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Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Newark-on-Trent...
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Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

My wife and I will be in Stellenbosch for a couple of days and wish to visit some wineries. The tours are highly recommended but before I commit to the R1000-R1200 quoted for the two of us can I ask whether people have had equally good winery experience by driving themselves?

I can see that there is a draw back that I as a driver will have to taste and not swallow and I that I will end the day with an intoxicated wife when I will be sober, but are there any other drawbacks? Are the wineries as accommodating to the independent traveller as to the tour guides?

I guess the other drawback I would have is knowing which winery to select, Does anyone have a suggestion of a winery that they thought stood out above the rest. I would like to visit t least one in each of Stellenbosch and Franzhoek areas.

Thanks

Cape Town
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1. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

There is definitely no other drawback. Otherwise driving yourself has lots of advantages. You go completely at your own pace. You can pick wine estates based on lots of feedback in these forums. And if see somewhere that takes your eye as you drive past then just call in. You can stop and have a long lunch at one of the many fantastic Wine Estate restaurants. Your guide doesn't have to wait in the car or join you (expensively) for lunch - and who knows you might not even like her/him!

Then your specific question the people at the estates certainly do give you equal, or even better, attention - especially at the smaller estates. The individuals in the tasting room are often members of the family - or even the proprietor/winemaker. They know far more about their wines than any tour guide. Start with an estate that has a broad range of different wine styles so that you can get a good overview. An excellent starting place is Simonsig in Stellenbosch.

Then I would certainly recommend that in a day you visit more than two estates. Four is good. Many people schedule six. Some of course, who visit the Cape and post on here regularly will fit in 20 or 30 different estates over a week or even more! Remember that all estates will provide spitoons and it is perfectly acceptable (expected) that you taste and spit. Of course professional wine tasters and crtics often taste many dozens of wines in a day and have all their faculties about them at the end!

Then for the R1,200 that you are being charged you can buy 8 or 10 bottles of excellent wine, 6 bottles of superb/outstanding examples or 24 bottles of a wonderful selection of everyday drinking wines.

As well as Simonsig here are 5 or so others in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek that would give you a really good cross section.

Muratie - old atmospheric tasting room and good wines including ports

Vriesenhof - small artisanal estate owned by very famous Springbok Rugby family and a couple of my favourite wines

Haskell/Dombeya - make this your lunch stop - their Long Table restaurant is excellent with wonderful vineyard and mountain views.

Delaire-Graff - for the ultimate "bling" estate. Shows you what a few spare tens of millions (pounds that is) from selling diamond jewellry in the UK can get you in terms of wine

All these Stellenbosch

Then in Franschhoek :

Lynx - very friendly tasting usually with the winemaker.

La Motte - another good broad based tasting on a lovely estate with beautiful gardens. Good art museum.

I could give you easilly one hundred more - no, nearer two hundred!

BTW remember to do your visiting on a weekday. Many estates are closed Sundays and also Saturday afternoons. These are primarily agricultural busineses not tourist facilities - those that are the later are better avoided.

Edited: 18 November 2013, 11:04
Newark-on-Trent...
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2. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Thank you very much for such a comprehensive and reassuring reply. One final question do I need to pre book the wineries or can I just turn up on the day without a reservation?

Cape Town
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3. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Absolutely no booking needed for tasting. A few estates may have a separate cellar tour at a fixed time for which you should book - although none of the ones I mentioned. In the central areas of Stellenbosch and Franschhhoek more of the estates now have a small charge for tasting (around R20). It is fine for two people to split a tasting - especially when one is driving. Away from the more tourist areas most estates don't charge.

My recommendation - except for the bigger estates like Delaire and La Motte - is that if there are more than 3 or 4 cars in the parking area and, especially any tour buses, then go on to the next on your list!

One final recommendation. Get yourself a copy of the John Platter Guide to SA Wines. Absolutely comprehensive. The 2014 edition is published this week.

Edited: 18 November 2013, 11:33
Newark-on-Trent...
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4. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Thank you again excellent advice

TSO
POULTON .LANCS.
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5. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

My strong advice would also be to go on your own

Leeds, United...
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6. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Hi

I also suggest that you do it on your own. It gives you much more flexibility and as VDC says, it's perfectly acceptable to spit

I would also add Jordan to the list for Stellenbosch

Lynx is one of my favourites in Franschhoek

Also, thanks VDC, a couple there for me to think about, which I haven't visited before

Lisa

Fordingbridge...
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7. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

I'll also add Thelema, at the head of the Helschoogte Pass between Stellenbosch & Franschhoek. The location is beautiful & their Merlot will blow your socks off. Maybe this is the one time you'll allow yourself a swallow.....I always do!!

Leeds, United...
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8. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Been to Thelema 3 times. Love their wines but always had an awful tasting. Staff have never known what they were talking about and very disinterested. I prefer next door at Tokara. But we can't all be the same!!

Cape Town
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9. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Hi Lisa

I have only had good experiences at Thelema. They do have a lot of different tasting room staff. Quite a few students from the Wine Faculty. So depends who you get. Otherwise as Nic says they tick lots of boxes. And they normally allow tasting of any of their wines, including their latest 2014 5-Star Rabelais 2009 Cab led blend.

But then I also like Tokara (two 2014 5 Stars) and Jordan even though they weren't awarded any Platter 5 Stars for 2014. As I say I would be happy with more than 100 other substitutions! I was just trying to give a balance of different types of estates to fit into a day.

Edited: 19 November 2013, 07:45
Leeds, United...
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for Western Cape, Cape Town Central
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10. Re: Any other drawbacks of a self drive winery tour?

Hi

I also suggest that you do it on your own. It gives you much more flexibility and as VDC says, it's perfectly acceptable to spit

I would also add Jordan to the list for Stellenbosch

Lynx is one of my favourites in Franschhoek

Also, thanks VDC, a couple there for me to think about, which I haven't visited before

Lisa