Following on from our 5 nights in Cape Town, we left at about 10am to drive to Franschhoek. We had 2 nights there, and thought we'd stop off at Stellenbosch on the way for some lunch. It took about 45mins to drive to Stellenbosch, and we took a walk around the town to check it out. Unluckily for us, it was a national holiday (Heritage Day) and there was a strangely quiet atmosphere, so we didn't stay around for long. But you could see on a normal day it would be a lovely place to spend some more time.
We picked up some wine-route information from the little tourist office there, and thought we'd stop off at our first wine farm en-route to Franschhoek. There are so many, it was hard to choose, but we plumped for Neethlingshof.
The drive up towards the estate is wonderful, with huge pines towering over the road (pictured on the wine's labels) and went for their premium tasting option of 6 different wines for about 45R. The Laurentius stood out for me, and I also liked their Noble Late Harvest very much (not normally a fan of desert wines). The tasting price also included two Neethlingshof branded tasting glasses which was a nice little souvenir to take away.
After Neethlingshof it was off to Franschhoek. Contemplated stopping in at Boschendal, but some heavy rain and roadworks on the R310 put us off, so we decided to go straight on to Akademie Street Guesthouses. We were staying in their 'Uitsig' suite which was an amazing room in a very special place (more on that in seperate review).
After relaxing in our wonderful room for a few hours, we had reservations at Bouillabaisse for dinner. It's about a 10min walk, and a funky pan-Asian/seafood restaurant. You can eat up at the counter overlooking the open kitchen (good for singles or if you want a good view of the flambe action) or a proper table back from this. I'd suggest the latter if you value a bit more space and want to face your dining companion. I loved the tapas concept here. You can order whatever you want, in whatever order you like off the menu, and there are lots of small taster plates as well as bigger main portions. A variety oyster shooters and seared scallops with black pudding stood out with a bottle of the Boschendal sav blanc we didn't get to try earlier.
Following a cracking nights sleep in the King Henry VIII size bed at Akademie (it's obscenely huge) we set off for the 11am wine tasting/tour at Glenwood. The cellar tour was a bit underwhelming, just a quick look at their barrels really, not much explanation or detail on the wine-making process, but we settled down to some tasting. Their award-winning flagship Chardonny was a delicious creamy affair, but we actually preferred their 2007 Semillon and left with a couple of bottles for 140R each. Bit surprised to see it in the bottle shop in Franschhoek later that day for 100R, but there you go.
Following Glenwood, we had some lunch in the cosy courtyard at The Salmon Bar. Salmon/Tuna Burger for me and a tasting platter for Mrs Redpete. Accompanied by some of Graham Beck's bubbles, the spot was sufficiently hit.
With the weather a bit dodgy, we retreated back to Akademie for a few hours chillout, and were going to set out for Boekenhoutskloof and their infamous Chocolate Block. However, changed our mind following a tip off that Stony Brook release their more premium wines for tasting whereas Boekenhoutskloof do not. Not sure if that's true or not, but we weren't disappointed. On the list of wines at Stony Brook, they claim Ghost Gum isn't available for tasting, and The Max is only sometimes available. Well we got to try both, and they were both some of the best reds I've had in a long time. Left with bottles of each and a pleasant encounter with Max himself (The dog that the wine is named after). Also liked the informal atmosphere at Stony Brook, it was like being in someone's living room, very homely.
Freshen up at Akademie, and a stroll round the corner to Reubens. Probably the best dinner of the holiday. Everything we had was cooked to perfection and presented beautifully, but didn't seem to be trying to hard. I liked La Colombe very much, but as good as it was, I felt the flavours there were sometimes a bit too rich for my taste, and seemed to be trying a bit too hard in a way. Reubens was absolutely spot on for me.
Would have loved to have tried more wine farms and some of the other reputedly fantastic restaurants in the area, but time was of the essence, and it was down the R62 to Oudtshoorn for a few nights.