Stellenbosch Wine Region – South Africa
The second stop on our Africa adventure and perhaps the initial spark that brought our travel attention to South Africa – Stellenbosch. In May 2019, we took a Disney trip and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Here, we dined at Sanaa and simply sat at the bar where we got to know the Cast Member serving who educated us on South African wine. Here, we learned at Pinotage and had the opportunity to try it in a few different forms. We really enjoyed this unique grape and it piqued our interest in discovering more about South African wine. and here we are!
South Africa has a fantastic, well established wine region situated along the Cape coast of the country. This location makes a wine tasting trip a perfect combination for visiting Cape Town as well. There are several distinct wine regions near the city but the closest area is the Coastal Region. In researching an area to focus on, Stellenbosch was a easy pick based on the proximity to Cape Town, the dense variety of wineries, and some amazing looking scenery. Stellenbosch itself also offers a proper downtown area that has lots to explore.
This region is known for their Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage grapes that make bold wines due to the warm days and the cool evenings. You can also find great Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and more as the wine region experiments with newer grapes.
When visiting Stellenbosch, there are several unique things to include:
- Picnic lunches – several wineries in this wine region offer elaborate picnic lunches which is exactly our style. Each winery puts a unique flare to their picnic baskets so make sure to research which basket is right for you to determine which winery you will visit.
- Pre-fixe lunches – many wineries offer sit down casual mini tasting meals that include either a pre-fixe meal or small plates. This makes for a delicious wine tasting experience and
- Fine dining – of course no wine region would be complete without featuring a few find dining options and Stellenbosch has many of them! Good luck choosing as it was very hard for us to narrow down to just one.
And now I noticed all the unique things I listed are about food! Well that’s not a bad thing right? What I love is how many different ways there are to experience food and wine in Stellenbosch.
Having a car is necessary for visiting Stellenbosch but there are a few options to consider:
- Rent a car – most flexible but know that the drinking and driving laws are extremely strict in South Africa and is monitored routinely in a wine region. If you do this, make sure to have a plan going into your day on how to account for consumption. Since this is the option we chose, we asked each spot for a pour bucket to avoid over indulging.
- Group or Private Tour – there are several day trip options from Cape Town that visit a few wineries and include a meal. I saw several extremely rated Airbnb experiences! Since we wanted more than just a day trip here, we did not select this option and in my opinion, one day in Stellenbosch for wine lovers is not enough!
- Hire a car – this is a common practice in South Africa so do not be afraid to explore it, especially if you want to enjoy yourself wine tasting. It is a more affordable option than you may expect – hiring a car in Napa Valley for the day can definitely be budget busting.
If you chose to stay overnight, there are tons of Airbnbs in the area and we really loved ours! Based on our visit, I would say two full days is a great place to start for exploring Stellenbosch but can easily add more time or select a day trip option if that is what works best for your itinerary.
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Ok let’s dive into our Stellenbosch trip!
The drive from Cape Town was very easy which makes adding this spot a perfect compliment to any Cape Town visit and I highly recommend including it – even if you are not a wine drinker.
Since we skipped breakfast, I made sure to have something extra special awaiting us when we arrived at our first vineyard but I was not quite prepared for just how epic it would be. One of the “things to do ” in the world of Stellenbosch wine tasting is book a picnic lunch. Wineries that offer this picnic put a unique flare on their picnics so make sure to research what is included before making a selection. I decided to book at Jordan Wine Estate for their traditional picnic basket which included lakeside viewing and a bottle of wine.
While we could have stayed here for hours, we decided to pack up and continue exploring. Our next stop was the first and oldest producer of the Pinotage grape – De Waal Wines. We had a really lovely tasting here exploring a few different Pinotage wines.
Since we had to meet our Airbnb host in person, we had to pause the wine trail and head to our home for the next few nights. The Airbnb was located just outside of downtown Stellenbosch in a lovely neighborhood right next to a farm. It was perfect and super comfortable. We freshened up while watching two dogs herd sheep rather successfully (all but two).
We also ran a load of laundry which washed very well but did not dry – and this would have been fine but the issue was that the machine would not open until it was deemed cool enough. I know this is a safety feature but it delayed up quite significantly getting out the door to dinner – oh and the clothes were still very wet despite the debacle.
