By the time I graduated from college, I knew everything there was to know about wine. I knew white wine went with seafood, red wine went with red meat, and Mad Dog 20/20 went with pretty much anything, except those brownies they always had at the parties. Because one minute you’re poppin’ to Luke’s greatest hits, and the next minute you’re outside running laps around the building to cool off because that makes perfectly good sense during Summer in Florida.
Theoretically. Anyway, where was I..…
Oh, wine. Bae. My rainy day snugaboo and winter lifeline. Well the good news is, my palate has grown more sophisticated since college, and I’ve developed an appreciation for a much larger variety of wines. However, in my youthful ignorance, I assumed the best wines came from Europe. It wasn’t until my 30s that I discovered that South Africa is home to some of the finest wines in the world!
So when my friends were planning a trip to Cape Town, I was all like, “Grapes from the motherland….the blacker the berry…..we gotta try this stuff!” I was definitely being ridiculous, but either way, I was totally on board with the wine-lovers in our crew who planned to visit Stellenbosch during our stay.
Our day trip, led by Afrivista Tours, consisted of 3 different vineyards across the region. Here are a few highlights from each stop:
We started off the day with a scenic drive from central Cape Town to the Glenelly Wine Estate. As we transitioned from city streets to rolling hills, our tour guide Neil explained some of the history behind the local vineyards. I tried to listen, but was glued to the window taking in the scenery that’s something out of a movie. Majestic mountains, lush greenery and rows of grapevines greeted us on each side of the country road. When our van finally pulled up to Glennely, we were so busy taking photos, Neil nearly had to beg us to come inside for the tasting!
389 photos later, we gathered inside a beautiful sunlit room, and were led through a tasting of 7 different wines. I’ve never been a fan of Chardonnay, but there was one called the Gran Vin de Glennely that was so smooth and buttery I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing a case or 3 for a rainy day.
Each table got a charcuterie plate, which was super helpful with pacing ourselves. Because “tastings” add up and you’ll find yourself doing the sleepy lean real quick. After a brief tour of the distillery, and a visit to the cellar, we departed to our next location for lunch.
STOP 2: Le Pommier Restaurant
“What’s a Bobotie?” I asked the server.
“It’s like pot pie filled with minced meat and raisins, with a sort of egg topping. It’s really good!”
That actually sounded like a disaster, but after 8 glasses of wines, I figured why not live a little.
It turned out to be a fancy word for casserole, and the spicy meat and the sweet golden raisins actually complemented each other quite nicely. Served with yellow rice and carrots, it was just enough food to avoid a naptime situation, and keep the party going as we set out for our next vineyard.
At Camberley we sampled 10 different wines, including our first Pinotage which is a red wine exclusive to South Africa. However, the wine itself was not the highlight of this vineyard. Our winemaker, Giscard Audrey, told us a moving story of his journey of how he got into the business. Years ago he was forced to flee his country, and endured some pretty desperate times along the way. After making his way to South Africa he was able to master the art of winemaking, eventually landing a position at Camberley.
While he wasn’t the owner of the vineyard, I definitely purchased a few bottles here to support a business that embraces people of color, which I surprisingly didn’t see at any other vineyard. In Africa. I know. How, Sway?
STOP 4: Lanzerac Estate
By our last stop we were admittedly a little tired, tipsy, or some combination of both. Luckily the tour operators knew what was up, and breezed through the distillery details so we could enjoy our last tasting on their beautiful patio. A few of us purchased some Pinotage, and we spent the rest of our afternoon chatting, relaxing and taking in the amazing scenery.
After 3 vineyards and countless glasses of wine, our ride back home was admittedly a blur. However, as I reflected on my balcony that evening back in Cape Town, I was thankful for having such a surprisingly awesome experience. Each vineyard paid meticulous attention to every detail of our visit, and the presentation far exceeded that of any vineyard I’ve ever visited. If you’re a wine lover and have plans to visit South Africa, definitely include a day trip to Stellenbosch. It will broaden your perspective on what this beautiful country has to offer, and hopefully encourage you to venture beyond the European wines on your next visit to the wine shop.