South Africa trip 2020

Updated: May 4

5 Reasons to visit South Africa



1. Stunning scenery

2. Fabulous food

3. Wonderful wine

4. Perfect places to stay

5. Warm welcome wherever you go






We have had to cut our trip short. As a result of the Corona Virus arriving in South Africa.

The country is so beautiful - People welcoming and kind - We didn't want to leave!

Luckily all the wine has been bought.

Unfortunatley it is all sitting on pallets at the port in Cape Town. It will be worth waiting for - I promise.

Meanwhile we are back in Hampshire leaving 30° returning to minus 2° as we arrived at Heathrow!

We are still able to sell wine online. As long as stocks last!

Please keep reading our travel blog. All of a sudden I have plenty of time to update it.

READ ON!


Quick guide to blog

Vineyards

#Arendsig #Bellevue #Clos Malverne #LaChataigne #Lynx #NobleHIll #PeterFalke #Southhill #StonyBrook

Restaurants

#Allora #CafeFelix #ChefsWarehouse #Cosecha #FrenchConnection #HauteCabrier #Havercroft #LePetitManoir #LustCafe #Moggs #ParisBistro #Protege #Roca #TheVillageGrill #TukTukMicrobrewery

Hotels/Guest Houses

#cederbergWildernessLodge #MaisonCabriere #TulbaghHeritage #VredenbergManorHouse

Cederberg Wilderness Lodge

We have had to cut our trip short by 2 weeks - our final stop is at Cederberg Wilderness Lodge which can be found a couple of miles out of Clanwilliam - a town in the Olifants River valley in the Western Cape, about 2 hours north of Cape Town.


This is the most beautiful lodge - the rooms are furnished to perfection. All have views over the Cederberg range of mountains. The morning sun streams in and the sunset in the evening is second to none.


Due to the lack of pollution in this area it is a wonderful place to star gaze.

There is a lovely infinity pool – good for an energetic swim!


There is a boomer perfect for a sundowner!


It would be unfair of us to rate this stay as we were the only visitors staying so the atmosphere was missing and they were unable to offer us any of trips on offered. As we left to go to the airport they were shutting the lodge, until further notice.


The staff were brilliant and making sure we left with masks and gloves so we wouldn’t feel vulnerable on our trip home to UK

Tulbagh Hotel


Tulbagh Heritage Hotel is situated in the 4th oldest town in South Africa dating back to early 1700’s. It faces onto the main street which boasts the largest collection of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian heritage sites in one street in South Africa!

The hotel is one of the most welcoming and this is our fourth visit!

Perfect place to stay while you explore the museums in the town and visit vineyards in the area.


The rooms are spacious, air conditioned (which is very necessary here during the Summer months!). The room we stay in has an enormous bathroom with lovely complimentary toiletries made with fynbos.


Meals are served all day in The Olive Tree Bistro which weather permitting is on the terrace at the front of the Hotel. It is always busy - lovely food and a great place to sit and watch the world go by.


We arrived here for a 2 night stay as the full effect of Covid 19 would have on daily life was being realized - the restrictions were changing by the hour as to how food and alcohol were to be served.


The staff did all they could for us and went the extra mile for all guests staying to make sure that things were a normal as possible under the serious circumstances.


Café Felix


No vineyards are open so we take a road trip over the Nuwekloof pass to Reibeeck Kastel - a pretty small town with a Hotel, several restaurants and small craft shops. A lovely place to visit and walk around the shops have a coffee or even a glass of cool wine.


We fancied a snack for lunch - so visited Café Felix which is a café with Guest House attached. The menu is on a blackboard and you sit in a pretty courtyard surrounded by flowers. Lunch is sourced from local producers and is scrumptious, accompanied by a glass of wine – so all is good in the world.



Vredenburg Manor Guest House

We arrive at Vredenburg Manor House for a 2night stay. It is the third time we have visited this comfortable and stylish Guest House.

Luke and Leon welcome us - this year we have a room in the beautifully renovated traditional Dutch Farmhouse.

Our room overlooks the pool and manicured gardens. It is a very warm day so we make our way to the pool to have a quick swim and relax in the comfy pool loungers.

