Not a month goes by without us being reminded of the incredible wealth and diversity of the Cape winelands’ tourism offerings. And when one travels abroad to wine producing countries like France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, one cannot but compare, and every time South Africa comes up tops.
Take Saronsberg in the beautiful Tulbagh Valley for example. Nestled at the foot of the mountain after which it’s named, this wine estate is a contemporary addition to the rich history of this valley. Here history, art, tradition and technology harmonise with nature, from the beautifully “crafted” vineyards to the avante garde tasting room with its views on the modern fermentation cellar and from the rustic maturation cellar to the upstairs gallery that houses a diverse collection of art.
And beyond the cellar and tasting room complex, between vineyards and horse pastures, you’ll find the Saronsberg Vineyard Cottages which consist of newly renovated, cosy and fully-equipped 1 and 2-bedroomed self-catering cottages, most with en-suite bathroom and spacious open-plan kitchen/lounge/dining room. Each unit has its own built-in fireplace/braai that makes all year round the ideal time to enjoy the peace and tranquility of this wine estate, as well as the stunning views of the valley, and the award-winning wines of course.
There are currently 16 cottages, surrounded by lawns and big trees which provide ample shade for parking, with four more under construction. They are spaced far enough apart to ensure privacy.
ABOVE: Where is there a more beautiful and peaceful area to spend a weekend? And with so much to do?
We spent a wonderful weekend in Cottage 16 in September. On the Friday evening, after a hectic week, we decided to drive the short distance into Tulbagh for supper at the Tulbagh Hotel, which we can recommend. This was followed by a well-deserved night’s rest in a very comfortable bed, with the whispering wind in the trees as a natural lullaby.
The next morning we had breakfast on the stoep where the outside braai was waiting for later that day, with wood supplied by Saronsberg. As I don’t mess around with little fires, I asked for additional wood, but I suggest visitors take enough wood with them … if they like big bonfires like me! And just to play it safe, also take matches and firelighters along. Saronsberg left a small packet of firelighters and a few matches above the fireplace in the cottage, but firelighters and matches are like food and wine; one can never have enough! And when one runs out …
After breakfast we walked to the cellar/tasting room where my better half decided to view the art on display while Dewaldt Heyns, the winemaker, took me on a tour of the impressive cellar where they were busy degorging MCC.
The art collection includes works by Angus Taylor, Brett Murray, Walter Batiss, Paul du Toit, Jacques Coetzer and Kevin Roberts.
ABOVE: A view of one of the rooms in our cottage, the lounge and the kitchen area.
And then it was time to sample some of Saronsberg’s award-winning wines. Adele van den Berg took us on a journey of their wines, starting with the 2010 Saronsberg MCC Brut and followed by 11 other white and red wines from the winery’s extensive wine portfolio. Had it not been for the fact that we had just had breakfast, we would have easily ordered a Winelands Cheese Platter (R45). Also on sale are olives and olive oil.
Then it was back to Tulbagh to visit some of the tourist attractions, which include the Annette Barnard Fine Arts Gallery, the Christo Coetzee Art Gallery, the De Oude Drostdy Museum, the De Oude Kerk Museum and Moniki Chocolatier. On a previous visit to this beautiful valley, we spoilt ourselves with some “health and wellness” at Heavenly Hands and Vindoux Day Spa. What can I say, we are both suckers for a decadently and hedonistically good life!
Incidentally, if you’re the outdoor type, here are quite a few activities to choose from in the valley, like horse riding, 4×4 routes, hiking and mountain biking trails, and even a “wine by bike” experience.
As there’s no TV or radio to make noise and disturb the peace and tranquility in the Saronsberg cottages, I took my iPod along for some gentle background music during the whole braai process, which for me starts with lighting a huge fire, big enough to braai an ox. Then it was time to relax with a glass of good wine for me and a soft drink for my lassie while we watched the flames slowly turn into red hot coals … and the sun setting over the mountains. There are few things as relaxing as a braai, especially when you’re surrounded by nature at its best, the love of your life next to you and a glass of fine wine.
And here’s another tip. We didn’t see any mosquitos so we assumed it was the gnats that decided to have us for supper while we were relaxing on the stoep. An insect repellant would have helped to keep them from our legs and arms. And while you’re at it, take something along for flies as well. There weren’t that many, but Saronsberg is a farm … with horses.
Oh yes, although housekeeping services are not included in the self-catering cottages, you can arrange it with Marguerite Volpato, who is in charge of the accommodation. And thank goodness smoking is not allowed in the cottages!
ABOVE: And what better way to end the day than with a braai and a glass or three of Saronsberg wine!
There were one or two minor maintenance issues with our cottage which we took up with Marguerite and she was very quick to respond. Those that could not be fixed immediately, and they were all minor as already stated, she promised to have attended to later.
The Saronsberg Vineyard Cottages we would certainly recommend to people without hesitation, and especially couples and families will find the peace and tranquility and the many offerings on and off the estate very enjoyable. We both gave the accommodation – as a matter of fact, the whole weekend – the thumbs up with four stars!
Incidentally, the rates per cottage vary from R800 to R1 200 per night, which we think is good value for money.