The Cape truly shows off in winter. Even this year’s record-breaking rainfall hasn’t put a damper on things, with visitors falling in love with the Winelands’ lush greenery, verdant valleys, mountains and waterfalls. Forget drab, dreary or muted, this is a winter wonderland like no other.
Don’t believe us? Here are just ten ways to get a taste of the green season:
Grab your Camera and Head into the Helderberg Nature Reserve
The light in winter is pretty special. Softer than the bright glare of summer, it lends itself beautifully to photography. And on a clear day, the fresh, crisp air means everything looks more vibrant, colourful and alive. You’ll want to lace up your boots and head in the Helderberg Nature Reserve for a hike – or pack your camera and capture the reserve’s King Proteas (Protea cynaroides), fynbos (including Erica hirta), and Juffertjie-roer-by-die-nag (Struthiola myrsinites). The sweeping views across False Bay reward walkers and hikers – while birders will be in their element (look out for dazzling sunbirds, buzzards and owls).
Pick your own Lavender
Lavender is in full bloom at the moment, which means the Cape’s winter wonderland includes swathes of purple. Make your way to Canettevallei Lavender & Wine Farm to pick your own lavender, or visit their shop to browse (and buy) lavender-infused soaps, gifts, shortbread and Kaapse Moskonfyt!
Enjoy a Tasting with a Difference
As Debbie-Lee Cockrell, GM Erinvale Estate Hotel and Spa points out, wine tasting is only the beginning when it comes to tastings in the Winelands.
“In the Heart of the Helderberg you can experience wine and olive oil tastings at Morgenster, both coffee and craft beer tastings at Lourensford, and an artisanal gin tasting at Erinvale,” says Debbie-Lee. “There really is something for everyone”. Which means you can base yourself at Erinvale and really get out and explore.”
Take a Masterclass in ‘Wintering Well’
A masterclass series organised by Visit Stellenbosch gives visitors the opportunity to learn something new – and enjoy life in the Winelands while they’re at it! Events include a culinary masterclass with Bertus Basson (where you’ll learn how to make four dishes from the famous Bertus Basson stable); A Stellenbosch Terroir Tasting (as you learn more about the influence that terroir has on some of the region’s award-winning wine; and a South African brandy masterclass at Lanzerac (led by brandy maverick, Shane Mumba).
For Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch, winter is the perfect time to experience life in the Winelands. “June to September is our lower season traditionally, which means it’s quieter,” says Jeanneret. “It gives us an opportunity to offer visitors a different experience of our destination, and an altogether different perspective on winter in the Winelands.”
Experience a Winemakers Dinner
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to pairing food and wine, the chefs and winemakers in the Cape Winelands do it very, very well. Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa’s Winemakers Dinner takes place on the last Wednesday of every month, and they’ve hosted winemakers from Eagles’ Nest, Ken Forrester Wines and Carsten Migliarina. If you’re yet to experience a Winemakers Dinner, now’s the time!
Alternatively, book a table at Stefan’s and experience the extraordinary culinary talents of Chef Stefan Bekker through a 7-course, fine dining experience to remember!
Take a Day trip to see the Whales
The beauty of a Winelands stay, says Debbie-Lee, is that it lends itself perfectly to a day trip. Keen to explore the Overberg towns of Grabouw, Elgin and Bot River? Easily done. So is a trip up South Africa’s Whale Coast to Hermanus, Stanford and Gansbaai – absolutely perfect if you want to see the southern right whales that come to the waters off Hermanus to calve between June and October each year.
Soak up some Art
There is something about a cool, rainy day that calls for poking around antique and collectible stores, browsing markets and wandering around art galleries. There are some incredible options too, like the Rupert Museum on the outskirts of Stellenbosch (housing South Africa’s best Pierneef collection) and the Art Curator Gallery at Lourensford (which boats a beautiful selection of South African Old Masters, Contemporary and African Art). And if you’re staying at Erinvale you’ll love their eclectic collection of artwork – including pieces by South African artist, Kyle Rinquest.
Discover the Camellias at Vergelegen
The gardens at Vergelegen Wine Estate are legendary, and you don’t need to wait until summer to enjoy them! The Sundial Garden, Bamboo Garden, East Garden and Wetlands Garden can be enjoyed all year around, but the Camellia Garden of Excellence flowers between June and August – making it a must-do, especially as it is one of only 39 such gardens in the world, and the only one in Africa.
Hit the Slopes on a Mountain Bike
There’s no reason to hibernate this winter. Lourensford’s network of MTB trails promises something special for every rider – including a pump track for the kids! It’s a great way to get moving, get active, and get plenty of fresh air this winter. And the views!
Find an Excuse to Drink Champagne
Not that you need an excuse with Stellenbosch’s newest venue, Petites Bulles Champagne Lounge. Grab your girlfriends and head off for a morning, afternoon or evening of bubbles – and raise a glass to winter in the Winelands!