Surfing, Wine County and New Friends – Pt. 2

Okay, back to wine country we go! To give you an idea of how massive Stellenbosch is, we spent four full days in one little quadrant of the area (see the yellow below). Once again, FOMO is a real thing here because you can only get to so many vineyards in so much time and actually enjoy yourself. In fact, I’m feeling it now. If we went back tomorrow, there’s no doubt we’d have a completely different experience in the other areas. A reason of many to come back. Any takers?

Stellenbosch Map
The yellow area is where we mainly stayed – LOOK HOW MUCH ELSE THERE IS, plus not all vineyards on the map

After 4 beautiful days roaming around Stelly, we headed northeast to Franschhoek, another wine region but quaint and charming with strong French heritage. It was a Sunday morning and the 45 minute drive through the vineyards was picturesque and relaxing.  Did I mention yet that we rented a car for this excursion to wine country? Well, we sure did and let me tell you, driving on the other side of the road was terrifying. Thank goodness we got an automatic because a manual would have likely killed us. Now I should take a moment and thank Adam here because he drove superbly and I just passenger seat drove while cringing with each seemingly opposite turn we made. Driving was an adventure in its own right, but back to fancy Franschhoek.

During our time in Cape Town, we met so many wonderful friends, but Adele and Steve became our pals to find adventure with. Adele is from Cincinnati (totally random) and her boyfriend Steve is a South African Afrikaans native. They are quite a pair and helped make our visit pretty awesome through the four times we hung out (they also threw us our first braai!). Steve and Adele had the magical idea of meeting us in Franschhoek for a day to cycle and sip our way around the vineyards. Obviously, this was an amazing idea which is why there is this Part II to this blog.

The four of us rented an adorable AirBnB cottage in Franschhoek and the fun instantly began. Adele, who had “cycle wine toured” before, was our fearless leader and got to plotting our route based progressively on vineyard closing times. Genius. With our route in hand, we went to rent bikes at Franschhoek Cycles from the shop owner Steve who was gracious enough to open his shop even though he was closed on Sundays. With all the necessities taken care of, we were getting thirsty and our first stop involved a hill, bubbly and the best view in Stellenbosch.

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Haute Cabrière‘s view (the best in Franschhoek) – Not pictured: my sweaty face from biking the hill to this oasis or my bubbly flight

As the day progressed, so did the fun. Sweaty, hungry and thirsty we pedalled our way to four different wineries. Bubbly, sweeping views, charcuterie boards, incredible service… this day really couldn’t be beaten. We had one more winery on our minds when we arrived at Rickety Bridge, our 2nd to last stop. As the name eludes to, we biked through a beautiful entrance across a rickety bridge and arrived at a relaxed, welcoming vineyard and tasting patio.

We sat down in the corner where there was a rugby game on TV and were quickly greeted by our server, Charles. Now I’m not sure if we clicked so fast with Charles because he spoke Afrikaans like Steve, or because he just liked that we were friendly and rolled up on bikes, perhaps a change up from the frequent more pretentious tasting visitors. Regardless, Charles made our tasting at Rickety Bridge the highlight of our day in Franschhoek. Aside from being funny, warm and chatty, he was a stellar host. As we all selected our wines for the tasting, Charles brought each of us one of each wine… basically doubling our tasting so we could try everything on the menu! At one point, he even let Steve pour the tasting and keep the bottle at our table. The atmosphere he created was so alive and spontaneous that instead of rushing to one more vineyard, we crushed a delicious cheese plate, planned an itinerary for our future trip back to South Africa, talked about how incredible it was that the four of us met, and kept drinking the bottomless wine. I will relive that experience for years to come and will always buy Rickety Bridge if given the chance… and did soon thereafter at Duty-Free at the Joahnnesburg Airport :).

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Gotta get a picture with Charles!

This day and this wine tasting in specific spent with new friends, spectacular service and great wine solidified the fact that people are going to make for our richest experiences on this 9-month adventure. With the four of us all smiles, we trekked back to our farm cottage with 5 freshly purchased Rickety Bridge bottles in our backpacks. Thanks Charles for a great closing to a fantastic afternoon and thanks to Adele and Steve for planning such a fun day!

Rickety Bridge
RB’s sweet graphically designed label reminded me of a brewery mural in Cincinnati

Surfing, Wine Country and New Friends – Pt.1

I tell you what. Blogging is hard to keep up with! I feel like I blink and we’ve had 100 new experiences I want to write about, but since we’re fresh off the heels of a wondrous time in wine country (one of many in South Africa) we’ll start there.

