Experiencing the Cape Winelands with Cape Safaris
I wanted the real deal. The sensation of traveling like a local. Finding some hidden winery where all the romance of travel and fine wine blended into a glorious artwork that we would never forget. I guess I was lucky, as many set out traveling into the world with this desire that is so very difficult to put into words, and I found it.
I was traveling internationally for the first time with my fiancée. Between gauging her expectations and my own it would be fair to say I felt just a little bit of pressure to make this dream journey come alive and deliver. The masterstroke of the entire trip is that I found a travel partner who actually lived and operated in the area – that called the Cape Winelands home – I found Cape Safaris.
Spoiler alert: I can imagine no better place to enjoy fine wines in style than the Cape Winelands. We simply loved it. Being in the beautiful vineyard valleys experiencing wine from where it was so carefully made in late afternoon light that was preparing for a gorgeous sunset over the towering blue colored mountains is as close to perfection as one may imagine. With hundreds of award-winning cellars within minimal travel distances of one another in the most picturesque landscape it was love at first sight with the nirvana of global wine countries.
|From left to right: Cheers! Our first Cape Winelands tasting, pairing with lovely cheese and shopping for our favorites to take home.|
We undertook the experience with our personal guide who grew up here calling this world-renowned destination home for many years. Justifiably it is impossible to determine which cellar, or vintage, is the best of the best – we would later discover just why – our guide had a few personal favorites and hidden spots we simply had to go to. Each destination had a detailed story of why a particular fond memory was formed there. With an insider’s expert knowledge, we sought to write our own stories and in doing so reserve some magical places in our hearts forever. Unanimously, it is agreed that there is no reason to skip any of the tastings and – given infinite time – one should simply sample every single one.
Wine is more than wine in the Cape Winelands. It’s an experience. It’s about where you enjoy it – how you enjoy it – and with whom you enjoy it. An awe-inspiring destination, in the most stylish yet relaxed manner with my future wife means tastes are remembered for years to come. It would be untrue to say I knew exactly where we were on the map every day – after all we had a personal guide for that. I most certainly could not dream to locate every single place or vineyard we visited again. However, a few particular experiences stand out in fine detail.
At many cellars you are treated to a wine tour that shows you their particular preferences for the vine to wine process. Some even let your try and make a blend yourself!
Wine pairs well with good people. It also pairs well with cheese. But what about chocolate? On an oak shaded winding road on the very first day we found ourselves in a magnificent, spacious and peaceful wine estate. Alternating rows of olive and oak trees disguised this destination from the road – but once inside it was as if we had stumbled into a wine tour Narnia (for lack of better description). After the long flight I was eager to stretch my legs – no problem – clearly marked directions took us on a leisurely stroll through farmland, vineyards, orchards, countryside and an organic self-sustaining garden. I was told the more adventurous (fit) can tackle longer trails on mountain bikes here too. It seemed you could lock the gates and live here for eternity. A freshwater stream nourishes vineyards, gardens and livestock meant the outside world was a non-essential. Our walk allowed the clock to pass onto 10am. Surely too early for a wine tasting? Apparently not. Seated at a shaded private table we were treated to a champagne tasting and breakfast like royalty. The sensation of that fine food and wine in such a setting is near impossible to put into words. However, to say on the very first morning that the long trip was already worth it is about the finest compliment to give. Later at the same cellar we had our first chocolate and wine pairing. Resistance was futile – our love affair with the Cape Winelands was official. The intricate flavors carefully and expertly paired left us amazed at the complexity of the art which we were enjoying. Needless to say, we purchased every single combination at the cellar store to try again.
It was impossible to hide the impression the breathtaking views had on us. We sat unrushed and undisturbed at every vineyard and cellar as if it were our own – as if we lived here and could return any day despite being treated superbly as once-in-a-lifetime visitors. All the staff we encountered sure knew how to feel comfortable yet special all at once. Our guide picked up on our affinity for beautiful landscapes and chose a destination on day three that must be the most picturesque place I have ever uncorked a bottle. Up a gentle pass we went to the top of a valley that offered panoramic views of Stellenbosch wine country. The destination could have been sold on the view alone – but the wine certainly came to the party in equal style. I will certainly remember that day for the best-looking glass of wine I have ever had.
The final memory I wish to share is about wine tasting on the veranda of our elegant cottage in Franschhoek. Going in blind we left everything to Cape Safaris including our accommodation. The Dutch styled private housing we were treated to within a peaceful vineyard that produces its own award-winning vintages comfortably and quickly became my favorite home away from home. As if it were an everyday delight, I recall selecting some local cultivars from the cellar after a relaxed afternoon, for our enjoyment in privacy as the sun set over the Franschhoek valley. The sights and tastes were enough to make me pencil in a return date with my bride to be then and there.
These were the regular kind of views we enjoyed with each other – our guide did a great job in getting us there to enjoy each one at a leisurely pace with some fine vintages.
Being a young wine lover, I was very fortunate to have found and traveled with Cape Safaris. I was a bit nervous that my chosen passion for really special wine may come across as fussy or odd. However, I found myself in great company with Cape Safaris as my travel partner with their team that embraced and shared in my love for the finer vintages and all that goes with this in the nirvana of wine country– the Cape Winelands in South Africa. From the onset of planning this trip I knew a local agency was non-negotiable. I needed someone who actually lived in and around the Winelands and who, preferentially, was a fellow wine lover. By simply following this logical rule of thumb, my fiancée and I had the time of our lives.
I like to think good people enjoy good wine. I was right.