Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category



The winery with lawns for picnics and pretty indigenous-plant gardens (fynbos)


Proteas, South Africa’s national flower, grow well in this area


View down to the lake and white Noordhoek Beach

Cape Point Vineyards

Continuing with the theme of new (to us) wineries in the Cape, we now move to the actual Cape Peninsula. We have family who live in the town of Kommetjie near Noordhoek Beach and they suggested we have lunch at Cape Point Vineyards. We’d never even heard of this winery before, so it was a big surprise to drive out of Kommetjie a short way in the direction of Cape Town, go up a hill and discover another gorgeous winery with a stunning location.

The winery sits on a hill, with vineyards above and below, and a sweeping view down to the long white sands of Noordhoek Beach. There’s indoor seating, or on a long verandah that looks out at the view. Directly below are gardens and a big expanse of lawn where people can also sit and have a picnic. A short way down is a small lake with a pier.


winery from the pier


Some of the vines


Lunch on the verandah

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all with this fantastic view of the ocean, fynbos, mountains, vines. I imagine that sunset views over the Atlantic Ocean must be spectacular. They also cater for functions, like weddings—what a gorgeous location. You can visit the cellar for tastings and there’s a Thursday market.

We had lunch there, on the verandah. Most people had different salads, all very good. Our little people were happy too, running around and looking at the large fish tanks.



roselabelFor wines, they have the Cape Point Vineyards range, and the Splattered Toad range, and they also sell wines from the Cape Town Wine Company. Our group tried the Cape Town Wine Co rosé and the cabernet sauvignon/merlot—both very good. Because the vines grow between the mountains and the sea, the cool ocean breezes make for a slow growing season, resulting in a late harvest and unique wines.

Cape Point Vineyards was mentioned by Platter as the Inaugural Winery of the Year in 2008. Founded just over two decades ago by businessman Sybrand van der Spuy, it remains the only wine farm on the narrow southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. Plantings are limited to only 22 hectares (about 54 acres) in Noordhoek, focusing on sauvignon blanc and Semillon.


cabmerlotlabelMore About Cape Town Wine Co

One of the pioneers of wine making in the Cape was Dutch Meldt van der Spuy, who first came as a tenured soldier with the Dutch East India Company. He later returned, became a vryburger (free citizen) and married a local heiress, Maria van der Poel. He prospered, bought wine properties and exported wine. Meldt’s descendant, Sybrand van der Spuy, owns Cape Point Vineyards today and founded  the Cape Town Wine Co.


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South Africa: Seen at an Oasis rest area on a highway in KwaZulu Natal. We thought this was great, in a day and age where people want to park close to the amenities and often don’t respect the signs for handicapped parking.



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amazing view from the Tasting Room


tastingsignBartinney Private Cellar

On our last visit to South Africa in February our family in Somerset West were very happy to introduce us to some wineries that we’d never been to before. And this was another fun place. The setting is superb, the ambience great, and the wines very good. Plus, you can tell from the wine labels, and from the decorating touches in the Tasting Shed that there’s a sense of fun here, a touch of humor.

You drive up a steep narrow road, park, and walk to the Tasting Shed. There is a bar on the lower level, with a unique chandelier made of old vines. But, it’s best to head upstairs where the large open room and the balcony overlook the mountain slopes, with views to the mountain beyond. As the sun sets, the colors of the mountain change from green to golden-orange, which is a magical sight. We were lucky to find a perfect table looking out. A waiter comes to take orders: our family has been many times before, and knows exactly what bottles of wine to order, so we followed their lead. Prices were really reasonable, luckily as we were a big group!



Gorgeous view by day…


…and at sunset


Ground floor bar

Bartinney is on the dramatic slopes of Botmaskop on the Helshoogte Pass on the way to Franschhoek, overlooking the Banhoek Valley in Stellenbosch wine area. It was established in 1912 and has been in the Jordaan family since 1953. Today it is run by Michael and Rose Jordaan.

