On our recent visit to the Robertson Wine Valley we found plenty of reason to stray from the Cape’s more well-trodden wine routes and embrace our inner country ‘pumpkins’ (we would say bumpkins, but with the amount of sugary pumpkin fritters consumed in Robertson we’ll go with the former). Here are our reasons why this gracious wine route should be on your wine travel bucket list.
Reason #1: Escape the crowds
Feeling a little too cosy with everybody else who also thought it would be a clever idea to hit the local wine farms on a gorgeous Saturday morning? Robertson is your answer. At just under two hours’ drive from central Cape Town, it’s far away enough to deter all but the most dedicated day trippers, but near enough to the city to make for a highly convenient wine weekend away. Less people = more individual attention from winery staff, more room to take in the fresh mountain air and more wine for you (that’s how we see it anyway!).
Reason #2: Quality wine in abundance
Robertson sometimes gets a bad rep for mass production from some of the valley’s large-scale wineries, but we found that many awarded estates are tucked away down picturesque Jacaranda-flanked gravel roads. We visited a handful of these and it quickly became clear to us that some serious juice is made in Robertson. Our first stop, De Wetshof, amazed us with its grand interior and equally opulent Chardonnays. For a moment, we thought we’d driven right back to Cape Town, as the Tasting Room building is a replica of the Koopmans/De Wet House in Strand Street, dating back to 1791. Both buildings were designed by Louis Michel Thibault one of the most renowned architects of early Cape architecture, and bring a true sense of grandeur to the valley.
Owner Danie De Wet is known widely in wine circles as Mr. Chardonnay, and it’s no surprise given the nuances in his fleet of Chardonnays from different sites and with varying oak regimes. Our top pick was the Finesse, a creamy, floral, lightly-oaked Chard which is currently sold out at the winery, but available in certain stores if you search hard enough.
Reason #3: Country life at its most comfortable
We spent the night at Excelsior which charmed our socks off with its traditional hospitality. With the valley reaching a balmy 30 degrees on a cool day, we were grateful to spot the pool that overlooks the rolling green vines as far as the eye could see. We left said poolside only to take the Excelsior golf cart for a joyride in the vineyards, followed by a sumptuous meal of ostrich pie and roasted vegetables, lovingly prepared by Kirsten, who despite her obvious culinary prowess refuses to call herself the chef, and instead opts for the humble title of ‘cook’. We found this show of warmth and humility to be a real trend during our time in the valley. No frills: just real, decent, genuine humans.
Reason #4: Local flavour
Whether lazily watching vineyards drift by on the river boat cruise at Viljoensdrift, or simply relaxing by the dam with a glass of Wild Yeast Chardonnay in hand at Springfield Estate, we felt as though we were mingling with the locals and getting a taste of authentic Robertson life. Our final meal at Bon Cap, which we arrived at after what felt like an infinite dirt road, summed it up: as Adam commented, it felt like eating a home-cooked Sunday lunch at home. And it was more than the overflowing buffet of roast potatoes, pumpkin fritters, venison pie and gravy for days – Bon Cap owner Michelle wouldn’t let us leave without giving us the inside scoop about the countless other spots in and around the valley that we have to come back for.
When people give this much heart to their community, it overflows into the food, ambience and we’re now convinced – the wine. On our drive back to Cape Town with bellies full of malva pudding, milk tart and chocolate cake, we all agreed that it won’t be long before we make a turn in the Robertson Wine Valley again.
Special thanks to the Robertson Wine Valley for hosting us s generously.