What to Expect on a Private Cape Winelands Tour

by Sandy Salle on August 27, 2014

fairview cape winelands

Image above of wine and cheese tasting at Fairview!

As you might have seen in one of my recent blog posts, I ventured to the beautiful Cape Winelands in South Africa recently for some wine and culinary exploration! During my visit, I met with our highly acclaimed tour guide, Pam McOnie, who took us on a private Cape Winelands tour, pointing out all the interesting facts and history of the area and introducing us to some of the local farmer’s markets, wineries, and quaint eateries.

After our chocolate tasting affair in Paarl we headed to a charming farmer’s market to pick up some delicious homemade biltong (that is South African style beef jerky) to pad our tummies. And on the way back from noshing on some biltong, a microbrewery caught our eye, Cape Brewing Company.

My travel partner and boyfriend, Adam, being the beer aficionado that he is, couldn’t resist stopping in for a tasting flight (at least we had made it to 10:30am at this point!). All the beers from the Pilsner to the Heffewiesen were brewed in the traditional German style – meaning the ingredients are pure – using only water, hops, yeast, and malt.

Standing at the bar inside the brewery itself, tasting these beers, was an absolute treat as we sipped on our frothy glasses with the tinkle of machines and glass bottles behind us as the men worked away at filling and packaging cases of beer. After finishing up our delightful beer tasting, we were off to The Spice Wine Estate for a quick wine tasting.

We tasted a delightful Pinotage and enjoyed some charcuterie in their butcher’s shop before strolling through the beautiful Red Hot Glass Studio, located on the premises. Glassmakers were busying themselves in the hot studio background while we looked at the one-of-kind creations they had for sale on the shelves. Our trip here was much too short, but we could have easily spent all day there snacking and drinking (but maybe not blowing glass after a few drinks – that we would save for another trip).

Finally, we made our way to Fairview Wine & Cheese for an incredibly paired tasting of eight Fairview wines and their very own cheeses. This part was heaven on earth for me! Beyond the old wooden hand-hewn tables we sat at, were barrels upon barrels of wine. There are two parts to the Fairview tasting room. Quick flights are taken in the front of the shop standing over old wine barrels. For the very serious and time committed, like us, you are taken to the back for an actual sitting where you are encouraged to slowly sip and nibble.

Each pairing comes with a detailed menu of what you are tasting (in addition to the sommelier walking you through each) so that you may take notes on it about your favorites and take the menu home with you. In between tastings you dip small bits of bread into Fairview’s homemade olive oil. It was truly a treat to enjoy this tasting of 100% local foods, all made right at Fairview for us to enjoy.

As if there was any room to spare in our stomachs, we headed over to Babel Restaurant (located at the gorgeous Babylonstoren Hotel) for a mind-blowing lunch and of course, more wine. If you are interested in hearing more about Babel and Babylonstoren (and I insist that you do!), you can check out my past blog post about my lunch experience here: www.hillsofafrica.com/blog/best-restaurants-in-cape-town-foodie-heaven

Below is an image of a spectacular salad I had at Babel Restaurant!

babel restaurant

One of my favorite parts of our visit to the Winelands, though, was Pam’s tour with us of the Babylonstoren gardens. She told us about the history of this old Dutch farm estate, the food culture at this incredible property, and took us through the labyrinth of their gardens where they pluck fresh vegetables daily to serve to their guests. And, if you happen to stay on property for a few nights, you are welcome to pick your own veggies from the garden and whip something up in your kitchenette. The gardens are massive and absolutely beautiful with shrub sculptures, mazes, and a small pond where guests can take out a rowboat. It was very tempting to stay, but we had to be getting on to the next thing!

Because we had other evening plans to meet up with some of our fabulous ground handlers and partners in Africa, we had to cut our Winelands day a bit short to arrive to our gathering on time. But not before taking a quick driving loop through Stellenbosch.

This old town is oozing with charm. The old buildings and homes in traditional Cape-Dutch style are peppered with local bakeries and cheese shops, not to mention coffee shops with locals, reading a book, or art galleries where you can discover a local celebrity. Stellenbosch has loads to offer and is not to be missed in a Cape Winelands tour.

As we drove back into the city, I saw the vineyard signs fading behind me in the rear view mirror; I was a little disappointed I didn’t have more time to explore all these places, but quickly I told myself that I’d be back soon enough.

If you are planning to take a trip to Cape Town, I strongly encourage you to take a private tour in Cape Winelands. Even if you don’t drink or you don’t drink wine, there is so much more that this area has to offer (remember the chocolates, cheese and olive oils?!). If you are a true foodie like me, or a wine aficionado, I strongly encourage you to consider two private days of touring the Winelands. OR just plan your return visit before you ever leave! I know you’ll want to. 😉

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