The winelands are about an hour inland from Cape Town – the South African version of Napa Valley. In our original trip, we were going to spend the night in the winelands but with the additional days in Victoria Falls, we made it a long day trip. Many tours were available and we settled on a small group tour that did not have a specific itinerary (and without much cash took credit cards). Good decision as we got a great guide and one other couple that was fun – they were an Irish couple on their honeymoon. They were staying in the town of Stellenbosch so we rode out from Clifton with our guide and during the drive he was describing the area – going through the squatter towns by the side of the highway and heading to a town that he described as “similar to a small US college town – like Athens Georgia” as Stellenbosch is also the home of one of the larger universities in South Africa. After further discussion he said Athens because he played golf in the US at Augusta State so Athens is where they went for fun. He was now trained as a Sommelier and we agreed to focus on Stellenbosch region with a quick side trip to Franschhoek to see the valley – it was worth it as the valley was spectacular.
The wine growing in the Stellenbosch started in the 1700’s – as the Dutch used the cape as a refueling station on the way to India, they would test different items to grow and wine worked well as the climate is similar to southern France or the Mediterranean. Later, a French group came and couldn’t get along with the Dutch and moved to the next valley and called it Franschhoek.
The first place was in Franschhoek – unbelievable scenery at a small winery. Oldenburg. They had new facilities and it had been recently purchased. The wine was good but we were surprised that they didn’t recommend buying any – they just told us the best way to order on the internet. That was typical at the places we went. We then followed up with another winery in the same valley – Thelema. Another good experience. We then went back to the Stellenbosch area and went to two more and had lunch – L’Avenir and Guardian Peak. We finished the day at Meerlust and a quick tour through the town to finish the day. Then a week later couple of days later on our way out of Johannesburg had a wine tasting at the airport and found another couple of good ones.