The views from Michael and Rose Jordaan’s elevated Helshoogte Pass winery are spectacular, but working the vineyards on these steep slopes (some of 45 degrees) and high slopes (up to 1800 feet) is a labor of love. They have tried to do away with terraces and instead interplant with indigenous fynbos. The reason being that biodiversity is important and that viticulture will have to adapt to the increasing hot, dry conditions. They have small pockets of vines, but the wines are rated consistently high. There are three main cultivars: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon; but they also have Chenin Blanc and Merlot.


Very reasonable prices: US$1 was about R14 at the time



sculptureMost bottles have a winged figure as part of the label, called Elevage, symbolizing the  “French art of the selective maturing and ascension of a wine to its ultimate heights, unfurling its most noble traits”according to their website and the back of the label.

The sculpture in a small fynbos garden that greets visitors outside the Tasting Shed is also called Elevage. South African sculptor Dylan Lewis (born 1964designed it to resemble the winged figure of the Bartinney logo. There are other smaller sculptures dotted around, but Elevage really stands out.




labelbackBartinney also has another range of wines, called Noble Savage, and these labels feature various women lying on a red couch. As the back of the label explains: “You may not know it but there is a Noble Savage in all of us—a manifestation of sophistication and style, contrasting with a flash of mischief and a sexy sense of fun. Awakening your Noble Savage produces emotions and behaviors that results in the exciting and unexpected—raising eyebrows, raising the temperature and raising the game.

Bartinney also offers organized wine tastings, musical evenings, gorgeous proteas (South Africa’s national flower) for sale, vineyard guesthouses, and a bar in the town of Stellenbosch.


We bought some proteas for our cousin

proteaTo get to Bartinney: drive through Stellenbosch on R44, then take R310 towards Franschhoek. After going over the Helshoogte Pass, you’ll see Neil Ellis, Tokara and Thelema Wineries on the left, then a sign to the right to Bartinney. It’s not a big sign or a big road, so it’s easy to miss.


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exhibitYes, wine made in an airport!

I’m in the process of writing about some of the wonderful new (to us) South Africa wine estates that we visited earlier this year.

So, it was with great interest that we found a small wine exhibit at the Cape Town International Airport. We drove back there to pick up our son, who was joining us, and came on this in the International Arrivals Hall.

The sign first caught our eye: Wine Capital of the World. That’s probably an exaggeration, but there’s no doubt that the Cape area in South Africa does produce many wonderful wines of excellent quality. And the Cape has been producing these great wines for more than 350 years. So, we decided to read the other information boards.



They say wine is fermenting in these French oak barrels

Turns out that this exhibit is introducing something really new. Cape Town International Airport and Airports Company South Africa wants to be part of this wine-making culture by making its own wine.  So, Du Preez Wine Estate has kindly partnered with Cape Town International Airport to “provide the necessary alchemy in these French oak barrels to produce a fine merlot.” When fermentation is completed, this wine will be bottled and sold as a boutique collectable range. To find out more, you can email mark@airportwines.co.za

Imagine that! We’d love to have a bottle, as it will be something really special and unique.

Du Preez Wine Estate is in the Breede River Valley below the Du Toitskloof mountains, about 75km (about 46 miles) from Cape Town. Head out on the N1 to Rawsonville in the western Cape. They are also blessed with the typical Cape Mediterranean climate with cool winters and warm barrel2dry summers that play such an important role in producing great wines.

We’ve never been to the Du Preez Wine Estate, but maybe that better be on our list for the next visit to south Africa.


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Hidden Valley Winery from up on the hill walk


Some of Hidden valley’s vineyards


Some of the olive trees

On our last trip to South Africa we were lucky enough to visit a number of wineries we’d never been to before (see Idiom Winery here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/idiom-lunch-with-a-stunning-view/).

Hidden Valley was another one. We’d driven past the entrance many times before on our way up to the end of the road at Uva Mira Winery, but never got around to stopping. Thank goodness our sister-in-law, who lives in the area, decided this was a good lunch place, as it’s another gem, in a stunning location.


