We also taste The Chocolate Block, a blended red wine which Platter calls “a hedonist’s delight”.

After a light lunch in the village high street, the tour ends with the return drive to Cape Town, reaching the city at about 18h00.