Unless previously arranged there is no evening meal here but the proprietors will happily book you not only a meal at one of the local restaurants but arrange a taxi both ways!

Breakfast is served – weather permitting on the stoop (balcony to us Brits!) fresh fruit, breads, cakes and cooked breakfast of your choice from their a la carte menu.

Today is different!

Covid 19 has arrived in South Africa and we have to book our flight home before flights to the UK stop.

Immediately the laws change with regard to dining out and alcohol consumption. Restaurants are not allowed to serve after 6:00pm.

Luckily for us and the other 4 British guests Luke and Leon come up trumps and offer to cook supper for us.

Supper is served in the garden by the newly erected boomer. We were so lucky - this was a wonderful evening in very unusual circumstances. Great food, good company and hosts taking that one step further to make their guests stay special.

South Hill Wine Estate

South Hill is a wine estate in the Elgin Valley.

This area is fast becoming known for its cool climate wines - also a romantic destination for weddings, as well as the outdoor adventure capital of South Africa.

South Hill is a family farm with three generations of the King family resident here.


Last year was the first time we stocked their wines. Since our visit, the cellar, which was just a shell 12 months ago, is now fully fitted and the harvest well on its way. Grapes are in the temperature controlled tanks and they are starting to ferment for this year’s vintage.

The estate is not only a fully working vineyard but also a beautiful wedding venue, restaurant and art gallery.


Today while we sampled the latest vintages we enjoy a tapas style lunch on the beautiful lawns overlooking a maze which is made of rows of vines with a picnic area in the centre!

South Hill makes lovely wines. A must visit if in the area - sample great wines, food, beautiful views and a very warm welcome from everyone on the farm.

We were booked to stay here for a couple of nights but due to the virus we had to leave South Africa early, which is such a shame as the hospitality is second to none.


Moggs Country Cookhouse

The Hemel and Aarde valley is renowned for its beauty, abundance of wine farms and restaurants.

We were looking for Sunday lunch - the weather had let us down and was raining and blowing a hooly! What is needed? Comfort food of course.

Moggs Country Cookhouse is a perfect place for this. The bonne homie welcome is great - there is a roaring fire in the grate and the restaurant is busy and so there is a real buzz that greets you.

Their menu is seasonal and therefore changes regularly - all food is cooked to order and arrives piping hot and beautifully presented. You will not leave hungry from here!

Maison Cabriere

Last year Maison Cabriere opened their doors after a three years re-build/refurbishment.

The buildings are top quality and very comfortable - there are several choices to the size of rooms/suites available all beautifully decorated and the fresh aromas when you enter your room are wonderful,

All rooms are equipped with Nespresso coffee machines, tea selections and a jar full of marshmallows (I couldn’t leave these alone!).

The outside area also is well cared for with lovely gardens and a beautiful pool area - the pool itself is of a good length and a chance to use up some of those calories when doing my 50 lengths!

This is our 2nd visit here and we will book again next year, a little oasis in the busy town of Franschhoek


Le Petit Manoir


After 7 days in Franschhoek of eating and drinking we book Le Petit Manoir for our last evening meal before we leave the area.

I must admit we have eaten out and feel a little over it!

Food in Franschhoek on the whole (we have had a couple of disappointments this trip!) is of a good quality.

As I say we sat down with not a lot of expectation - more the way we were feeling than anything to do with the Restaurant.

Well done Petit Manoir - your staff were exceptional and the food was to die for - presentation beautiful and the tastes delicate, fresh and delicious.

Top marks - we will be back!


Allora

Restaurants in the centre of Franschhoek are plentiful.

Don’t just pass by Allora it is set back in one of the shopping areas and serves fresh Italian style food.

This is our second visit here and we pop in just for a snack today,

We have risotto - vegetarian and prawn - both cooked to order and very good.

So as I say pop in and enjoy Italian pasta, risottos etc.

Noble Hill

Noble Hill like Lynx wines were among the first we exported to the UK


They remain very popular and we are sold out of most varieties

The Estate is about 15 Miles from the centre of Franschhoek in an area called Simondium. The news here is the harvest has just finished but that is just the first stage of 2020 vintage.

