by Matthew Sterne on February 23, 2011
7 min read

Every now and again a bumper weekend comes along. A weekend that blows all the other weekends out of the water. The writing was on the wall when the Cape Royale very kindly offered us tickets to watch U2 at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday night. A mind-blowing spectacle that thrilled every one of the 80,000 fans. The atmosphere and spirit in Cape Town was electric – the fan walk was once again buzzing as Capetonians recreated the vibe of the World Cup – minus the balls and vuvuzelas.

U2 Concert in Cape Town
With only a very gentle hangover to endure and with ‘Pride’ still ringing in our ears we set off early on Saturday morning for Franschhoek. A 40 minute drive from Cape Town. The great thing about the Cape Winelands is that it’s somehow acceptable to start drinking wine early in the morning – a few well timed comments such as ‘yes, I think I do detect a little damp plum on the nose’ go a long way to thinly veiling alcoholism.

La Motte
La Motte was the starting point – it’s a super-slick Estate which is immaculately kept and is home to the new Pierneef restaurant which pays tribute to the South African artist through light and contemporary design. It was unfortunately fully booked for lunch but we were able to sit under the oak trees and order a couple of things from the snack menu. A spinach, mushroom and feta tart was out of this world and the coffee must be the best in Franschhoek.

And guess who was eating there? U2. It was almost as if they were following me around. First they appear at the Cape Town Stadium just after I arrive and now La Motte. Uncanny. If it’s good enough for Bono then it’s good enough for me. I can’t wait to go back and have a proper meal there – the menu looked delicious and pretty reasonably priced as well.

La Motte
We had a good nose around the restaurant, shop, cellar and art museum before settling in to the tasting room. Most of the vineyards charge R30 to taste their wines – normally you’ll get to taste between 5 and 8 wines and if you buy a bottle afterward then they’ll waive the charge. I wasn’t planning on buying any wine, but my car boot is now brimful of bottles from pretty much every estate we visited. Not much spitting to speak of at our first stop and a generous 8 wines to sample.
Pierneef-a-La-Motte

From there it was a relaxed stumble straight over the road to Moreson. A much more rustic affair with a great value range of wines under the Miss Molly label. They specialise in home-made Charcuterie as well which was pretty tasty…

Klein Olifantshoek

Klein Oliphants Hoek Boutique Hotel Franschhoek
Klein Oliphants Hoek Boutique Hotel Franschhoek - bedroom
Before the wine monkeys took hold, we checked in at our hotel for the evening – Residence Klein Oliphantshoek. It’s Franschhoek through and through – charming, rustic and crammed full of antiques and character. Each of the 8 rooms is unique from the Elephant Suite to the Hidden Missionary Room. Not as naughty as it sounds. You see the property was built by an English missionary as a chapel in 1888. It’s also been used as a school and a theatre. The centrepiece is the chapel hall itself with the high vaulted ceiling, fireplace and original beams. The rooms are classically decorated – one suite, hidden up a winding staircase has its own sun deck and outdoor Jacuzzi, while two others have their own private pools. It would be a great place to visit in the winter, not least because of the cosy little cigar lounge, but with the ample verandah and large swimming pool it’s really rather good in the summer as well! But it’s the passionate Italian host that makes Residence Klein Oliphantshoek so special – Renate Gaggio is passionate and caring and makes every guest feel incredibly special. In the evening we took an easy stroll along the main road with a whole heap of top restaurants to choose from including Le Quartier Francais, Reuben’s and the Grill Room.

Delaire Graff
Delaire Graff
After a hearty breakfast on the sun dappled verandah, we packed our bags and set off for Stellenbosch, stopping at Dieu Donne and Delaire Graff on the way. Dieu Donne is spectacularly located at the top of Franschhoek and has some of the best views around. They also do a little beer tasting – R15 for 3 shot glasses. One weisbier, one ale and one stout. All were rather good, but the ale was my favourite – annoyingly they don’t bottle it yet, so you can only get it on tap in Franschhoek, but I hear tell of some bottling in the pipeline…

Delaire Graff
Delaire Graff is another spectacular Estate – their tag line, luxury in the sky is not far off, but unfortunately the prices are also pretty aerodynamic. There are two restaurants to choose from as well as a very smart lodge. Certainly worth a visit if only for the wine tasting – we really enjoyed the Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc…

Our final stop was the Knorhoek Estate which dates back to 1694. It’s a humble, rustic and quintessentially South African estate – a really laid back gem. It’s got 3 stars and is ideal for families and those wishing to explore the winelands without spending a small fortune.

Knorhoek Wine Estate
The Van Niekerk brothers are the 5th generation to own and work this beautiful farm. James, in charge of the vineyards, and Hansie, responsible for winemaking and marketing, together with their wives Carol and Ingrid, form a vibrant young team, passionate about wines and delighted to share their heritage with visitors and guests. The friendliness and warmth were fantastic and the wines weren’t too bad either! We stocked up on some of the Two Cubs range at a very tempting R37 a bottle and splashed out on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (Platter’s 4 Star). It was a real treat to stay over on a Sunday night as it made the weekend feel so much longer although the drive back to work on Monday morning was a bit aggressive – two hours door to door, leaving at 6.30am, but certainly worth it.

Sunday lunch at the Towerbosch ‘Earth Kitchen’ is a must for those wanting to experience a truly laid back and familial South African feast. It’s the R169 ASADO special. What is ASADO? Well it’s an Argentinean/South African style barbecue.

Towerbosch Restuarant
The concept of ‘down-to-earth’ takes on a magical charm at Towerbosch. The thatched indoors is like something out of Hobbitville with cups and saucers dangling from the chandeliers. The dining concept is unpretentious ‘ouma’s kos’ (Granny’s Food), while wine is available at a small mark up from cellar prices.

Asado is an all day ritual; large cuts of meat are spread above a slow-burning wood fire for several hours and never turned. Towerbosch has modified this method by first slow cooking the lamb in an oven, then adding salt and finishing over a wood fire until the meat has caramelised and become decadently crispy. This is soul food, without fashion, without decoration, just true salt and pepper flavours as your grandmother used to make.

To get the juices flowing, the meal begins with an empanada, a traditional crispy pastry with a delicious lamb filling; then a meaty sausage, “roosterkoek” (griddle buns) with home-made butter and preserves. This was followed by smoorsnoek which is basically a sort of barbecued fish paella. But the only course that really matters is the main…

The waiters will fill your table with platters of lamb, succulent sirloin, roast potatoes or sweet potatoes, grandma’s beetroot-, tomato- or cabbage salad with that touch of sliced onion and white pepper. An interesting accompaniment for the meat is a bowl of chimichurri dip (parsley, origanum, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin). The pork belly was the best I have ever tasted, served with a delicious Melanzana Alla Parmigiana. I would go back in an instant.

The all-time South African favourite, “malva” pudding with dried fruit stewed in rooibos tea is the perfect finale to the feast. If you still have room that is! Booking for the Sunday lunch is a must.

The winelands truly is a special place, particularly for those who enjoy, well… wine. All in all, a truly magnificent and indulgent weekend!

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