Have you ever had a spur-of-the-moment decision just to jump in your car and drive, exploring new places as you go? We do that often. We’re part of this “instant gratification” generation, I suppose. No deciding weeks ahead, booking, and having to wait for the day to arrive. That’s for big trips involving flights, accommodation, car hire and more. Or for special occasions when you don’t want to take the chance that you might not get in. Guests of mine at the game lodge I used to run actually told me that they never planned ahead when travelling. They apparently always found great new places to stay – even in peak holiday season. That’s much braver than we are, I have to admit. I would hate to land up on the road in Mozambique, for example, with nowhere to stay!
Heading out – decisions, decisions
Anyway, I digress. So, we wake up on a weekend morning, lie in bed having our coffee and rusks or biccies (always sharing with the furry boys, of course!), deciding where to go. The only problem is, we have so many options with Western Cape wine estates that we can never make the decision easily!
What we decided to do was make ourselves a list – which is where our “V’s & C’s criteria” come in. If you recall, I mentioned these in our previous post on Western Cape wine estates.
Fortunately, you won’t have to do that because we’re doing it for you!
A summer or winter wine estate?
So, where we go depends very much on what time of year it is. Our list contains many other criteria we have not yet mentioned. In winter, this includes roaring log fires and comfy leather couches (views optional). In summer, we need big, cool verandas with beautiful views and maybe a pool!
Let’s go off to Franschhoek today
This is truly one of our favourite towns in the Western Cape, ironically because of its French flavour. We almost decided to get married here, at the lovely church on the Solms Delta wine estate, pictured below.
Our reception was to be held at Monneaux restaurant (based at Franschhoek Country House). More on this when we post about our wedding venue research, but we decided at the last minute to change our venue to the beach. Find out why soon!
Be that as it may, we’re still in love with Franschhoek and find our car on autopilot heading to this beautiful village more often than not. We have a few favourite wine estates here, and the first that we’ll showcase here is Boschendal. I still feel it’s not strictly in the Franschhoek region, as it lies between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, in the beautiful Banhoek valley, but no matter…
This is an “oldie but goodie” – one of those Western Cape wine estates that has really stood the test of time. It evolves and adapts with time, redefining itself as necessary, while maintaining the quintessential feel of a 300-year-old national monument manor homestead.
Boschendal in the early years
I have wonderful memories of this estate over a time span of about 30 years. I remember being a UCT student in the 80’s, discovering that Boschendal wine estate offered free tasting – of about 15 wines! We would visit regularly on Saturdays, a large group of rowdy students pretending to be wine connoisseurs, getting very-nicely-thank-you on the free wine. That was all that mattered to us at the time and I hate to admit that we were probably instrumental in wine estates now charging for their tastings!
Wonderful long, lazy Sunday lunches
Fast forward about 9 years, visiting Boschendal as a young mother of a 3-year old toddler for their wonderful buffet Sunday lunches. We loved these for special family occasions and this is the scene of one of our funniest urban legend family stories. They always had the most incredible spread on a beautiful antique wooden table that was about ten metres long. A huge choice of starters, salads, cold mains and desserts would be laid out on this table. In addition, the carvery offered an assortment of mouth-watering roasts.
One Sunday happened to be the day before my dear late Dad was due for an operation to correct his vision. We were nearing the end of another delicious meal, and all got up to help ourselves to desserts and cheese and biscuits. My Dad was the last one back at our table and we all tucked in. After a few minutes of appreciative silence, while tasting our various choices, my dad piped up, “Well, I can tell you one good thing about this operation tomorrow.” He had not been too keen on the idea for a long time, so we were intrigued and asked, “What’s that, Dad?” He replied, “At least I’ll be able to see properly again and won’t be choosing paw paw instead of cheese!”
On a side note, this lunch is now being served from the Rhone homestead. Though I haven’t sampled their buffet since the renovation, I’m sure their signature brandy snaps are still to die for!
Jump ahead another 25 years. These days my wonderful husband, Otto loves spoiling me with things like booking us a couple’s massage at Boschendal’s new Farm Spa, followed by lunch at The Werf. Or, we just pop into their deli for some lovely fresh produce, bread, jams and the like. We then sit outside enjoying a bottle of wine and a cheese platter, cafe-style.
Boschendal the sustainable farm
Boschendal has developed into an all-round perfect example of modern sustainability. They farm their own free-range Angus cattle; have a large and beautiful organic vegetable and herb garden through which visitors can take an informative stroll; and they have the biggest, healthiest chickens wandering around that we’ve ever seen!
There is now so much to do and see at Boschendal that it’s easy to forget about their wines (almost…)! These are still among our firm favourites. In fact, with all the choices around today, and despite the fact that I’m not usually a Rosé fan, Boschendal’s Blanc de Noir is still my best Rosé ever. This wine is part of their Classic Collection, which contains two of my most favourite wines of all time. The other one being Boschendal Le Bouquet, a wonderful white blend.
Moving on to the next wine estates…
One of the great additions to the town is the Franschhoek Winetram.
This hop-on-hop-off model is a great way to get to see the many excellent wine estates in the valley. It allows visitors to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery at their own leisurely pace. More importantly, it enables you to take advantage of the variety of tastings at each estate without having to worry about driving from one to the next.
Other Franschhoek favourites
As I’ve said, views are extremely important to us and this next one rates as one of the best settings of all Western Cape wine estates: Dieu Donné, with their very special Roca restaurant.
This ticks all of our boxes for both summer and winter. In summer, you can enjoy long, lazy Tapas lunches on their verandah downstairs while gazing dreamily out across the beautiful Franschhoek valley.
In winter, cosy up next to their roaring log fire in the restaurant upstairs, while enjoying a deliciously elegant meal. This is the ultimate experience in fine dining while appreciating the views over the rainy, misty valley.
More views, more good food and wine
The next three Western Cape wine estates we will focus on in the Franschhoek valley will be:
Haute Cabrière – https://www.cabriere.co.za/restaurant/ – we love this one for their MCC Pierre Jourdan Brut; as well as Haute Cabrière Chardonnay, in the magnificent setting of their “underground cavern” restaurant.
Their Pierre Jourdan Tranquille is another one of our favourite Pinot Noir Rosés, though these estates do not really refer to their wines in our laymen’s terms! The Cellarmaster describes this not as a Rosé, but rather as an “elegant wine with a shy salmon colour”…
Rickety Bridge – http://www.ricketybridge.com/ – a beautiful spot for a wedding or a lazy Sunday afternoon on the lawn with friends
Vrede en Lust – https://www.vnl.co.za/ – another Western Cape wine estate with a magnificent setting and views, wonderfully friendly staff and a lovely restaurant as the perfect addition.
Watch this space for our take on these three estates in the next blog!
Don’t forget – we’d love to hear your comments and feedback, as well as your own experiences. Please send us any comments or questions you may have, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; sign up to receive new posts, or click on the Booking.com search box to book your next adventure!
Until next time!