A few years back I did the Wellington Wine Walk over three days. What a super experience! The guests stayed on different wine estates, and I vividly remember how full of praise for the Bovlei Vallei Retreat a group of hikers were when we got together to tackle the next leg of our wine walk. They literally waxed lyrical over the accommodation, the scenery, the food, the wine and their hosts.
So when we were invited to spend a weekend at Dunstone Country House & Winery, as the Bovlei Valley Retreat is now known, we didn’t think twice. It is located along the gravel road that leads up the spectacularly beautiful Bovlei Valley just outside Wellington.
The very friendly welcome when we arrived the Friday afternoon was the perfect introduction to a weekend we will remember for a very long time. But before I continue, a bit of background.
ABOVE: They even have their own rainbow at Dunstone, just to add to the magical beauty of the scenery!
Lee and Abbi Wallis, the owners, lived and fell in love on a farm named Dunstone in the UK. Lee was a doctor in the British Royal Navy when he was issued a one year work permit which allowed him to come and work at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
“We soon fell in love with South Africa, your people, culture, beauty and climate,” recalls Lee. “In August 2002 we bought the farm from a family who had a keen interest in horses. Between August and December we converted the stable block and guest cottage into what is now the guesthouse. The guesthouse opened in November the following year and was named after the beautiful valley we find ourselves in.
“In 2006 we built our wine cellar but we could not call it Bovlei as there already is a cellar with that name, so we named it Dunstone after the farm in the UK where we used to live and where we got engaged. Ten years after opening the guesthouse the name change took place.”
ABOVE: Our room! And to think we only spent about eight hours a day here!
Today the Dunstone Estate incorporates the very popular Dunstone Country House as well as the award winning Dunstone Winery. And don’t forget The Stone Kitchen on Dunstone, the intimate winery bistro where you enjoy scrumptious meals in the company of fermentation tanks and basket presses.
The vineyards were planted in 2003 and consists mainly of shiraz and merlot. The first harvest was in 2006, but the new boutique cellar’s first wine was produced the following year. Today the Dunstone label can be found on a wonderful Merlot and Shiraz, as well as a delightful rosé made from shiraz grapes.
ABOVE: The guest lounge.
Abbi has a BA degree in Hospitality and Tourism, hence the very friendly and professional staff and the attention to detail. She also boasts an MBA in Business Administration and runs the guesthouse and small, intimate bistro with a small but friendly and efficient staff. Incidentally, the bistro also offers outside seating for families, as well as a playground for kids.
Today Lee, who has retired from the Royal Navy, is Professor of Emergency Medicine for the Western Cape and does a considerable amount of practical work in emergency rooms across the province. He also has a response vehicle to attend to accident scenes.
Okay, so that’s the wonderful couple in charge. Now let’s look at what wonderful things they have to offer, with the emphasis on “wonderful”!
ABOVE: Another view from the guest lounge over the Bovlei Valley and surrounding mountains, and a few of the Dunstone wines we sampled while enjoying the views.
A new 10mx4m rim-flow pool, superbly equipped guest lounge and reception area enhance the 4-star experience of guests residing in the five very comfortable and charmingly decorated en-suite bedrooms – three in converted stables and two in a converted farm cottage – and one two-bedroom, self-catering cottage.
We stayed in the Lavender room, one of the converted stables, and simply loved it. I mean, under-floor heating in the bathroom! And what’s to complain about a spacious room with the emphasis on luxury and comfort, with a big, comfortable bed that makes you wish the morning never comes, airconditioning, TV with certain DSTV channels, coffee and tea and a bar fridge. And the bathroom … well, like the rest, it’s four star … at least!
But the accommodation is just part of Dunstone’s wine tourism offering. As already mentioned, there’s a guest lounge with a fireplace and stunning views over the vineyards and the Bovlei Valley and surrounding hills and mountains. And guests can enjoy sumptuous home-cooked food in the bistro/cellar, paring the perfect wine with their dish of choice, or in the gardens with the mountains watching over them. The majestic mountain views, the romance of a working wine farm and the warm welcome offered by Abbi and her well-trained team render the visit a luxurious, yet homely experience.
ABOVE: The intimate bistro-style restaurant with the winery’s fermentation tanks and basket presses in the background.
Add to the above award-winning wines and numerous tourism attractions in and around Wellington, and Dunstone does offer the complete package. And speaking of wine, Dunstone’s recent awards from various authoritative wine competitions give a clear indication that one should expect great drinking enjoyment from this small family owned vineyard situated on the slopes of the Hawequa and Limiet Mountains. Their 2008 Shiraz was honoured with the Mutual & Federal Agri Wellington Wine Routes first ever 5-star Platter rating. In addition, the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc won silver at Michelangelo and the 2012 Shiraz was awarded a silver medal at Veritas, as well as a 4-star Platter rating. Wine lovers are welcome to visit the cellar Wednesday through Sunday to taste the terroir driven single vineyard wines which are made with love and passion, or make a private appointment.
During the summer months, guests of the Country House are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and help harvest and stomp grapes and even try their hand at making wine.
RIGHT: My starter the Saturday evening, with a “blushing wine” from Dunstone’s cellar.
The numerous attractions and activities in and around Wellington include a mountain bike route slightly further up the Bovlei Valley, the Wellington Wine Walk, fynbos horse trails, the The James Sedgewick Distillery in town where some of SA’s top whiskies are made, the well-known and spectacular Bain’s Kloof Pass, Redemption Fine Handcrafted Leather just around the corner from Dunstone and the Bontebok Ridge Game Reserve.
So, whether you just want to break away from the rat race, relax and recharge your batteries or you’re looking for a more energetic getaway, Dunstone Country House and Winery offers the ideal base. And it’s only about 45 minutes from Cape Town, and in the heart of the Cape winelands! We certainly recommend it highly and will be back!
The rates vary from R550 to R1 100, but check out their website at www.dunstone.co.za for more information, or contact Abbi on +27 (0) 21 864 1504 or email@example.com for more information or to book.