Archive for the ‘wineries’ Category



sign2South Africa: Buitenverwachting Winery, 37 Klein Constantia Road, Cape Town

In Afrikaans “buitenverwachting” means “beyond expectations”, and this winery is trying to live up to its name, or even to exceed expectations. It’s part of the Constantia Wine Route (10 wineries are listed: http://constantiawineroute.com/about/).

Our family from the Cape have been to this winery a number of times, so on our last trip to South Africa we all decided we should too, as we were in the vicinity and we were trying to visit as many new (to us) wineries as we could.

We were only at Buitenverwachting for part of an afternoon, but long enough to see a bit of the estate and to do a wine tasting. Long enough to whet our appetite and know that we want to return. It’s another lovely winery, with great wines, a complex of gorgeous Cape Dutch buildings, and spectacular scenery.


The Tasting Room is in that lovely building


gableBit of history and back story:

Constantia is a large area just outside today’s main Cape Town metropolitan area, with farms, vineyards, restaurants and other attractions, including the 10 wineries on the Constantia Wine Route (mentioned above). Simon van der Stel founded Constantia in 1685, also known as Groot Constantia. He was the first governor of the new Dutch colony at the tip of Africa. He chose this particular valley, not only for its beauty but also for the decomposed granite soils on its slopes, gently cooled by ocean breezes. Here he built a house and used the land to produce wine (Constantia’s first wine farm, Groot Constantia), as well as other fruits and vegetables, and for cattle farming. After van der Stel’s death in 1712, the estate was broken up and sold in three parts: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Bergvliet. Groot and Klein Constantia still exist today as lovely wineries.

In 1773 a 200-morgen sub-division (probably about 171 hectares or 422 acres) was sold to a Cornelis Brink and this became, in 1796, what we know as Buitenverwachting today. (A morgen was a unit of land measurement used by Netherlands, Germany and the Dutch colonies in those days).

It’s a beautiful farm on the east-facing slopes of the Constantia Berg (mountain), only vinesabout 12 km from False Bay. Sadly it changed hands rather frequently but still generally did well as a wine farm, partly because of the 90,000 vines planted in 1825 by Ryk Arnoldus Cloete, brother of Hendrik Cloete. Hendrik Cloete, the first winemaker of Groot Constantia, planted new vines to replace the old ones, thus improving the quality of wines from the estate.

The new estate, Buitenverwachting, had many ups and downs over the years until recently.


The Tasting Room looks out on a big lawn with a huge old Norfolk Pine tree

Richard and Christine Mueller bought this historic property in the 1980s, with a view to restoring its fortunes. Their team seem to have done a good job, as Buitenverwachting has helped to re-establish this area’s reputation for fine wine. The team is Lars Maack, Christine’s son and part-owner; Hermann Kirschbaum the cellar master; and winemaker Brad Paton. They restored the farm to its former glory and started planting selected cultivars. Their first grape harvest of 100 tonnes was the first in 30 years for the farm and they haven’t looked back.

Back to the present;

After you turn off the main road you drive for a little while through the vineyards and past fields, all with a wonderful view of the hills not far away. The first impression of the winery is of greenery and beautiful Cape Dutch buildings, the white gables standing out against the green.


Glen M and Nath M waiting to taste wine


Tasting Room and terrace

Today, it has a restaurant, winetasting, and a coffee shop.

First, the wine tasting. The Tasting Room(s)are in the historic wine cellar, with its traditional thatched roof, white-washed walls, and yellowwood ceilings. The inside is casual, with a tasting bar, couches and small lounges. Or you can sit outside on the terrace, which we did as our party had two little people. Outside was perfect for them to play around on the huge lawn that has a magnificent 250-year-old Norfolk Pine tree.


The 2 little girls in or party had a lot of fun outside, especially around the big tree


even the stools are fun


The rosé was probably our favorite wine

The non-drivers of our party did the tasting at R60 for 5 wines (about $4), half of which was waived because we bought some wine too. All the wines were great, and we noticed that they are regularly rated very high by John Platter. The terrace is a great place to linger and chat, perhaps order a bottle of wine and a charcuterie plate.

