for kids and wine lovers
No trip to the Cape is complete without a visit to the Winelands. We saved ours for the last day of our South Africa stay – a fitting send-off for what has quickly become one of our favorite places in the world.
The challenge (if challenge is, indeed, the right word) is that there are so many wineries around Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Somerset West — all less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town — that choosing where to go can become a mind-numbing exercise. S solicited recommendations from friends and did a fair amount of Internet research, and the AirBnB where we stayed had a list of the owners’ forty favorite vineyards.
Had we been without the kids, we probably would have done the hop-on/hop-off Winelands bus. With the kids, however, we simply picked a handful of the more interesting-sounding vineyards and hoped they would fit the bill. We’ve already talked about how kid-friendly South Africa is, and the vineyards in the Winelands are no exception. They all make a point of providing entertainment for their younger guests in order to ensure that adult visitors can relax and enjoy their wines properly.
Because there are so many vineyards, many of them turn to gimmicks to distinguish themselves. Fairview, for example, where we stopped for a late lunch on our drive from the Karoo into Cape Town, bills itself as a combination vineyard and goat farm. Goats roam the estate’s green pastures, and a tower with a winding stair for the goats to use occupies prime real estate in front of the restaurant. We chose this winery for what we rightly anticipated would be an excellent selection of goat cheese. Oh, and the wine was pretty good too. Another vineyard, which did not acquit itself nearly as well, touted its thousand-strong army of runner ducks, which are employed for pest control.
We spent a good amount of time at Spier – a massive estate that touts its farm-to-table food, boasts a spa and a combination brewery/BBQ restaurant, and offers an “eagle adventure.” We did not bother with most of the frills. The food was good and the wine too, and D kept Munchkin and half a dozen other kids entertained by pushing them on a massive swing, which reached some 12-15 feet off the ground at the top of its arc. To D’s great disappointment, however, the brewery and BBQ restaurant had almost none of the food or drink items that featured prominently on its menu, leading us to seek another vineyard for dinner.
Because we had not made dinner reservations anywhere and had the misfortune of visiting the Winelands on a weekend during the high tourist season, we initially got the runaround. We called at two wineries that turned us away because they were booked solid – a worrying development considering the late hour and our son’s propensity for hangry tantrums. The third time proved the charm and we wound up dining at the unbelievably scenic Lourenford Wine Estate – a fortuitous development because this ended up being our favorite vineyard.