When you think of wine in the Western Cape, chances are you probably imagine the rolling hills of Durbanville, the pine-scattered slopes of Constantia or the majestic vineyards of Stellenbosch. Think of the Garden Route and you’re probably picturing thick forests, waterfalls, lagoons and beaches with seas you can actually swim in. But the Garden Route is just as fantastic a wine destination as the Mother City and its surrounds – you just have to search harder. Here are a few places to stop off along the South coast if wine is high up on your agenda:
Not far off the N2, about 10 km from Plett itself, lies Newstead Wines. You’re guided up its gravel road to the cellar through a corridor of vineyards, giving this estate an instantly different feel to the winelands closer to home. Its whitewashed buildings give way to the sleek modern interior of the tasting room, which leads onto an alfresco restaurant. The manicured lawns and quiet vibe give it a weirdly English country garden feel – but without being twee or pompous.
MCC is what they’re known for, but they also produce a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the most intriguing Pinot Noir you’ll probably ever taste in the Cape. The styles of their white wines are quite different from the chardies and sauvignons you’ll taste in Stellies or Durbanville – lighter and more elegant (perhaps my palate was being influenced by the décor). I walked away with their Pinot – so light in colour you’d mistake it for a rosé.
Newstead lies on Redford Road amid a cluster of other notable Plettenberg vineyards such as Bramon (pop into the snake sanctuary next door, if you have a chance), Lodestone (also an olive estate), Rare Earth and Lombard, to name a few.
80km or so down the N2 back towards Cape Town sits the paradise of Wilderness – as different to Plett as Joburg is to Cape Town. Your nearest winery is Herold Wines, 50km to the north of George – a bit far to venture to if you’re only in the area for a few days. However, the small town of Wilderness has some tremendous spots to sip on decent wine.
Boutique wine shop in an organic village
If you fancy staying in and braaing at home, head to Oak Barrel wine shop for your supplies. The shop is small and quirky of interior, and stocks an interesting range of wines (all tastes and budgets catered for), as well as a good selection of craft beers and spirits. We went for a Viognier from Alvi’s Drift and that fabulous Cinsault from Stellenrust I was tweeting about the other night. They even sell a small range of cigars. Find the shop at the Timberlake organic village, also home to the divine Zucchini restaurant – that provides a stellar wine list. The village is 10 km outside Wilderness on the N2 heading back towards Plett.
The Girls in Wilderness – a one-stop shop for food, ambience service and, of course, wine
Despite how tiny the town is – you can walk the length of its ‘CBD’ in barely two minutes – there’s a surprisingly high percentage of restaurants with laudable wine lists (yip, that’s how I judge a restaurant these days). Top prize goes to The Girls for pretty much everything – food, ambience, service and their wines. Not only is their wine list extensive, varied and informative – they even include a map of where the wines come from – but the manager on duty was able to give fantastic recommendations. We settled on a knock-out Grenache – I’m going through a Southern France varietal phase, can you tell? – from Robertson Valley’s Arendsig. It’s a perfect red wine to choose when you’re not quite sure whether you can stomach a red: Light-bodied, fresh, fruit-driven and unwooded.
The wine lists of Wilderness will delight all tastes and budgets
Over the road, the Blue Olive also provides a safe haven for the choosy wine drinker. Although we visited for a quick lunch stop and forwent the wine, a quick squizz of the list yielded some exciting possibilities. Right opposite, the bustling and ever-busy Pomodoro has just as fantastic a wine list, again, with all tastes and budgets covered for. Great to see Raats Chenin Blanc represented – the one I taste in this video – and a good selection of Garden Route wines, too.
Spoilt for choice at Joplin’s steak bar
We went for a lovely La Motte Syrah, but took the remainder home as we’d had a few at the charming Joplin’s beforehand. This steak bar only serves steak and egg with salad or chips and is housed in the coziest of wood cabins. Top marks to them for offering the full selection of their wines by the glass: the Diemersfontein Pinotage and Raka Quinary Bordeaux blend were perfect warmers for the chilly evening we visited.
To see Caroline in action and learn more about wine, check out her YouTube channel The Glass and Barrel.
Photography courtesy Caroline Knight and Newstead Vineyards