Perfect for summer - Cape Town's Best Kept Secret!
9th October 18
The Durbanville Wine Valley - for decades one of Cape Town's best kept secret - is a must destination for anyone visiting the Mother City. It's an easy 30-minute drive from the city CBD and is a treasure trove of historic homesteads, stunning landscapes, award-winning restaurants and some of South Africa's best wine labels.
For many years, visitors have headed off to the more well-known wine routes of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but the world is suddenly sitting up and focusing on Durbanville Wine Valley, home to some of the country’s premium Sauvignon Blancs.
Indeed, Jack and Charlie Stein – sons of acclaimed British chef Rick Stein – have been spotted in the area recently, filming a new 13-part food and wine television series from Oxyg3n Media called Wine, Dine & Stein, which will have a local and international broadcast.
What makes the Durbanville Wine Valley so fascinating is the eclectic flavour of the area, with the 12 wine estates in the valley ranging from the more traditional to the ultra-modern and with each offering something unique to the visitor.
One of the oldest and most historic estates is Diemersdal. In 1698 Simon van der Stel granted farmland to free burgher, Hendrik Sneewind. Later, the farm changed hands to Captain Diemer when he married the widow Sneewind, and thus Diemersdal was formally established. An inventory found in an old leather-bound book dating back to 1705 lists 45 wine barrels, a wine press and glass bottles, indicating that wine has been made on the estate for more than 300 years. Diemersdal is renowned for blending the old and new worlds of winemaking and the Louw family who know own the estate are one of the pioneers of Sauvignon Blanc in the valley with a host of awards and accolades to their name.
Another trailblazer is Meerendal. For this 300-year old wine estate, history was made in 1714 when Christina Stans planted 60 000 vines. Following in her footsteps, Liza Goodwin, cellar master and winemaker since 1998, keeps this female wine-making tradition alive and continues to make award-winning wines including those from Pinotage bush vines planted in 1955. Meerendal was also one of the first 14 South African wine farms to be awarded wine estate status, when the Wine of Origin legislation was introduced in 1993.
Established in 1698, Altydgedacht Estate is another of the country’s oldest wine farms. The farm boasts an unbroken wine making tradition exceeding two centuries and six generations of Parkers as custodians of the fine Durbanville terroir. They are known for two more unusual varieties on the South African market - Barbera and Gewürztraminer - and were one of the pioneers of Italians varietals in this country. A visit to Altydgedacht is incomplete without breakfast or lunch in its 300-yar old cellar, dining amongst the estate's massive original oak barrels.
If you prefer your estates more modern then a trip to Durbanville Hills is a must. Now one of the most recognisable brands in South Africa, this modern winery has the most spectacular view of Cape Town, all the way to Table Mountain.
In addition to their popular restaurant, the estate also features various pairing menus including a chocolate and wine pairing and a biltong, dried fruit and wine pairing.
Talking about unusual food and wine pairings, Durbanville Wine Valley’s newest estate Canto offers a unique and not-to-be-missed wine experience: an MCC bubbly and Macaron pairing. This summer, Canto will launch a cricket pitch for families to enjoy a game while lazing on the lawns with a pre-ordered picnic hamper.
Meanwhile, at Signal Gun, visitors can indulge in a Turkish Delight and wine pairing or a biltong pairing with its on-the-site made craft beers such as Hoogeberg Ystervark Hybrid Lager, Crops Lager, Heffe Weiss or Oat Meal Stout. Signal Gun also offers game drives on Hoogeberg Hill where you can expect to see eland, black wildebeest, springbok, zebra, bontebok and smaller creatures such as dassies, tortoises and birds. Make a date to visit on the first Saturday of the month when the original cannon is fired on the hill and be sure to ask them why you always load a cannon with your left hand!
Another unusual and not-to-be-missed pairing can be found at Hillcrest Estate where they offer wine and nougat pairing for an affordable R80 per person with three wines and three nougats. Perfect for that after meal dessert! Hillcrest's attractions include a casual style restaurant, delicious olives and olive oil tasting and award-winning wines. The estate is also home to Havoc Brewery, a new kid on the craft brewing scene with a rising portfolio of craft beers brewed on the farm.
Also, part of the valley and a must on any wine lovers' visit list is Nitida. This family owned and run cellar is one of the most consistently awarded and loved boutique wine cellars in the country with a host of double gold, gold and silver medals, a few 5-star Platters Guide wines and countless awards and certificates including being named Top Producer. Nitida has two restaurants - Cassia, overlooking the farm dam where guests can enjoy contemporary and stylish food either indoors or on the deck and Tables which is more family oriented and child friendly.
One of the best fine dining restaurants in the country can be found on the historic farm of De Grendel owned by the Graaff family. One of the most intriguing aspects of its menu is that it lists only the ingredients with no indication of how your meal will be prepared. The man in charge of the kitchen is Chef Ian Bergh, who brings a real passion for farm produce to the table. Bergh – who has an impressive culinary pedigree and previously worked with Franck Dangereux at La Colombe and further honed his skills at Kurland, Five Flies and Pure at Hout Bay Manor – joined De Grendel in 2012 when the restaurant was launched.
Meanwhile just down the road, the family-run boutique wine farm Klein Roosboom is an absolute gem and boasts one of the quirkiest wine tasting set-ups in the valley, with its alcove tasting rooms - called caves - all themed differently. Make sure to sample their delicious cheese and charcuterie platter, while tasting the wine. It comes with a stunning bread - made daily - from a closely guarded generations old family recipe.
Also unmissable is the Groot Phesantekraal farm, a real working farm that provides visitors with a peaceful refuge from the hurly burly of city life. The restaurant offers a farm-to-table experience with Chef Juan van Deventer using the estate garden and local produce for a seasonal menu. Open for breakfast and brunch, the restaurant’s menu favours quality over quantity. On the wine front, the farm has been bottling since 2005 and offers tastings in its beautiful boutique indoor venue with its wall of hundreds of glass jars containing all sorts of items to help identify the many different aromas of wine.
Also make sure to take a peek at the formal tasting room which has been converted from an old chicken shed into a gorgeous venue for private functions.
And what would wine be without song? At D'Aria Wine Estate, masterwinemaker, Rudi von Waltsleben has a passion for singing and the estate's award-winning wines including their Sauvignon Blanc, Noble Late Harvest, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are named accordingly with the melodic names such as Soprano, Lullaby, Rock Song and Pop Song. D'Aria plan to bring out a wine called Cape Minstrel for which the label will include a code that can be downloaded for an accompanying soundtrack! When you are visiting, be sure to taste - and buy - their own distilled D'Aria Renosterbos Gin or D'Aria Pot Stilled Piccolo Brandy. But you have to be quick as they sell out fast! For those who want to stay in the valley and explore the surrounds a bit longer, D’Aria also has 12 well appointed, self catering, fully serviced and very reasonably priced two-bedroomed guest cottages.
Durbanville – and its neighbouring wine valley – is fast becoming one of the hottest places to visit! Well-known chef and TV celebrity Jenny Morris recently opened a branch of her renowned eatery Yumcious in the suburb which also boasts Cool Runnings, the only toboggan track in Africa and situated on the slopes of Durbanville.
The phrase "something for everyone" is often over-used and can be an overstatement or a bit of a cliché. But in the case of the Durbanville Wine Valley it fits perfectly. It's proximity to Cape Town, and the nearness of each of the 12 estates to one another means that it is very accessible and a lot can be packed into a day or two with much more still to see, drink, eat and do on a second or third trip to the region.