Durbanville’s tasting rooms
Within short driving distance from the city, you will find a country area of historic vineyards, charming places to eat, cosy guest houses, and a bunch of congenial, hospitable folk just waiting to reveal their world to you. If you thought that Durbanville was that mass of suburbia on the northern side of the N1, think again. Napoleon’s secretary Emmanuel de Las Cases was billeted here in 1816 and stayed with the Liesching when he wrote that he had been “removed to the very extremity of the civilised world”. In those days the area was called Tijgervallei, after the leopards (not tigers) that roamed freely here. He would be astounded should he see what changes the years have wrought.
Coming up from the Milnerton side, you will soon realise the importance of the proximity of the ocean to this wine area. In the distance, as you leave the coastal plain you will see the shimmering Atlantic, and, if the weather is clear, Robben Island. On the southern horizon, Table Mountain is clearly visible. The cooling ocean winds, as in some other coastal areas, play a vital role in keeping the vine temperatures low in the blazing summer months while the berries ripen. No wonder that nine of the estates here make superb Sauvignon Blanc, both wooded and unwooded. These are celebrated with great verve every year around September in the very popular “Season of Sauvignon Blanc” on the various farms in the region.
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Here’s where to go
Some of our very best Sauvignon Blancs come from this area, so it isn’t surprising that the winemaker at this historic estate, young Thys Louw, makes eight different spins on a theme of which he is a master. A recent trip to New Zealand where he was feted as a guru is more evidence of his expertise.
The tasting room is cosy and woody with plenty of light and a charming outside terrace. So close are the vineyards you can almost hear them growing – the whole mood is one of bucolic bliss. Six of Diemarsdal’s Sauvignon Blancs have are red star Platter’s rated and all magnificent. The Winter Ferment has been made in a revolutionary way in which the fermenting grape juice is frozen making it a knockout while the naturally fermented Wild Horseshoe is a revelation. Try the Grüner Veltliner, the only one in SA, a complex Austrian white charmer that’s refreshing and delicious. The red wines are also some of the best around and will impress you equally. Try the flagship MM Louw Cabernet Sauvignon, a worthy tribute to their forefathers that’s intense and uncompromising.
The Diemersdal’s restaurant the Farm Eatery can be found in a converted barn on the estate and serves great food at reasonable prices. If you’re looking for a Sunday lunch spot, their family-centric lunch is an event not to be missed. No dogs allowed on the estate and when you see theirs you will know why.
+27 (0) 21 976 3361
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Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery
Karin de Villiers is the owner and winemaker of this charming little place which one can almost miss if you aren’t looking for it. With its concrete wine vats that have now been fashioned into cosy tasting rooms, this boutique winery is one of the most glamorous grandmothers you are likely to meet in many a year. The walls of these vats are still stained with the colour of the red wines that they used to hold. Outside there are easy chairs and a place where kids can play under the watchful eye of their parents.
Charcuterie platters help it all along with superb homemade bread. The wines not to miss are the bubbly called Marné Brut Méthode Cap Classique, a delicious red dubbed Nicol Merlot, and the Johan Cabernet. The wines are all romantically named after family members, and the poetic labels are worth reading.
+27 (0) 60 877 2678; [email protected]
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As you drive up to the restaurant and tasting room at this magnificent estate, you pass horses and goats grazing contentedly in the meadows, flocks of geese squawking at each other and prize-winning cows munching away on the grasses that have fed them since 1912. This is the seat of the De Villiers Graaff family, part of our history for centuries. Today you’ll find gentle reminders of this Dutch heritage in the beautiful Delft plates in their superb restaurant and family paintings and photos that adorn the walls.
The tasting room overlooks the lake and the classic view of Table Mountain that people come from all over the world to see. Breathtaking is the way it is always described and rightly so. There are two kinds of tastings here, Premium (R90pp) and Flagship (R110), both come with six different tastings and are excellent. For the serious wine drinkers, try the Vintage Tasting Experience for R200 and includes the 2013 Shiraz, 2012 Rubaiyat and the 2014 Sir David Graaff First Baronet of Cape Town. If you want a platter to go with it, order this on arrival. Sitting outside on the terrace on a wind-free day drinking fabulous wines and nibbling on something delicious is a great way to spend some quality time with friends and family. Winemaker Charles Hopkins has been here right from the start and is a master at getting the best from a grape or two. The Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing and the Op die Berg Chardonnay is smooth as silk. For red wine drinkers, the Elim Shiraz is intense and spicy, and is one of the best we have – the wine’s score of 95 out of 100 in this year’s Winemag.co.za Shiraz Report confirms this.
+27 (0) 21 558 6280; [email protected]
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Meerendal Wine Estate
With views all the way to the distant mountains that lead to the interior, a visit to Meerendal Wine Estate is like stepping into another world with wide-open skies and rolling vineyards.
The tasting takes place in a spacious converted barn and is relaxing and professionally managed by a friendly team. The wines include the superb Intensio, an Amarone-style Pinotage that’s intense and darkly delicious, and the absolutely gorgeous Heritage Block Pinotage made from Durbanville’s oldest block of this varietal. Don’t miss the unwooded Chardonnay that has spent five months on the lees and is packed with citrus summer flavours.
There are three restaurants at which you can take something to assuage the hunger pangs. The fine dining at Il Tesoro is where Italian flavours meet Cape comfort food. The Crown Restaurant serves up simple and elegant food in a space that’s been stylishly decorated with modern decor, while Carlucci’s is a more casual affair for those who have a hankering for a thin-crust pizza.
+27 (0) 21 975 1655; [email protected]
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This very popular, spectacularly situated place, a kind of fortress in the skies, has views to the distant Atlantic right across the bay to Table Mountain itself. There is a great area for kids to run around and light snacks can be ordered while you do the tasting. In addition, there is a very good more formal restaurant upstairs with views to die for. The brooding cannon overlooking all this sets the mood, very impressive, as is the magnificent leopard bronze in the centre of the tasting area. These creatures still roam the hills above in very small numbers these days and are spotted at night by infrared cameras.
There are many styles of tasting to be done here, including a chocolate pairing (R95pp), cheese (R95pp) as well as a biltong and dried fruit pairing (R95pp). You can also try the crystal tasting (R70pp) which includes five wines and souvenir crystal glass. For the wine connoisseurs, there’s the Collector’s Reserve Tasting at R295pp and includes a private cellar tour, a Collector’s Reserve interactive experience, food pairing with all seven Collector’s Reserve wines and a take-home bottle of Collector’s Reserve. So choose the one that suits you and your pocket and go for it. If you’re looking to try a particular wine, I suggest one of the superb reds and the award-winning Semillon/Sauvignon blend called Tangram.
+27 (0) 21 558 1300; [email protected]