Vale of Plenty
Words Clifford Boberts, Pics Juliette Bisset, hsmimages.co.za, gallo/gettyimages, courtesy images
You can learn to cure meat at Kleinhoekkloof, skydive, or just chew the fat with a macaw at Bird’s Paradise
It’s early morning and I’m alone on a peak overlooking the Robertson Wine Valley. Automatically, I pick out the landmarks below, lay out my mental map and retrace the past few days.
In the sea of green vineyards, farmhouses and cellars are the islands. Robertson’s church steeple rises above the trees that shroud the town where we began our tour. It’s at the tourism desk where Stacey Swanepoel handed me a three-page-long document about places to go and things to do, including on Sundays. Among them, you can learn to cure meat at Kleinhoekkloof, skydive, or simply chew the fat with a macaw at Bird’s Paradise.
I immediately schedule a time to walk Van Loveren Wine Estate’s three-hour Fish Eagle Hiking Trail, which I’m now on. My wife and I spent the morning having breakfast and browsing second-hand books at the tiny Boekeland corner store and taking the tour at the Klipdrift Distillery before setting out. The streets bustle with shoppers eager to get their business done before the town shuts down for lunch.
McGregor and Agterkliphoogte
Now, from this vantage point, it’s easy to see how busy the valley can keep you. Within a 30-minute drive from Robertson lies Montagu, the picturesque little town reached through the magnificent Cogmanskloof; Bonnievale, where a visit to the historic Myrtle Rigg Memorial Church shouldn’t be missed; the quaint village of McGregor; and Ashton. In between are quiet and alluring farm roads, majestic mountains and slow-rolling rivers, all of which make the region a favourite destination for nature lovers.
Disappearing between the arid red-coloured koppies to my left is the valley that leads towards McGregor. That way, you’ll find Tanagra Wine and Guestfarm, the small farm distillery and winery of Robert and Anette Rosenbach; the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve with its own walking trails; and Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary. We’d set out on the rarely explored Agterkliphoogte detour just over the river, towards Windfall wine farm and Sumsaré Family Wines, both of which produce wine and brandy.
The sun has been out for a few minutes already, dissipating the blanket of mist. Below me on the river, someone at Goudmyn River Chalets has launched a kayak. I’ve done the same, packing sandwiches and just letting the current pull me along. We’d been on the water just yesterday too, taking a slow cruise on the Viljoensdrift river boat and enjoying the latest vintage Chardonnay – crisp like the chill in the air – and a packed lunch from the farm deli. Claude Regester, Viljoensdrift’s tasting-room manager, mentions the farm will soon also be opening its mountain areas to cyclists and hikers who want a more adventurous experience.
I shift my gaze again towards the other side of the valley, tracking the road past Excelsior Wine Estate with its waterside restaurant, tasting room and luxury guest house, down to the base of the Langeberg. At Kranskop Wines, found on the Klaasvoogds Meander, we spent the afternoon tasting wines and talking about the hamerkops in a nearby tree. ‘The locals call them lightning birds,’ said veteran winemaker Newald Marais. ‘Legend has it if you touch the nest, your house will be struck by lightning.’
Nearby is Owl’s Rest, the lavender farm and shop; Marbrin Olive Growers, where co-owner Clive Heymans guided us through a tasting of fresh olive oil, pouring straight from the tanks; the big, sprawling Sheilam Cactus Garden and Succulent Nursery; and Mo & Rose restaurant, where dinner and the image of a spectacular full moon rising still linger in our memories.
I can’t see Bonnievale from where I am, but the charming village also lies a short way along the Breede River. We ventured there for dinner one evening, to the recently opened Filly & Vine, a cosy restaurant.
The wind has picked up as I walk on along the ridge. A solitary cloud moves by, so close I can almost touch it. A pair of crows hang in an updraft, sharing the silence. Off to my left is a series of scrubby hills, a protected natural corridor for wildlife where even leopards are found. An African fish eagle calls.
