A little while back I was invited on a media tour of Robertson and didn’t hesitate to say ‘hell yes’. ‘Media tour’ is code for ‘good food and lots of wine’ and in this case it included great company too. Our host was Mira Weiner from Hot Oven Marketing and this chick is a jol of note. Our group also included two peeps I hadn’t seen in ages, editors Claire and Carla who I used to work with via Foschini ClubCard back in the day plus a new friend, blogger Leanne from The Wine Girl Cape Town. Leanne’s on a quest to cover every wine estate in the Western Cape (around 800 in total) so she’s definitely worth the follow if you’re into vino.
Our home sweet home for the weekend was The Galloway guest house in the Robertson Wine Valley and I can’t recommend it enough. Location-wise, you’re in the heart of everything on a beautiful farm with Langeberg mountain-facing rooms that are spacious and tastefully decorated in an Afro-Scandi style that’s minimalistic and mod yet kept warm with tasteful yet quirky local touches like an ouma-style crochet rug draped across a couch.
I really liked that my bed was incredibly soft yet firm at the same time (if that makes sense) and appreciated luxurious comforts like a jar of homemade rusks next to the kettle in my room, a hair drier that wasn’t rubbish and the softest, thickest most absorbent towels ever. Like for real! I even took note of the brand (Nortex) so I can get some for my home. Seriously. I’m almost embarrassed by how much joy Galloway’s towels brought to my life that weekend.
Still, top class textiles aside, what really made our stay that extra bit wondrous was the hospitality of the owners, Jana and Johan, as well as their friendly staff. These are good people, y’all. And being around good people and their lovely energy is something that’s hard to beat. Oh! And did I mention they serve up a mean English brekkie? That along with a cold buffet that includes yoghurt, granola, cheese, fruit and pastries makes waking up in a tranquil mountain-surrounded wine farm setting an even sweeter experience.
Anyway, we’ve got a lot to whizz through as our schedule was jam-packed so lets get cracking!
Our first stop was Excelsior Wine Estate where the river views are epic and the apple crumble is delicious.
You can also blend your own wine. Yep, you heard me. For a mere R65 you can taste Excelsior’s cab sav, shiraz and merlot and then decide exactly how much of each you want in your very own blend. Once you’ve poured it into the bottle you seal it with a cork and then get to print out a custom label.
Top tip: Stay for lunch! The food at Excelsior’s deli restaurant, Glaze, was great with a special shout out going to their enormous salad topped with a whack of crunchy sweet potato chips. I enjoyed these so much an extra bowl of them was kindly brought to our table and got devoured within minutes. This is just one example of ultra friendly Robertson folk going the extra mile without being asked, something that would become a bit of a theme.
Our next wine farm was Bonnievale where they offer a cooking and wine pairing for just R40.
It’s not offered in the tasting but they have a wine called Sushi which I thought was super cute. It’s a bit too sweet for me though so it didn’t go home with me but I really liked their reds as they’re mostly easy drinking.
Top tip: Do your best to be extra charming and wiggle an extra cinnamon cookie paired with the cabernet shiraz. It tastes just like a cinnamon pancake.
That evening we drove the short distance to Montague (30 minutes or so from Robertson) and dined at Mimosa Lodge’s restaurant. If you’re ever in the area, this is hands down must-do! It’s won loads of awards including an American Express Platinum award and it deserves every gong on the wall. The food we ate was absolutely sublime with a highlight being Mira’s incredible, lick-the-plate beetroot ravioli and my butter-soft fillet swimming in gravy with potato dauphinoise (a very thinly sliced potato stack layered with garlic and cream).
I don’t really have mooi-looking piccies to show you as my camera doesn’t do well in low lighting but just trust me, the food was epic.
Top tip: Go early and have a dop in the lounge before your meal. We were surprised by how quickly it filled up with locals and foreigners and the vibe was great.
The next day we headed off to Bon Courage in Robertson for brekkie at the estate’s restaurant, Cafe Maude. Here you can sit outside under a beautiful big pepper tree or indoors where there’s a fire that’s lit when its cold. The place is very kid friendly with a li’l play ground outside and one of the walls in the restaurant is covered in a fascinating bug and butterfly collection. Claire took piccies to send to her little boy and he absolutely loved it.
Food-wise, I really enjoyed my good value mini breakfast – an egg, two rashers of bacon, chips, lettuce and tomato plus HOME MADE TOAST (reeeee!) with all the trimmings for just R46. I didn’t try any of the cakes that decorated the restaurant’s main table but they looked really good.
