Every once in a while you and the special person in your life just need to take a break from the daily hustle and bustle and escape to recharge your batteries. We were lucky enough to be able to do exactly that on a recent Couple’s Retreat invitation from the Drakenstein Local Tourism Association.
First of all I was pleasantly surprised how quickly you can get to the heart of the Wellington Winelands from the Northern Suburbs. Even in the rain and on a Friday afternoon. Keep in mind that you have to leave Cape Town slightly earlier as traffic is notoriously slow on the N1 any time after lunch.
Our first stop was the charming family-owned Imbuko (meaning admiration in Xhosa) Wines on the farm. Cosy atmosphere with the fireplace going – wrap-around veranda will also make this an amazing stop on sultry summer days. Magnificent views over the vineyards and buchu plantations. I have rarely listened to a more entertaining rendition of the history of the South African vine. Matriarch of the family and a raconteur of note, Tannie Elsabe had us rolling with laughter as she regaled us with stories on root stock and crop diversification. Her cultivation of buchu on the slopes facing the tasting room turned out another success story – and obviously we had to try her tipple of buchu brandy (several times, in fact!)
With the guests suitably warmed up, we got to the gourmet pie and wine tasting. Absolutely delicious mini pies are paired with four wines from the flagship Van Zijl range. The selection included a Cape Malay Chicken Curry Pie paired with the Chardonnay Viognier, a Lamb Curry Pie served with their Cabernet Sauvignon, a Biltong Pie with the Shiraz-Mourvedre blend and my absolute favourite – the Slow-Roasted Venison Pie paired perfectly with the Van Zijl Pinotage.
Kids can enjoy a similar pairing served with fruit juice and in summer time adults can cool down with a refreshing spritzer from their Pomüla range. Delectable flavours include Passion Fruit, Berry Vanilla and Pomegranate/Marula. www.imbuko.co.za +27 (0)21 873 7350.
Then we departed for the magnificent Val du Charron (Valley of the Wagonmaker) wine and olive estate nestled at the foot of the Drakenstein mountain range. After meandering through the town of Wellington, we set out on the Bovlei road. The views across the valley are absolutely awe-inspiring with the dragon-shaped crest of the mountain for which the region was named, looming over the lush green vineyards.
The Local Grill Restaurant is an absolute paradise for meat lovers with a fabulous selection of various cuts of well-matured grain-fed and grass-fed beef paired with award-winning estate wines. The menu is extensive with lighter meal options and also caters for kids and vegetarians.
The 4-star Guest House offers eight rooms, while the 5-star Coach House has three luxury suites. Each suite has its own Jacuzzi, private patio and plunge pool with panoramic views across the valley. The perfect place for watching the spectacular sunsets. After a peaceful night’s rest in the exquisite accommodation, we set off to explore the rest of the estate, which dates back to 1699.
After breakfast, it was time for a cellar tour followed by a site visit led by our gracious host Cathy Entwistle. The original stable building now houses a function venue and the spacious kiddies’ paddock will keep the young ones occupied all day long. Signs of construction were a dead give-away that exciting developments are underway and Cathy revealed that by summertime guests will be able to enjoy authentic Italian cuisine at the new restaurant with its large open-air space. As a blissful treat before departing, we visited the beautiful spa for a relaxing hand massage. A full range of spa treatments are available. www.vdcwines.com +27 (0)21 873 1256.
Oude Wellington restaurant was the final stop on our itinerary and we immediately felt at home in the cosy restaurant, which is housed in a Cape Dutch-style barn dating back to 1795. Chef John Tecklenburg and his wife Susanna went all out and presented a mouth-watering menu that was definitely not for the faint-hearted or calorie counters. The menu included a moreish biltong, port & Roquefort soup, snoek fishcakes, fragrant bobotie samosas, roasted marrowbone and an aromatic chicken curry. Each dish was paired perfectly with a selection from Wellington Wines, including their luscious and award-winning flagship wine, the La Cave Pinotage. At this stage I literally could not have another bite, but the fabulous setting, scrumptious menu and gracious hospitality definitely warrants a return trip. This is definitely a hidden gem worth a visit. www.tecklenburgs-oudewellington.co.za +27 (0)21 873 2009.
If you feel the need to recharge your batteries, head for Wellington and unwind in its beauty and serenity.