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A day in Stellenbosch

A-day-in-the-winelands-

Some of my New Zealand family were out visiting last week and wanted to spend a day in the wine lands. They enjoy wine and this was their wish list: good wine, big views, great food, no cellar tours, relaxing, and not too much time spent in the car. Wow, there are hundreds of great wineries to visit that meet those criteria, so how to choose?

Later in the week, they had another trip planned to La Motte and Babylonstoren so I could knock Franschhoek and Cape Dutch heritage off the candidate list. I decided Stellenbosch was the place to go, and we hired friendly guide, Penny to drive us there, so that ticked the relaxing and not too long in the car box. I found out that chocolate and wine tastings are not common in New Zealand so that put Waterford on the list. Great food and views are combined at Jordan. Another tick. And then I chose Delaire for equally dramatic but different views with some interesting art to add to the mix. Here’s how the day went.

10h30: We arrived at Waterford on a perfect sunny day. Their customer service is great. You are welcomed at the door, and your table is already set out, but the staff encourage you to wander around and explore at your leisure; no-one hurries you along. Everyone was knocked out by the look and feel of Waterford – the shady courtyard, the iconic fountain, the sunflowers and proteas, the informative vine displays and the sophisticated but understated décor. Our server, a final year law student, was friendly and confident and talked us through the wine and chocolate pairing, giving everyone just the right amount of information without being boring. Waterford is the 2014 Great Wine Capitals Best of Tourism winner, and it is an accolade they deserve. Next time I hope I can also do one of their vineyard walks or drives because they look really interesting as well as fun. Visitor verdict: 10/10

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11h15: We drove through the Stellenbosch to see the historic oak tree-lined Dorp Street and the university buildings. Such a beautiful town. Applause all round.

12h00: After a very quick tasting, mainly to choose a wine for lunch (the rosé won), we settled down at the restaurant at Jordan. We had only been able to book a 12 o’clock slot, but that was just as well, lunch was so good that it deserved a leisurely approach. The menu changes almost daily, and you can choose a 2 or 3 course meal. We sat outside under a willow tree, with the legendary view down the valley and across to the mountains to enchant us.

Starters included a salad of fresh and grilled fennel with semi-dried orange, buffalo mozzarella and orange and vanilla dressing. It looked so fresh and pretty, almost dancing off the plate. Another stunner was the Mozambican prawn bisque with fried shimeji, miso turnip and charred aubergine. Between us we tried all the fabulous mains – aged rump, buttered fettucini, wood fired quail, and East Coast hake. But I think mine was simply the best (no menu envy for me) – pan roasted sea bass, salsa verde, confit of vine tomatoes, with garlic and caesar dressed crispy kale. The sea bass tasted as if it had been caught that morning, and the bright greens of the kale and the salsa verde along with the red tomatoes on the plate created a colourful ode to these last days of summer. The desserts were delicious, delicious, delicious. And to end it all, when the bill came, I was happy to see that Jordan support Street Smart, adding a R5 donation to the bill.

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The only disappointment was our failure to spot a dwarf chameleon. Apparently you don’t get chameleons in New Zealand and I had said I would find one to show them, but couldn’t. The Jordans fund ongoing research into chameleons, which was prompted by a green activist worrying that mechanical harvesting would result in chameleons landing in the wine. The researched answer is that they don’t. The chameleons live happily in the shrubs and trees on the edges of the vineyards, as well as in the restios near the restaurant, but don’t hang out in the vines.
Visitor verdict: 10/10

2h45: Delaire Graff
The gardens at Delaire were looking splendid and the driveway with its sculptures is most impressive. We enjoyed looking at the artwork, especially the original and famous Tretchikoff “Chinese Lady”. It was one of the world’s best selling art reproductions of the 20th century, and one which we all remembered from our childhoods. The section of the terrace which looks out onto the Simonsberg was full, but we found a spot outside to enjoy a leisurely glass of Sauvignon Blanc. As the mountains turned pink, we left to go home, wined, dined and content.
Visitor verdict: 7/10

(Su took the photographs)

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