Andy and I both really enjoy spending time in wine country. Since it was cheap to rent a car when we were in South Africa, we decided that we would spend a few days in wine country instead of taking a day trip from Cape Town.
The 2 largest cities in the South African wine country are Paarl and Stellenbosch. We decided to spend 2 nights in each city as it would give us time to visit many wineries in the area. Since we had to return our car relatively early in the morning, we decided to start in Paarl, which is further from Cape Town. This allowed us to stay in Stellenbosch at the end of our time in wine country, which made for a shorter drive back to the city.
Paarl Wine Tasting
There are a ton of wineries in the area and I’ll admit, I didn’t do too much research on what wineries we should visit. Since our Airbnb loft didn’t have wifi, we relied on the brochures and guide books that we found.
Our first visit was to Rhebokskloof. We did a wine tasting for 50R or $3 which included 6 wines as well as a 7th wine for free. The wines were fine, but nothing really to write home about. We thanked the winery and left without purchasing any wine.
One of Andy’s favorite foods is goat cheese so when we read that Fairview had both a goat farm as well as wine tasting, we knew that we had to make a visit.
When we arrived, we paid 30R or $2 to taste 6 wines and visit the cheese room. In the cheese room you could taste as much cheese as you wanted. Since it was close to lunch time and we were hungry, we ate quite a bit of cheese. In addition to the goat cheese, there was also traditional cheese made from cow’s milk and unique flavors including fig flavored which as my favorite.
There were a few goats on display outside the winery. There was a goat castle with a ramp that the goats could climb up. Since South Africa was in a drought and heat wave due to El Nino, the goats looked somewhat miserable. It was really hot for them and they were wanting to get into the shade to escape the heat.
The wine at this winery was better than the previous winery but still not exactly what we were looking to purchase. We knew that we would only have a few days to drink any wine that we would purchase as we did not want to take the wine with us on our flight to Kenya.
After visiting our 3rd winery of the day, we ended up returning to Fairview to have lunch at their restaurant – The Goat Shed. The food was good and we were able to order a glass of our favorite wine that we had tasted earlier in the day.
Our 3rd and final stop of the day was at Laborie. We paid 35R or $2.25 to taste 5 different wines.
When our wines arrived, I loved the presentation. All of the wines came at once and were lined up beautifully on a board. Once we started tasting, we agreed that these were the best wines of the day. We decided that we liked the wine enough to purchase a bottle of sparkling wine, Andy’s favorite, which I liked quite a bit as well.
Even though we planned to visit more wineries our second day in Paarl, I was not feeling very good and didn’t feel that drinking would make me feel better. We looked for other things to do in the area and decided to visit Paarl rock.
We drove from the city up a dirt road for quite a while until we arrived at the entrance gate. We were told that the entry fee was 45R or $3 for the car and 30R or $2 per additional passenger. We paid our entry fee and continued driving to the hiking paths.
Before we went up to the larger rock, we first hiked up the smaller rock. It wasn’t too long of a hike to get from the parking lot up to the top of the small rock. When we got to the top, we had expansive views of the city. It was beautiful, but also extremely hot.
Since I didn’t feel very well, I told Andy to go to the larger rock without me. He drove over to the larger rock, climbed up it and took a few pictures before heading back to the small rock where I was resting in the shade.
Andy told me that I made the right call by not trying to push myself by going up the large rock since it was a slippery hiking surface and was hotter than the smaller rock. The view was a little bit better as the larger rock was higher, but was very similar to what I saw from the small rock.
Stellenbosch Wine Tasting
Since we didn’t have a solid game plan during our time in Paarl, we tried to do some more research about the wineries in the Stellenbosch area.
We knew that we wanted to visit Spier as it is one of the oldest wineries in all of South Africa, first operating in the early 1700’s.
I opted to do the traditional tasting which included 3 signature wines and 2 premium wines for 35R or $2.25. Andy noticed that there was a wine and chocolate pairing for 65R or $4 and decided to try that. He got to taste 4 signature wines, 2 premium wines and a sparkling wine along with 3 pieces of chocolate which paired with the wines he was given.
The service was really great and the wine was very good. The interior of the winery was very classy and I fell in love with the wine bottle chandelier above the bar.
Our only poor choice of the day was Beyerskloof. The tasting room was much more basic than other wineries that we visited and required that we stand the entire time. It wasn’t a big deal, but it would have been nice to have a barstool where we could sit and relax.
We paid 20R or $1.25 to taste 5 wines but ended up getting to taste a total of 7 wines. All of the wine was very young so it did not have much complexity to it. We didn’t really enjoy any of the wine that we had, but for such a low price, we figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Even though we weren’t in love with the wine, we decided to have lunch at the Red Leaf Bistro. To make things easy we split a pizza. It wasn’t the best pizza that we have had, but it was cheap, quick and decent tasting.
When I read the description for Delaire Graff, I was torn. I wanted to visit because it was rated the best view of Stellenbosch, but it seemed pretentious as well. In addition to the winery, there was also an on-site jeweler, art gallery and high-end restaurant.
We decided to visit the winery, saying if we didn’t like the vibe, we could leave. As we pulled into the driveway, we saw lush, green plants, something that we did not see in other parts of wine country as there was a drought. It made us wonder just how many others would be impacted by the water used for unnecessary landscaping purposes and showed what money could buy.
When we asked about wine tasting, we were surprised that the pricing was very reasonable – 5 wines for 70R or $4.50. We took a seat on the patio overlooking the mountain and decided on our selections. Our server was great and let us know that there was no rush, we could take our time tasting the wine. The wine that we tried was all very good, probably a tie with Laborie for our best wine during our trip.
Not surprisingly, the high-end winery also brought high-end clientele. Seated near us was a large group of entitled 20 somethings who pulled up in a Audi sports car. We had fun watching the group of spoiled kids drink their wine and generally act exactly as we imagined that they would.
Before we left, we purchased a bottle of the syrah wine. It was a delicious and we opened it up to celebrate our last night in South Africa before we left for Kenya.
We had a great time in South African wine country. The region itself is very beautiful to drive in and there are so many wineries. In fact, there were so many it would take weeks or even months to visit all of them. For the most part, the wine was great and all of the staff was very hospitable.
If we were to do it over again, I would have done more research on the wineries before we arrived. Not having wifi in Paarl and spotty internet in Stellenbosch made it challenging to look things up online. This left us to rely on guide books which are typically biased towards those who advertise.