Try and defend it all you want but there’s no way around it; winter in Cape Town straight up sucks. It’s cold, miserable, and umbrellas don’t stand a chance against the unrelenting wind (no prizes for guessing I’m a summer baby). Luckily for me and my fellow summer babies, all is not lost because I’ve found a place in the Western Cape where the cold bite of winter is far less harsh, where the sun is (almost) always shining, and if it isn’t, there’s brandy. During the summer months, Wellington’s winelands are among the warmest in the world and when it comes to winter, locals will tell you that the weather is always at least a degree or two warmer than in Cape Town. In addition to the great weather, Wellington is also home to some incredible wineries, restaurants, and historical sites. Yes folks, Wellington is indeed the perfect winter winelands getaway.
Of course, I’m not telling you all this based on a rumour – I’ve seen, tasted, and experienced it all first hand. Recently some lucky sausages and I got the chance to escape a winter’s day in Cape Town and join the good folks of Wellington for a day trip in the winelands. From charcuterie and a scenic walk at Linton Park Wine Estate to lunch at the drop-dead-beautiful Au D’hex Estate, Dessert and brandy tasting at the delightfully quirky Oude Wellington, and finally a cheese and wine pairing at the family-friendly Val du Charron Wine & Olive Estate, Wellington treated us oh-so-well. Our tour was constructed as a type of travelling 4-course meal, which in my opinion is the best way to see any town!
Starters – a taste of history
Nothing makes a cold day better like enjoying a delicious glass of red wine while looking out over a beautiful view. Wellington has beautiful views in spades and you don’t have to look very far to find a winery or lunch spot offering great food and some excellent wines to go along with it. If you like your beautiful views mixed with a little history then you can’t go wrong with Linton Park Wine Estate. The farm (previously known as De Slange Rivier farm) and its grand gabled Cape Dutch Manor House date back to 1969 and 1809 respectively. It’s also a great spot to visit for a lesson in conservation and sustainability in winemaking. In addition to numerous conservation and sustainability projects, the wine estate goes through great pains to ensure the preservation of the Rhenosterveld (or Rhino Field) on the farm (the numerous and beautiful rare plant species are unique to the Cape Floral Kingdom) and the estate even produces a Rhino wine range from which the proceeds are donated to Rhinos Without Borders in aid of the protection of Rhinos.
Mains – morish mountain views
All that wine tasting and learning about conservation is sure to work up an appetite and a great place to stop for lunch is the picture-postcard beautiful Au D’hex Estate. Popular for weddings and romantic overnight retreats this spot boasts a fabulous restaurant with a vine-covered terrace overlooking the rose gardens, dam, and surrounding mountain ranges. This beautiful setting makes for the ideal place to enjoy a light meal on a sunny winter’s day. The restaurant offers breakfasts and light deli-style Meditteranean-inspired lunches that will no doubt hit the spot. It’s no secret that wine and copious amounts of carbs go together like bread and butter so I opted for the Tagliatelle tossed with feta, butternut, sundried tomatoes, olives, nuts, and basil (R85). The portion size of the dish was super generous (more than enough to keep the wine munchies at bay) but the beautifully light combination of Meditteranean-inspired flavours ensured that the dish wasn’t too overwhelming.
Dessert – a taste of the unusual
For those days when the weather isn’t in your favour a visit to Oude Wellington is a must. We popped into the quirky spot for a decadent dessert buffet and brandy tasting and let me tell you, nothing warms the soul quite a like a glass of brandy and a generous helping of pudding. If you’re after something out of the ordinary you will no doubt find it here – the restaurant and estate is run by Rolf Schumacher and his wife and is packed with character. But it’s not just the setting that’s unusual, the menu at the eatery also offers a taste of something different with options like Beef Marrow (served with toast and Pinotage jus), Ox Tripe (cooked the Florentine way, served on homemade pasta), Young Rabbit (cooked in the Flemish style), and so much more. But it was the wide range of desserts that really caught my attention. The decadent White Chocolate & Passion Fruit Baked Cheesecake is something chocolate lovers won’t want to miss out on!
Our last stop, the cheese course, was at Val du Charron. A haven for families with small kids and couples looking for somewhere to get away from it all, this unique wine and olive estate makes the drive to Wellington well worth it. The estate offers two restaurants: The Local Grill (an upmarket steakhouse offering breathtaking views of the valley) and Piza e Vino Restaurant (a family-friendly spot with delicious pizzas and a huge kiddies waterpark and play area). For those wanting to spend the night, Val du Charron is the ideal choice – the estate offers 5-star luxury, private accommodation at the Coach House as well as a more affordable option at the 4-star guesthouse. Spend the weekend unwinding in the on-site spa, sipping on a wide range of Val du Charron wines, or enjoying a meal at the two fabulous eateries. While you’re there, don’t forget to throw in a cellar tour and wine tasting – it’s a rather impressive operation!
While my first visit to Wellington was a bit of a whirlwind tour I saw more than enough to convince me to head back again soon. From the scenic beauty and historic Cape Dutch architecture to the gracious hospitality, and excellent restaurants, there is no doubt in my mind that wine lovers who visit this lesser-known wine route will want to return to Wellington again and again.