THE BEST HIDDEN GEMS ON THE WELLINGTON WINE ROUTE
Posted by Jacky Hartzenberg on 14 October 2021 3:00 PM CAT
The age-old history of this humble town and its generations-old traditions has many believing the region hasn’t developed with the times… they couldn’t be more wrong.
We found the birthplace of chocolate pinotage, we also found white pinotage, plus an entirely new varietal (a first in South Africa). That’s pretty innovative in our books.
That’s even before mentioning everything else Wellington has going for it: settings that beg you to linger longer, dog-friendly hiking trails, beautiful places to rest your weary wine-filled head, and delicious food.
Not only is Wellington a wine lover’s saviour (which makes it worth a visit in itself), its slow-paced, intimate way of doing things is a much-needed antidote to the stress of daily life. Whether you’re planning a day trip or weekend stay, read on to discover the best of the Wellington Wine Route.
When a root louse nearly wiped out the world’s grapevines in the late 19th century, all wine-producing regions had to start grafting their rootstock.* It wasn’t long before grapevine nurseries sprang up in all the grape-growing regions of the Cape.
Come grafting season, everyone in the town would pitch in to help – even children, who’d miss school to help “stokkies draai” (take leave without notice) – which is the origin of this famous Afrikaans saying.
Owing to its greenhouse-like climate, the Wellington wine region is home to 80% of the vine nurseries that supply the South African wine industry with grafted rootstock – hence dubbed the cradle of wine.
Pairings with a view
In the heart of the Boland, Imbuko Wines is where warm hospitality and exceptional wines meet. This view-drenched estate is perhaps best known for its gourmet cocktail-pie-and-wine pairing, decadent milkshakes and farm-style toasties, but it does wonderfully festive picnics during the warmer months.
In winter, nab a seat on the verandah, whose fireplace will keep you toasty before embarking on one of three wine pairings, suitable for all tastes, occasions and budgets (there’s even a spritzer tasting). Perfect for family outings, no matter the weather, the farm has plenty of seating space indoor and out, plus a large jungle gym and grass area for the kids.
Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate
The undisputed home of the original Coffee Chocolate Pinotage, Diemersfontein is one of the better-known wine estates in Wellington, and actually the Western Cape. But there’s so much more to the farm than that! What started as a family retreat for the Sonnenbergs is now a wine-tasting, event-hosting, food-loving haven. Why not extend your visit with a tranquil evening at the country estate guesthouse?
Bosman Family Vineyards
Originally part of the 260-year-old cellar, the tasting room at Bosman Family Vineyards welcomes guests with beautifully kept grounds and truly spectacular wines, courtesy of winemaker Corlea Fourie. While everyone expects a lineup of cabernet and chardonnay, oenophiles will be amazed to discover new-to-South-Africa varietals, such as the Nero d’Avola, the Optenhorst Chenin Blanc and Fides, an orange wine made with skin-on white grapes!
As part of the tasting experience, guests may wander through the cellar, and if you look down through a framed patch of glass flooring, you’re able to see where the old wine vats once stood. Those looking to spend the night can rest their head in ultimate country comfort at Vineyard Cottage, a self-catering farm-style house, with a private splash pool and vineyard-covered front and back porches overlooking the valley and mountains.
Bosman Wines plays an active role in the upliftment of the surrounding community, making positive changes through sustainability and fair trade.
Bovlei Taste Room at Wellington Wines
The renovated cellar at Bovlei Wines on Bainskloof Road in Wellington acts as the tasting room for Wellington Wines, a collaboration between Bovlei, Wamakersvallei and the Wellington Co-Operative. With its homely atmosphere and relaxed, comfortable aesthetic, it’s the perfect place to indulge in an interesting pairing option while drinking in the vineyard views. Sweet tooth? Try the doughnut-and-wine pairing.
If you’re hungry, grab a bite at Bains Café next to the tasting centre, where you can sit and snack under the trees while the little ones are kept entertained at Bains Play Park. There’s even a unique kids’ wine pairing.
Family- and pet-friendly farms
Doolhof Wine Estate
Running through Doolhof Estate is the picturesque Kromme River that sets a wonderfully tranquil scene. While the farm has an elegant Tasting Room where you can sample its award-winning wines, outside is where the magic happens. From river walks (pooches are welcome), mountain-biking trails for adults and children, and secluded picnics, dinner and breakfast baskets to a labyrinth and Africamps glamping complete with your very own private hot tub, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of activities.
Also on the estate is the five-star Grande Dedale Country House, an elegantly restored Cape Dutch Manor House, complete with a library, tea lounge with a fireplace, grand verandah, and an outdoor pool and spa room.
The Tasting Room @ Doolhof is currently only serving cheese and meat platters and no meals. However, you can still book for a picnic.
Dunstone Country Estate
At the foot of Bainskloof Pass, this picturesque and family-run boutique winery is simultaneously a tranquil respite in the country thanks to a range of luxury accommodation options and excellent wine, and also a perfect spot for a family day out. The Stone Kitchen bistro is child-friendly to the max, offering a kids’ menu, indoor and outdoor play areas, with a Lego table, climbing wall and mini-kitchen.
Or, kids can let off steam on the jungle gym, play mini-golf or mini-soccer, enjoy the swings and slides and meet the farm animals. It’s also dog-friendly!
Jacaranda Wine Estate
Jacaranda is the smallest registered wine estate in the entire country – a characteristic that really shines through when you visit. The mini yet mighty farm is shared with two dogs, seven cats, several chickens, an abundance of birdlife and is planted with chenin blanc, viognier, chardonnay, shiraz and mourvedre. The wine tastings, available by appointment only, are done on the winemaker’s stoep by the man himself. If you’re lucky enough to visit during jacaranda season (from late September to November), you might like to book a stay in one of their two farm cottages.
Andreas Wine Estate
Lovers of red, this one’s for you! Andreas Estate & Wedding Venue is a veritable hidden gem, home to an elegant 18th-century house, surrounded by rolling vineyards and lush gardens. And, it only produces shiraz – an award-winning one at that! The estate is also home to luxury accommodation in a beautifully refurbished Cape Dutch house. Visits, wine tastings and cellar tours are exclusive and by appointment only, so be sure to book in advance.
Mont du Toit Wines
At the foot of the Hawequa Mountains, Mont du Toit Kelder is planted with an abundance of red-varietal vineyards – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and shiraz – all produced using a traditional, ecofriendly method. Enjoy tasting and learning about these during a private tasting with owner and winemaker, Stephan du Toit. Make sure to book in advance!
Upland Organic Estate
Tucked away in a corner at the end of a dirt road, you will find the rustic and unassuming Upland Organic Estate. The small fruit and wine farm has been producing world-class organic brandy, Grappa, Port and cabernet sauvignon for over a decade. What makes Upland unique is its dedication to organic farming techniques that are economically viable and also sustainable in the long term (a slower process than normal). You can really taste the commitment of the owners, Dr Edmund Oettlé and his wife, Elsie, when you visit the farm.
Don’t leave without trying the award-winning organic port, rated Best Port on the Platter’s wine guide! Visits and tastings by appointment only in their tasting venue.