The Cape’s winemaking history dates back more than 300 years, and where better to be transported back to the time of pioneering French Huguenots than on one of the oldest operational wine farms in South Africa.
At the foot of the second-largest granite outcrop in the world, just off Paarl’s Main Road, is Laborie Wine Estate with its Cape Dutch architecture, award-winning wines, restaurant and guesthouse.
Each of the eight rooms in the renovated horse stables sleep two and décor is uncluttered and simple, if a bit corporate. The stoep looks out over the Manor House gardens and Drakenstein mountains, but I found some of the best views are from the swimming pool (that’s well secured to keep kids out of trouble) at the back of the house. Most rooms are small and not made for lingering – so get out and explore Paarl’s mountain-bike and hiking trails, historic architecture and antique stores. Otherwise, book room five, which has a lounge area.
Ask for the keys to the Anglo-Boer War monument, which is a short walk away from the tasting room. It’s been fenced off to prevent vandalism, but the sculptures of a man and woman surrounded by panels of scenes from the war create a space for quiet reflection.
Most importantly, don’t miss chef Matthew Gordon’s on-site Harvest Restaurant. Book a table for a lazy lunch on the terrace overlooking the town and mountains in the distance and watch kids play on the massive jungle gym. By night it’s a more formal affair with South Africa-cum-French dishes taking centre stage; think Klapmuts free-range duck parfait with potbrood and peach blatjang, and springbok fillet with butternut purée, oyster mushrooms and vygie jus. Of course all Laborie’s wines are available (with a small mark-up on cellar price), as well as other favourites from the region.
Here’s a tip: Laborie is known for its bubbly. Its Blanc de Blanc at R98 a bottle is one of my favourites – don’t leave without a bottle (or two). Be sure to also try the estate’s flagship, Jean Taillefert Shiraz 2010, which at R174 is pricey, but comes with some serious pedigree. The tasting room is open every day until 17h00, so wine is never in short supply. Grab a bottle from the tasting room and make yourself comfy on the lawns.
If your visit falls on a Saturday, the Lazy Days Market is a great place to stock up on biltong, fresh trout and Darling Brew beer. Although the market is popular, guest rooms are set away from the bustling activity, so your morning sleep-in won’t be interrupted.
B&B from R520 a person a night sharing.
Tel (021) 807-3390, email email@example.com
Previously deputy editor of Wine magazine, now part of the Getaway team and editor of the Best Value Wine Guide and Green Wine Awards, I’m still on the hunt for quaffable wines, delicious meals and exotic treats. This sometimes takes me to far-flung destinations, but mostly to my kitchen. I hope you’ll follow my recipes, reviews and thoughts on the world of travel, food and wine, and that they’ll inspire you to try something scrumptious.