Commendable Travel Tour to South Africa’s Wine Region

By March 2, 2018South Africa, Tours

Next Stop: South Africa in the Wine Lands

Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden

Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The Wine Region – Somerset West, Franschhoek & Stellenbosch 
Thanks to the experience and efforts of Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France in the 17th century, the South African wine industry was built on solid expertise. Thanks to the generosity and pragmatism of the Dutch East India Company, these few Huguenots were given land in one of the most beautiful valleys in the country (and arguably THE WORLD!).​
Franschhoek View
Here they created Franschhoek (“French Corner”), the jewel of the Wine Region. We stayed in the delightful “Country Lodge” managed by “La Clé de Montagne”.
At La Clé Country LodgeWith Cape Dutch architecture, cutting-edge style and comfort to the smallest detail, and a less than a 5 minute walk to the main street, we could not have been happier. Its beautiful garden set on the edge of its vineyard, and a long, heated pool are an excellent complement to its 5 spacious, gracious bedrooms, airy dining room and living room.

We dined out a lot, but saved Valentine​’​s night to enjoy a delicious romantic dinner with friends on the property,​ under the stars​,​ with a local sparkling rosé wine, followed by a Lynx Rosé, perfect complements to the smoked salmon, the grilled shrimp, salads of beetroot and​ roasted butternut and arugula, and ending with a berry Pavlova, with a creamy meringue, all keeping the pink Valentine theme.

Atop Vergelegen WineryWe stopped, as usual, at the Vergelegen Estate at Somerset West en route to Franschhoek for a visit and lunch at the Stables restaurant. Another Cape Dutch gorgeous property, Vergelegen was established in 1700, and has been fortunate to have had a succession of wealthy owners through most of its history, so that today it is one of the more important wineries in the country. ​With its stunning location surrounded by mountains, its lovely manor house and beautiful gardens with enormous and ancient trees, its architecturally-striking hilltop winery, and its excellent wines, it is an exceptional place to visit.

We took the opportunity to drive past the principal dam for water supply to Cape Town – the photograph below is convincing proof that Cape Town is suffering from a severe drought ! The wind was blowing the sand from the base of the lake in a sandstorm. A very sad sight. Hoping for rain!

Dam Sandstorm

Beauty is everywhere in the Franschhoek valley. The vistas are eye-catching no matter from where you look or in which direction –  in the streets, from the numerous gourmet restaurants and from every one of the wineries, with their attractive white Cape Dutch Style gabled buildings and the verdant greenery of the vines.

Franschhoek Vines View
West Coast OystersThe restaurants of Franschhoek are rightly renowned. We experienced some old favourites, as well as some new ones, and can certainly recommend “The French Connection” (a real bistro “à la français”), “Reubens” (excellent new restaurant), “Marigold” (fine Indian food), “Roca” (fabulous view and good oysters), as well as the “Orangerie” at the Le Lude Winery, producers, of sparkling wine,  for lunch where a fig and prosciutto salad, and a grilled Calamari were a happy choice.
Franschhoek Dinner
We made our usual visit to Babylonstoren, a winery in the lee of the Simonsberg, with one of the most extensive, and intricately designed “gardens”. Despite the water shortage in the Cape, these remarkable gardens of fruits and vegetables, flowers and fruit trees, are a must see.
Babylonstoren Garden

We dropped in on the Boschendale Estate, once owned by Cecil Rhodes, before returning to our Country Lodge. Another remarkable site was the sculpture garden of renowned artist, Dylan Lewis, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. The 7 hectare garden requires a couple of hours to explore, but the effort is worth it for the remarkable diversity of the works that reflect his different artistic periods.

Also near Stellenbosch, we visited the Stark-Conde winery in the picturesque Jonkershoek valley, not unusual for its stunning scenery, but unusual for its owner being an American from Missouri ! A delightful lunch at its “Postcard Café” adjacent to the lake, in the middle of which is the wine-tasting centre.

Stark-Conde Tasting Room !
​The entire wine area​ remains an exceptionally beautiful spot – one of the most beautiful in the world.
Franschhoek La Motte Estate

If you missed the recap from the beginning of our tour, check back on our last post Commendable Travels in the Cape.

Next on our South Africa tour and next blog– Hermanus coastal area.

And next year, a Commendable Travel tour to Cape Town, Namibia and the Kalahari.