Like many, I had the high hopes of starting the year with a bang, hit the ground running…full steam ahead. Just ticking off items and singing affirmations. Then I got ill and was pretty much home bound on painkillers while I waited for a specialist to come back from leave. I missed Christmas, New years and every festive event. Basically, the universe said “just sit down, you’re not going anywhere.” So I did that (well, it was more like lying in foetal position). Once on my feet again, I eased my way back into life with a weekend getaway to Weltevrede estate in Bonnievale.
Bonnievale is a beautifully situated town along the Breede river about 2 hours outside of Cape Town. With various wine cellars and cheese factories in the area, it is affectionately known as the Valley of Cheese and Wine. So, it was the perfect setting to rejuvenate. There are plenty of activities you can do in the area like hiking, mountain biking, boat trips, bird watching, wine tours and of course just relax and enjoy the scenery. We opted for the indulgent option and spent the weekend eating and sipping on wine while enjoying the scenery.
We stayed at the Weltevrede Estate which has lovely views of the working vineyards, the Breede river and a water canal system that runs through the farm. The units are self catering with an extremely well equipped kitchen and included two complementary Weltevrede bottles of wines for our stay.
We had a new friend, Yuki, visiting from Japan and this was her first time in South Africa and of course she loved it here (who wouldn’t?) but I did feel a bit of a pressure that it not be a mess. Thankfully, it was good times all around. We took a couple of lovely walks on the estate, soaked in some sun and made a delicious midnight potjie dinner with beer bread (Note: timing is super important people, the earlier you start to sooner you’ll eat).
Bonnievale is part of the Robertson Wine Valley and so a wine tour was certainly on the list. Instead of driving from farm to farm, we booked a tour with Route 62 Adventure tours and experienced a chauffeur driven wine tours along the wine valley. Our guide Alain took us around and included some interesting titbits about the area, industry and the wine we were tasting. This made the tour more interesting than doing it on your own.
Our first memorable stop was the Excelsior Wine Estate where we did a wine tasting overlooking the farm’s dam. The farm, our guide tells us, doesn’t use seasonal workers. instead, they have full-time workers who manually hand-pick the grapes. There is a restaurant here and the wine tasting overlooks the dam which is very idyllic. The tasting is more interesting than others as it also provides you with the opportunity to blend, bottle and label your own wine creation using the wines that you’ve tasted.
For lunch, we popped into the Viljoensdrift farm for a wine tasting and then boarded a river boat with a picnic (more cheese) in tow. The river cruise on the Breede river is about an hour-long and is a relaxing meander along the Breede river. The cruise is R 60 per person and you need to buy your picnic goodies on site. For some reason I didn’t take a picture of the actual boat but it happened.
Our next stop was the Klipsdrift Distillery in Robertson. I’m not a drinker of brandy and actually one memory of brandy was an evening in university that thanks to the lack of social media in my undergraduate days will stay there. I was, however, intrigued by the pairing of fudge and brandy (in the end it turned out, I’m more of a fudge eater).
We were greeted with a brandy and ginger beer drink, which didn’t taste too bad, before going on a tour of the distillery. I don’t have any pictures of that as all our electronics and cameras were put away. The distillery is very high in alcohol and basically, one flash and we can all go kaboom. This was actually one of the most disconcerting I’ve ever heard and I almost thought to stay behind. They weren’t lying though, the fumes were really strong but you aren’t in there too long. I also heard, for the first time, the term ‘karate juice’. This apparently refers to cheap brandy that is said to be a factor in bar brawls (do not lead with this on the tour).
At the end of the day, it was back to these beautiful views, cheese platters and a braai. The perfect break slash start to the year: Friends, food and travel.