November 17, 2016:
Here we are on Day 3 in South Africa. Our journey du jour will take us about an hour outside of Cape Town to the Paarl Valley and Stellenbosch wine growing region. As we drove, the scenery got much greener and more pastoral, yet you still have the craggy outcroppings like the rest of the Cape peninsula.
Our first stop was at the Nederberg vineyards, one of the most famous and recognized vineyards in South Africa. The vineyards themselves are lush and beautiful, and we’re really looking forward to sampling some of Nederberg’s award-winning wines!
Although South Africa produces virtually all wine varietals, their two classic wines are Chenin Blanc and Pinotage (a grape varietal created in South Africa by grafting Cinsault onto Pinot Noir grapes). The Chenin Blanc produced here is not the awful box wine you remember from your youth; it is crisp and well-balanced in the French style. All in all, not surprising, because this area was heavily populated by French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in the 18th century. The winemaker for Nederberg for decades was a German immigrant, so the vineyard also produces some amazing German-style wines. We actually bought 3 bottles of wine here which we plan to carry home.
After our wine tasting, we drove to Franschoek, which translates to “French Corner”. The town is an adorable collection of Cape Dutch colonial architecture, housing tons of great shops, wine bars, and restaurants. You could easily see vacationing here as a base to go wine tasting in this region, if it only weren’t as darned far away! We visited a beautiful memorial garden erected by the French to thank the South African people for sheltering their people from persecution. The memorial was lovely, and the gardens were full of booming King Protea Flowers, the national flower of South Africa.
After visiting the memorial, we had some free time to wander around town (and do a little shopping). Then it as time to head to another vineyard right outside the town (the Grand Provence), where they had scheduled a lovely gourmet picnic for us. We had planned to eat in the sculpture gardens, but since it was spitting rain, so they moved us into the cellar for our picnic. We even had a musical quartet playing classical music!
Then we drove on through the scenic Stellenbosch valley to the town of Stellebosch. This is a university town, and it is totally charming. In addition to viewing more Cape Dutch architecture, Jim and I wandered into a shop with some great wood carvings, including almost life-sized giraffes. To my amazement, Jim suggested we buy one and have it shipped home for our guest suite, which is decorated in an African theme. Now we can’t wait for it to arrive!
Finally, we topped our day off by walking around and the Victoria and Alfred bayside development, at with dinner at a star South African restaurant, Karibu. The reviews didn’t lie, and we were able to taste many regional South African specialities. The meal was so good, in fact, that on our way out, we reserved a table again for tomorrow.