On day 3 of our Southern Safaris tour we were transported to the wine growing region of the Western Cape. South African wines are becoming increasingly popular on the international market and some of the country’s best vintages come from the region just east of Capetown.
After a leisurely breakfast we boarded our bus and headed east, passing through the City Bowl and eastern suburbs. We made one brief stop en route, Drakenstein Prison where Mandela finally regained his freedom in 1990. He had been transferred here at the end of his 27 years of imprisonment because his failing health demanded the superior medical facilities available at Drakenstein. At the entrance is a recently unveiled statue of the anti-Apartheid campaigner so we stopped for a photo op.
Our first wine stop was Anura Winery. They have a lovely vineyard and facility with views of the distant Hawaquas Mountains. Our host was the ebullient Francois, a descendant of French Huguenots whose family has been making wine in South Africa for generations. After a tour of the warehouse and facilities, we retired to the tasting room. We tasted 3 whites and 3 reds, all paired with home made cheeses and fruit compotes. Francois was quite the entertainer and he regaled us with stories and anecdotes. We laughed, nibbled, and sipped our way through the offerings. I’ve done tastings in many countries and it was a nice and unique touch to have the cheeses as well.
After our Anura tasting, we slipped off to lovely Stellenbosch, a university town in the heart of wine country. Colonial architecture, wide and tree-lined streets, boutique shopping, and that unique, energetic vibe that seems to pervade university towns the world over made it a pleasant visit. We made our lunch break there with lots of fun choices for sidewalk cafes and student eateries.
Our afternoon tasting took place at Spice Route winery. If possible, the setting was even more picturesque than Anura. The estate is on a hill with vineyards spreading down the slope in front. The distant mountains create a lovely backdrop for the idyllic vista. The grounds are pleasantly organized with statues adding to the ambiance.
In addition to wines, the compound also sports a micro-brewery, grappa distillery, chocolate factory, couple of restaurants, and a blown glass gallery/shop. We began with the tasting, sampling 4 wines. This time the vintages were paired with chocolate – something unique for me.
I must confess, my palate was not refined enough to distinguish flavors between chocolates, but it was fun and pleasing to try. After the tasting we took a couple of hours of free time to enjoy all the offerings of the estate. Many of our tour members opted to do a beer tasting in the brewery. Others merely wandered the grounds taking pictures. A few tried home made Biltong, South Africa’s game meat jerky, in one of the restaurants. It was a beautiful fall day so many simply relaxed on the grounds until time to return to Capetown and further culinary explorations of our Long St neighborhood. The relaxed pace, beautiful setting, and ideal weather made the day a perfect rural outing.