Just an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town lies a valley rich in grapes, olives, fruit and dairy farms. It is from these of nature’s bounties that wines, brandies, rich tapenades, sweet jams and creamy cheeses are created and just a few of the many reasons to visit the area. Take a day or two, or a few, to explore the scenic beauty right on your doorstep. Breath in the rejuvenating country fresh air, meet the people behind the product, support the local community and have fun!
There is so much to do and see, but here are eight places that I particularly enjoy:
1. Cheese, wine and picnics at Montagne Deli, Bonnievale
This working farm at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains lies on the R60 between Ashton and Swellendam. Spend an hour or two at the quaint deli and relax over a platter of La Mont cheeses with a glass of Van Loveren wine. Cheeses include Danish Feta’s, Pecorino, Halloumi, Gruyere, Montaan, as well as Camembert, Brie, Blue Rock, Cheddar and Parmesan. Stock up on cheese to take home and try out one of these delicious cheese recipes. If you fancy a more substantial meal, try their pizzas, burgers and wraps. You can also go mountain biking and hiking, or enjoy a picnic by a waterfall. Tel 023-615-1929, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.montagnedeli.co.za.
2. Blend your own wine at Excelsior Wine Estate, Robertson
Excelsior exports their wines to over 20 countries and for a mere R50 you can enjoy a wine tasting and have fun blending your own wine. An expert is on hand to help you decide on your blend and after filling the bottle you get to cork it and label it. On top of all that the tasting room has a deck right on a dam. A great day out for a birthday party! They also do Wine Walks with a guide who will take you for an amble through the vineyards, orchards and the local veld. Better still, book a suite in the farmhouse and stay for the weekend where you can relax, blend your own wine, go for walks and enjoy meals in the dining room or out on the deck. Tel 023-615-1980, email email@example.com, www.excelsior.co.za.
3. Pair chocolate and wine at Rosendal Winery & Wellness Retreat, Robertson
Have a glass of wine and nibble on squares of Lindt chocolate at this luxury wine farm that was established in 1805. With its classic Cape Dutch style architecture, rolling lawns and rim flow pool, it’s the perfect spot to unwind from a busy week. They also serve lunches and dinners in the restaurant overlooking the vineyards. If you want to stay a little longer, book into their elegant guesthouse and indulge in a spa treatment. They have package deals available which include accommodation, meals and spa treatments. Tel 023-626-1570, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rosendalwinery.co.za.
4. Have a pit stop at Bodega @ Rooiberg, Robertson
Next time you are travelling back to Cape Town from Robertson, look out for a sign that says “I will stop at Rooiberg, I will stop at Rooiberg “ (repeated many times). Listen to the sign and stop in to enjoy a meal at this little restaurant and deli that smells of roasted coffee and freshly baked bread. I can personally recommend the chicken pie! Have a wine-tasting, browse through the farmstall and take home a sweet potato loaf or some cheese and marmite scones for tea. Tel 023-626-1243, email email@example.com, www.rooiberg.co.za.
5. Go on a brandy tour at Klipdrift Distillery, Robertson
Do you know why there is a clock on every Klipdrift bottle? It was at exactly two minutes past eight that JP Marais distilled his first brandy in 1938. More than 70 years later Klipdrift brandies are still made according to his original specifications. Make yourself at home at this distillery where you can take an informative tour with tastings. There is also a bar (of course!) and a restaurant serving homemade meals with a Klipdrift twist. Be sure to pick up a handy brochure with marinade recipes and braai sauces using Klippies – perfect for your next get together over a fire. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy inexpensive and novel gifts for your brandy-loving friends (and yourself). Tel 023-626-3027, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.klipdrift.co.za.
6. Buy local produce and have tea at Rhebokskraal Farm Stall, McGregor
You cannot miss this farmstall on the main drag with its stripy green roof and brightly painted wagon outside. The van der Colff family firmly believe in supporting local farmers, so you’ll find plenty of jams, chutneys and pickles made with produce from the valley. Olives are their speciality and Rhebokskraal Estate often has olive tastings here. The restaurant side serves up slow meals all day (from 08h00 to 17h00) so pop in for a country-style breakfast, a lazy lunch or afternoon tea. I haven’t tried it yet, but apparently you need a big mouth for the Carnivore Burger! Out the back there is a tea garden where you can bask in the sunshine while the kids play. Dogs are welcome too. Note – they prefer you to book if possible. Tel 023-625-1787, email email@example.com, www.rhebokskraalolives.co.za.
