Travelling with a child under the age of 10, a moody teenager and a SGH (Sometimes Grumpy Husband) can be viewed as a challenge. Travelling after being in lockdown with them for more than one hundred and sixty million (it feels like it) days could be viewed as slightly insane… but there we were… in Wellington… and it was WINEDERFUL.
Yes, my wanderlust turned into ‘winederlust’ almost biblically after lockdown and that is how we ended up packing up one seven-year-old extremely fussy eater (and I mean f u s s y as in we have to pack food to take with us especially for him), one six-foot tall teenaged girl (who eats whatever is put in front of her and never has to think twice about it), one SGH (read: designated driver) and one slightly flustered Mom who had a serious case of cabin fever and really needed to get out of the house before losing her final marble.
Let’s fast forward to the good stuff… Wellington really is closer than you realise – we fetched the offspring from school in Somerset West at 2 pm (with the car already packed). 59 minutes (and one rendition of ‘99 Bottles of Wine on a Wall’) later they were slurping down milkshakes at Imbuko, which I truly believe were made by milkshake angels. Knowing that my kids were happily exploring, burning off the sugary treats on the playground, and feeding the horses across the road, it was time to get down to some serious wine business.
I was very easily convinced that since it was Friday, we should celebrate our first weekend away since lockdown with the Van Zijl MCC (the Van Zijl range of wines is their signature range which bears the proud heritage of the Van Zijl family). After a particularly spectacular introduction, the bubbly was smoothly followed by a wine and gourmet pie pairing – never done this before and I totally fell in love with the lamb shank pie which paired perfectly with the Van Zijl Red Ink Shiraz.
Fortunately, SGH was the designated driver, so onward we went to Jacaranda Wine Estate which was home for the next two nights. And I really do mean ‘home’. We could not have asked for more welcoming and cheerful hosts than Birgit and Renee, who also made me realise to truly experience the essence of Wellington, you need a local to share their inside knowledge of the area. We were enthralled by how they relayed their town’s history which honestly is riveting. Our accommodation was equally riveting – SGH and I are both over 6ft tall, so a king-sized bed is more of a necessity than a luxury. Our extremely well-equipped cottage checked that requirement and more – the kids were also very comfy in their digs upstairs!
Friday evening involved a tasting from Upland Organic Estate which was made just a little bit more special by the fact that Jacaranda had arranged a wine tasting with both their wines and the wines from Upland at a fabulous dinner just for us with Elsie and Edmond from Upland. My favourite was the Upland Cape Tawny Port which incidentally won Port of the year, and Jacaranda “SALT” which is an unfiltered old vine Chenin 2016 – you will be buying as much of this as you can lay your hands on!
Fortunately – on our hosts’ very welcome advice – we had pre-ordered a lasagne from Villamar (owned by Lucar) which was delivered and promptly devoured. Even the f u s s y seven-year-old approved! In case you are wondering, there is Wi-Fi on the farm which can be a real lifesaver when travelling with kids.
Call it serendipity (personally I think it was just my epic planning skills) but our first call of ‘port’ on Saturday was a coffee tasting with Jean-Marie at Villamar. I could not have dreamt up a more perfect spot to start the day… and not just because we had enjoyed tastings at three different wine farms the day before. I learned so much about coffee, this was like a wine tasting but with caffeine – who knew coffee was more than just liquid sanity? Did I mention the bakery? Not only is this the place that all ‘good’ carbs – like pastries – are created, but they grow a lot of the ingredients for their menu and make their own gelato (the kids had their own little tasting session). I may or may not have bought a few of their olive oils too. Naturally, we were destined to have breakfast here – the fresh orange juice and the kids’ playground deserve particular mentions!
Completely invigorated, SGH took the wheel again, this time with Doolhof Wine Estate as our destination. He got my undying gratitude for driving because it meant I was able to fully appreciate the scenery as we drove into the valley. How is it possible that I have never been here before?
Doolhof deserved more than the day trip we had allocated. There is so much to do: hiking, mountain biking, picnics on the beautiful grounds (make sure you order your picnic baskets 24hrs in advance), or take a 3km walk along the river – if you are feeling particularly energetic after a wine tasting which comes with a drool-worthy meat and cheese platter. Funny story… watch out for f u s s y seven-year-olds who explore the grounds while you are ‘winederlusting’ then put their feet up on the white ostrich leather chairs! Sidebar – he did ask for a cloth to clean it after I gave him ‘the look’ and was very apologetic.
If you are ambling along and time is not an issue, stop at Val du Charron & Leisure Estate on the way back from Doolhof (it’s on the same road) – the pizza is pretty much everything you would want in cheesy, doughy deliciousness or like me, try one of the really tasty salads. It’s also a great spot for the kids to burn off some energy on a long-ish drive. There is a water playground so bring spare clothes and a towel – some kids were even riding their bikes around the vineyards! For a more adult-friendly experience try the Grill Room and treat yourself to a night in 4- and 5-star accommodation with a treatment at the spa to really glam it up.
After all the (necessary) indulgence of the day, we needed some exercise, so we visited Elsie and Edmond at Upland Organic Estate to experience their beautiful 300-year-old farmhouse nestled against the mountains for ourselves. Their organic estate is so different from the usual wine farms.
During our hour-long walk along the river and up the mountain we were entertained by Elsie slack lining (see picture) but the highlight for the kids was definitely playing with the chickens and the huge greyhounds. As a momento *wink wink*, we bought a bottle of their delicious Cape Tawny Port which is only 18% alcohol.
Lightning-fast showers to make ourselves presentable for dinner at Linton Manor House at Linton Park wine estate meant we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset overlooking the grounds. Our host, Pieter served us an appetizing dinner while the kids made their own pizzas and played with new friends out on the lawn under a spotlight. We all slept very, very well that night.
A rainy Sunday morning was spent taking our time packing up before we met with Johan at Diemersfontein to see what changes he had made on one of my favourite wine farms. The estate’s restaurant, Proe (which is the Afrikaans word for ‘taste’) is now a laid back deli where you can tick off whatever grabs your fancy on a printed ‘menu’ and choose to enjoy your food with a wine tasting or just buy a bottle of your favourite Diemersfontein wine and languish over lunch overlooking the big grounds surrounding their dam.
They are very well known for their Pinotage, and if you like Rosé, you should definitely try theirs. The f u s s y seven-year-old and 6ft teen girl were particularly impressed with the fancy cordials. I loved the concept of swapping your car keys for a picnic blanket.
The weekend closed on a high with burgers for Sunday lunch at Dunstone Country Estate’s bistro, The Stone Kitchen (service is really superb here). Once again Wellington did not disappoint and the kids were kept occupied with the indoor and outdoor playgrounds, putt-putt, goats and pigs; which meant SGH and I could catch our breath before grabbing a coffee for the drive home. We didn’t try the wine as this time but next time (because there will definitely be a next time) we will make a point of test-tasting the wines and the breakfast menu as this is also one of the few places open for breakfast on a Sunday in Wellington.
And that is what happened the weekend we went to Wellington…