January 11

Explore the Cape Winelands – start with Stellenbosch…


January 11, 2012

The Stellenbosch wine route in the Cape Winelands is one of the biggest in the Western Cape and a major hit with travellers. Along with award-winning vinyards and wines, the town’s leafy streets are dotted with bistros and restaurants, bars and music venues, clothing stores and boutiques, spas and art galleries, antique shops and second hand book stores, chocolatiers, and so much more. A stroll around town could last days and there are many great B&Bs and guesthouses in the area to stay at while getting in your dose of idle exploration.

Behold the tall town church
Image credit: Lugerda

Early settlers to this fertile region were encouraged to plant oak trees and Stellenbosch’s oak lined streets are the reason for the Afrikaans name “Eikestad” – village of oaks. Some of these mighty oaks have even been proclaimed national monuments. So take your cameras along because there’s plenty to snap.

Getting out of town to visit the winelands is a favourite pastime of the Rhino Africans. Stellenbosch is about 50 km northeast of Cape Town – an easy drive and probably a little too close for temptation. This beautiful part of the Western Cape Province is the second oldest European settlement after Cape Town itself.

Oak trees are one of the majestic sights
Image credit: Stellenbosch Unveiled

Wine Time

There are 106 cellars on the Stellenbosch wine route, so you’re bound to find a wine you like. Like me, you may like them all. Key contributors to the quality of the wine are the cooler mountain slopes, varied soil types and breezes off False Bay which moderate summer temperatures. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • De Toren (try ‘Z’ and Fusion V – both remarkable red blends)
  • Kanonkop (excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. The Kadette is great value, while Paul Sauer is their exceptional flagship blend)
  • Klein Zalze (excellent Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Meerlust (try the Bordeaux Blend Rubicon or the fantastic Pinot Noir)
  • Middlevlei (try the Shiraz and their free run Pinotage)
  • Neil Ellis (for an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Rainbow’s End (try their Cabernet Franc)
  • Warwick (go for the 2008 Cabernet Franc)
  • Waterford (Kevin Arnold Shiraz is a winner and the Pecan Stream Sauvignon Blanc is great value. If you’re feeling flush you might want to splash out on the Jem).
Charming Dorp Street in Stellenbosch
Image credit: Norton G

For The Foodies

Stellenbosch and the surrounds are also the setting for some of South Africa’s best restaurants. In fact three of this year’s Eat Out Top 10 restaurants are in Stellenbosch: Overture, Terroir and Jordan Restaurant. Makaron Restaurant won the style award and you can read our Horny Grazer review here. You’ll need to book well in advance at all these restaurants especially in the summer.

We started the day with a visit to Klein Zalze (where you can find Terroir restaurant) – I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of their Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc which has won so many awards you can barely see the bottle. It cost R120 so I’m hoping it’s going to be pretty good.

From there we made our way into central Stellenbosch. It really is a charming town. Strolling along Dorp Street and Church Street I felt distinctly nostalgic. It’s a civilised place. And quaint. Distinctly quaint. With a combination of young and old, what with Stellenbosch University being in the town and the students adding their youth and energy to the mix.

One of Stellenbosch's best - Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House
Image credit: Majeka House

The Wild Peacock

One of my favourite spots is the Wild Peacock – if you like your food and wine, do yourself a favour and stop in. It’s a family-run business that sells premium gourmet brands to the trade. It was so popular that they started a bistro-styled restaurant to showcase all the brilliant ingredients. The menu changes daily, but there are some perennial favourites like fresh oysters (served with cold bubbly) or simple, steamed mussels. Classic flavour combinations, such as the fried pear and gorgonzola salad, are the order of the day.

There are loads of interesting options, with boutique wineries being championed and it’s nice to see so many by-the-glass options. It’s unbelievably affordable. If you’re a cheese fan, you’ll know how hard it is to get good cheese in South Africa. Well look no further. The Wild Peacock has a fantastic selection of local and imported cheese – if you’re up for a challenge buy yourself a little Munster. It will knock your whole sock drawer off its hinges.

The Wild Peacock
Image credit: LC Interiors

I stopped in for a lazy lunch at Casparus in Dorp Street to enjoy the fruits of Etienne Bonthuys’ master cooking. Etienne is the chef who brought nouvelle cuisine to South Africa. He’s done a supreme job here as the great venue combines with interesting food and good value. Some dishes to expect include quail paired with raw salmon and strawberries, baby calamari with shredded oxtail, and lamb flank with mint and lobster sauce.

The popular Oom Samie se Winkel
Image credit: CitySeeker

Did You Know?

  • Dorp Street has one of the longest rows of old buildings surviving in any major town in Southern Africa.
  • Most of the buildings date from the 19th century.
  • In 1859 the theological seminary was established in Stellenbosch, leading to Stellenbosch ’s proud heritage as leading educational centre.
  • Stellenbosch is virtually surrounded by beautiful mountains. They are the Helderberg, Stellenbosch Mountain, Jonkershoek Valley and Simonsberg, which is connected to Botmaskop and the rest of the Jonkershoek mountains by the saddle of Helshoogte.
  • South Africa currently has 101 957 hectares under vines, of which approximately 18 %is planted in the wine of origin Stellenbosch region.
Aerial view of Stellenbosch mountains and farms
Image credit: Ralph Pina

Not-To-Miss Events In Stellenbosch

  • SA Cheese Festival

When: 27 to 30 April 2012
Where: Sandringham Estate in Stellenbosch
Contact: +27 (0)21 975-4440 / 1 / 2 / 3

  • Stellenbosch Wine Festival

When: 28 to 31 July 2012
Venue: Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch
Contact: +27 (0)21 886-4310

  • The Spier Harvest Festival

When: 25 Feb 2012
Venue: Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch
Contact: +27 (0)21 809-1100 or email info@spier.co.za

Keen to spend some time in Stellenbosch? Contact us and we can help you plan the perfect trip with great accommodation options and activities across the board.


Stellenbosch, wine

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About the author 

Matthew Sterne

Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.

  • Two years after visiting the Cape Winelands I am still enjoying my favorite wine, Kadette, from the Kanonkop winery right here from my local wine store in NYC! Beautiful place and great wines.

  • We had a wonderful time in Stellenbosch this past Fall and often look at pictures when we drink our favorite wine from Muratie!

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