The restaurant, in one of the original thatch buildings, has recently been renovated after a terrible storm in 2017. I’m told it is very good and serves a great menu based on locally-sourced ingredients. We didn’t sample it this time, but it’s on our to-do list next time we are in South Africa.

The coffee shop is called Coffee BloC, named for the coffee roastery, built in the traditional Cape style of architecture in the shape of a small square block. Besides excellent, fresh coffee they have a small breakfast menu and a selection of homemade pastries and cakes.


The coffee shop is in this lovely building



There’s also a gift shop called the Studio, with mostly rather high-end (but lovely) goodies as far as we could see.

Next year Rod is attending a conference in Cape Town and will run a small workshop. He’d like to bring the attendees here, so we’ll see. It’s that good, and very accessible from the city.




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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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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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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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viewstatue copy

The big setting for the statue at Idiom—you can just see the statue at the far corner of the lawn


How’s that for a setting?


legOutdoor Sculpture at Idiom Restaurant, by Anton Smit (born 1954 in Boksburg, SA)

We first came across the work of Anton Smit at Idiom Winery and Restaurant, where there is a huge sculpture of a naked man, arms stretched behind him and face upturned to the sky, on the edge of the lawns in front of the restaurant. There was no plaque describing the piece, just the word “Anton 2015” engraved on the sculpture’s leg. So, it took a bit of sleuthing to track down the creator.

It’s a powerful work in its own right, but made more so by the setting: The figure on tip-toes, maybe worshipping the sun or the mountains, with a backdrop of vines and mountains; a huge figure in a grand landscape, but not dwarfed by it. If you view it from the garden by the parking area, the statue is in the foreground and, way behind, you can see across False Bay to Table Mountain.




The statue at Lourensford

Interestingly, there is a similar (?replica) statue outside the yoga studio and art shop at Lourensford Winery. Also a beautiful work but, in our opinion, the setting is not nearly as dramatic, and doesn’t set off the figure like the setting at Idiom does.

This South African sculptor is well known for his towering human figures, nudes, impressive heads, masks, hands, angels, floating and stretching figures, and warriors, as well as abstract works. Anton Smit works mostly with steel, metal, fiberglass and bronze. He tends to imbue his work with an illusion of movement or gesture, bodies curling up or limbs reaching out to the onlooker, like a call to movement. Many people say that this is why his sculptures, even the more abstract ones, seem to communicate with the viewer. Anton’s works are in public and private collections in South Africa and internationally.


At Lourensford


At Idiom

Anton works the first three months of the year in his Cape studios in the Strand (on False Bay, very close to Somerset West), and for the rest of the year in his studios at Bronkhorstspruit Dam, where he has a dedicated work force of 16 people.


At Lourensford


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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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View from Bartinney Winery (Stellenbosch)


Some of the vines at Bilton Winery


Uva Mira’s vines

South Africa has much to offer the visitor, but no trip is truly complete without taking to the wine routes. The Cape Winelands are certainly a destination in their own right, as they have so much on offer. South Africa wine production ranks #7 in the world in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality many people would vote it higher than that. The southern and western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, which is perfect for growing vines, and over hundreds of years the South African vintners have perfected their craft.


Uva Mira Winery


Some of the vineyards are very steep


Cabernet Sauvignon vines at Delheim Winery

When in the southwestern Cape it’s difficult not to notice vineyards and wine—there’s such a variety, choice, and selection, and almost everywhere you drive you’ll be in or near vineyards. Not far out of the city of Cape Town on your way to the wine towns of Stellenbosch or Paarl or Franschhoek you’ll soon get to miles and miles of rolling vineyards with a backdrop of impressive mountains. There’s also the Constantia wine area closer to Cape Town, and another around the town of Hermanus a bit further east along the coast (also famous for whales).

If you’re lucky you can visit some of the wine estates to taste and buy wine there. But if you want to have a picnic at one of the lovely parks or on a gorgeous sandy beach, all the supermarkets and liquor stores carry a good range of wine too. Generally, prices seemed reasonable to us with most of the good quality wines priced under US$10 or under ZAR 130  (the exchange rate is roughly $1=R13.5 right now).

