Stellenbosch Cape Winelands | 50km
...with its oak-lined streets, water furrows and beautifully preserved historic buildings, is the centre of the country's best-known wine-producing area and an important university town. South Africa's second-oldest town, Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 and named after the Dutch governor, Simon van der Stel. In addition to its numerous splendid Cape Dutch buildings, the town also has fine examples of Cape Georgian and Victorian houses.
The cultural heritage of Stellenbosch can only be truly appreciated by taking a stroll down Dorp Street, which has one of the longest rows of historic buildings in the country. Well worth a visit is the Stellenbosch Village Museum, comprising four buildings from different periods of the town's history. Art-lovers should not miss Oom Samie se Winkel and the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Museum in the historic Libertas Parva homestead. The nearby cellar is now known as the Stellenryk Wine Museum.
Stellenbosch Wine Route
Founded in April 1971, the Stellenbosch Wine Route was the first of its kind in South Africa. It offers visitors on a South African holiday an opportunity to sample the region's famous wines, while enjoying the superb scenery. With Stellenbosch as the central point, the 41 cellars (estates, cellars and co-operative wineries) are linked by the four major roads leading into town. Stellenbosch and the surrounding winelands also boast numerous fine restaurants, where visitors can enjoy traditional Cape fare such as smoorsnoek, bredies and koeksisters.
...on the lower slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountains, dates back to 1690 when the farm was awarded to Gerrit Visser, a Dutch craftsman. Dominating the estate is the gracious H-shaped Cape Dutch manor house built in 1789 with florid gables. With some 16 grape varieties under cultivation, Blaauwklippen produces a wide range of white and red wines.
The estate's museum has an interesting collection of antique Cape furniture, kitchen utensils and coaches. Blaauwklippen is well-known for its Coachman's lunches which can be enjoyed on the estate between October and April, when coach rides are also offered.
...dates back to 1694 when the farm Bonterivier was granted to a stock farmer, Willem van der Wêreld. The complex of historic buildings - built, uniquely, in a straight line - comprises the Jonkershuis (1780), the wine cellar (1790) and the Cape Dutch manor house (1825). The farm was acquired by former Springbok rugby player Jannie Engelbrecht in 1978, and is one of the few Stellenbosch wineries specialising exclusively in red wines.
The estate was one of the first to mature its entire production in French Nevers oak barrels. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz and the flagship Rust-En-Vrede Estate Wine (the only blended wine) are bottled under the estate's label. The original cellar is used for barrel ageing the red wines, while the modern underground cellar is used for bottle maturation.
Dating back to 1692, Spier offers visitors a combination of wine tasting, historic buildings, restaurants 4, picnics, art and culture. Among the historic buildings are the old wine cellar (1776), the Jonkershuis (1778) and the slave quarters (1812), which accommodates a restaurant. The buildings on the estate have a total of 21 gables - a unique feature of Cape Dutch architecture - making Spier the largest collection of gables on a single site.
The outstanding collection of paintings, antiques and porcelain in the manor house provides a picture of life on a Stellenbosch wine farm in the 1700s. Between November and March, Spier's open-air theatre is the setting for a music festival featuring classical music concerts and performances of opera, jazz and dance. Spier Wine Centre offers an impressive range of wines from various wineries and also holds tastings. Visitors, on their South African holiday, can sample the estate's own Four Spears wines in the cellar situated across the Eerste River.
After passing through the imposing entrance gates, visitors drive along a kilometre-long avenue of soaring pine trees to the estate's historic H-shaped manor house, dating back to 1814. The farm was granted to Barend Lubbe in 1692, and was originally known as Wolwedans. It was renamed Neethlingshof after it came into the possession of Johannes Henoch Neethling in 1816. The estate has been planted under 17 varieties of grapes and produced its first wines under the Neethlingshof label in 1971.
Today, it produces a wide range of white and red wines, all bearing the distinctive label of the pine avenue. The Lord Neethling (the nickname of the flamboyant Johannes Neethling) restaurant offers traditional South African dishes and international cuisine, while light lunches can be enjoyed at the Palm Terrace.
...is the headquarters of South Africa's largest wine company, the Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW), which markets and distributes Chateau Libertas and the well-known Zonnebloem, Nederburg and Lanzerac ranges of wine. The Oude Libertas centre consists of a wine-tasting and conference centre with tours and sales, a restaurant and the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre. Built in 1977 on the slopes of the Pappegaaiberg, the 430-seat open-air amphitheatre resembles the Greek theatres of Athens and Epidauros.
During the summer season (December to March), the amphitheatre provides the setting for a variety of cultural events ranging from music and dance performances to light-hearted comedy. Especially popular are the Sunday evening twilight concerts.
...is situated on the farm Schoongezicht, which was granted to Isaq Schrijver in 1692. Built in 1830, the U-shaped Cape Dutch manor house features a neoclassical front gable with well-defined mouldings, pediment and pilasters, while the wine cellar dates back to 1815. Under winemaker Angus Buchanan, who bought the farm in 1947, Lanzerac won numerous awards, including the prestigious champion red wine trophy for eight consecutive years.
The farm was bought in 1958 by David Rawdon, who converted it into one of the country's best-known hotels, which it remains to this day. In 1988, Lanzerac changed hands again, and three years later it was bought by the well-known Cape businessman, Christo Wiese. Lanzerac Rosé and Lanzerac Pinotage are produced by Distell, while all other wines in the Lanzerac range are grown, made and bottled on the estate. The range includes cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay, as well as five wines sold under the De Forellen label.
Neil Ellis Wines
This cellar, located in the picturesque Jonkershoek Valley, has established an international reputation for its vineyard selection wines. Winemaker Neil Ellis, former cellarmaster at Groot Constantia and Zevenwacht, uses only high-quality grapes from vineyards where specific varieties grow in optimum conditions. Given the emphasis on quality, the Neil Ellis wines are produced in small quantities. Wines under the Neil Ellis label include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, with a second tier range produced under the Inglewood label.
The Jonkershoek Valley
Nestling between the rugged Jonkershoek Mountains and the Stellenbosch Mountains, the Jonkershoek Valley is one of the Western Cape's most beautiful spots. Towering more than 1 300 m above the valley floor are the jagged peaks of the 1 494 and 1 504-m-high Twin Peaks. The valley was named after a German ensign, Jan Andriessen, who was the first colonist to settle in the upper valley. At the time ensigns were referred to as 'jonkers', and he became known as Jan de Jonker.
Visitors can explore the Jonkershoek Plantation by following a circular drive, walk to First Waterfall, or try their hand at fishing for trout in the Jonkershoek Dam. The adjoining Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve covers 204 ha of mainly fynbos vegetation and can be explored along a 2-km walk. Shady picnic places are provided on the banks of the Eerste River. Trout are bred at the Jonkershoek Fish Hatchery, and an experimental breeding programme is under way to rear several threatened indigenous fish species.