Visiting the Wine Regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

Visiting the wine region of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

Everyone tells you that no visit to the Cape Town area is complete without a visit to the wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The area is exceptionally beautiful and the quality of wine and food in the wine estates of both valleys is stupendous. But where to start? There are an approximate 160 wineries in the Stellenbosch area alone. Which ones should you visit and where should you base yourself?

 

Where to base yourself?  Stellenbosch was recommended to us by our South African friend Tony. Although Franschhoek’s location (in a gorgeous valley flanked by high gorges) is more spectacular, it is very small (essentially a 1-street town) and hotels and restaurants are more high-end, upmarket affairs (boutique hotels and 5 star restaurants).

Have a look at AccommoDirect.com for great Stellenbosch and Franschhoek accommodation deals.

Stellenbosch has more of a small town feel (it is South Africa’s 2nd oldest town) and you can walk in the 3-4 blocks of the city center enjoying restaurants, bars, as well as art galleries and museums. It’s a university town and there’s a bit more going on. So, for us, Stellenbosch was the more ideal base for a weekend*.

*Our friend Heather has a different opinion on that which I’ll cover further below in the Franschhoek section of this post.

 

vinehopper bus, stellenbosch wine tours

The best ways to explore the Wine Estates around Stellenbosch

It took us about 45 minutes to drive to Stellenbosch from Cape Town airport and find our hotel (the De Hoek Manor). First order of business: drinking some wine and having lunch.

The best way to see the different vineyards in the Stellenbosch area is with the Vine Hopper wine tour. It is basically a hop on/hop off shuttle bus that does 3 different routes in the Stellenbosch area: the Northern wineries, the Southern wineries and the Eastern wineries. On each route they stop off at 5 or 6 wineries. They pick up/drop off every hour at the different estates. If you want to drink and not have to worry about driving it is ideal.

Note: I’m not getting paid and didn’t get discounts to recommend anything in this post. All is 100% our unbiased opinion.

 

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DAY 1 – Vineyards of the Northern Route
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On this day we decided to do a tour of the wineries on the Northern Route (the 3 we cover below are some of the top ranked wineries on Trip Advisor in the Stellenbosch area)

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Simonsig Wine Estate

We chose this estate as our first stop because of the simple fact that it has a restaurant, one of the best you’ll find anywhere in the area.

Some photos:

simonsig wine estate_edited-1

Simonsig wine estate views

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Below: views on the restaurant.

Simonsig views on garden and restaurant

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Below: menu and what we ordered. I had the Springbok, Lissette the Yellowtail (the catch of the day). Both were exceptional.

eating at simonsig wine estate

The food was incredible and the wines that accompanied each course were excellent. We finished just in time for the Vine Hopper shuttle to come and pick us up.

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Delheim Wine Estate

The next stop, Delheim, also has one of the best restaurants in the area (see this link for the best restaurants in the winelands). It has beautiful grounds with the obligatory mountain views as well as a comfortable cellar for wine tasting (which is what we did here).

Photos:

delheim old tractor, stellenbosch

delheim wine estate vineyards, stellenbosch

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below: wine tasting in the cellar

delheim wine tasting

delheim wine tasting, stellenbosch

What we thought of Delheim: absolutely beautiful grounds, good wines (nothing jumped out at us as spectacular though).

 

Warwick Wine Estate

Warwick is one of the top rated wineries in the region on Trip Advisor and it is easy to see why: the grounds and the views are fantastic. You can even spread out a blanket and have a ‘gourmet’ picnic lunch (prepared by Warwick’s restaurant) on the grounds.

Photos from around the winery:

warwick views on building

warwick picnic, stellenbosch, south africa

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Below: Nelson Mandela and a London telephone booth.

warwick Nelson Mandela statue

warwick wine estate telephone booth

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Below: the main building where you can sit either inside or outside sampling wines.

warwick wine estate, main building, stellenbosch

warwick wine estate

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Below: Our friendly sommelier

warwick somellier, stellenbosch

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Below: Warwick’s vineyards.

warwick vineyards

Summary: Warwick is exceptionally beautiful and should be visited. Like Delheim, we weren’t blown away by the wines. Maybe we were drunk at this point? Or maybe we’ve just had too many exceptional bottles of wine so far in South Africa?

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That was it for Day 1 of Vineyard Visiting and Wine Drinking. We were saving the best for day 2.

