The more I visit small towns, the more I learn to appreciate them and their charms. The people are always friendly, the air seems fresher and the atmosphere is always peaceful and relaxing. Getting away from the bustle of a busy city always does me a wonder of good. On my most recent foray out of the busyness of Cape Town life, I stayed in the Langeberg Valley.
The further we drove from the city the more relaxed I became. But the Langeberg Valley is not just home to five great towns (Montagu, Robertson, Ashton, Bonnievale and McGregor), the valley is also well known for its wine route. Although not spoken about as often as Stellenbosch and Franschoek, the farms in the area produce magnificent wines. If you haven’t yet headed out in that direction, consider this article a sign that you should make your way there. And with the December holidays fast approaching what better way to celebrate the year by raising a glass in the valley situated one and a half hours out of Cape Town.
Esona Boutique Wine Estates
Nestled between Robertson and Bonnievale, Esona Boutique Wine Estate overlooks the Breede River. Gazing out from the veranda you’re treated to the magnificent views surrounding the boutique winery. In the forefront are rows of the green vines, while the Langeberg mountains are proudly on display in the background. Esona means ‘the very one’ in Xhosa. The boutique winery is run by husband and wife, Rowan and Carol, who, along with cultivating their vineyards, cultivate the talent in their employees by sending them for extensive training in order for them to improve their position on the farm.
The winery itself has a stylish and rustic interior. Thanks to the fireplaces Esona is great place to visit whether it’s summer or winter. While you can sample their delectable platters and lovely selection of wines upstairs, a trip to Esona is not complete without the Kuips (the underground cellar) experience. Here you can do a vertical wine pairing. The quiet and intimate space is candlelit – great for a romantic outing or for a group of friends wanting to get to know wine better.
During the ‘Taste The Difference’ wine pairing, two different vintages of three different wines are served in Riedel glasses. The idea is to taste the difference between the two vintages and how the chocolate or fruit it’s paired with alters the taste of the wine. Prepare for an explosion of flavour in your mouth. Each cultivar is served in a specifically designed Riedel glass. At some point you’ll taste the difference between wine served in this glass versus a plain wine glass, which shows how the Riedel glass brings out the flavour of each wine.
It’s a wine that we’re all familiar with. As a result of its affordability, many would have stumbled upon the Four Cousins brand when they first started drinking wine in University. But cousins Phillip, Bussell, Hennie and Neil have extended the brand in recent years. The recent remodel of the building offers guests a truly modern experience. Glass walls allows you to take in the outside views, including the courtyard which is lined with beautiful flowers and trees.
Inside, choose between a variety of tastings. Whether you’re a wine lover, beer drinker, gin expert or whisky connoisseur – there is something for everyone. The variety of tastings makes Four Cousins the perfect place for groups with varying tastes. Each drink is paired with a treat (chocolate, biscuit, nougat, to name just a few) that enhances its flavour.
Once you’re done with the tasting, head over to their restaurant for lunch or supper. The extensive menu makes it suitable for all kinds of palates, and will leave everyone satisfied.
PAUL RENÉ MCC
If you enjoy the finer things in life, PAUL RENÉ MCC is definitely a stop you should add to your itinerary. The boutique bubbly producer is family run, with Henk van Niekerk running the farm and producing the bubbly, while his wife, Monica is the creative genius behind the brand’s label and design.
The bubbly is produced from grapes grown on Monica’s family farm, Wonderfontein Wine Estate. A Brut and Brut Rose is produced every year. The Brut is made from 100% chardonnay grapes handpicked in the early morning, while the Brut Rose combines chardonnay (25%) with Pinot Noir (75%). Tastings are done by appointment only, but it’s one appointment you won’t want to miss.
Sip their bubbly on their rolling green lawns as Henk takes you through their winemaking process. The spectacular views of the Langeberg Mountains make the experience even more refreshing. Paul Rene’s MCC is best served ice cold.
Don’t Miss: Their annual Splash of Pink festival is coming up on 9 November. It’s an elegant event that allows you to indulge in their handcrafted Brut and Brut Rosé, share a picnic on their lawns and engage in other activities. Book your ticket here.
Winemaker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen is passionate about her work. Her energy comes through as she takes you through Lozärn’s history, but you can also taste it in the exceptionally crafted wines she produces. Lozärn is situated on Doornbosch Farm in Bonnievale and prides itself on mastering wine through science, and it’s perhaps this approach that makes their wine stand out above the rest.
Lozärn is famous for its Carménère – a Chilean varietal that Salome first tasted in 2012. The winemaker fell in love at first sip. Now seven years later Lozarn dominates the market for this tasteful varietal.
The wine farm does tastings for small, private groups so be sure to book a spot before you head out to the valley. It’s well worth it for anyone who considers themselves a lover of wine. During the tasting, Salóme shares the farm’s history, and takes you through the other wines produced on the farm, including Kay’s Legacy (named after the family matriarch) and their 2016 Shiraz. Salóme also takes you on a quick tour of the vineyards where you’re able to see how the grapes grow.
Zandvliet Wine Estate
These days you don’t need to be a winemaker to bottle your own wine. At the home of Shiraz in South Africa ie Zandvliet Wine Estate you can partake in a similar process. While not as technical, the process is just as fun. Take a tour of the underground Muscat tanks before heading to the cellar to blend and bottle your own wine. Blend your own mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre in a test tube before mixing it in a bottle. Finish off the experience by sealing your bottle with wax and then sticking on a label. The experience costs R150 per person and takes 45 minutes.