7. Enjoy cosy dining at Karoux Restaurant, McGregor
A dinner date with Karoux Restaurant is a must when in McGregor. Walk through the archways into this cosy, candlelit restaurant and be greeted with big smiles from Kurt and André Middleton-Le Roux as they usher you to a table. There is a chalkboard menu that changes daily and they will happily take you through the menu with much flair and gusto. Expect yummy dishes like Duck Springrolls with Asian Salad (trust me on this one), Springbok Pie, Lamb Shank, Brandy Pork Fillet (another favourite of mine) as well as prawn dishes, risotto and pastas. Their Amarula Crème brûlée is divine too! Apart from the delicious food and fun-loving hosts, I love the quirky decor and antique sideboards that take me back to the farm kitchen from my childhood. Tel 023-625-1421, www.karoux.co.za.
8. Take time out at Temenos Retreat Centre, McGregor
Time seems to stand still at this retreat and a sense of calm settles over you while exploring the beautiful gardens with ponds, angels, Buddha’s, temples and mazes. My favourite pastime here is to sit on a bench and watch the ducks glide lazily along the water without a care in the world. Light a candle in a temple or chapel or take a vow of silence (if you wish) and simply be. The thatched cottages are gorgeous. They are also private and fully equipped for escaping the world. If you aren’t feeling so reclusive, enjoy a meal in Café Tebaldi or take a yoga class. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and nurtured. Tel 023-625-1871, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.temenos.org.za.
Find even more things to do in when the area comes alive during the Robertson Slow Festival.
Buy local produce and support the community
Local is indeed lekker and by purchasing locally made products you are not only supporting the community, you are lessening the load on global warming. Look out for these products on shelves along the way. They make yummy gifts too!
Church Street Jams and Roscherr’s
From humble beginnings in a restaurant kitchen, this family-run factory in Montagu uses fruit from the area to create delicious jams and preserves using recipes that that have been handed down through the generations. No preservatives, flavourings or colourants are used and the process is environmentally friendly. Church Street Jams taste just like the jams, preserves and jellies your granny used to make, full of real fruit (60 per cent) and real sugar. Roscherr’s is a range of tasty conserves, preserves and savoury jams (the Roasted Garlic & Onion Marmalade won’t last long in your house!) All the fruit comes from the area (except for cranberries which come from the USA). They produce 4 000 to 8 000 bottles a day and put approximately R80 000 back into the community in 2011. Find out more at www.churchstreet.co.za and www.roscherrs.co.za.
Montagu nuts and dried fruit
This factory produces over 500kgs of nuts a day. Pears, apples, peaches and apricots sourced from local farmers are dried in the sun for approximately five days. Everything here is done by hand and gives employment to people from the area. Much of the end product is exported to Australia, New Zealand, USA, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. They know a good thing and we have it here right on our doorstep! If you are in Montagu pop into the factory shop where you will be overwhelmed at the choice. While you are there you can buy local wines in the Wine Boutique, have a meal in the bistro, or take a tractor tour of the fruit fields. Find out more at www.montagudriedfruit.co.za.
Passionate about Pesto
Rachelle Anderson uses fresh herbs to make the most delicious pestos that wil transform your meals. Chicken breasts taste so good with Zesty Coriander & Avo Pesto and the Gusto Churri makes a good accompaniment to steak. Drizzle baby potatoes with Crispy Basil Pesto and serve biscuits with the Basil, Coriander & Mascarpone Trio. Or simply transform a simple pasta into a yummy, flavoursome and healthy meal. You’ll find Rachelle’s pestos at various markets in the Cape, or you can order them online. Find out more at www.passionateaboutpesto.co.za.
On the Rhebokskraal Estate in McGregor the van der Colff family produce olive products that are 100 per cent organic and naturally produced. Taste their products at Rhebokskraal Farm Stall. I can guarantee you will leave with chutneys, olive salts and pâtés. I did and I am not even particularly fond of olives. I recommend you join them for an Olive Tour on the farm if you are in the area. I found the tour fascinating and learnt all sorts of interesting things! For example, did you know that olive leaf extract is a natural antibiotic (excellent for colds and boosting the immune system) and that the brine drained off soaked olives is used overseas as a floor wash in hospitals? The farmhouse is a National Monument and they also have two cute little cottages that are perfect for a quiet weekend away. Find out more at www.rhebokskraalolives.co.za.