Our dinner this evening was Lanzerac Wine Estate. We arrived in the dark so it was a bit difficult to see everything so it took a few tries to actually identify the restaurant. The menu features both small plates and entrees so it offers some variety depending on what you are in the mood for – we chose to do four of the small plates. We each got a glass of wine to enjoy – I really enjoyed the their Chardonnay.
- Biltong Gnocchi: crispy biltong, potato gnocchi, goat’s cheese cream, lemon pine pesto, tomato konfyt
- Crispy Chicken Bites: fynbos honey, spiced nut granola, mango, atchar, coriander
- Spiced Yellow Lentil and Gen Squash Soup: spinach tempura, curried date gel, coconut yogurt, lemon drizzle
- Kudu Tataki: whipped bone marrow, mushroom biltong, radish, cured organe, coriander
- Valrhona Chocolate: fondant, ganache slice, white chocolate snow, salted caramel, banana mousse, black cherry ice cream
We were blown away by our half day in Stellenbosch and could not wait to explore a full day tomorrow!
We mistakenly attempted to do one more round of laundry but ended up having another battle to open the darn machine with our clothes stuck inside. This frustratingly delayed our morning but we stayed flexible to move things around.
Before a day of wine tasting, it is always a good idea to have a hearty breakfast so we drove into downtown Stellenbosch – which was quite lovely minus the parking attendants – to Schoon Bakery. There is something magical about the smell of freshly baked goods filling up your nose. We each ordered a pastry and they were amazing. The croissant was one of those that ruins you – so many buttery flakey layers. We also ordered the yogurt with granola and berries as well as the mushroom toast – both of which were delicious. Kevin also enjoyed both coffees he ordered. There are lots of spots in downtown Stellenbosch to try and since our time was short, we did not have the chance to try any other options. But we can definitely recommend Schoon!
Now we can start wine tasting! Our first stop was the vineyard I was most excited to visit: Kanokop. In May 2019, we took a Disney trip and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Here, we dined at Sanaa and simply sat at the bar where we got to know the Cast Member serving who educated us on South African wine. Here, we learned at Pinotage and had the opportunity to try it in a few different forms. One of them was a Rose made from Pinotage and it has been one of our most memorable roses to date. We had not had this wine since this trip and it took going to South Africa to have it again!
We enjoyed a wonderful tasting at Kanonkop that included that delightful rose Pinotage. We were also informed Kanokop distributes to the US so we will have to track this down!
Another theme in Stellenbosch wine tasting we discovered is the lunch service at the wineries that features either tasting plates or a pre-fixe menu. Many wineries offer this so it was again difficult to narrow down the selection – we ended up choosing Kleine Zalze which offered a bunch of small plates as well as entree options. We ordered three small plates as well as glasses of wine – like everything in this part of the trip, it was so delicious.
- Tempura prawn, sweet chilli mayonnaise, pickle cucumber
- Roasted and pickled beetroot, celeriac mousseline, hazelnut dressing
- Venison croquette, steamed cabbage, grappa and Gorgonzola sauce
- Berry mille-feuille, raspberry ice cream
Our final wine stop was Glenelly for their French style of wine making. Kevin read the winemaker had a diverse wine making background including French training and California experience. The view from the tasting floor was gorgeous and clearly a draw for visitors. There is also a restaurant on the first floor that was bopping. The wines were good but it was the quickest tasting of the trip.
Back to the Airbnb, we checked on our clothes that thankfully dry so we could pack up for our departure from South Africa. Our dinner this evening was at Tokara Wines – many of the wineries in Stellenbosch offer world class food so it was so difficult to make a choice so we were keeping our fingers crossed we picked a good one. If the sunset was any indicator, we were in for a treat.
Read the full dining review for Tokaka Wines here!
We had an early flight out of Cape Town in the morning so when we returned to the Airbnb, we packed everything up for our departure. Even though we had jam packed days, we were not able to hit everything on the list so here are some other recommendations to consider when planning your trip:
- Dalewood Fromage or Fairview Wine and Cheese – cheese shop!
- Delheim Wine Estate – cupcake wine pairing
- L’Avenir winery – French styled wines
- Oldenburg Vineyards and Keermont Vineyards for tastings
- There are also a few breweries – Lilypatrick Craft Brewery, Stellenbosch Brewing Company
- Dine at Spek & Bone or Overture
- You can also extend by explore two other wine areas in this region – Paarl and Franschhoek
We could not believe the first country of the trip was already done! We loved the combination of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and while it did not feel like enough time do to everything, five days between the two is a great way to explore the things this area is most known for and we had the best time!