South Africa’s Cape Winelands is located in a stunning corner of the Western Cape province, a short drive away from Cape Town. The historic towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl dominate the tourism scene but, to me, the splendid wine estates and restaurants located in and around these towns really steal the show. If you love fine food and wines, then this is the place to be. The Cape Winelands region offers outstanding quality and refinement (for prices considerably lower than the established areas in Western Europe and California).
Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl
Stellenbosch is a historic town that boasts a multitude of grand Cape Dutch mansions, rustic avenues lined by centuries-old oaks and a dizzying array of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and lovely B&Bs. I can recommend dinner at the famous Volkskombuis restaurant which specialises in traditional Cape Malay cuisine. The food I had here prompted me to explore South Africa food recipes, especially those of the delicious ‘bobotie’.
The drive from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek through the Hellshoogte Pass is stunning. You’ll pass mile after mile of vineyards set against the dramatic backdrop of the towering Groot Drakenstein mountains. On the way to Franschhoek, you’ll pass three of my favourite wine estates: Zorgvliet (gorgeous Cape Dutch houses with wonderful mountain views; excellent wines & cuisine; there’s also a beautiful lodge and a spa which I can recommend), Boschendal (totally breathtaking location; fabulous wine-tasting/lunches in the garden; try the intriguing Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend) and La Motte (beautiful wine-tasting hall; exquisite Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs).
Franschhoek is a small village bursting at its seams with restaurants and B&Bs. It is arguably the gourmet capital of South Africa and lies in a luscious green valley surrounded by imposing mountain ranges. Restaurants I can recommend include le Quartier Francais (also a great place to stay), Monneaux (located in a beautiful manor) and Reuben’s. Another great culinary highlight is the Haute Cabriere Cellar at the Haute Cabriere wine estate up in the hills overlooking Franschhoek (and yes, the owner does show off by opening wine bottles with a saber – I preferred to pay more attention to the food! ;-).
Another beautiful drive is the Jan Phillips Mountain Drive above Paarl. It offers breathtaking vistas of Paarl and the surrounding winelands and a close-up of the giant granite domes from which Paarl derives its name.
If you decide to do the loop outlined below, you’ll pass another of my favourite wine estates, Vergelegen, near the town of Somerset West. Vergelegen is situated in the middle of expansive parklands and offers wine-tasting and meals in its beautiful Cape Dutch buildings. Try a glass (or two) of its famous Chardonnay.
View cape winelands in a larger map
Read other Velvet Escape posts on the Western Cape: