Article & Pictures by Jared Ruttenberg
Food, wine, and experience junkies should be prepared to have their hair blown back with a visit to Route 62’s Robertson Valley this winter. An alternative to the N2, Route 62 invites travellers to explore a string of charming towns and farms along the way. Robertson is the largest of these, and in and around it there are a host of experiences waiting to be had. Here are some of my highlights, hopefully to help you taste the lifestyle in this special corner of the country.
8 Unmissable Experiences
- Going Underground at Weltevrede
Many of the wine farms in the region have underground wine storerooms. They’ve been long discontinued and at Weltevrede the internal walls of these concrete rooms have been opened up, creating an underground lair of cavernous tunnels. Doing the underground tasting experience, a path of candles leads you to a secret room where you can sit and experience storytelling and chardonnay tastings. Make sure to ask about the owner’s philanthropic endeavours that led to the building of a local school, and also his venture of tending a vineyard on none other than Robben Island!
- Blend your own wine at Zandvliet
Ever thought of trying your hand at blending your own wine? Zandvliet offers a tutored experience that’s bound to get any wino excited. After you’ve finished blending your own bottle, try a tasting in their new Kalkveld Lounge. Their Estate Chardonnay, Kalkveld Shiraz, Vintage Liqueur Wine, and Zandvliet Muscat are paired with spicy panforte, biscotti and smooth dark chocolate, with zesty marmalade – each of the pairings include a citrus element, showcasing the farm’s wine and citrus synergy.
- Tasting Heaven at Four Cousins
A well-established and well-loved name in South Africa, this was to be my first visit to the brand home situated in the town of Robertson itself. A rather impressive array of tasting experiences awaits visitors – certainly something to suit everyone’s taste – including two kids’ tastings and a whisky option. The restaurant has a selection of seating spaces from informal lounging to chic dining spaces, and beer lovers will love the Boet Brew tasting room.
- Bubbly at Paul René
For a delightful and intimate bubbly experience, look no further than Paul René. Their MCC graces some of the finest restaurant tables and wine stores around the country, and to have a tasting experience at the brand home is very special. The farm is family owned and run, and their humble but authentic love for the brand is contiguous. Tastings cost R50, and also look out for their annual Splash of Pink Bubbly Festival – tickets sell out fast.
- Trees Telling Stories & Bike Rides at Van Loveren
Guests can explore the beautiful gardens at Van Loveren through a 30-minute guided walk, with several trees that have been planted since 1939 commemorating special family, political and historical occasions. For R50 you can hire a bike and try one of the several routes on the farm or at a similar price enjoy the hiking trail. There are a host of tasting options, so best come hungry and thirsty!
- Classy Country Dining at BluVine Eatery
The drive into Montagu takes in some astonishingly dramatic scenery, and once you make it into town one of the first buildings to greet you is the brand new BluVine Restaurant. This uber chic eatery is also the new home for Mimosa Wines. Set aside a few hours to take in the gorgeous view over some superb food and wine.
- Bottle your own wine at Excelsior
With a tasting room built on the dam and a history as long as the earth’s been around, an afternoon at Excelsior is a memorable experience. Here you can also blend and bottle your own wine and then enjoy a tasting. Just think how to impress the guests at your next dinner party by pulling out a bottle you’ve made and labelled yourself!
- Sensory Tastings at Esona
Some experiences are so spectacular that they take in all five senses. I’d definitely recommend a Taste-the-Difference experience at Esona, where you’re able to compare ordinary wine glasses to grape specific crystal glasses. This pairing includes fruit preserves, chocolate, music and art, and is set in an underground tasting venue. Caryl’s Bistro is the upstairs-eatery that seems to effortlessly float above the vineyards and offers mouth-watering platters.
3 Places to Stay
- Village Luxury at the Robertson Small
The Robertson Small Hotel is surely one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets. This five-star boutique hotel is located in the leafy suburbs of the town, in a tastefully converted Victorian home. Luxuriously fitted, the rooms offer plush environs to rest in after a day’s exploring. The attention to detail and warm hospitality is guaranteed to knock you off your socks. If you’re visiting in summer, ask for one of the beautiful rooms that open up directly onto the pool.
- Country Cottage in McGregor
If you’d like something a little more homely, coupled with the opportunity to explore one of the local villages, look no further than McGregor. My choice was Ons Huisie – a cozy cottage situated on the edge of the town which can be easily explored with a three-minute walk. This charming village has a few hidden gems, so make sure to leave some time to amble through.
- Mountain Solitude at Windfall Wine
If you’re truly wanting to get away from it all, then the modest but inviting country cottages at Windfall Wine should hit the spot. On an almost deserted road out of town, the cottages soon appear in the distance surrounded by countryside that quickly gives way to mountains. There is a variety of cottages, a pool to be enjoyed in winter, and you can also book in for a tasting to sample some of the farm’s premium wines.
As always, ensure that you have a designated driver if you’re going to be sampling the valley’s wines. The great news for those not wanting to drive is that the Wine Valley Safari offers safe, reliable, convenient and extremely fun transport in an open-air safari vehicle, allowing you to fully breathe in the fresh country air and discover the Robertson Wine Valley in all its glory.
You can choose from their self-guided hop-on hop-off routes or even pre-packaged options. Be personally chauffeured while you relax and enjoy a memorable excursion in a socially-buzzed atmosphere. Visit their website at www.winevalleysafari.com for more information on their offerings and routes.
- Jared Ruttenberg travel-blogs under the name @JAREDINCPT – you can read more of his articles at www.jaredincpt.com.