 

 

DAY 2 – selected Vineyards of the Eastern Route
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On day 1, driving in the shuttle bus, I had asked the driver/tour guide a question: “If you could take your girlfriend to any vineyard in the region, which one would it be?’

He took a bit of time before answering “For the atmosphere and views, Zorgvliet or Boschendal on the Eastern Route”.

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Zorgvliet Wine Estate

Both Zorgvliet and Boschendal are on the route between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek within just a few minutes of each other. Technically Zorgvliet is considered to be in Stellenbosch and Boschendal in Franschhoek but both can be visited on the Vine Hopper’s Eastern route. But on this day we were visiting them independently in the car.

We were driving towards Franschhoek, the geography the prettiest we had seen so far, when we came upon the turn for Zorgvliet.

Photos:

zorgvliet wine estate

zorgvliet wine estate, stellenbosch

Unfortunately, despite the sign on the highway saying that the winery was open to wine tasting everything was closed. So we never got to try Zorgvliet’s wines.

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So we got back in the car and drove 5 minutes further to Boschendal

 

Boschendal Wine Estate

Boschendal would be the most impressive wine estate that we visited over the 2 days. We ended up spending most of the afternoon here eating, drinking, and enjoying the incredible scenery and grounds.

Photos:

boschendal wine tasting,stellenbosch

boschendal barbecue

boschendal views, South Africa

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Boschendal has one of the few restored Cape Dutch manors in the region. Built in 1812, the farm belonged to the de Villiers family, one of the richest Huguenot families at the time.

boschendal manor, stellenbosch, South Africa

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Below: around the grounds

boschendal flowers, south Africa

boschendal bakery

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Below: wine tasting

boschendal wine tasting

boschendal, stellenbosch

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Below: lunch and views at the restaurant

boschendal restaurant, Stellenbosch, ZA

boschendal food

boschendal flowers

In short: Boschendal was pretty much perfect. The relaxed atmosphere, the beautiful grounds and views, the food and wine (we bought a couple of bottles). They even have residences on the grounds should you want to come here for a weekend and not go anywhere else.

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Driving in the Stellenbosch/Franschhoek region

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving, first through Franschhoek and then climbing through the incredible Franschhoek Pass for great views of the valley below (see this link if interested in the views along this drive). Note that this route (indicated in red below) takes more time than a map indicates. If you want to get back to Cape Town in a rush from Franschhoek backtrack on the R310, back through Stellenbosch and to the N2.

driving Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Western Cape

 

Stellenbosch

I mentioned the small town of Stellenbosch which we used as a base. It’s a pretty sleepy place. A few photos:

around stellenbosch, South Africa

 

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Alternative: Using Franschhoek as a base for Wine Tasting

I’ve detailed why Stellenbosch makes an ideal base. I’ve also touched upon which vineyards to include on a visit and how to see them without having to drive.

Our friend Heather from Conversant Traveller did the opposite  - staying in Franschhoek and exploring vineyards closer to home. Just like Stellenbosch it has excellent wineries and some unique touring options (like train trams and trolleys). See her excellent post here.

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Travelling in Luxury in South Africa

Readers of our blog are no doubt getting sick of all the great wines and food we’re having in South Africa. Probably thinking “that BBqboy is getting so damn bourgeois I’d like to punch him in that face“. I’ll say this: I haven’t seen the kind of quality, value and service when it comes to eating that we’ve seen in South Africa anywhere else. You don’t have to look hard or pay a lot. The meal at the top, with Springbok and Yellowtail along with accompanying wine? 350 Rand, that’s about $35 CAD (or about $24 US) for 2 people. Wine tasting, which usually includes 5 or 6 wines: from 35 to 50 Rand ($2.30 US – $3.30 US) per person. Service is impeccable. Really, we’ve never been anywhere where we’ve eaten or drunk so well at such good value.

So for those complaining that we’re becoming a snooty luxury blog: don’t worry, we’ll be back in Eastern Europe eating crappy fried cheese and goulash sooner than we like :( .

 

 

 If you’ve been in the region – do you have a favorite Winery? 

If you haven’t been to South Africa – are you surprised by the above? We are. We haven’t travelled this luxuriously anywhere else. 

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Looking for accommodations in this region?
Have a look at AccommoDirect.com for great Stellenbosch and Franschhoek accommodation deals.