Winery buildings from The Deck


The lake


Path along the lake to The Deck


The Deck from the path

This winery is high up on the Stellenbosch Helderberg, just below Uva Mira Winery. After driving up the steep entrance road, you park and then can choose to either walk up the ramp to the large modern tasting room and the fancy Overture Restaurant (reservations and many $$ required!), or take the path along the edge of a small lake, surrounded by lovely indigenous gardens, to The Deck. We chose the latter.

The Deck, a casual eating place, is a floating deck on the lake. The view up to the mountains and the vineyards is spectacular, and it’s an unusual experience to eat and enjoy a bottle of wine while rocking ever so slightly on the water. We had a burger and wine—seems like a strange combination but it worked.


Us on The Deck


The Deck and lake from hill walk


Classic Fragment (Face)

Along the path we passed two large bronze outdoor sculptures; one a face (called Classic Fragment) that has become the icon of Hidden Valley and is now on most of the wine labels; the other is called Ramona, an attractive young female figure. These pieces are only some of the “hidden” gems that one can find around the farm. The same bronze face, just smaller, greets visitors as they walk up the ramp to the tasting room. We also found a gorgeous big cat in a slivery metal (we think a Cape leopard, but there was no identifying plaque) near a parking lot above Overture Restaurant.






Wine label (stuck in my travel notebook)


I pose with a smaller Classic Fragment

You can take a walk on a circular loop from The Deck up the hill behind, winding through the fynbos, past some of the estate’s vineyards and olive groves, getting a great overview of the estate and across to the mountains. Rod did it while I sat with our sisters-in-law and just enjoyed being on the deck.

In 2015, banker Riaan Stassen (who has been involved with wine for many years) became the new owner of Hidden Valley and oversaw numerous new projects and upgrades. The cellar is still surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards, and gorgeous fynbos gardens, but there is now a sculpture studio run by sculptor local Willie Botha


What we think is a Cape leopard

(1958-), and some luxury accommodation next to the Overture Restaurant.

To get to Hidden Valley, take the R44 towards Stellenbosch. At Mooiberg Farm, turn right into Annandale Road, which is quite narrow. It splits after a little bit, so follow the road up, past Guardian Peak, towards Uva Mira. An even narrower road turns off that, and winds upwards.



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long walk


Replica of Mandela’s cell on Robben Island



Mandela exhibit

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013), also known as Madiba

We were very recently in Cape Town Airport a couple of times and noticed that there is a rather nice pictorial exhibit, stretching along the upper wall, about Nelson Mandela and his life, work and achievements in the long passage way after you exit the international arrival hall. There’s also a replica of his cell on Robben Island, and one of a shebeen (local African bar) from the time before he went to prison.


The cell, and a space for you to sit and think about this man


Details in shebeen


The collage/mural starts here and flows from right to left , roughly chronologically, as you head for the airport exit

There are many other pictures and information about other parts of the Cape and South Africa too—all very nicely done—but the Mandela one really caught our eyes. Why?

Many people, both in South Africa and around the world, regard Mandela as a great man and a wonderful human being. He wrote a couple of books that are well known, (for example, Long Walk to Freedom, Conversations with Myself, Dare Not Linger) and there are a number of books and movies about him, his life, and his legacy. He was the first truly democratically-elected leader in South Africa in 1994 and approached that role in a way that tried to calm some of the troubled waters there were South African politics at the time, even though he himself had suffered terribly under the previous regime—Apartheid, the Nationalist Party, his incarceration on Robben Island (for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned), etc.



collage4We moved from South Africa before he was elected, but we visit as often as we can. It seems to us that lots of South Africans today miss Mandela and what he stood for, especially when compared to all the corruption that is rampant in politics these days. He was a decent man, who tried to do the best for his country, and he is honored around the country in many different ways—statues of him, squares and schools named after him, and even the UN Nelson Mandela International Day, on July 18 (his birthday) each year. On this day people honor Mandela through volunteering and community service. It started in 2009 in South Africa, on Mandela’s 91stbirthday, but was declared international by the UN in 2010, so he lived to see some of the ways that his values were appreciated. I, and I’m sure millions of others, am very glad about that.


