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Time to head for the hills

Tastetrip-Head-for-the-hills

Now that it is high season there are just too many people-everywhere. The beaches are crowded, the restaurants are booked, and the tasting rooms are jammed. So it’s time to head for the hills, or more accurately, those great big mountains that are the divide between the “fancy” wineries of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek and “real” farming country.

The drive through the Huguenot Tunnel on the N1 is always fabulous because the Du Toitskloof mountains are so impressive- 500 hundred million year old granite rock faces, majestic in the sunlight, remind you that your stress is pretty insignificant in the greater scheme of things.

Just after the tunnel, you reach the start of the Breedekloof wine valley. First off, we suggest popping into Du Toitskloof Wines to Melissa’s for some strong coffee and a muffin to fortify yourself for the tasting ahead and to pick up some good value white wines, perfect for festive entertaining.

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Next stop is Deetlefs, just a few kilometres up the road to taste their semillon …delicious. Then head on towards the Slanghoek valley and the Opstal winery. Opstal has splendid views across the vineyards to another catch-your-breath mountain range, the Klein Drakenstein mountains. This is a good stop for lunch as their restaurant offers some of the best value in food that you can find anywhere. There are wraps, salads, platters, burgers and my absolute favourite…….old fashioned farm style chicken pie. (It is a very popular wedding venue so best to book ahead because sometimes the restaurant is closed for a function.) Opstal has easy drinking wines under the Sixpence label, but 7th generation family member, wine maker Attie Louw is also making some standout wines. The Carl Everson chenin is a real winner and is made from 80 year old vineyards – the maiden vintage in 2012 was a 5 star Platter wine. And the Barber semillon is also fabulous.

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If you can stay the night, we recommend the Platbos log cabins on a lake in an indigenous forest at the Slanghoek Mountain Resort. It is a lovely, special unspoilt place, and so peaceful. The tranquility there will fortify you to deal with any dramas that the new year and the falling rand may bring. If the cabins are booked, you can go glamping in the safari tents.

Wake up early and drive through one of the least known, but most scenic roads in the Cape – the Slanghoek road towards Ceres. The end of the valley brings you to another old family farm, Bergsig. The owners have a passion for conservation and have laid out a bird watching trail that takes you through the vineyards; you will see the most birds early on summer mornings. Bergsig has a restaurant offering breakfast and lunch, and you can pick up some excellent chardonnay before you head back to the city and its madding crowds.

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