My husband of 30 years and I always do something special for Valentine’s Day. Last year he excelled himself by taking me to the wine region of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Stellenbosch is a short 45 minute drive from Cape Town and is a university town with a rich history and a strong Dutch influence. It is also a great place to stay if you want to visit some of the many wineries dotted throughout the surrounding hillside.
The Main Street is filled with art galleries, restaurants, artisan jewellers and quaint hotels.
Bronze sculptures are dotted along the street and you can buy anything from large wooden giraffes, bronze leopard sculptures or the sparkling blue gem tanzanite.
We stayed in the lovely and very central Ouderwerf hotel, which was built on the site of one of the first churches in South Africa.
The Wineries – Day 1: Our driver first chauffeured us to The Stark- Conde winery, designed in a Japanese style. The owner’s wife is Japanese so they have created a Japanese oasis in the heart of South Africa. There is a magnificent lake with weeping willows and waterlilies floating serenely. We walked across a bridge to the tasting area on an island where we tried a little of several different wines. The husbands in the group were in heaven as this winery is known for its full–bodied reds.
Next stop was the Warwick winery. A huge statue of Nelson Mandela greeted us at the gate. Surprisingly, families were hosting children’s birthday parties outside in the gardens, with some children even swimming in the fountains. It was warm and sunny on the deck and I enjoyed a sunny Rose wine to match the day. With the next day being Valentine’s Day we are shown a silver wedding cup. The story says that whoever drinks from the cup will have a happy and prosperous marriage. The legend tells that a princess and silversmith were in love and the king would only allow them to marry if he created a chalice from which two people could drink from without spilling a drop. Of course he succeeded and thus the wedding cup was created.
Lastly we visited the Marianne Winery where we sampled wines paired with a range of the dried local meats: springbok, biltong and beef. There is a wine and chocolate tasting available as well.
Dinner was back in town, where everyone was a comedian after all those tastings.
The Wineries- Day 2: In the morning we strolled the streets of Stellenbosch buying books, souvenirs and sharing coffee in the outdoor cafes. There is a relaxed Noosa vibe about the town on a Sunday. Today we find our favourite winery, Babylonstoren. This winery is a working farm with animals, produce and the most magnificent gardens. We strolled through these beautiful gardens with hidden delights at every turn and then returned to the farm shop brimming with fresh produce and souvenirs, cheese, bread and a scented room with soaps, candles and hand creams made from the garden’s delights. Babylonstoren is a fairly new winery which incorporates renovated farm buildings as well as some new additions. The tasting area was new and modern with an entirely glassed room. We were enthralled by the beautiful architecture and green volcanic tiles on the bar. We loved every wine we tasted here and bought a few bottles to take home. The champagne was my favourite, sporting a beautiful butterfly on the label. We cellared this one to save for Valentine’s Day this year.
Next we drove up the hill to enjoy the very popular Tokara Winery. Here they pair the wine with beautiful kalamata olives which are also produced on this modern site. The artwork is magnificent (some is painted using wine). From the deck you can see for miles looking out over vineyards and olive groves to the mountains beyond. Fire had gone through the peaks before we arrived and we were told to keep an eye out for leopards who might be on the move after the blaze. Sometimes you forget you’re in Africa. It would only be kangaroos at home.
We wended our way up a steep hill to one of the jewels in Stellenbosch’s crown, The Delaire Graff Estate. Ornate statues of bronze leopards guarded the door. There was also a jewellery showroom attached where you could buy the famous De Graff diamonds.
“ I’ll need another drink before I buy these , “ said a man buying Valentine’s Day diamonds for his wife. The wine here was spectacular and I was very impressed with the quality. Our cheeky waiter asked where we were from and when we said Australia he proceeded to fill our glasses to the brim, providing a lot of laughs.
For Valentine’s Day lunch we made our way to the equestrian themed Equus winery. This winery is a study in perfection with perfectly manicured stables leading to an ultra modern winery overlooking a magnificent lake. We were seated on the deck and served a superb five course menu comprising local delights including Springbok with purple figs as the main, pineapple and sage sorbet as a palate cleanser and a divine Nutella ice cream with red velvet cupcake for dessert.
We ventured downstairs where the owner has an art gallery and collection of sporting memorabilia on display. We were very surprised to find Wallaby jerseys and baggy greens amongst the collection.
Too soon it was time to head home, but a part of me will still be here in this wonderful place. I feel renewed, shiny and sparkly once more…or perhaps it’s just the champagne and sparkling diamonds tempting me! Valentine’s Day in Stellenbosch , what more could a girl want ?