Dine-and-Date: Cape Winelands of South Africa

Food Lists Dine-and-Date
Dine-and-Date: Cape Winelands of South Africa

Wine regions ooze romance. It’s a fact. Beautiful vineyards, classy tastings, indulgent pairings and countless Instagrammable moments are just some of the many reasons why these locales make for memorable dates. Among the award-winning wine producing regions of the world is South Africa’s Cape Winelands. Just 45 minutes from the center of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands is home to historic wine estates, luxury accommodations, fine dining restaurants and art galleries. Not to mention the region is surrounded by a picturesque mountainous backdrop and rolling hills.

The Cape Winelands region dates back to over 350 years ago. It is known for varietals that include Methode Cap Classique (MCC), a sparkling wine made according to the traditional Champagne method found in Champagne, France and South Africa’s signature variety, Pinotage, a red wine unique to the country, made from a grape that is a hybrid of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. Divided into six regions encompassing 26 districts, the Cape Winelands feature more than 18 official wine routes, and two brandy routes for those looking to get a little crazy.

1. Stellenbosch
Only 45 minutes outside Cape Town is the charming destination of Stellenbosch. Dating back to 1679, it’s the second oldest preserved town in South Africa. Though renowned for its distinctive Dutch and Victorian-style architecture and vast number of wine estates, Stellenbosch also offers sought after lively bistros, eateries and delightful cafés. Stroll through the historic oak tree-framed Dorp Street, which is lined with residential buildings that date back to the 19th century. While walking through this quaint town, stop by the Neo-Gothic Lutheran Church, which now serves as an art gallery, as well as the nearby Oom Samie Se Winkel, a 19th century general store that has remained true to its Victorian era roots. This institution features an endless variety of hard-to-find items such as dried fish, Afrikaner moonshine, old century butter churns, spices and more.

When hunger strikes, stop by one of the various restaurants in the area, such as the upscale Makaron Restaurant at five-star boutique hotel Majeka House, The Blue Crane & The Butterfly, Basic Bistro and 5 Ryneveld, which is housed in an old Victorian building. In the mood for wine pairings? Head over to nearby Waterford Estates, which offers pairings that include wine and chocolate, a wine drive safari through their beautiful estate and vineyards, and the Porcupine Trail Wine Walk that includes a light lunch.

2. Franschhoek
Franschhoek Cellar.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Davis
The Franschhoek Wine Valley is known as the country’s gourmet capital, and with good reason. More than 300 years ago the French Huguenots arrived in South Africa and brought with them their age-old wine and food culture. Several restaurants that should not be missed include The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, where you can indulge in an eight-course South African tasting menu complete with wine pairings; Ryan’s Kitchen, perfect for those that binge watch Food Network as you can watch chef Ryan and his team prepare elaborate small-plate dishes in this home-style restaurant; and Roca Restaurant, which along with inspired cuisine, boasts insane views of the mountain ranges of the area.

If your date is into art, Franschhoek’s art scene will blow him or her away. There are more than 20 galleries and art studios to peruse through, each unique in its own right. The stunning valley offers classic styles of wine from whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, to the full-bodied reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Shops, boutiques and cafes in quaint courtyards make this area an ideal place to spend an afternoon.

3. Boschendal
Boschendal.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Davis
Located within the Drakenstein Valley, just 15 minutes from Franschhoek, is the historic Boschendal estate. This lovely property features an 1812 manor house located at the end of an avenue of shade-providing oak trees. Fine dining restaurants on the property include the Werf House, the revamped original cellar of the Manor House, which serves farm-to-table fare, as well as Rhone Homestead, its oldest manor house dating from 1795, which offers a traditional Cape buffet, with dishes made from recipes passed down through generations of Boschendal cooks, paying homage to its heritage as a traditional Boland farm. Or go the picnic route and enjoy the scenic mountain vistas while eating a beautifully prepared meal of naturally grown produce from the estate and locally made artisanal goods.

All full? Head out on one of five mountain bike trails on property, go on a horse or carriage ride, schedule a spa treatment, relax in the Boshendal gardens, take a swim in a farm dam or even go fishing for trout. Cheers to the beauty of your date with a glass (or several!) of their fruity wines which range from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, to Merlot and Shiraz.

4. Constantia
Groot Constantia.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Davis
You can’t talk South African wine without mentioning Groot Constantia wine estate, the country’s oldest wine producing estate established by Simon van der Stel in 1685. At the estate’s core is the 17th-century Manor House, a prime example of Cape Dutch architecture in South Africa. As a certified national monument, it’s a very historically rich destination that offers two upscale restaurants, Simon’s and Jonkershuis, which serve Cape Malay dishes and sell picnic baskets to be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking Cape Town, a museum, an art gallery, Art@Constantia, and of course a selection of top-notch wines. At Groot Constantia you can walk around the lush vineyards as you please, making it ideal for a stroll with your significant other. Be sure to buy a bottle of their famed Sauvignon Blanc before you leave.

5. Paarl
Paarl Wine Route.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Davis
Paarl Wine Route is the country’s second oldest. Just 40 minutes outside of Cape Town, the region showcases over 70 wine producers in the Drakenstein area, ranging from international wineries to historic family-owned estates. The Paarl wine route is known for its signature cultivar, Shiraz. That said, the region is home to other varietals such as Petit Verdot and Malbec and is home to KWV, the first commercial wine cellar, dating back to 1918. With a variety of opportunities for food and wine pairings, Paarl is the go-to place for soaking in the relaxing winery vibes with a glass of vino and a plate of cheese and olives. Head to The Goatshed at Fairview wine estate to sample local olives and notable goats’, sheep and cows’ milk cheeses if you’re looking for a casual dining experience. Lastly, if you’re sick of wine by now, check out Paarl’s Brandy Route and buy an award-winning bottle to savor at home.

Hailing from California, Chelsea is an inquisitive dessert enthusiast and Golden State Warriors fan. Since graduating from Columbia University, she has amassed a colorful professional background, with experiences in industries that include news production, radio, public relations & media communications. Upon realizing that her true passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in new cultures and eating, she is now a full-time freelance journalist, based in New York City. Chelsea’s work has been featured on Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Yahoo! and MSN, among other nationally recognized outlets. Follow her on Instagram and her blog .

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