I keep track of the Van Loveren Cellar, where I started and will return for lunch at Christina’s Bistro. Across the road is the stately De Wetshof Estate, famous, in particular, for its contribution to Chardonnay in South Africa. Even from here, I can see the grand chandelier that hangs in the entrance hall through the front windows.
The trail turns back and takes me downhill, back into the vineyards. I make my way past the weir to the low water bridge and farmhouses. I hear the roosters crowing in the distance and stop briefly to look at cattle in a small camp, their pelts thick and dark. The jewel-like dew on the trellis wires has evaporated. The tasting room where I started out is still deserted. A few wine glasses from yesterday remain on the tables. Soon, however, a new wave of visitors will arrive to revel in all the valley has to offer.
Search ‘Robertson Wine Valley’ for more info on wining, dining and activities to do in this lush area.
We’d been on the river just yesterday too, taking a slow cruise on the Viljoensdrift river boat and enjoying the latest vintage Chardonnay – crisp like the chill in the air
Plan your next trip to Robertson and its surrounds with the help of the friendly Robertson Wine Valley and Tourism boards.
Robertson Wine Valley 023 626 3167, robertsonwinevalley.com
Robertson Accommodation and Tourism 023 626 4437, robertsontourism.co.za
Robertson is a favourite with wine lovers, but these destinations won’t disappoint either.
The creative kingdom of Rial Visagie was formerly known as the Ceramic Factory. Situated on a hillock overlooking vineyards, its garden is filled with miniature ceramic dinosaurs and flocks of seagulls suspended from the eaves. The works are wildly varied and sought after, and have featured in top South African decor magazines.
Clairvaux Estate, Robertson
079 898 3120, rialheim.co.za
Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm, Saturdays 8 am – 2 pm (shop from 9 am),
public holidays (shop only) 9 am – 2 pm, closed on 26–27 December
2. Springfield Estate
If you’re looking to spend an afternoon lying on a shady patch of lawn with a glass of good wine in arm’s reach, this is the place. Usually there’s gentle music spilling from the tasting room on to the lakeside deck and, when the weather’s cool, a fire blazing in its large hearth. The tree-lined entrance, creeper-covered cellar and stone buildings make this dominion of siblings Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer picture perfect.
R317 Road, Robertson
023 626 3661, springfieldestate.com
Monday to Friday 8 am – 5 pm, Saturdays 9 am – 3 pm
This large warehouse, situated on the fringe of the industrial area, is home to a coffee retailer, deli cafe and cavernous gift, decor and clothing store. It launched several years ago and Lindy Viljoen remains at its helm. The venue is particularly comforting on a weekend, when you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast with a newspaper.
2D Voortrekker Road, Robertson
023 626 6670, spacesr62.co.za
Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm, Saturdays 9 am – 2 pm
4. Saggy Stone
Rarely does the story of beer start with a baker, his brother and a hot tub. But at Saggy Stone, this is exactly how a fruit and wine farm became a microbrewery. Set in the plum orchard and built by the baker, Adrian, himself, the stone-walling effect and wooden-decked building of Saggy Stone Brewing Co blends into the environment, and offers a homely, upmarket setting that’s comfortable and relaxing. Take the kids or your pets along for a Sunday lunch that incorporates delicious beer recipes with majestic mountain views.
Amandalia Farm, Agtervinkrivier, Robertson
083 453 3526, saggystone.co.za
Friday to Monday 11 am – 4 pm
5. Mauritz se Ou Motors
Tagged on to a liquor store, the showroom does not look like much from the exterior – but it’s a classic-car lover’s dream. The 10 vehicles on display are owned by Mauritz Meiring and include a 1929 Chevrolet and 1924 Willy’s Knight. Entrance is free – just ask for the keys at the store counter.
Main Road, Bonnievale
023 616 3434
Monday to Friday 8 am – 8 pm, Saturdays 8 am – 8 pm
Source: Cape Etc