Heading up to the wine region was nearly number one on my list of things to do when we’d decided on visiting Cape Town. We decided to stay in Franchoek over the slightly larger University town of nearby Stellenbosch. The drive is only an hour from Cape Town, super easy and gorgeous.
We swung by Stellenbosch on our way to Franschoek and I must say we were a tad underwhelmed. Perhaps because we went on a Sunday, who knows but it all felt very quiet and a tad deserted. However we did only go for a quick potter and a bite of lunch at Tigers Milk. It wouldn’t have been my first choice as it did remind me of a glorified Weatherspoons :s But we were really struggling to find somewhere that did some food that I could eat that was vaguely gluten free or I could pick around! The food was nice, and it was a good people watching spot on the main drag of Stellenbosch.
On the way to the Avondrood Guest House, we stopped off at the Delaire Graff wine estate. This place is absolute luxury and a must to stop at on the wine route as Delaire Graff produces some of the best South African wines. Unfortunately I was driving but I was able to sample the three wine flight of 50ml each. There’s no need to book if you just want some wine, and we hit the jackpot with a spot outside overlooking the gorgeous views. The wine tasting area allows you to enjoy some of the 20 hectares of vineyards that are planted with Bordeaux Reds and Chardonnay grapes.
We arrived in Franschoek a little later than we had planned as we’d had to push back out Table Mountain visit. Avondrood guest house was beautiful, situated in the peaceful winelands and off the main drag of the lively village. The staff who welcomed us were fabulous, giving us a guided tour and talking us through all the facilities. We spent our first evening enjoying the hot tub and pool at Avondrood before heading to the Franschoek Station. The Station was recommended to us by the guest house and as it was Sunday it was music night. We decided to go for one drink before dinner and dare I say it, it very much felt like ‘brits abroad’ but I loved it! Belting out Journey and Bon Jovi was fabulous and we ended up staying for several before power walking down the road for dinner! We ate The French Connection Bistro, the food was nice but by this point we were exhausted and definitely ordered more food than we needed. The menu was simple but it all looked fantastic – we both went for the fillet steak which was exceptional.
Wine Tram Blue Line
The highlight of our visit was always going to the wine tram and I was super excited (if not a little jaded from The Station!). We had a wonderful breakfast of omelettes, pastries and smoothies on the patio before walking into Franchoek to grab a coffee before the tram. For £15 (220ZAR) gets you up to 6 stops on the hop on/hop off tram. We went for the blue line which showcases the spectacular wineland views and included a stop at the only sparkling wine vineyard. This line includes 8 vineyards but only enough time to stop at 6, so make sure you do a little research first and have a plan before you get on. Also make sure you factor in eating lunch too (which is perhaps where we went a tad wrong!).
First stop was Mount Rochelle, which is Sir Richard Bransons vineyard and includes a hotel also. We had sampled some of this wine on our First Class Virgin flight to JFK so I was looking forward to this one. It did feel a little early with it only just being 11am but I got over that pretty quickly! The first part of the tram is actually a bus, you’re all given a blue sticker when you get on so you don’t get lost or on the wrong bus tour as many of the tours have the same stops. We went for the 3 wine flight for 50ZAR as we didn’t want to peak too soon – a steal at just under £3! The wine was fabulous, nice and light. The only downside was despite being outside, you are sat at the back of the restaurant so don’t get to see the wonderful views. The Little Rock Rouge was our favourite by far, and we aren’t usually red wine drinkers!
Le Lude – our favourite by far! We are sparkling wine fans so we practically ran off the bus to get in! Unfortunately the tasting is inside but the room is beautiful. You wouldn’t know from your surroundings but you are in a very young vineyard, with the first harvest is 2012. There is time to enjoy the rose garden before jumping back on the bus. The Rose fizzy was my favourite whilst Chris loved the Champagne style, so we came away with one of each amongst our 3 bottles we purchased. I was slightly concerned it wouldn’t fit in the case home! The tram take these off you and you pick them up at the end which is a fabulous service.
The next stop was Holden Manz where we had hoped to grab some lunch in the Franschoek Kitchen. Unfortunately for us there was a wedding on so the restaurant was closed. It also meant that we were out in the gardens in a gazebo. It was incredibly hot and we weren’t facing the vineyards (and the back of the restaurant) so the experience was a tad underwhelming. However we went all out and instead of eating food we went for the Diamond Wine Tasting of 7 wines for 110ZAR. Hooray!
The final two stops were on the actual tram which was fab. Due to weight distribution there has to be an even balance on the top and bottom of the tram. However they are very fair and make sure that everyone gets a go on the top deck! It was a slightly odd set up on the way to Rickety Bridge, we went on the bus to the tram and then half way jumped on the tram. It’s a dirt track down to the vineyard so all aboard a tractor to the vineyard for the final leg. We only had 40mins at this vineyard due to the added tractor time so it did pass me by in a Sauvignon Blanc haze, but the wine was great.
The final vineyard Grande Provence was an absolute gem although much more commercial than any of the others on the tour. It was wonderful to enjoy the final wine on the benches with fellow tour guests in the gardens. The Chenin Blanc here was incredible! There is a wealth of other bits and bobs to do here as well as drink wine including walks of the gardens and enjoying the art exhibitions.
It was then back on the tram into Franschoek and to collect our wine from the tram hut! A supberb way to tour the vineyards 🙂
As always, these are my thoughts and opinions!