Driving Cape Town’s Wine Route

We could have rented a car to visit the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, but the thought of driving on the left-hand-side of the road while downing glasses of wine did not thrill me. It was a wise move to hire a driver, especially when we realized that the drive is exquisitely beautiful with vineyards rolling to the base of jagged mountain peaks, dotted with the distinctive white Cape Dutch style architecture. Our driver, Malcolm Frye, picked us up in his comfy VW Van and off we went to Stellenbosch. Malcolm delved into the complex and often tragic history of South Africa while stopping at four very different wineries he had selected. He was a wonderful companion for the day, full of anecdotes from a very full life in southern Africa (ask him about his military stint in Angola and about his son, a pilot for Cathay Pacific). I’d highly recommend him for drives to the Wine Region, Cape Point, Hermanus, and the Garden Route.

Our first stop, Meerlust, is a sixth-generation Dutch farm estate known for its award-winning Rubicon wine. Next up was the more commercial Spier Wine Farm, where we tasted a very good chenin blanc. The opulent Delaire Graff Estate is owned by the diamond dealer, Laurence Graff, and is now a Relais and Chateau property housing mega-sized portraits and sculptures by South African artist Lionel Smit and a diamond store that will make you weep with envy. Thankfully, the vista of the breathtaking mountain pass was free. My favorite winery, Delheim, was where we had lunch. Lost in the vineyards at the base of a mountain, Delheim was the antithesis of Delaire Graff, simple, authentic, one of the first wineries to open in Stellenbosch over 50 years ago. We dined on wild mushroom lasagna and lamb shank, so tender it fell off the bone, washed down with a wild fermented chenin blanc. 
Malcolm dropped us off at our lodging for the night, La Residence, located in the hillside outside of Franschhoek. If I die and go to heaven, I want it to look exactly like La Residence. This is as close to a bucolic paradise as I’ve found. Our room overlooked a pond where a black swan swam. Peacocks were found on the branches of a tree nestled on the shore. Beyond the pond were springboks running, and surrounding our spacious suite was a valley of tightly woven vineyards ringed by mountains. The town of Franschhoek was also a gem, lined with restaurants and boutique artisanal shops. We were there on a Saturday morning, when the local Farmer’s Market was in full swing. We made the mistake of having Malcolm pick us up after only one night in Franschhoek. Next time, I’ll book La Residence for at least two, if not three nights, to relax and savor the scenery and wines.