From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky that define the Bot River area. Within a 10 km radius the wine tourist can experience real country hospitality, taste food and wine that will delight any palate, and discover and explore much, much more.
The wines on this lesser-known wine route are not only produced from the oldest vines in the region, but also from the latest, innovative varieties. From historic and traditional cellars like Beaumont to modern, state-of-the-art wineries like Gabriëlskloof, the common denominators are warm hospitality, diverse wines of top quality, wholesome food along fine dining, comfortable as well as luxurious accommodation, a commitment to biodiversity … and a desire to share time with fellow wine lovers.
But first, where does the name Bot River come from? The Bot River (Botrivier) was known by the San people as the “gouga” (meaning “abundance of fat”). The same word was used for butter, a commodity produced in abundance by the Khoi-San who lived on the banks of the river where pastures were good. Merchants who travelled from the Cape to trade a variety of wares for full casks of butter named the river Botter as early as 1672. Now, of course, the river represents wine!
Bot River’s townfolk, often found congregating around the central Bot River Hotel and Manny’s Kitchen, are as accommodating to visitors seeking to experience true winelands hospitality and culture as the winemakers.
Regarding the wine route’s plethora of vinous offerings, this is one of the few wine routes where visitors can enjoy intimate wine tastings at boutique estates with the winemakers themselves. Venture over to Klein Botrivier for Melissa Nelson’s gorgeous MCC, Genevieve, which incidentally is her second name, or be welcomed by Daphne
Neethling at Ecology Lifestyle Farm, the home of Paardenkloof and Ecology wines, where lunch is also served, or enjoy superb chenin blanc and other varietals and blends at the revamped Beaumont Family Wines’ tasting facility.
If it’s more of a gastronomically inspired affair you’re seeking, head to the locally-foraged and indigenous fare-inspired Forage Restaurant at Wildekrans Wine Estate, or sample the superb wines alongside some delectably hearty farm-to-table cuisine at Gabriëlskloof’s restaurant. And while you’re there, try to visit Gabriëlskloof’s impressive three-level gravitation cellar and taste samples direct from the tank and barrel. Then you’ll understand why owner Bernhard Heyns regards their wines as “simply the best”!
If it’s a spectacular view of the valley, the lagoon and Mount Hebron you’re after, as well as a light meal and some delightful sauvignon blanc and shiraz, try the boutique Rivendell cellar. Or visit another boutique winery, this one along the N2 just outside Bot River, and venture into Arcangeli Wines’ verdelho, semillon and nebbiolo, among others.
Although the chenin blanc variety is the so-called star of the valley, other varieties that do well here include sauvignon blanc, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinotage, mourvèdre and verdelho.
Don’t forget to make space in the car for shopping … and not only for cases of wine … because if it’s local, artisanal produce you seek on your visit, you can indulge in delights such as freshly-ground almond flour from Beaumont’s water-powered stone mill (one of South Africa’s oldest), enhance your garden with indigenous flora out at the Afdaksrivier Nursery at Villion Family Wines, and even stock up your fridge with goat’s cheese from Anysbos Farm. And leave space for a selection of jams, preserves and chutneys, and
fortunately both olives and olive oil are also widely available throughout the valley.
But there’s more to the Bot River Wine Valley than fine wine and good food. Hiking and mountain biking trails, bird-watching, horseback riding and fishing are some of the other offerings that make it a destination to discover and explore. And your choice of accommodation is as diverse as the wines, from rustic and comfortable farm-style living to modern and luxurious cottages and villas.
On our recent visit we experienced some authentic farmstyle living at Goedvertrouw in the Van Der Stel Pass, courtesy of Elreda Pillman, and in Beaumont’s Pepper Tree Cottage, our two overnight stops. Breakfast on the first day was enjoyed on the stoep at Goedvertrouw overlooking the valley and at Gabriëlskloof’s restaurant the following day, while we had a light lunch at Ecology Lifestyle Farm on day 1 and at Wildekrans’ bistro on day 2.
Our two-day visit included the above-mentioned wineries, but here’s a list of all the wine route’s members:
Beaumont Wine Estate