Franschhoek. – The secret is out. Winter is the perfect time to be enjoying the Cape Winelands.
It’s a time of moody romantic days as we receive our much needed rain. Interspersed with glorious sunshine and temperatures that hover at the 20C degrees mark. The leaves turn golden, the light softens, the grass becomes a darker shade of green. Days are shorter and the pace of living slows down.
Mountains take on mythical character and winter walks heighten the senses. Seasonal activities, feasts, festivals and seasonal fruits draw the inspired crowds to be warmed and welcomed by the locals. Fires are lit, exceptionally good food is savoured and the varied fine wines of the valley add rich ambience to the moment.
Franschhoek in particular draws visitors from near and far, keeping them snug in the folds of all itis on offer. On a recent visit and overnight there by invitation of Destinate, we got to indulge in some of their finest offerings.
What a pleasure it was to be back in the Babylonstoren Farm garden with Gundula, learning more about the things that matter, the gifts of the earth at this time of year and the way nature offers the very best food and veg. We learnt how the mushroom spore had been injected into the log, seeing great success a year later. Giant calabashes, ancient mulberry trees, a maze of prickly pears and the happiest free range chickens.
After a walk among the food growing trees, we were treated to a feast of freshly harvested and assorted mushroom tart, garlic infused farm bread, estate olive oil in the beautiful Shadow House, a shell design of a building with views towards the Vineyard. All accompanied by a glass of their Viognier, a favourite of mine.
If you haven’t been to Babylonstoren, you really must. It’s a place of the heart. Read more about it and my previous visit here. We never did it on this visit, but a walk up Babel hill is a wonderful experience.
Allee Bleue Estate.
Allee Bleue offers much. A large estate with world-class wines, fruit and herbs, stunning wedding and conference facilities, a bistro and picnic venue, a fresh produce shop, warm hospitality, historic charm and fine art.
Yet we were there to learn about their successful herb growing business. Guided by grower Lario, we were shown the rows of organic coriander, mint, fennel, sweet basil and more, growing in coconut peat in modern greenhouse facilities. It certainly instilled a new respect and next time I sprinkle the freshness over a salad or meal, it will be with more appreciation.
This was followed by a demo by the Chef of a salsa verde and an olive oil tasting, all over a glass of their delicious Brut Rosé. This really is a farm worth lingering on. Have a look at their herb tour times and pop in at their Bistro for a meal. They also offer accommodation. The herbs all available in Checkers and various Spars.
This was a complete surprise for me. I had never been or seen Maison Estate, even though I’ve driven past it a hundred times before. Invited in we saw the sun setting from the back door towards the mountain as we took to a beautiful long table laden with samples of their new winter menu, paired to wine harvested on the farm. The dessert was one of the best I’ve had, a chocolate cake, dolce de leche ice cream, salted caramel and roasted marshmallow, absolute heaven.
The decor is contemporary, sheer class that demonstrates the best of Weylandts, which can be expected by the owner of both, Chris Weylandt. The collective glass bottle light fitting commands both attention and appreciation. The beauty on the wall is a showstopper, the staff attentive and charming. Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg puts his mark on Maison’s Tasting Room and The Kitchen, with sophistication and simplicity. New to the fold, is their well stocked temptation filled deli.
Sated and happy in the company of fellow bloggers and writers, the day ended with dinner at La Clé des Montagnes and a wine tasting by Craig McNaught of Stonybrook Boutique Winery. Their MCC and Ghost Gum are to be looked out for.
Fransvliet, a place to breathe.
After that I tucked myself up at Fransvliet for a night of sweetened dreams in a beautiful room with comfy bed, plush cushions and an electric blanket to ensure warmth.
The guest house where I was to overnight is 4km out of town on a working farm that grows grapes, olives and figs. With five large stylish rooms, all amenities, incredible bathrooms to lose yourself in and the quiet of rural living. Breakfast the next morning was next to the fireplace as a soft mist hung over the Vineyards, it was perfect in every way, the hospitality adding extra warmth – and a very hard place to leave. (I couldn’t believe how affordable they are, especially in Winter.)
With the delights and appeal of Winter everclear, it is important to make one more mention, that Franschhoek is a world class destination ALL year round.