“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity…” wrote author John Muir way back in the early 1900s.
These days his advice seems even more relevant. So, when you next feel the walls and spreadsheets closing in, turn your sights on Robertson—a valley ringed by mountains. You’ll breathe easier there, in the wide-open air.
Robertson wears its charms innocently. It has all the appeal of a woman unaware of her beauty. Here, real farms are tended by real farmers. You’ll see cows regularly crossing the roads. Palm trees, cannas and roses line the roads and vineyards. The town is small and pretty, boasting some impressive early-century architecture. In season, you’ll find its streets littered with purple jacaranda blossoms. It’s a place without pretence or guile—it’s unabashedly wholesome and full of heart.
All of this is sandwiched between the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges, with the Breede River—its lifeblood—running through it.
Robertson is the Western Cape’s best-kept secret. It’s an affordable, genuine destination that has more than enough to keep everyone in the family occupied for a long stay. It is less than two hours drive from Cape Town, along Route 62. While its scenic beauty is undeniable, it’s not all good looks; there’s plenty to do too. With over 50 wineries to visit, antique shopping, hiking, horse riding and more, all in close proximity.
But what if you have just a couple of days? Here’s a taste of what you can expect.
The sheer amount of wine experiences to be had here will leave any oenophile dizzy. You could begin your day with breakfast on a wine farm. Café Maude Restaurant at Bon Courage serves delectable farm breakfasts, under the shade of an old African pepper tree. Afterwards enjoy a tasting of their wines while the kids play on the jungle gym.
Blend your own wine at Excelsior Wine Estate; then set sail on a wine cruise on the Kolgans River Boat at Nerina Guest Farm (another option is the Viljoensdrift river cruise).
Many of the wine farms are places you could spend a few days exploring, such as Van Loveren Family Vineyards. Enjoy a simple wine tasting—or a not so simple one, of their wine and food pairings. Their bistro, Christina’s at Van Loveren, offers good country cooking. Plus, there are plenty of walks, hikes and mountain biking routes around the property. The Fish Eagle Hiking Trail will take you high up into the mountains. The 8,5 kilometre trail starts at the estate and crosses the Breede River, then climbs up the Rooikrans for spectacular views of the valley.
No visit to Robertson is complete without a trip to Springfield Wine Estate. Sit on the banks of the river with a bottle of one of their award-winning handcrafted wines, and feel utter contentment steal over you.
Another iconic wine estate to visit is Graham Beck, who are famed for their Methodé Cap Classique. Sit at their tasting counter while you experience the range of wines and soak up the views through the wide windows, as well as admire their art collection.
Before a full day of exploring, stop in at Bodega de Vinho at Rooiberg Winery for the best pastries in town (their wines are pretty good too).
But it’s not all wine. Head to Marbrin Olive Farm to taste their incredible olives and olive oils, as well as discover their olive products . Also producing olives are Owl’s Rest, which doubles up as a lavender distillery. It’s well worth a visit just to see this ancient practice in action.
Another unusual experience to be had is at the Sheilam Cactus Garden and Succulent Nursery. The sheer amount of cacti, succulents, and cycads is staggering—take a stroll around this ‘alien’ world, and bring some plants home too.
The Robertson Wine Valley is certainly no one-trick pony; from the sheer multitude of wine farm activities to experience and the warmth of the people, to the scenic mountainous splendour, it will have you breathing easier in no time at all.
Sidebar: A Place to Lay Your Hat
There’s an accommodation option to suit most wallets and wants—from farm cottages and guesthouses to five-star hotels and camping. Here are just three to take note of.
The Lemon Tree House
With the Breede River a mere two kilometres away, visitors can enjoy evening strolls along its banks. Situated at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, this charming and well-equipped guesthouse has been designed for guest comfort. www.lemontreehouse.co.za
Mo & Rose at Soekershof
Something of a legend, guests will love the secret garden packed with succulents and trees. The guesthouse boasts an excellent wine bistro, and the accommodation is faultless. www.moandrose.co.za
The Robertson Small Hotel
This boutique hotel is housed in an impressive Victorian house, down a suburban street. Expect all the five-star niceties as well as fine-dining at Reuben’s Restaurant. www.therobertsonsmallhotel.com
By Shannon Latimer
Photography Keli van der Weijde
Sidebar: Get your Diary Out for These Wine Festivals
Robertson Wine Valley plays host to a number of annual wine festivals. Offering a variety of different formats, there’s an event to suit everyone.
The Valley celebrates the wine harvest in style—with two months of celebrations and vinous activities. Stomp grapes, blend your own wine, go on vineyard safaris, and more. The celebration takes place early in the year. www.handsonharvest.com
Wacky Wine Weekend
Now in its 13th year, this famed wine festival generally takes place in the month of June. Over four days, more than 40 wineries showcase the valley’s award-winning wines, with a programme that includes master wine tastings, wine and food pairings, educational wine presentations as well as private tastings with the valley’s winemakers. www.wackywineweekend.com
This is the most intimate festival of the year. Taking place in August, festival-goers are invited into surrounding homes for a food and wine experience. You can look forward to dinners at the homes of winemaking families, cooking traditional Robertson country fare such as Waterblommetjie Bredie, melktert, venison and Karoo Lamb. The weekend will also include special wine and brandy tastings, as well as outdoor activities. www.robertsonslow.com
Wine On The River
This spring festival takes place on the banks of the Breede River in the fresh, open air. 45 wineries from Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson showcase more than 300 wines. Add to that, local produce such as olives, cheeses, charcuterie and more are also on sale. www.wineonriver.com