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Comments

  1. What a stupendous post Frank ! The perfect guide to the most important wine regions … with so many of your (as usual) perfect photos ! Great stuff. We’re so glad you enjoyed the area , its wines and food – all which make it one of the ‘foody’ centres of S Africa. Yeah, its always a toss-up whether to base yourself in S’bosch or F’hoek ..but in reality it just means making another visit and switching things around… By the way did you visit the Huguenot Museum in Franschoek (right at the end of their one downtown street…) ? And what did Lissette think about the house interiors with their stinkwood and yellowood furniture ? I think she had a weakness for old homes, architecture and decors ? Your post put us right there – and made us really jealous – and homesick ! I wouldn’t worry about readers getting too ‘bored’ with the blog – everyone loves beautiful places, good wine and great food . And don’t conern yourself about getting too elite or bourgeois…if enjoying and appreciating good food and wines (which you both have always done anyway) is ‘bourgeois, then so be it …I say just go for it, Man ..

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you so much Tony – I didn’t think the photos did it justice but glad you like.
      No, we didn’t visit the Huguenot museum. We spent too much time in Boschendal and then got lost a few times finding that route through the mountains. Brought the car back in Cape Town with 10 minutes to spare..
      We stayed at the de Hoek Manor in Stellenbosch and it was beautiful and you’re right – Lissette loves that old stuff.
      Yes, we’ll just have to go there again one day and maybe stay in Franschhoek next time :)

  2. De Hoek Manor looks pretty snazzy … maybe you is becoming bourgeois after all ? (-: Ha ! Yes, photos are terrific for taking people, things – and to give a good idea or impression of landscapes – but for the latter they just can’t capture the scale, depth, natural and overall beauty of the scene – the whole dimension of things – but you did a bl—dy good job of it nevertheless ! A really terrific post. .

  3. Sorry, forgot to mention that Boschndal has one of the very few, very good – I think the best – rosé wines in South Africa, where Rosé wines are usually rather sweet and fruity . The dry, light Provençal type rosé wines in South Africa are called “Blanc de Noir” (not rosé) and they are really worth trying out especially at lunch time on a hot sunny day… especially Boschendal’s Blanc de Noir. Cheers and Tchin-Tchin !

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Tony. We actually did have a nice rose at the wine tasting…as well as the sparkling wine (which you see in the photo and which we bought a couple of bottles of)
      Such a nice spot and you just don’t want to leave…

  4. Can we still punch you in the face anyway just because you are having great varieties of wine and we’re totally envious? ;-) . These all look great and l think you can’t go wrong no matter what base you choose. I also like the idea of the hop on hop off wine. How lovely to just sit back and enjoy. The food looks amazing. You certainly can’t beat the prices. I love that image of the bike with the bakery. I’m beginning to understand why my sister and her friends make frequent trips to S.A :-). It’s not just to visit her husband! Merry Christmas to you and Spanky!
    Kemkem recently posted…Christmas in Seville, Spain – a night stroll.My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Spanky says you can punch me in the face anytime you want. Just get in line, she’ll be holding me down for anyone who wants.

      Yes, we’ll be sad to leave and unless something unexpected happens (ie. we die) we expect to be back soon.

      Merry Christmas to you and Federico Kemkem!

  5. No desire to punch you in the face but I’m extremely envious. Those places look fabulous as does the food. Did you guys rent a car?
    Travels and Tipples recently posted…The Most Wonderful Time Of The YearMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Patricia – yes we did. Not usually our thing but SA one of those places where you need a car to see everything.

  6. Frank, due to a lot of job I have not been able to read your last posts but I will, they look great with beautiful photographs as always.

    You and Spanky have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year, continue your excellent work.

    Carlos and Family

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you so much Carlos, very nice of you. All the best to you and your family, hope you enjoy the Holidays and I wish you all the best for 2016 :)

      So you went to Eastern/Central Europe last summer. Where are you planning to go next?