Already the tanks are filling, fermentation has started - we try the juice from 3 different tanks and see how the taste changes from sweet grape juice to the alcohol we recognize. The process is controlled by the wine maker and changes regularly as each year as there are always subtle differences in levels of sugar etc in the fruit.

Here at Noble Hill it has been a bumper harvest and Kristopher the owner and wine maker says the grapes are of excellent quality - so this year’s wine should be a good one.

Who knows why this is - here in South Africa they have had several lean years due to serious drought conditions which have produced low yields but good quality fruit.

This year's harvets is high quantity and high quality - consequently 2020 will be a year to watch and see how the wines develop.

Tasting over we pop to lunch at the Mexican themed restaurant Coscha for lunch.

Kristopher pops in to say goodbye – he is covered in grape juice proving that he may be owner and wine maker but he is 100% ‘hands on’ when it comes to the making of the wine at Noble Hill.

Cosecha Restaurant

Cosecha restaurant at Noble Hill wine estate Fresh latin cooking with vineyard views

The name cosecha, Spanish for "harvest", reflects the location next to the working harvest area where grapes are sorted and crushed at Noble Hill wine estate.

We have visited here for years and the quality of food is always very high, - fresh seasonable ingredients cooked with a Mexican flair. We choose to have guacamole for a starter - this is made at your table, you can have it as spicy as you want, and we chose high spice - WOW brilliant.

Most food here is served accompanied by tacos and spice with Latin influence, which makes a welcome change from the normal international cuisine you get here in South Africa.


Protégé

Tonight, we are eating at Quartier Francais’s restaurant, Protégé.

This is a dining experience and we choose to sit at the kitchen bar so we can see the chefs preparing the dishes.

The portions are not large, but tapas style meals beautifully presented. You can choose to have wine pairing to go with each dish but on this occasion we decided not to take this option.

The food was very good and it was a great experience seeing the Chefs at work - we felt like judges on Masterchef!!


Lynx Winery

We have been exporting wines from South Africa for 10 years, Lynx Winery was one of the first we bought from.

Last year the estate changed hands when Dieter sold out to a fellow German Manual.


There have been changes in the past year. The Farmhouse has been renovated into a guest house and new varietals have been planted on unused areas.

There is nothing wrong with change and we are pleased to see that Helgard the winemaker is still here overseeing the upkeep of the vines and wine.

The Rose here has been our best seller for years and we have sampled the 2020 vintage today. Even though it is newly bottled it is drinking beautifully and the colour is a beautiful salmon pink. 240 bottles - purchased so we have plenty of stock for the coming summer.

UPDATE: All the wines we have ordered are stuck at the Port in Cape Town, hopefully restrictions will be lifted soon!


Paris Bistro

We are eating our way round the restaurants in Franschhoek which is great fun and we have a perfect excuse - the place where we are staying has no eating facilities so bring it on.

Lunch today we visit Paris Bistro this is a relatively new restaurant - it is situated on the road from town to Wellington and the entrance is directly opposite the prison where Nelson Mandela famously ‘Walked to Freedom’.

We both choose meals with prawns as the main ingredient and they were perfect - not too heavy just what we wanted for a light lunch on a warm sunny day.


La Chataigne Vineyard

Back to work and wine tasting at La Chataigne winery situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek.

This is a small boutique vineyard only producing 15,000 bottles a year.


The vineyard is family run and like most estates have diversified - they have renovated the derelict cottages making holiday lets. There is a mix here of 3 to 5 star accommodation all beautifully renovated.

You will recognize a bottle of La Chataigne anywhere as they do not have any label - each bottle is hand-written by staff here.

We taste all varietals, decide which we would like to stock and place our order.

Lovely wines produced here. We have added their Rosé this year


Lust Café at Vrede en Luste

Vrede en Luste Winery is situated on the corner of the road from Franschhoek to Stellenbosch - a busy vineyard, guest house, wedding venue bistro and bakery!

We have dropped into Luste café for a spot of lunch.

This again is one of our favourite spots to visit whilst we are in SA. A lunchtime salad is a welcome choice on a warm lunchtime.

