Outside GO's Guide to the Winelands
Outside GO's Guide to the Winelands
Our favorite ways to maximize your time in South Africa's vineyards
There is no other wine region in the world that compares to South Africa's winelands. The area is extensive, but the popular cities of Dutch-established Stellenbosch and French-inspired Franschhoek are within reach for a blissful day trip spent beneath towering mountains, meandering through lush vines while sipping on delicious tastings. There are numerous options for every style of traveler, but we encourage you to stay for at least two nights. Below is our extensive guide dedicated to maximizing your time in the winelands, whether you're staying for an afternoon or an entire weekend.
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WHERE TO STAY
Napa can't compare to these five-star outposts.
LE QUARTIER FRANCAIS
GO VOTED: Best Franschhoek Boutique Hotel
Tucked into secluded, blooming gardens, Le Quartier Francais is a 21-room beauty in the town of Franschhoek. It's white exterior is reminiscent of the traditional Afrikaaner architecture of the winelands, but with a French twist. Soak in the vibrance of the area with a full-on experience of culinary and cultural delight. The quaint shops of Franschhoek are a stone's-throw away and one of South Africa's best restaurants, The Tasting Room, is on site. No matter how you spend your stay, one thing's for certain. You'll be charmed day in and day out at this boutique base camp right in the middle of the Cape Winelands.
GO VOTED: Best Luxury Base Camp
Also located in the Franschhoek Valley, La Residence offers a more private lodging option with a heavy dose of luxury. The private 30-acre estate caters to only 11 suites, making it the perfect place to unwind after a day exploring the surrounding area. Walk through the vineyards and plum orchards, glass of crisp white wine in hand, before relaxing in your opulent room decorated in lavish accents. With a backdrop of splendid mountains, La Residence will have you contemplating starting your own South African estate. After all, it will be so hard to ever leave!
DELAIRE GRAFF ESTATE
GO VOTED: Best Out-of-This-World Outpost
To put it simply, Delaire Graff is in a league of its own. You'll know the moment you drive through the front entry gates as perfectly manicured gardens stream by your windows as you climb the hill to the winery and lodge. An artist's treasure-trove, everything at Delaire has been hand-picked to give you a sensation of awe. Larger than life art pieces, like regal steel cheetahs, dot the landscape, drawing your eyes from the grand architecture to the even more impressive view of Stellenbosch Valley beyond. Soak it all in with an award-winning wine and a juicy burger from the grill before relaxing poolside at your private suite, complete with infinity pool and more views beyond.
WHERE TO EAT
Our favorite food to pair with great wine.
THE TASTING ROOM
GO VOTED: Best Feast for the Senses
The executive chef at Le Quartier's premier restaurant, The Tasting Room, is famously quoted as saying "I have no signature dish, South Africa is my signature." It's fair to say that that idea has come to define Margot Janse and her eight-course culinary experience. The three and a half hour meal is a delight for the senses. You'll enjoy flavors and textures you never knew existed, and marvel as they come out on the plate looking like miniature, artful masterpieces. Because the fame of the restaurant precedes it, you'll need to book a reservation at The Tasting Room weeks if not months in advance, giving you plenty of time to work up an appetite.
DELAIRE GRAFF RESTAURANT
GO VOTED: Best Fresh, Local Cuisine
Just like the rest of the phenomenal estate described above, the Delaire Graff Restaurant emanates an artistic cool vibe. Here you'll find what the local South Africans like to call 'sunshine cuisine,' or food that harnesses the vitality and warmth of the sun. The creative bistro menu at Delaire Graff features items like citrus cured trout and braised lamb, followed by heavenly desserts like strawberry cheesecake gelato. Expect local, seasonal plates that are beautifully simple yet bursting with flavor, and expect to want to come back for more.
GO VOTED: Best Farm-to-Table Eats
With a history that dates back to 1692, Babylonstoren has evolved into one of our favorite pit-stops in the winelands. The definition of farm-to-table could have been defined based Babel at Babylonstoren. Housed in an old cow shed, Babel is a wonderful mix of Cape Dutch architecture with contemporary glass walls that makes for a simple yet edgy environment. The menu offers tasty yet often unconventional combinations, such as spicy chicken with pear or flame-grilled fish with persimmon. No matter what season you visit Babel, the offerings are seasonal and reflects a very literal "pick, clean and serve" approach. Eat beneath trees in the courtyard taking in views of the mountains beyond while you savor each and every bite.
VERGENOEGD WINE ESTATE
GO VOTED: Best Picnic Outside of Cape Town
Vergenoegd means 'satisfaction has been achieved,' and it's the perfect moniker for this charming estate in Stellenbosch. With a history that goes back six generations of the Faure family to 1820, the property is reminiscent of the unhurried life of yesteryear. Take one look at the grandiose Cape Dutch architecture and you'll sense the authenticity of the place. With a recent change in ownership, Vergenoegd has introduced a taste of the contemporary along with a modern idea–the gourmet picnic. Take your basket filled with locally sourced food and a bottle of wine into the gardens and wait for the famous Indian Runner Ducks to gaggle on by. Stormy weather? Head to the barn for an even cozier experience.
WHERE TO PLAY
There's more to do than just drink in the winelands.
GO MOUNTAIN BIKING
GO VOTED: Best Way to Stretch Your Legs
After visiting a few of the local wineries, you might be ready for an activity that doesn't involve tannins. Pick your pace; ride leisurely through the vines with a guide, or spend a day mountain biking in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve just outside of Franchhoek. If you choose the later, you'll pick up a rental at the Ride In, a historical Cape Dutch-style building with white-washed walls and sweeping archways that are home to a fabulous bike shop and café. Ride a few miles up the paved road to the reserve, and from there the Hottentots-Holland Mountains are your oyster. Recently constructed mountain bike trails zig-zag across the terrain, and dedicated riders will ascend serious altitude to reap the best rewards.
GO TO THE MARKET
GO VOTED: Best Way to Experience Culture
Weekends in Stellenbosch are a fine time for drinking wine as well as experiencing a number of vibrant and colorful local markets. Root44 Market takes place every Saturday and Sunday in town, and is a go-to stop for food, drinks, live music, and festive atmosphere. The Slow Market happens on Sunday and is the foodie's delight. Enjoy organic treats from local suppliers, shop for gems to take home, and polish it all off with a craft brew. Bringing the kids along? Check out the Biaauwklippen Family Market, where pony rides are a favorite.
GO HIKING IN THE VINES
GO VOTED: Best Afternoon Adventure
Everywhere you visit in the Cape Winelands is bound to have beautiful and immense grounds to explore. Meander through the bright vines soaking it all in, or take a more involved hike at one of many great trails in the area. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, mentioned above for mountain biking, also boasts a wonderful hike to a waterfall—the perfect reprieve from a hot African afternoon. If you prefer to stay even closer to the vines, select from a number of walks such as the six-mile Delvera Vineyard Trail, offering sweeping views of the valley below. No matter which hike you choose, rest assured it will pair nicely with a crisp pinot to follow.
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Outside GO's Guide to Winelands
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