It’s becoming harder to track down smaller wineries offering an off-the-beaten track boutique wine experience. Upcountry friends usually want to find unfamiliar boutique wineries, with good eating alongside. Overseas visitors seem to enjoy a lighthearted introduction to our landscape, wines and food. Here are 5 boutique winery experiences that are worth a try for both locals and tourists alike.
For a primer to SA whites and red styles, Warwick in Stellenbosch is a historic farm with a modern approach. Knowledgeable staff pop back and forth explaining seven wines, allowing chatting and tasting at your own pace (R25pp, refundable on purchases). But gourmet picnics (or winter tapas) make this overly busy at times. Warwick Wine, R44, Klapmuts exit off N1, Stellenbosch. Open daily. Tel 021 884 4410, www.warwickwine.com.
Muratie is a cosier, quieter option a few kilometres away. The family-owned farm dates to 1685 and the rustic cellar to the early 1900s, with cobwebbed windows, wonky walls and old signage to prove it. Stay for lunch in the garden or under arches of reshaped cement tanks (offal is legendary, the curry and rice by the same cook). Muratie produces excellent whites, reds and port (R20pp, refundable on purchases). Don’t miss the Laurens Campher 2011 flagship blended white (R95). Muratie, R44, Klapmuts exit off N1, Stellenbosch. Open daily. Tel (021) 865 -2330, www.muratie.co.za
Near Hermanus, Creation Wines in the Hemel en Aarde Ridge is 18km into a beautiful valley along a winding partial dirt road. Its remoteness is what makes it appealing. Creation’s wine tasting is free, but the clever Wine and Food pairing (R106pp) of nine bite-sized canapés on an oak barrel head is way more interesting with their quality wines – chicken laksa makes new converts to Creation Viognier (R90 per bottle). Order lunch here, or have the Secret Wine and Food pairing (R180pp) of four starters plus four wines, or Wine and éclat du Chocolat pairing (R90pp) of chocolates custom-made to three wines. Cool-climate Pinot Noir 2011 (R169 per bottle) and Syrah-Grenache 2010 (R139 per bottle) are reds worth taking home. Creation Wines, Hemel-en-Aarde Road, Hermanus. Open daily. Tel (028) 212-1107, www.creationwines.com
If you’re in Stanford for a long weekend, my recommendation is to taste Sir Robert Stanford wines (no fee) and then sit down to country lunch at Madré’s Kitchen at Robert Stanford Estate. At this small grape farm, Madré Malan’s simple menu favours risotto, curries or fish dishes. It’s all presented with flair, and I love the minerality of the Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (R85 at cellar door or restaurant), especially with fish. Families enjoy the pond’s ducks that waddle near restaurant tables. In reds, try the Hansom Bordeaux blend 2010 (R125). An easydrinking wine range is out soon. Robert Stanford Estate. Tel (028) 341-0441, http://www.madreskitchenstanford.co.za/ Open Thursday to Monday. Check ahead for power failures and winter dates.
Klein Roosboom in Durbanville is a farm I was tipped off about while taking an Australian visitor around recently. You’ll only try two whites and reds (R15pp, refundable on six bottles) alongside more-ish olives. But converted cement tanks have become a quirky, stylishly rustic tasting venue. Self-taught farmer-turned-winemaker Karin de Villiers started making MCC (sold out) a few years ago at age 40. Her cellar door staff could be better trained. But Klein Roosboom Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (R75) has grassy personality, and the Merlot 2010 (R95) offers plummy richness. We had a glass of each over lunch at cheerful adjacent Café Ruby serving creative salads and a decent burger with thin fries. Klein Roosboom, M13 Durbanville Road, Durbanville Wine Valley. Open Tues to Sun. Tel 082 784 5102, www.kleinroosboom.co.za
Kim Maxwell has been writing about wine, restaurants and chefs for a long time. She’s travelled through a lot of the world’s wine areas but reckons the Cape Winelands offers some of the most delicious plates, distinctive wines and best scenery to be found.