It was finally the time that Jack had been dreaming of. We were about to enter the wine lands of South Africa. The wine lands encompass several regions, with the most popular towns being Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Franschhoek. Each place has it’s own unique character and atmosphere. After doing a bit of reading on each we decided that Franschhoek appealed to us the most, we would make it our base.
The mountain pass from Montegu to Franschhoek was full of stunning scenery, but the best was yet to come. We were driving along a bend through the mountains when there was a sudden opening. There was a pullout on the side of the road with a viewpoint that revealed the spectacular view of an open valley with the town of Franschhoek nestled in the bottom of it.
A Relaxing Self Catering Guest House
We stayed at a lovely guesthouse called Sunny Lane Suites. It was our own private suite that was attached to a beautiful Victorian style home. It is self contained with it’s own fully equipped kitchen. We had a private patio to dine outside with a view of their manicured yard and gardens. There is a second suite with two bedrooms as well. The guests are welcome to use their pool and BBQ area.
After a lot of traveling it was such a treat to shop at the grocery market and cook for ourselves. It was no surprise that the shelves were stocked with excellent wine, and at very reasonable prices. There were a myriad of gourmet foods, fancy cheeses, crackers, and even caviar if you wanted to really live it up.
So Many Restaurants To Choose From
Our travel book said the hardest decision you would have in Franschhoek was deciding which place you would eat at. They were not kidding. It is a gastronomical delight. This small town boasts 5 of the top 100 restaurants in all of South Africa. It also has many award winning chefs. I guess you need to have great food to go along with the 27 wineries in the Franschhoek area. There are hundreds more wineries along the rest of the wine route. I could have continued on with the trip and left Jack here, he would have been quite happy. The main street of town is where you will find many of the restaurants and shops, but be sure to wander around to other streets. There are many examples of classic Cape Dutch architecture that date back to the 17th century.
Jack Has Found Heaven, We Start The Winery Tours
The first winery we stopped at was called Boschendal. It, like many others was established in the 1600’s. The property was had manicured gardens, gazebos and views of the surrounding mountains. What a amazing spot to have a wedding. We got to do a cellar tour at Boschendal. It was interesting to see how the wine goes from grape to bottle. The french oak barrels that the wine is aged in cost over a thousand Canadian dollars each!
Boschendal winery has the same basic set up for wine tasting as many others. You can get 5 or 6 different samples glasses of what you would like to try for about $4CAD or 28 South African Rand. You can try specialty or limited release wines for a small extra charge.
Jack really liked a few of the wines here, especially their Shiraz. We had to laugh at a table of guys sitting beside us. There were six guys and over a hundred of the little wine tasting cups covering the table. One question? Who’s driving?
A few of the other wineries we visited were, Hartenberg, Deliare, and Grand Provence. Each one had beautiful vineyards and grounds. At the Hartenberg estate we bought a bottle of a unique naturally sweet Zinfandel. It is made by letting the grapes almost turn into raisins on the vine, they form some strange kind of fungus on them. It was very tasty, almost like a dessert wine. Many of the wineries have restaurants where you can have a nice meal and usually a great view too, and some offer accommodation.
Jack thoroughly enjoyed sampling all the different wines. I’m not a wine drinker, but enjoyed going to the wineries just the same. They are an attraction in themselves. The disappointment is some of the unique and excellent wine that Jack tasted will not be available to us when we return home. Many of the vineyards produce small batches for local consumption only.
Victor Verster Prison, Where Nelson Mandela Was Finally Released
On our drive out of the Franschhoek area we went through the town of Paarl where the Victor Verster Prison is located. This is where Nelson Mandela served out the last years of his prison sentence. It is from this prison that he was released, not from the famous Robben Island prison where he spent the majority of his early confinement.