      • on 1916 we will be repeating Italy From Rome to the North, we are traveling with another couple (first time for them) that Italy has been their long time dream, the usual, Rome, Florence. Venice, but this time we will be visiting for the first time Pisa and Cinque Terre, my wife and I had been to Verona but we will repeat this because it is a beautiful region and because of our friends too, we are not going to stay in Verona per se, we are going to Gargagnago (10 minute from Verona), region of Valpolicella to the Azienda Vinicola Monteleone, this belongs to our Colombian friend Lucia Raimondi and she converted the house (from the 1700) of the azienda in a B&B and you have the landscape, the vineyards, the Monteleone (Valpolicella) wine, the personalized service from our friend and staff and the Lago de Garda very close with beautiful medieval towns around the lake like Sirmione, I recommend you to visit that region and if possible stay at the Monteleone’s B&B, after this we will go also for the first time to Munich and from there to Madrid to take the plane home. I will keep you posted.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Hi Carlos,
          Sounds like a wonderful trip and we WILL look into the B&B you mention if ever in the Verona area – always nice meeting Latinos, especially Colombians (we have quite a lot in Montreal and I’ve always found them very friendly).
          If I have one recommendation: make sure to see Siena and just do a little side trip to Pisa. Siena is fantastic…whereas Pisa doesn’t really have much and has a huge concentration of tourists in a very small area (we weren’t crazy about Pisa, just found it overrated). We’ve been to Florence, Venice and Cinque Terra (we stayed in Vernazza) and all are beautiful. Nice to know about Verona because we’ve never been but have had one other person also tell us that it’s nice…so if you like it enough to go back then we’ll make sure to also check it out someday.

          • Of course we are doing Siena and San Gimignano (for the third time) and we are staying in Pisa only a couple hours to continue to Cinque Terre, we have never been in Pisa because as you do, I think that it does not offer enough to pay a visit. Happy New Year.

  7. Good food, wine, beautiful scenery and sunshine…what else do you need? Sounds like paradise to me. I loved all your pictures, thanks for a great post.
    Gilda Baxter recently posted…Iceland – The Ring Road In a Camper Van – Part 2My Profile

  8. Okay, Frank, you know us :-). You’ve sold us on Franschhoek :-). We’d love to visit this area of South Africa – hope it happens for us… In the meantime, have fun sipping those fabulous South African wines! (We were turned onto Pinotage when in South Africa a couple of years ago – a luscious red…)
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Jimbaran Beach one of Bali’s best beaches – and it has SundaraMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We love Pinotage – the best we’ve found to date was the Groot Constantia 2013 Pinotage that we bought on their estate (Groot Constantia worth visiting in case you can’t make it to Stellenbosch/Franschhoek).

  9. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but it looks like a fun-enjoyable day. The food looks scrumptious!
    Paula recently posted…As The Clash Sang, ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’My Profile

  10. When I was in South Africa a year ago, I went on a day tour from Cape Town that took us to five different wineries. My favourite one was Fairview in Paarl. The winery has gorgeous views of the mountains and on top of being a winery it is also a goat farm from which they make delicious cheeses! I did a wine and cheese tasting and it was lovely (every wine and every cheese was great). They also have a restaurant which looked quite pretty, but as it was our first stop of the day (and 10am) it was too early for lunch… The cheese though!
    Claus Gurumeta recently posted…Happy New Year 2016My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Sounds nice! Paarl is just next door but we didn’t have a chance to explore…just so many wineries in the area. But maybe we’ll be back one day and will check out Fairview if we do.

  11. Man you’re making me thirsty! I love the winelands in SA, don’t think I’ve ever felt more relaxed on a trip than when we’ve been here, lends itself very nicely to a slower pace of life doesn’t it. Although you know we love Franschhoek (thanks for linking up!) I’m open to being persuaded that Stellenbosch is just as good. Delheim was the very first wine estate we visited many years ago, such a special atmosphere in that cellar, but now we’ve been to several others it perhaps isn’t quite so special. And I have to ask, what’s with Warwick nicking our phone and post boxes???? Seeing a phone box like that here in the UK is actually quite rare these days since everyone has mobiles now, so very bizarre seeing them abroad.
    Heather Cole recently posted…5 reasons to fall in love with TrastevereMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I have no idea Heather but figured I’d have a direct line to frigin British Airways to give them shit about the crap they put us through on our return flight. No luck, there’s no telephone inside the booth, just a hanging wire…So I’m still pissed off about f*cking British Airways. Oh well, be spending our money in Bucharest instead of London which is fine as the beer much cheaper.
      See? You started me on a rant.
      We’ll miss South Africa, very special place. We hope to come back next winter.

  12. looks like youve been doing it tough!
    Andrew recently posted…Seven on Sunday – Travel Moments of 2015My Profile

  13. Looking amazing! So jealous about this! Good for you. Drink and eat as much as you can. Views are stunning especially those mountains on the back. Like little fairytale.

  14. Wine regions are good fun. Hard to beat Adelaide for that. Access to Mclaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Clare Valley. Barossa receives the hype but Mclaren Vale is outstanding.

  15. I am planning on my first visit to SA, and reading this article is getting me more excited. You have to love 5 star meals at half the price!!

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated!

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