There’s something very cool about being on leave while everyone else is at work. Especially when it’s a Friday and it feels like spring has arrived a couple of weeks early. What to do on a sunny day off when you live in the winelands?
Hit a couple of surrounding Stellenbosch wine farms, of course. I think I probably sound like such an alcoholic with all these wine tasting posts, but I swear, it’s the wine vibe that gets me every time. The nature. The history of the farms. The whole leisurely “escape” experience. We could have been tasting fancy teas for all I cared. Okay, the wine plays some part, obviously, but you get what I mean.
So why the leave day? Why should anyone take a leave day off work and not save it for the end of the year – like I was going to? Stress. Stress, my friends. Even if you think you’re not super stressed, you probably are a little. Bills, work, traffic, relationships, social media, food, health, family stuff. Life is hard, flipping bloody hard. And I promise you, after the anxiety about being out of office for a day (I really need to practice more of what I preach), left me on Thursday night, I felt like a brand new person 24 hours later.
I didn’t realise how much I needed that day.
Just the two of us. Getting away from the normalcy of everyday life and pretending to be a free-spirited tourist with no responsibilities for a day= BLISS.
It’s a chance to reconnect, let your hair down, be adventurous, explore, and my personal favourite – create a bunch of awesome memories. I’m not one for materialistic things in life. I pick holidays over jewellery every single time, hands down. Traveling and exploring new places sets my soul on fire more than any diamond ever will.
So that’s what we did. A day totally planned by Geoff. I think that was one of the best parts – not having to make any decisions for an entire day.
Our first stop of the day was at Neethlingshof Estate, a wine farm we’d only visited once before. We sat inside, right in front of the wine cellar room with ginormous wooden wine barrels… incredible to see! What a pleasure being the only people there when we arrived and having a choice of where to sit.
We ordered the Flash Food, Slow Wine Pairing.
It’s five different wines paired with five bite-sized dishes.
Pity they didn’t have vegetarian options for all the dishes, but I enjoyed 3/5 and Geoff enjoyed the little extra bites of meat. This is their winter menu, except we were served chicken kebabs instead of the beef.
- Sundried tomato, soup paired with Chenin Blanc.
- Vegetable samoosa with mango atchar, paired with Gewurztraminer.
- Chicken kebab, paired with Malbec.
- Prego roll with steak, strawberry jam and chocolate shavings, paired with Owl Post Pinotage.
- Mini malva pudding paired with The Cracal (Bordeaux Blend).
Visit the Neethlingshof Estate website for more info on their wines and menus.
This place is always a favourite, and if they still had Moyo and all the cool little treetop places to sit and eat, we’d probably be there a lot more often. Though, their picnic baskets and luscious lawns are almost a perfect substitute. Almost. We sat inside, with the whole place to ourselves, again – it really felt weird and wonderful at the same time.
I love chocolate and wine pairings, and we’ve done a few at different wine farms over the years, but I think this one was my favourite. Our wine expert explained exactly how to do the pairings in a way that no one else ever has. And although she probably does this hundreds of times a month, it didn’t feel that way at all and I really love that. It just makes such a difference and it takes the whole experience to another level.
These are the wines and chocolates we tasted. If you ever visit Spier, I highly recommend giving this a go:
- Dark malted cherry chocolate, paired with Spier Creative Block 3 and Spier Signature Pinotage.
- White cardamon and passion fruit chocolate, paired with Spier Creative Block 2 and Spier Ideology Riesling.
- White peppered plum chocolate, paired with Spier Methode Cap Classique and Spier Signature Chardonnay / Pinot Noir.
My favourite part of the entire day was getting a spur of the moment cappuccino, sitting on the swing in the garden and snapping silly selfies like two drunk teenagers. Thankfully there were only two tannies sitting at a nearby table, but we were having to much fun to care (I feel so safe behind my sunglasses sometimes!)
For more info on wine pairings, picnics, eagle encounters or the restaurant, visit Spier’s website.
96 Winery Road
What’s a good reason to visit this popular winelands restaurant? I’ll tell you. Their exotic mushroom and baby broccoli main dish. I swear, I have NEVER in my life tasted such outstanding food. (And can I just say, thank you to this place for not having the ever so predictable and boring vegetarian option of mushroom risotto on their menu). Even if you aren’t vegetarian, order this. Geoff was so jealous.
The broth is like heaven in your mouth – I don’t know what they put in that noodle sauce, but OMG omg omg. The broccoli is done perfectly, not mushy, not raw. The noodles are silky. I’ve only ever tasted mushrooms done that well once before, and that was at Umami, which is sadly no longer in Stellenbosch. The fireplace was mesmorising and made the entire place feel all warm and cosy. And the service of course, was excellent.
For an anniversary or birthday spoil, or just a fancy date night, 96 Winery Road is a superb choice.
After lunch, we stopped at Alto – one of our favourite places, thanks to the exquisite view from their outdoor tasting area. For something a little different, we did a port pairing: three chocolate truffles paired with a rich, coffee and almond based Fine Old Vintage. Delicious!!
Visit Alto’s website for more info on their wines and pairings.
We had time for one more stop of the day so we headed to Bilton Wines, just a few metres away. Now if there’s one chocolate and wine pairing you do in Stellenbosch and you’re a bit of a choccie snob like me, this is the one to try. That Cape Malay chocolate is worth the drive alone, I promise! Oh, and the fireplace. A perfect way to end off a great day – sipping wine and nibbling on chocolates in front of a fireplace, without any noisy wine tasting groups around.
Visit Bilton Wines’ website for more info on their wine and pairings.