Monday, 4 May 2015

April 28 – Exploring Stellenbosch area wineries

Rather than explore the winelands around Stellenbosch & Paarl on our own, we decided to take a guided tour so I could drink without driving…

The tour we picked was a budget tour run by our sister hostel, called Easy Rider Wine Tours. Turns out that all 6 of the folks on today's tour were in fact staying at our hostel, which was convenient.

Wine tours can be risky since the “how we make the wine” stories are the same no matter what winery you go to. Believe me; having toured wineries in the USA, Germany, France, Chile, Italy, Argentina, Australia and Canada, it can get repetitive. The tour today visited 4 wineries (only one of which I have heard of) but refreshingly, had enough variety to keep you entertained.

The first winery we went to (Simonsig) grew cork trees, which I have never seen before. Cork trees don’t grow well in South Africa because the bark gets too soft in the area’s high temps, but it was neat to see one anyway.
The bark felt like cork, because it is
In many ways, the area reminds me of Napa.

Included in the tour was a very nice lunch in a café in Franschoek.

Elegant courtyard dining
Our touring companions were two young ladies from France but who were living in Brussels, and a young couple from Bavaria, all on a few weeks vacation, all heading our way towards the Garden route.

The Franschoek area was probably the prettiest, and the winery was set up on a hillside overlooking the valley.

Well, that's just stunning 
Vineyards and mountains 
Our tasting space. Take that, Kelowna 
Fall vines 
Die Donne 
The wine drinking team 
More stunning
One of the wineries we went to was housed in a building 7 years older than my country.

Older than I thought. Home of Zorgvleit Winery.
While we passed a few wineries I know or have heard of (Spier, KMV, Plasier du Merle), one winery we visited today (Fairview) was not just a winery, but a cheese maker, too, specializing in goat cheese. Their export brand: Goats Du Roam, available in Canada, and yes, they have a goat at the winery/cheese shop. 

He has his own climbing tower, too. He's Swiss.
Buzzing by wineries gave lots of views like this…

I love this photo
…but still, getting out and visiting the scenery was very nice, as was tasting +5 wines at each of 4 wineries. Which, for the record, is a lot of wine. A lot of very good wine.

We liked the tour and the wineries, but our tour guide was less than enthusiastic about anything, not very talkative, and never seemed like he was enjoying his day. Our accommodation (Banghoek Place) is nice, though a long (25+ min), if safe, walk from downtown. In fact, we chose to drive most of the way both nights we went into town for dinner.

Our two dinners here were excellent. Our first night, we went to Basic Bistro, an awesome and inexpensive little place that was busy, busy, for obvious reasons. Our second night found us at a South African “chain” pizza joint (Col’Caccio), with about 200 pizzas on the menu. Good pizza, but a little pricier. I do like the fact that wine in restaurants here runs from $8 -$15 Cdn.

Wine in grocery stores starts at $2.70 Cdn and goes up to $12, so restaurants double or triple the price, resulting in wine you’ll probably still find cheap.

I could get to like eating here. And drinking.


Today’s Travel Tip: Minimum Wage

There are no laws regarding minimum wage in South Africa. At some restaurants, the waitstaff are not paid except for tips, and tips here are ~10%. In one upscale pizza joint we went to, waitstaff are paid $1.50/hr and get “most” of the tips. We’re pesky “tip 20%” Canadians. The staff love us. But then dinner for 2 including a good bottle of wine, 2 wonderful starters, 2 great mains and a decadent desert one night was only $38. So we splurged and gave our waiter $7. He mentioned that was “a lot”.

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