The café is buzzing -there is a crowd from all corners of the world here having lunch before a wedding at the vineyard during the coming week. This is of great interest to us as we are back here in early April to attend a friend’s wedding

UPDATE: unfortunately the wedding didn’t take place due to Cornona we hope to back in December!


Tuk Tuk Microbrewery

Don’t be deceived by the name this isn’t an Indian mode of transport but a lively bar café in Franschhoek

Beer/spirits/wine all available here.

Sports bar inside and great meeting place outside - the place has a lovely to buzz to it.

We have had snacks here a couple of times and been impressed especially with their bowl of chips - large portions and freshly cooked.


French Connection


There are problems in South Africa with load shedding, which means electricity supplies are shut off for a couple of hours at a time.

Deciding where to eat is because of this limited but we choose French Connection a restaurant situated on the main drag in Franschhoek – we have checked they do have a generator!

Walking to the restaurant with no street lights isn’t easy – thank you torch on my Iphone!

We arrive in one piece and sit on the stoop at the front, all working well lights on and as there is an Autumn feel in the air at the moment, they have small heaters on which just take the edge off any chill feeling.

Again the staff are very attentive here and we soon have a drink and a menu.

8:00 arrives the power returns and you hear a cheer all along the main street.

The choice here is good and when the food arrives it is beautifully presented and very tasty.

There is a lively buzz here - this is not due solely to the restaurant but because you are sitting on the road and the town is alive.


The Village Grill

Monday evening always a quiet time in restaurants and here many don’t open today.

We have had spent many evenings here at the Grill Room and enjoyed good everyday food - in fairness not fine dining just honest fare.

Today our meal was OK no more no less and we will try and visit again during our trip to see if the problem was just a very quiet Monday or this lovely every day restaurant has lost its way.

However it is difficult to get any ambience anywhere on a quiet Monday evening..

Chefs Warehouse at Maison

Lovely hot Sunday sun shining - so we decide to walk the 5k to the Chefs Warehouse at La Maison.

Phew I need some water!


We sit in the garden have a glass of Rose and watch the chickens picking their way through the grass and picking up any food scraps they can find

Lunch is a set menu of Tapas, beautifully presented food and the tastes pair with our wine perfectly.

Staff very friendly and helpful.

Fun finish to lunch was when their pet pig and rescue dog appear on the lawns, chase each other on the grass between diners, who is in charge? The wee pig of course!

All in all a great Sunday lunch.

Roca Restaurant at Dieu Donne Vineyard – Franschhoek

A visit to Roca Restaurant is a must and make sure you are here to see the sunset.

The sun slips down behind the surrounding mountains and the light changes whilst you can watch the beautiful purples, reds and oranges change as the minutes pass.

What is required now is a G and T!

Follow this with a meal chosen from the a la carte menu.

The food here is lovely and the staff make this a must place to visit.

Haute Cabrier Restaurant – Franschhoek

Whoops what has gone on here?

Since our visit last year this restaurant has built a new dining area. Obviously it is to showcase their beautiful view of Franschhoek.

In this respect they have succeeded but unfortunately the restaurant lacks the character of the old one.

In fairness we were just after a snack but both of us were disappointed with the food produced. We both had meals from the specials board.

Venison pie for my husband – one thing to say soggy bottom!

Such a shame this was one of our favourite places to eat in this area but will we re-visit? Probably not.



Stony Brook- Franschhoek


Work now starts in earnest!

Our first visit is to Stony Brook Vineyard.

Situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek.

The winemaking philosophy here draws inspiration from some of the most revered wine regions across Europe. Consequently the McNaught family way of winemaking is traditional.

Their outlook on planting and assemblage is an exploratory one.

Allowing a unique way to express the soils, on this remarkable site in Franschhoek.


We arrive on a very hot day, Joy McNaught welcomes us, she presents the wines for tasting talking us through this year’s vintages, explaining the problems they have had to deal with over the past months.

Everywhere in the world, the weather changes are causing previously unforeseen challenges.

As a result there are subtle changes in the wines and in our opinion all for the better.

This year we are adding a further wine to our collection Stony Brook’s popular S.M.V. This will be on our shelves as soon as possible.

