Stellenbosch is widely respected as the wine, food and art capital of South Africa. It is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the Western Cape and over 150 wineries. The Stellenbosch Wine Routes are now a well established attraction for wine connoisseurs and clueless tourists (such as myself) alike. But with so many wineries to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to go and which to visit if you do not have a wealth of time to explore the area extensively. I have visited dozens of the vineyards over the years and have narrowed it down to my favourites. If I had only 1 day to dedicate to exploring Stellenbosch, this is how I would do it…
Avontuur Wine & Thoroughbred Estate
Rich and I stumbled across this gem of modern sophistication just off the main road as you enter the town of Stellenbosch. Avontuur Estate is both a winery and a stud farm and the combination really works if you are looking for a calm and serene location. I would stop here in the late afternoon on your way into Stellenbosch and have a glass of one of their white or rose wines while taking in the view of the thoroughbreds in the foreground and the rolling vineyards on the horizon.
Hillcrest Berry Orchards
This little berry farm up on the hill is so quaint and is a great lunchtime stop! Try one of their incredible dishes made with all of their own and local organic ingredients, while enjoying the panoramic view of the mountains across the Banhoek Valley. I would highly recommend trying the chicken tagine (or the chicken pie also smelt amazing as it went past!) along with one of their homemade juices (I ordered the homemade iced raspberry and honeybush tea and LOVED it!). The tea garden has a lovely large terrace for summer alfresco lunches, and if you are visiting in winter, you can sit inside by the large old fashioned fire place. On your way out, be sure to stock up on their delicious jams, honeys, fresh and frozen berries, and loads of other treats from the farm shop.
Delheim Wine Estate
Of all the vineyards I have visited, Delheim has to be my favourite. Unlike some of the more over-priced vineyards (where you could be paying R100+ for a tasting), the wine tasting at Delheim is surprisingly affordable (R25 for the standard tasting of 6 wines – that’s only £1.50 at the current exchange rate!). Delheim has such a welcoming buzz about it, you can easily lose hours here exploring the vineyard, the peaceful picnic area and trying out their wines and food platters. They even have a wine and cupcake tasting that I finally tried for the first time and it was AMAZING – it is slightly more expensive (R75) but totally worth it! You can opt to do the tasting outside in the sun soaked courtyard, or in the downstairs cellar – I would recommend heading into the cellar as you won’t get too hot and will have far more table space for all those platters you will undoubtedly devour.
Unlike some other vineyards I have been to, the tasting at Delheim is not rushed and the staff are so helpful and incredibly knowledgeable about their products. At the end of your experience the question will not be whether or not to take home a bottle of their wine but rather how many can you afford! In my opinion, Delheim have nailed their slogan… this winery is definitely worth the journey!
If you have any time left before the wineries close at 4pm, pop over the road to Simonsig – a winery of great esteem and brilliant wines, housed in an old Cape Dutch style building.
And So Much More…
There are so many things to see and explore in Stellenbosch. Strawberry picking is a favourite among the locals and tourists, and for the more adventurous, there’s horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing and abseiling to try. The historic town centre is a place of great architectural beauty, so try and spend an hour or two exploring the town with its art and craft markets, antique shops, art galleries and museum as you pass through.
You could easily fill several days exploring Stellenbosch but there is so much to see in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa, rather than indulging for days on end, I think it is better to get a smaller taste of the best that the region has to offer.