This is what bucket lists are made of. South Africa exceeds every expectation. With safari adventures, epic food and wine exploring, and jaw-dropping scenery, each experience is unexpected and beckons travelers from around the world. Many centuries and recent decades of human experience offer a blend of unique history and culture. As South Africa welcomes back visitors, I’m reminiscing about our visit in May 2019, and will hopefully inspire new adventures. Grab your glass and let’s uncover The Secrets Behind South Africa!
Visits with Famed Wine Farms
Our World Palate Tours group spent a week in Cape Town and the area near Elgin. Leader and Trusted Expert, Peter Smolarz of Willow Park Wines & Spirits introduced us to the historic grape growing roots in Constantia, and some very novel new regions, all within an easy drive. May is late fall in the Western Cape and harvest is complete; which means it is an excellent time to visit!
Day 1: South of Cape Town is Klein Constantia Estate, which was established in 1685. Most famous for its Vin de Constance, the growing conditions for the Muscat de Frontignan grapes create a delicate sweetness that has been prized by the likes of Napoleon, Otto von Bismarck, and English nobility. The estate welcomes visitors with picnic and lunch spots to enjoy the wines and scenic backdrop. After you're finished indulging, head to Boulders Bay National Park where you can visit the famous African penguin colony, and stroll along the shops that lead to a white sand beach.
Pro tip: You may be tempted to buy wines from the on-site shop, but it is much easier, and often a better value, to order from Willow Park Wines & Spirits when you return home. Just sayin’!
Day 2: Praised for its natural beauty and historic sites, the Stellenbosch's wine farms DeMorgenzon and Bellingham Estates were part of another scenic day. They are moving into growing new grape varieties and exploring techniques that make the wines worth trying, tasting, learning, and pairing with. From there we hopped on our Segway’s through the vineyard of Spier Wine Farm, followed by an instructional wine tasting with their world-respected wine making team.
Day 3: Though not open to the public, one of the newest wine farms carved out of the mountain in one of the most picturesque settings imaginable, is Capensis. Owned by the visionary team of Jackson Family Estates, their unique Chardonnay is what puts them on the map. Using grapes from two mountain vineyards create a luscious, aromatic explosion, and shows great longevity. Look for it on the shelf and try to see if the wine farm will be open for visitors in the future.
Day 4: Further afield the landscape changes to dramatic cliffs and plateaus. The higher elevation and cooler conditions at renowned Graham Beck create one of our favourite bubbles. Though, sometimes hard to find on the shelf, the wine is worth searching for. Bottled in the traditional Methode Cap Classique these beautiful wines rival those of Champagne.
Day 5: East of Cape Town the topography changes. Climb up the high plateau to the Grabouw region where we reached Idiom Estate. Local wines are served alongside the best wines in the world. The stunning architecture and art filled space is a beautiful lunch or dinner setting. Beyond Idiom Estate, you approach a rare gem that is Lothian Vineyards. The Wilson family are producing artisanal wines with a Burgundian feel. The estate is a spectacular venue for a larger group in an executive setting among wild lakes, rolling vineyards, and stunningly beautiful fields of protea and fruit tree orchards. You’ll want to exchange your South African rand for Canadian dollars because the wines of Lothian are now available in Alberta!
Highlights and Recommendations
If you are flying via Johannesburg, Maropeng is a fascinating side trip for those interested in archeology and human history. Travel 50 kilometers north of the city to what many consider to be the ‘cradle of humankind’. The limestone caves at Sterkfontein and the Rising Star Cave system are world heritage landmarks for anyone with an interest in archeology and anthropology; tracing back hundreds of thousands of years. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is also the setting for 100 beautiful bronze statues depicting the very hard-won journey to democracy in South Africa.
A must-do food lovers experience in Cape Town is the Cape Fusion Tours walking tour. Come hungry and with lots of energy for eating, walking, and overall being thoroughly enchanted. Everything from Cape Malay eats, to smokey barbeque, spicy gin, and the world-famous Truth Coffee await. Look up Cape Fusion Tours and book in advance!
In addition to a wonderful week experiencing wine, food, and hospitality in the Western Cape, the World Palate Tours travel group also experienced an amazing safari adventure with our partners at Africa360. We learned to appreciate the conservation heroes facing the challenges to save rhinos and many other animals that rely on safe and wild spaces. The national and private parks harbor vast opportunities to experience and support precious wildlife. You can learn more about their conservation safari experience at Africa360Travel.
By Linda Tamm
World Palate Tours: Wine Destination & Travel Experience