Klienhoekkloof Winery - Ashton

We have had a recommendation to visit Kleinhoekkloof winery in the hills behind Ashton and after sampling a bottle of their Shiraz at dinner we decided to visit.


We have had a recommendation to visit Kleinhoekkloof winery in the hills behind Ashton and after sampling a bottle of their Shiraz at dinner we decided to visit.


You would not happen upon this vineyard - it is 5km up a single track gravel road - but definitely worth the trek!


Theunis and Ronel bought the farm 15 years ago and moved from Pretoria to run it. On arrival they were selling the grapes to other producers.


Theunis set about learning the art of winemaking at Graham Beck Training Establishment in Robertson. At this stage they were then able to commence making their own wines.


Danielle, their daughter loves Sauvignon Blanc - there wasn't any on the vineyard so a blok was planted!

Local experts were surprised the vines thrived and the wine made from these grapes is very good.


We did what we do best and tasted the range made here, buying 6 to take back with us to sample on our travels.



To top things off, we were given a delicious meat platter for lunch.

What is different about that?

The meat has been taken from one organically reared pig and Theunis had cured all the meats himself.

Different flavours are on offer- including a salami, prosciutto one that has been cured with fennel (my favourite) and all served with hot homemade bread.


This place off the beaten track is a real gem.




Arendsig Handcrafted Wines - Robertson

Arendsig wines have been on carte-du-vin's wine list for many years.


Today we have a meeting to sample new vintages and re-order stock.


Lourens the owner and winemaker is there to say hello. Today he can’t stay and talk as the harvest is in full swing. As a consequense he has to rush off.

Not a problem Marius will take us through the wines.



These wines are one of our best sellers. Many South African restaurants have Arendsig on their lists.

Including British born chef Luke Dale Roberts number one restaurant The Test Kitchen.

A lovely afternoon spent at tasting table and order placed.



Silverthorn Winery - Robertson

Our visit to South Africa each year is to re-stock, replenish the wine cellar and search out new wines to add to the list.

We have an appointment to meet Karen and John Loubser at Silverthorn Winery.

Carte-du-vin stocks Green Man already- but today for the first time we are able to visit the vineyard!

The reason for the delay is they have been renovating the tasting room and building a state of art cellar for production of their lovely wines.

We learn about the passion and care taken in all areas of production. The terroir is very special here which gives distinctive character to the wines.


The Loubsers personally oversee the whole process from vine to bottle.

The label designs arise from their passion for history . The results are works of art with spiritual meanings behind each label

This is a quality product made in the MCC (‘Method Cap Classic) style.

How the wine is made?

It is the exactly same process you will find in the French Champagne houses. No short cuts are taken her

Secondary Fermentation is slow - the wine bottles are placed in the cool cellar where they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is the most important part; the carbon dioxide cannot escape from the bottle and this creates the sparkles!

The lengthy process required to make these wines confirms this vineyard produces a product which compares favourably to any quality Champagne.

Awards

Awards badges are plenty and you will find some bottles laden. This makes them meaningless - however, there is one the industry does recognise as being genuine and accurate.

The Tim Aitkin award.

He arrives in South Africa regularly with a panel and tastes each wine giving a rating out of 100. Silverthorn wines all have scored over 92 points and The Jewel Box awarded 96.


The Test Kitchen - a top restaurant in Cape Town have Silverthorn Wines on their list!


Succulent Restaurant at Mo and Rose - Robertson


Moving from Stellenbosch to Robertson is a scenic trip. We travel up and over the Franschhoek Pass along the R60  to Soekershof and arrive at Mo and Rose. A boutique hotel who’s gardens are unique


Attached to the Hotel is Succulent Restaurant . Executive Chef Wiener Snook has cooked and trained locally and internationally for 19 years, his food is in our opinion some of the best in the Cape. The wine list is extensive and showcases many wines from Robertson.



The restaurant is not just for hotel residents as open to everyone. We advise to pre-book as it is always busy.

Keep an eye out in the gardens as you never know who is watching you!





Clos Malverne - Stellenbosch

Clos Malverne wines have been on our list for many years. We are low on stock at the moment.