Later we popped into the cellar for a champagne tasting with knowledgable assistant wine maker Phillip and I really enjoyed the Jacques Bruere Blanc de Blancs 2010 as it was nice and dry. (Surprise! Bon Courage don’t just turn out Blush, their infamous sweet sparkly pink!)
Top tip: Charming manager Francois, an entertaining host, told us the burgers are worth coming back for and, for the month of October, the buns are dyed pink with beetroot. If you’re looking for Instagram gold, Bon Courage is where its at.
Our next stop that day was Ashton Winery (it’s in neighbouring dorpie Ashton. Duh!), the home of easy drinking, easy on the pocket wines as well as grape juice. I absolutely loved this spot and still don’t know how they’re making money as the value they’re serving up is just beyond. First off, their generous wine tasting which is paired with a selection of treats including chorizo, cheese and choccie is just R30!
But there’s more… they serve up a giant picnic basket for just R200 that you can enjoy on their lawn that’s filled to the brim with tasty treats that includes caviar, olives, cheese, meats, bread (so much bread!), crackers, choccie, dried fruit, dried nuts, chicken liver pate, snoek pate, cream cheese and tsitziki AS WELL AS WINE! (Ashton Winery?! How are you making money?! OMG! OMG! OMG!) Guys, there was so much freaking food none of us could finish it.
Top tip: Do not leave without ordering that blerrie picnic. Just do it! DO IT! If I’m ever in the area again I’ll go straight to Ashton Winery and be sure to have an empty tummy.
Later that day we ended up at Viljoensdrift with the intension of going on their hour-long flat-bottomed river boat cruise down the Breede river (R60 for adults, R20 for kids). Thing is, it had started to rain and the weather was totally miz so Mira and I got comfy on the couch next to the fire in the tasting room with a coffee. There was no stopping the other three, however. They hopped aboard Uncle Ben 2 armed with wine and snacks bought from the on site deli and came back saying they’d had a blast.
Top tip: If you plan to hit the river know that advance bookings are essential. You can’t BYO snacks or vino but with prices starting from R30 for the latter you won’t struggle to find a bottle to suit your pocket.
The next morning we hit up Van Loveren in Robertson and I loved it. They’re known for their big, beautiful gardens of which you can take a self-guided or guided tour for R45 (it comes with a glass of bubbles!) to learn about the back story of certain trees planted by the former owner. She had a habit of planting a tree to commemorate certain occasions, both personal and historical.
We then sat down to a food and wine pairing and I was impressed with how many options they have, all for just R55 each! These include choccie and wine, cheese and wine, charcuterie and wine and even non-alcoholic sweetie pairings for the kids.
Platters include chocolate and wine, cheese and wine, charcuterie and wine, nougat, nuts and wine, a Four Cousins fan pairing as well as non-alcoholic pairings for both adults and children. (The kiddies one looks really cute. Think jelly tots and grape juice so they can sip and snack and not get bored while the grown ups suip.)
Top tip: Do not stop at just a pairing! Get your ass to Christina’s, the estate’s restaurant, and throw down either a thin and crispy pizza (out of this world!) or their gourmet burger – a fiesta of bacon, cheese, mushroom and mushroom sauce. This restaurant seriously impressed.
Also, am I the only person in the world who’s favourite pizza topping is a shizz ton of anchovy?
Speaking of pizza, on our last night at The Galloway guest house, Jana and Johan were kind enough to invite us into their home to abuse their wood fired pizza oven and that was awesome too. (Ultra thin, bubbly, crispy crusts for the win!) Apparently a dessert pizza topped with chocolate and marshmallows was made too but I’d blacked out on the couch at that point thanks to too much of their lovely boutique wine, Exdiem.
A ‘single vineyard wine’, the Exdiem line up is made using just the grapes that grow on their farm. I’m not a chenin blanc or rose fan but these are the two of their line up that loved to bits as the former wasn’t too woody while the latter wasn’t too sweet. To me, both tasted refreshing and super easy to drink which is probably why they went down like cooldrink. Still, I was conscious long enough to also enjoy some of their olives and olive oil, a new venture for the farm but one they’re going to excel in when they finally start selling.
Anyway, to wrap things up, Robertson was never the first wine valley to spring to mind if I wanted a truly relaxing weekend break but now its the one I’d love to return to. It’s such a beautiful area and the food is beyond but its the great value and humbling warmth of its people that make it such a winner. If you’re looking for a fab city break that won’t break the bank, Robertson is your baby.