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Some of their vines

Idiom and Da Capo Vineyards on Knorhoek Estate, Knorhoek Road, Sir Loury’s Pass (also spelled Lowry’s).

This is one of the wine estates in the western Cape that we have not visited before and it makes us realize how much more there is to explore. A family member who lives in nearby Somerset West knew it and suggested we go there for lunch. We’re very happy that we did, as it’s a lovely place.

The Da Capo Vineyards recently opened (in 2016) a charming new wine tasting center and restaurant high on the Helderberg, with truly jaw-dropping views. It took three years to complete and co-owner Roberto Bottega (a son) hopes it will help promote their wine brand to the next level. Italian grape varieties make up many of their wines as their heritage is Italian, and the menu is largely Italian-themed to complement this.


The restaurant and wine tasting bar are on the upper level, when we see the building from the front lawn


We pass a duck farm on the way up the hill


View down to the sea

There’s a tasting bar and restaurant, which is open for lunch and special events. You drive into the small town of Sir Loury’s Pass and look for the sign for Idiom, the fairly steep road leading up the hill on the left. It’s a bumpy drive past horses, ducks and sheep. Then you reach the parking lots, walk up to the buildings of Idiom and… WOW! The view is stunning and unexpected after the drive up—mountains, valley, rolling hills, vines, trees, large rocks, pretty gardens.

The huge modern building is really well placed, overlooking the valley and the mountains and down to the sea (False Bay). When you first arrive at the entrance from the parking lot you don’t realize that it’s actually on two levels, as it’s built on a slope. The tasting room and restaurant are on the top level, but we only realized that when we saw the that it’s built out over the slope. It’s surrounded by luscious green lawns, a small garden with indigenous plants, and lots of big rocks. On the edge of the lawn is a wonderful statue of a naked man with arms stretched above his head, as though he’s calling on the gods or praising the view or ? (more on that later).


Entrance to Idiom


Steps lead down to the gardens and large front lawn


The statue is perfectly placed

lunchYou sit upstairs and if you’re lucky (or have booked, which is recommended as it’s become very popular) you’ll get a window table on one of the two sides looking out, or on the outdoor terraced area. We didn’t, but it was still fine. The large room is open and light with huge windows, tables nicely set, and interesting art pieces dotted around.



One of the art pieces


And another, in the tasting bar


Antipasto plate

We (four people) had an antipasto plate, which arrived with a basket of delicious homemade bread, and shared two pizzas: one had ostrich carpaccio and prickly pear chutney, called Cape pizza; the other had zucchini, feta and white anchovy, called Sicilia pizza. I’m not normally a pizza fan, but these really were very good and the ostrich one had those South African inspired toppings. We had a bottle of their Bianco wine (made with Pinot Grigio grapes), which was pleasant, and bought a Viognier to take home, which was very good. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful, as were the other wait staff that we spoke to.



Ostrich carpaccio pizza


Sicilia pizza


View out of Idiom. Note the interesting figures

Bit of background

We asked our waitress why the name “Idiom” and she told us it meant “new beginning”. That didn’t seem right to us, so we checked on  the Idiom website.

Da Capo (the name of the vineyards) means “from the beginning” or “from the Cape” in Italian, referring to the fact that the vineyards were laid out and planted on the farm for the first time in 1999. It was started by Alberto Bottega and his family. Alberto was born in Italy and moved with his family to Cape town in 1950 as a boy. He had a career in scientific research and finance but fulfilled his retirement dream of wine farming when he moved back to the Cape in 1998. Da Capo vineyards now has one of the largest selections of Italian varietals in South Africa that reflect the Bottega family’s heritage. The 18 different varietals are harvested at the farm at optimal ripeness, then sorted by hand, offering a direct comparison between the famous wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone, Tuscany and Piedmont, but from Cape terroir.


More of their vines—looks like a rocky vineyard!


Our lunch wine

They are now also selling perfumes, and leather goods—an idea inspired by daughter Silvana Bottega, who has experience in the luxury sector.


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