Monday, January 21, 2013

A wonderful day of wine and roses at Cape Town's Vergelegen Winery


In South Africa last November, living a Travelife, one of the most enjoyable lunches in two weeks of very enjoyable lunches was an afternoon we spent at the historic Vergelegen Winery in the suburbs of Cape Town, a district called Somerset West.


Breakfast at Le Quartier Francais.
We especially loved the sticky muffins.

I really liked this day, especially as it began with a truly scrumptious breakfast at the charming Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek; and ended with an enjoyable and very personalized dinner cooked by the executive chef himself at the pretty amazing La Residence, also in Franschhoek.

And below is what we had in between.

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A DELICIOUS STAY IN FRANSCHHOEK

This was the morning after an epic dinner at the world-famous The Tasting Room in Franschhoek, one of South Africa's top restaurants, and a very nice stay at its sister property, Le Quartier Francais, which is a Relais & Chateaux establishment.



After that scrumptious breakfast, we'd spent that morning walking around the very picturesque town of Franschhoek.

We'd looked at animal skins, I got to see a couple of home decor stores, and we stumbled upon an upscale mini-grocery where we stocked up on organic rooibos tea and biltong.



Biltong is the South African version of beef jerky. Every evening on safari, we'd been served this at the sundowner cocktails, along with a glass of champagne; and we'd gotten hooked on it.

Then just before noon, we'd driven over to Somerset West to make it in time for a 1230 pm lunch with Sharon Hoskings, who is second in command at Vergelegen.

The Vergelegen Winery in Somerset West


There are hundreds of wineries to choose from for a day of wine tasting around Cape Town.

However, we could only pick a handful due to time constraints, and I was insistent that the grand wine estate of Vergelegen be among our three choices.

WORTH THE DRIVE



Vergelegen was an hour’s drive from where we were staying in Franschhoek, itself an area well known for wines. The problem was, we needed to drive back to Franschhoek again after the winery, as our next hotel was still in Franschhoek.

Thinking about the two-hour roundtrip drive and passing so many other wineries along the way, my companion -- who was also the designated driver -- wondered aloud, not a few times, why we needed to travel so far for so obviously abundant wine.

In other words, he wondered why we needed to do such a long drive when there were dozens of wineries two minutes on foot from where we were staying.

I said: "Just trust me on this. I'm Travelife."

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The drive itself was pretty nice, as it was a beautiful day and we passed many interesting places along the way. One of these places was the Graff Estate. I so wanted to stop here, by the way, but I wasn't driving and my "driver" didn't feel like it.

This worked out in the end, however, because it meant that we got to check in at La Residence earlier, and so we were able to enjoy this truly amazing hotel.

THE ANSWER PAST THE GATES



But back to Vergelegen, and how my friend had wondered aloud about why we'd had to drive so far to visit a particular winery when we were literally surrounded by wine at every turn in this part of the world.

The answer became clear as soon as we passed Vergelegen’s gates. We were immediately transported to a unique world that was both cutting-edge and Old World.



Vergelegen, which traces its beginnings back to 1635, is renowned for its colorful history and its immaculately preserved heritage buildings. It's one of the oldest estates on the Cape.

It has an edgy fine dining restaurant called Camphors at Vergelegen, which opened just two weeks before we visited, and a stylish tasting room with a design vibe that would be at home anywhere in Napa Valley.

The executive chef of Camphors at Vergelegen

THE LOVELIEST GARDENS 
IN SOUTH AFRICA

It also boasts of among the loveliest gardens in South Africa – a must-visit for travelers seeking to be impressed by both beauty and history.

Many dignitaries visiting Cape Town, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, are taken by the South African government to Vergelegen for a pleasant trip back in time, to the Dutch colonial days.



These gardens are the pride of the Cape.

ALL MY REASONS WHY

And this, in a nutshell, is why I chose Vergelegen over hundreds of other choices.

It has history, beautiful gardens, Cape Dutch culture, great food and very good wines. Most other wineries will have one or two of the above, at most, but not all six.

Great food at Vergelegen


Anyway, we were almost immediately enamoured with the beauty of the entire estate. There are hundreds of wineries in the Cape Town area, but few truly rival Vergelegen in terms of the total experience.

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I DON'T WANT TO SAY 
I TOLD YOU SO

And I couldn't help a little bit of a chuckle whenever I heard my companion rave about what we were seeing to Sharon.

Finally, I couldn't help it. I said: "Next time, just trust me. I'm Travelife"

To be continued in the next blog entry in a few hours....

VERGELEGEN
www.vergelegen.co.za

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