Savour more of Zandvliet’s exceptional wine in their Kalkveld Lounge. The intricately designed tasting room was crafted using many recycled materials from the farm. Upcycled wine bottles have been joined together to form an eight metre long chandelier. Here you can taste seven of their wines. Bonus: Buy one of their bottles and the tasting fee is wavered.
Take in the picturesque views of the Langeberg Mountains as you participate in the bottling experience at Exelsior Wine Estate. Set at the water’s edge of the farm’s dam, Excelsior’s tasting room offers breathtaking views. Take a moment to breathe deeply while enjoying the site of the vast expanse of water surrounded by mountains. It’s a sight you won’t get anywhere close to the city.
Choose one of Excelsior’s three phenomenal ranges to taste before bottling your own creation. The blending experience costs R75 per person. The luscious green lawns of the farm make Excelsior a wonderful place to take your family. Your kids can play on the jungle gym, in the sandpit or even feed the horses while you sip some wine. Head over to Graze @ Excelsior, the onsite restaurant, when you begin to feel peckish. You won’t be disappointed.
In the heart of the Robertson Wine Valley is this gem of a restaurant. Stationed at Mo & Rose, Chef Werner Snoek has done an incredible job to curate a dining experience filled with great ambiance and an intimate feel. The attention to detail of each meal is remarkable with each plate resembling a work of art. Aside from the food’s aesthetics, the way Chef Werner Snoek combines texture and taste makes each meal a sensational tasting experience. If you visit Restaurant Succulent for breakfast or lunch, you’ll be able to take in the sights of the beautiful garden which surrounds the restaurant. The garden itself is filled with various cacti and other succulent plants. Take a walk through the oasis of calm when you’ve finished your meal. Around each corner is a new plant waiting to be discovered.
When I visited Restaurant Succulent, my meals were paired with wine from Bushmanspad Wine Estate. The wine estate, based in Bonnievale, produces extraordinary wines, my favourites of which were their Malbec Rose and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine Valley Safari
If you’re planning on indulging in a good amount of wine during your stay, consider booking yourself aboard the Wine Valley Safari. The company offers tours which take place around the Langeberg Valley, stopping at various farms where you can drink and sample their offerings without worrying about driving home later. Take in the sights around you while you drive. And while you’re at it, book yourself into the accommodation below.
Montagu Country Hotel
Relax in style at the Montagu Country Hotel. Choose between a Victorian or an Art Deco styled room. Décor for the Art Deco styled rooms are carefully curated for guests pleasure. During the year, the hotel also exhibits artwork along its passages. It’s an incredible way for guests to become familiar with local artwork. For those who’ve selected a Victorian styled room, a short walk through the hotel’s overflowing green gardens will take you there.
The hotel has two pools for guests to make use of. While you’re at it, book yourself an appointment at its Wellness Centre. At the centre you can enjoy a soak in their mineral jacuzzi before or after a massage or other treatment. Alternatively, opt for a ride in one of the hotel’s classic vintage cars. Explore the town and visit one of the surrounding wine farms while you’re at it. But if you prefer to use your own feet, the hotel is centrally located. You can take a walk to the market that happens on Saturdays or visit one of the restaurants in the town. Keep an eye out for the cat crossing sign on the main street in Montagu – the only one in South Africa.
Opt to dine at the hotel’s exquisite dining room. Here you’ll enjoy delectable food, while listening to the melodious tunes played by the pianist. Next to the dining room is the hotel’s bar where you can consume a night cap before turning in for the night.
The hospitable staff make an already amazing even more pleasurable. With his friendly smile, and abundance of knowledge, hotel manager, PJ. Basson does the most to make guests feel right at home.
While theLAB series of guesthouses gets its name and brand from a Labrador, the acronym also stands for LivinAfrica Box. Placed in the heart of each of its rooms, the box controls a variety of functions. Ask Echo to make your morning cup of coffee before your feet touches the ground or have it switch off the lights as you settle in for the night. The fully automated rooms are not only something out of a black mirror episode, but allow you to take full advantage of the comforts provided by the guest house without leaving your bed.
Of course, once you’re ready to trade in your slippers and robe (provided by the hotel) for your own casual attire, there are many other comforts waiting to be explored. Each room has it’s own patio, where guests can enjoy their morning coffee or a night cap from the bar or your own personal fridge. Both the bar and fridge have an honesty policy, choose your drink and leave the money behind. Drink in the majestic sights as you sip on your drink of choice. Once you move beyond your patio, choose between going for a swim in their heated pool or have a massage at their Wellness Centre.
theLAB guesthouse in Robertson used to be Rosendal Winery. Although the estate is now home to this magnificent guesthouse, you can still taste the winery’s offerings. One of the activities on offer is a wine tasting in the cellar, where you can still sample Rosendal Wines.
Make Robertson your oyster when you head out one of theLAB’s e-scooters. It’ll give you a chance to explore the neighbouring farms and grab a bite while you’re at it (Restaurant Succulent is just around the corner). By the time you’re ready to leave theLAB you’ll be begging Echo to book your next visit.