Stellenbosch (map) is a picturesque university town in the Cape Winelands, a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, filled with historic Cape Dutch buildings, ancient oak trees, art galleries and laid-back cafés. A short drive in any direction, along one of the many Stellenbosch Wine Routes, will take you through gorgeous vineyards and imposing mountains. Nestled in the valleys and mountain slopes are some of the most beautiful wineries in the Western Cape. Here are ten Stellenbosch wineries that I’ve visited and loved, not just because of their fabulous wines but the unique experiences they offered:
Delaire Graff Estate
The Delaire Graff Estate is arguably one of the most spectacularly located wine estates in Stellenbosch. Perched at the top of the Helshoogte Pass, this sprawling estate is a Relaix & Chateaux property and boasts a stunning art collection, beautiful terraces and breathtaking views, lodges, a spa and top-notch restaurants.
If you’re not staying at Delaire Graff, I suggest making a dinner reservation at the Delaire Graff Restaurant or the Asian-inspired Indochine Restaurant, but arrive just before sunset to enjoy a glass of wine (try the terrific Chenin Blanc or the sublime Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve) on the terrace. The view of the mountains as they changed colours during the sunset is something I’ll never forget!
Vergenoegd Wine Estate
This beautiful estate is one of the first you’ll pass when you exit the N2 Highway from Cape Town for Stellenbosch. What makes Vergenoegd absolutely unique is its large population of ducks! The ducks were brought to the estate to assist with pest control and it worked! The duck population is now around 700-800 and they keep the vineyards free of snails and bugs. Drop by at 9:45am or 3:30pm to watch the amazing duck parade (daily). Then grab an artisanal picnic basket and have a relaxing time on the estate’s gorgeous lawns. There are also wine-tasting and wine-blending experiences to choose from.
Dornier Wine Estate
I stayed at Dornier Wine Estate, in their gorgeous villa, and kicked off my stay with a fabulous lunch. I just need one word to describe the food here: ‘wholesome’! I especially loved the salads and the flammekuchen! The sun shone brightly, illuminating the spectacular mountains in front of me. When I took that first sip of Chenin Blanc, I tasted its crisp freshness with fruity undertones and smelled its tantalising bouquet. I leaned back in my chair and smiled. The feeling was just heavenly!
Spier Wine Farm
Spier Wine Farm is one of the most renowned and oldest (founded in 1692) wine estates in Stellenbosch. It produces a great variety of excellent wines and is also home to a fantastic restaurant, Eight, which strictly adheres to a ‘farm to table’ policy. The produce from the Spier Farm is incredibly fresh and tasty (their salads are a real treat!); one of many great reasons to visit or stay here. Another great reason is the estate’s magnificent collection of African art that can be found in and around the hotel. The highlight of my stay here was without doubt the Segway tour through the vineyards (with sweeping views of the Stellenbosch mountains) and the vegetable gardens.
Warwick Wine Estate
Warwick Wine Estate is a lovely winery situated at the foot of the imposing mountains just outside Stellenbosch. There’s plenty to do here: you could opt for a traditional wine-tasting and/or a meal, or the Big Five Wine Safari, or a picnic on the green lawns. We hopped onto the jeep for the Big Five Wine Safari which took us up into the hills, past the vineyards and accompanied by expert commentary by the sommelier. We stopped at the top of the hill and I was just blown away by the breathtaking views. We sat at a long table and tucked into a variety of home-made tapas whilst enjoying the wine-tasting. It certainly was one of the most memorable wine-tastings I’ve ever done!
I thought the wine-tasting at Warwick was unforgettable but I soon got to experience another unique wine-tasting, this time at the grand Waterford Estate. This winery is simply stunning but it’s the wine-tasting, paired with specially-made chocolates, that made it an unforgettable experience. Chief winemaker, Kevin Arnold, teams up with chocolatier, Richard von Geusau, to create this unique wine-tasting experience. I highly recommend it.
I also highly recommend a wine safari around the estate. Kevin personally takes his guests in the safari jeep for a drive through the stunning estate, stopping for a wine-tasting between the vines.
Middelvlei Wine Estate
My visit to Middelvlei Wines was surely was one of my most memorable experiences in Stellenbosch. I got to blend my own Velvet Escape wine and the ‘boere tapas’ (farmer’s tapas) was delicious. You can easily spend an afternoon here, sipping on their superb wines (the Pinotage is my favourite) and feasting on grilled specialties prepared by Middelvlei’s braai master.
Perched on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass, one of the most dramatic mountain passes near Stellenbosch, Tokara is a wine and olive farm that’s also home to one of South Africa’s best fine-dining restaurants. From here, the panoramic views of the vineyards, False Bay and Table Mountain in the distance are just gorgeous. Chef Richards Carstens uses only the freshest ingredients and expertly blends flavours and aromas to create dishes that are nothing short of spectacular!
Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate
The Morgenster Estate is situated in Somerset West, about a 20-minute drive from Stellenbosch. This estate has been a wine and olive farm since 1711 and excels in Bordeaux-style wines and superb olive oils. The olive oils are truly outstanding and I can definitely recommend an olive-oil tasting followed by a wine-tasting on their beautiful terrace.
This large estate at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains is just up the road from Morgenster. Lourensford Estate boasts a large and modern cellar, a beautiful tasting room, extensive gardens and an excellent restaurant: Millhouse Kitchen. I enjoyed lunch at the Millhouse Kitchen in the shady garden – try the risotto! Every Sunday, you’ll find the Harvest Market, with local vendors selling all sorts of organic produce and arts and crafts. This estate, with its beautiful lawns is perfect for families with kids.
There are many other beautiful wineries in and around Stellenbosch, each with a unique wine offering and ditto experiences. These ten wineries go above and beyond a typical wine-tasting, combining superb wines with unforgettable moments, the ones that make travel truly special.
Tip: Don’t drink and drive. The Stellenbosch Wine Route is perfect for a road trip but you might want to hire a driver for the winery visits. Check the Chauffeur and Transfer service offered by Thrifty. Alternatively, you can book a full-day private tour of the Cape Winelands from Cape Town in which you can choose some of the above wineries to visit.
Note: this post was created as a result of the #Stellenblog campaign, a collaboration between iambassador and Stellenbosch Wine Routes. As always, all opinions expressed above are mine, and mine only.