Doing part of one of the wine routes is a really fun activity and does reflect a way of life in this part of the world—you get to see part of the stunning Cape countryside in addition to visiting some of the estates, many with pretty gardens or parks, many in lovely old Cape Dutch buildings.


Beautiful Cape Dutch buildings at Vergelegen Wine Estate


Enjoying wine tasting at Vergelegen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut, how to pick which ones to visit? There are just way too many to even contemplate visiting them all, plus wine tasting is a very personal experience. But, from our experiences, basically all the estates are great and you won’t go wrong with whichever ones you choose. Since our last visit to South Africa, more wine estates have sprung up, or been taken over by another estate, and it’s always fun to try a new place.

I’d suggest first getting a copy of the brochures “Stellenbosch and its Winelands”, and “Stellenbosch and its Wine Routes”, plus the brochure for Paarl, “the little black book of Paarl.” Check out the small description of each place—hours, what they offer etc—plus locate them on the very clear maps, so you can plan to visit places that are close to each other. These brochures are available in Tourist Offices and at the wineries. Planning a wine route also depends on where you’re staying—we were based in Somerset West, so getting to both the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine areas was very easy.

You can also get information online, but the booklets are probably easier to carry around. Good sites: www.paarlonline.com(but they don’t cover all the wineries), and www.wineroute.co.zafor Stellenbosch and its surrounding areas.



Wine tasting at Spier, where they pair each wine with a cheese


The tasting room and restaurant at Idiom

The Stellenbosch Wine Routewas the first to be founded in April 1971, and since then about 13 other wine routes have been established. Each route has its own character and beauty and reflects part of South Africa’s cultural history.

Many estates have cafes or restaurants, so doing lunch at one is also a nice option. On our recent visit we had lunches at Idiom, Hidden Valley, Lourensford, Vergelegen, and Cape Point Vineyards, all outstanding meals in a great setting, often with amazing views of the mountains. Fairview, Eikendal and Blauuklippen also have great restaurants, where we’ve eaten on earlier visits. All have excellent wines and most have pretty Cape-Dutch buildings and a long history, as do many of the South African wine estates.


Enjoying lunch at Hidden Valley Winery


Cape Point Winery


View from Cape Point Winery down to Noordhoek Beach


Eagle encounter at Spier

Many estates seem to be diversifying, adding activities other than wine tasting, so as to appeal to more people and families with children. So, some have animals and activities for kids and/or a playground, which is useful if there’s a little one in your party (there was for us this last time). For example, Spier offers the Eagle Encounter, and Vergenoegd has tea and coffee tastings and a Duck Parade. Many also have markets on certain days of the week, such as at Blaauwklippen on Sundays 10am-3pm; at Lourensford on Sundays once a month. Acacia has the Root 44 Craft and Flea Market, and just over the road Mooiberge has a great Farmstall (plus a brightly-colored kids’ playground and a good restaurant). Another feature that’s becoming more prominent is the link of wineries to art, as many have prominent public art, or host an art gallery or art studio. Some also have temporary exhibitions, and it’s lovely to see sculptures outdoors in the estates’ gardens.


Duck Parade at Vergenoegd


Lunch at Blaauwklippen


Kids can feed the resident goats at Blaauwklippen


Wine tasting at Morgenster

Some of our favorite estates are Blaauwklippen, Fairview, Delheim, Muratie, Uva Mira, Morgenster, Vergelegen, Spier, Jordan, Buitenverwachting, Lourensford, and Eikendal. Why? The wines are superb, the settings lovely and most of them have a place to eat and pretty gardens. You can picnic in some of them, if you buy the picnic food from the estate, but Muratie and Laborie allow you to bring your own picnic food.

Note that you have to pay for wine tasting but it’s not a lot and it’s well worth it. Definitely plan on having a designated driver, as each wine tasting will likely involve at least 4-5 wines.


Buitenverwachting has great wine

buitenbottlesAny time of year is good to visit, but the warmer months are probably best as you can sit outside and enjoy the gardens and superb views of vineyards and mountains.

I guess one could write a whole book on the wine estates and what they offer, but I’ll stop here. In upcoming posts I’ll try to focus on specific wineries and why we liked them.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy any South African wine that you are lucky enough to find around here.



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