Fear not we are here to re-stock.

Firstly we have a tasting with Suzanne and then we tour the cellar with Mpasa.


To be fair this was a surprise as the wine making process is very hands on with little intervention from machinery.

Grapes are pressed by hand with an implement which is similar to a floor brush! No bristles just a hard surface to crush the grapes.

Now the juice is squeezed and transferred to tanks.

The waste product left is moved to the manual basket press where they gently extract the last drops of juice.



Nothing is wasted -the lees are used for fertiliser for the vineyards and garden.

Waste not want not.

The wines are lovely from here and our best seller is their Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Whilst on the tour of the cellar we meet Seymour, the owner.

At the height of the business over a million bottles were produced, now production is down to 350k. They have diversified. The restaurant here is number 1 on Trip Advisor and we are staying in one of their cottages.



The restaurant specialises in a wine pairing menu - they have a brilliant chef here who produces great food which showcase the wines to perfection.

Book a table, ask for one on the stoop (balcony to us Brits) you are nearly sitting in the vineyard and views over the mountains are to die for.






Bellevue Wine Estate


Monday morning and let’s start work.

We are meeting today Josh who is to lead us through our tasting at Bellevue Winery.

We have stocked Bellevue wines for 3 years.


Last year saw the Estate sold - we were unsure as to how it would be run in the future.


Dirk and Theresa Morkel, the previous owners welcomed us. Good news as firstly both are still very involved with the everyday running of the vineyard and secondly it was lovely to see them.


Josh talked us through each wine. We had planned in advance which wines we would take from here.

But nothing is written in stone - the reason for our travels around vineyards each year is to taste new vintages.


Each year gives the winemaker new challenges and this year Bellevue hasn’t made their lightly oaked Chardonnay as the grapes were just not good enough.


So it is back to the drawing board for us. What shall we stock instead?


We need to re-plan what we buy to export!



Work completed we were treated to a delicious platter of cured meats and cheese.


Thank you Bellevue!








Havercrofts Restaurant Stamford WC

WOW this is a different dining experience. A husband and wife are running this restaurant Innes and Brydon. Innes is front of house and Brydon the chef. You dine in at rustic tables under vines. A handwritten blackboard is your menu and wine list. Lunchtime starts by the menu being narrated and described by Innes, she is a great character who takes no prisoners.


The food arrives I ordered devilled kidneys - a special on the menu since the restaurant's opening - delicious.

Most importantly, nothing is too much trouble, for example we had a coconut prawn curry for main. This wasn’t very spicy - we like it hot and as a consequence they brought us a wee bowl of chopped chillis, perfect.

This is such a fun venue. Great home cooked quality food from local producers. The wines are lovely too. In short a splendid way to spend lunch.


A big ‘Thank You’ to Innes and Brydon



#PeterFalke Winery


First stop is to #PeterFalke winery in Stellenbosch.


Wim and Wilmer, marketing manager and front of house welcome us. Peter Falke sport socks are re-known worldwide. The Falke family wanted a wine farm and in the 90's they purchased the estate on Arrandale Road in Stellenbosch

Daniele Falke renovated the estate and buildings. She was born in Provence France and has styled the tasting areas from childhood memories of fields of lavender, daisies, mimosa and olive trees.




The sun is shining. So we decide to commence our tasting on the lawns. At present we stock 3 wines from here. Today we sample the whole range, with a view to stock more.

Watch this space!

Decisions now made and we are adding the following wines

Muscat d'Alexandrie

Blanc de Noir

Sauvignon Blanc

Click here to see full range we stock




Eventually got to Cape Town after a 9 hour delay at Joburg Airport. Still no problem arrived at our favourite stop over Derwent House Boutique Hotel always a warm welcome here. Firstly we drop off our bags then out to The Black Sheep restaurant they have saved a table for us! This restaurant never disappoints beautifully cooked food and thank you Richard for talking us through the wine menu.



We are leaving UK on 27th February for our annual buying trip to South Africa. Firstly we are visiting #PeterFalke wine estate in Stellenbosch. I will be updating the blog regularly. Once you have read it please send us your comments.






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