The Western Cape Winelands in South Africa are one of the most magical wine growing regions in the world and if they are not on your bucket list, you should change that on the spot.
The area is way ahead when it comes to offer the most intriguing wine experience. Far from simple wine tasting, wineries across the region will treat you to elaborate food and wine pairings, excursions into the vineyards, opportunities to blend your own wine, wine picnics, and lots more.
If that’s not enough, there is no shortage of astonishing luxury accommodation, from beautiful small boutique hotels to country houses, cottages and wine estates, once you have checked in you will have a hard time to leave again.
I was fortunate enough to stay at a number of hotels across the region; and all of them were outstanding in so many ways. Read on to learn more about the five currently making the top of my list based on a combination of individual style, service, location and dining options.
A member of the prestigious Relais & Chateau group, Cellars-Hohenort perfectly understands to combine luxury with a feeling to be home away from home.
Nestled at the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in the beautiful Constantia Valley, the hotel is just about twenty minutes away from Cape Town’s sprawling waterfront; and the ideal gateway to explore the Cape Point area along with the nearby Constantia Valley and its wine route.
Dating back to the late 17th century, the estate has maintained the historic character of its elegant time-worn buildings whilst offering all the prerequisites of a luxury retreat.
It boasts a beautiful large forest-garden with many century old oak trees and lots and lots of flowers as well as its own small vineyard.
There are two restaurants on-site, offering the choice between the award winning Greenhouse, one of South Africa’s Top 10 restaurants looked after by top check Peter Tempelhoff and the more laidback Conservatory offering a more traditional take on traditional South African cuisine.
Grande Roche, Paarl
Originally built in the early 1700s by Hermanus Bosman as a working wine farm, the five-star Grand Roche has won continuous awards and accolades since its opening in 1992.
Surrounded by lush green vineyards, the hotel sits atop a gentle slope at the foot of Paarl mountain, which is said to be the world’s second largest granite monolith. It offers stunning views over Paarl Valley and the surrounding Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountain ranges.
The original manor house was destroyed by a fire in the 1950s but later rebuilt in its original form. Today it hosts the hotel reception and lobby alongside the award-winning Bosmans Restaurant.
Hotel rooms are spread across various buildings throughout the estate which today are listed as heritage buildings and preserved as national monuments – including former slave quarters, stables and carriage houses of the original farm.
The beautiful terrace is the perfect place for breakfast or to enjoy the hotel’s excellent afternoon tea during the warmer months of the year. Sadly, evenings are often to fresh to sit outside for dinner. The effortlessly classy interior of Bosmans Restaurant will certainly make up for this.
Majeka House, Stellenbosch
Tucked away in a tranquil residential area in the outskirts of Stellenbosch, Majeka House is the perfect location for those seeking small, intimate yet stylish hotels that come with a sublime touch of local authenticity. This small luxury boutique hotel boasts beautiful artwork and design. Indeed, it has won the Conde Nast Best Design Hotel in Africa and the Middle East award in 2017.
All of the 23 rooms are styled individually and spot a delightful mixture of traditional African styles and delicate contemporary features. However, my favourite place was MLounge, filled to the brim with quirky artwork.
Constantly rated as one of the top 20 South African restaurants, on-site restaurant The Makaron offers an elaborate small plates menu with the opportunity to sample between four to six courses. The menu is internationally inspired but also features traditional South African fare, and overall there is a high attention to organically sourced local produce (herbs and vegetables come from the hotel’s own garden).
Boschendal Wine Farm
One of the first wine and working farms in the area, Boschendal was founded in 1685 by Huguenot refugee Jean Le Long and recently has converted several of its former worker cottages into luxury accommodation.
The historic Werf complex including the stunning manor house was declared a national monument, and today is home to various wine tasting facilities, a small daily, a bakery, a small gift shop and the acclaimed Werf restaurant.
Meanwhile, various cottages are nestled either behind the Werf complex or in the more remote vineyard areas near the mountain vineyard dam, providing you the uttermost privacy and tranquillity.
Self catering is possible as all cottages feature a small kitchenette and a BBQ (or braai as it is called in South Africa) on the private terrace in front of each cottage. However, there is no need and the vast culinary offer at Boschendal really should put your mind at rest having to prepare your own food. There is the cosy Deli where a daily breakfast (try the ice cream and waffles), lunch and dinner are served; and the fine dining Werf Restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. Get a table on the terrace overlooking the extensive herb and vegetable garden and chances are you will see the kitchen team out harvesting.
Indeed, Boschendal is setting new levels for farm-to-table as part of a wider conservation programme. Most of the food you will find at Boschendal comes from within the estate; alongside a large variety of herbs, vegetables and fruits, the farm maintains a nearly 1,000 strong herd of Aberdeen Angus beef, a free roaming herd of pigs and a small flock of sheep.
A relatively new addition to the vast range of luxury accommodation across the Cape Winelands, the Robertson Small Hotel is located in the up-and-coming Robertson Wine Valley. It is still the only five star hotel in this still largely overlooked area, and constantly named among South Africa’s finest luxury country hotels.
The hotel is located directly in the centre of Robertson, but stepping into the small garden surrounded by the beautiful manor house dating back to 1909 (now a National Monument) and three auxiliary buildings home to the Pool and Staple suits and a Spa immediately conjures a sense of freedom and tranquillity.
There’s no question the pool suits are the most tempting place during a hot summer day when temperatures are easily exceed the 30°C, though the most gorgeous of all (and likely the most beautiful hotel room I’ve ever stayed so far) is the ‘Pool View Suite’. Though not offering any view of either of the two pools as the only windows are in the roof, this suite is a dream come true for all luxury travellers.
The on-site Small Restaurant is another of the highlights of the Robertson Small. The seasonal menu is based on strictly locally sourced produce, yet undeniably inspired by Italian cuisine.
Have you been to the Western Cape Winelands yet? I’d be curious to learn where you stayed and what your experience was.