Up until last Thursday, we had been staying in Muizenberg, a quaint and eclectic surf town about 30 minutes south of central Cape Town peppered with colorful street art, surfers of all walks of life, and a cute beach promenade of shops and eateries. Our AirBnB there was hard to beat with its white walls, concrete floors, beautifully restored wood floors/trim/ceiling, huge operable skylight you could open to hear the waves at night, and just short walk to the beach. Unlike when we were staying in the Gardens in Cape Town, Muizenberg doesn’t have the 5 levels of security on every home and actually feels quite safe. It reminded me of Santa Cruz.

As I’ve already alluded to, surfers are everywhere in Muizenberg! So much so, that you long to become one the second you arrive. The beach is on the Indian Ocean, so the water is a bit warmer and has a few different breaks that accommodate clumsy beginners (us) to the more experienced. On our last day, we heard it was going to be a “lekker” surf day (awesome in South African slang) so we woke up early, grabbed .80 cappuccinos while we waited for the surf shop to open, then rented wetsuits and boards. 120 R ($10) per person got us an hour and a half of fun in the waves. When I asked the employee what time we needed to be back, he said: “trust me you’ll be back before you need to be”. Challenge accepted. We used every minute and even a few extra to spite him :). We’re not professional surfers yet, but we both stood up quite a few times and got a hell of a workout being beaten by waves. Safe to say we could work on some technique.

After an awesome morning, our rental car was delivered to us and we were off to WINE COUNTRY! Yay! It was about at 35-minute drive along the beautiful coast, then past one of the poorest informal settlements, then through lush vineyards. A little jarring to see such beauty and prosperity hugging an incredibly huge and impoverished population. When we arrived at our accommodation for the next 3 nights, the Vrendenberg Manor House, we were greeted by the world’s friendliest hosts – Leon and Luc. They made us feel like family as we chatted in the charming living room and drank fancy coffee. After a tour of the house and the very luscious grounds, we unpacked, settled into our cottage and took full advantage of the honesty bar (you take what you want and pay at the end). We enjoyed a welcome glass of Sauvignon Blanc while overlooking the pool and gardens. Adam felt like he was inception for some reason, while I just felt very happy.

Soon after, we jumped right to it and started hitting the vineyards. I won’t bore you with the details of every vineyard because it’s probably more fun to just look at the photos below. In fact, go grab yourself a glass of wine while you do! The vineyards we all similar in beauty and good wines, but we did have a few superlatives to hand out over the few days:

BEST WINE: Rust En Vrede‘s Estate Wine
We splurged and bought a bottle then they comp’ed our tastings! Bonus. On our way out, the woman helping us with our tasting subtly commented that people who thought we were Canadian would a be better than thinking we were Americans. Adam is still angry at biting his tongue on that one, but she was only kidding. I think..

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FABULOUS wine
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Adam happy.. until we realized we couldn’t get an uber and had to haul on foot to the next vineyard. All in the name of exercise!

BEST ATMOSPHERE: Annandale Winery
Super casual, friendly and loose when it came to the tasting. In addition to a stellar tasting, we tasted 14-day old wine, 2005 wine and wine moonshine. We felt at home here between the laid-back nature and chickens roaming around. We also ended up meeting friends at our table that grilled us about our Trump perspectives, shared their wine, and invited us to their Braai (BBQ) that night! Bonus #2.

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The menu we far exceeded in our tasting. Sorry, no chicken pictures..
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Our new friend Carl showing us what we were braai’ing that night at his home – waterbuck!

BEST VIEW: Uva Mira
The highest vineyard in Stellenbosch so as you can imagine the view was really ugly. It was sunny, warm, nearly sunset and the best Sauvignon Blanc we’re ever had –  so clear it looked like water. Dangerous.

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The view leaving Uva Mira
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No ubers again, but really happy despite the long hike/climb to the next vineyard

BEST VALUE: Dornier
We were nearly running to this winery so we could make the tasting before 5pm…seems to be a trend with us here. Not only were we the last ones there, but the swooped building was set at the foot of the mountains and absolutely breathtaking as it’s roofline modernly interpreted the mountain’s silhouette. After our wine tasting and good conversation with the tasting ladies, we enjoyed the arguably best food deal we’ve seen so far at their bodega. 399 R ($33) for a bottle of their wine and SEVEN glorious tapas. Just look at the picture. Drool.

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BEST EXPERIENCE OVERALL: Rickety Bridge
This is cheating a little because it’s not in Stellenbosch, but in Franschhoek, an adjacent wine region with strong French roots. We rode mountain bikes to Rickety Bridge Winery with two friends we met in Cape Town earlier on the trip. More on this adventure in a shorter blog coming next, but it was by far the best experience due to great company, a spirited server and a wine tasting that ended up being pretty much bottomless.

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LOVE this label story
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Cheers to new friends!

Days in wine country are a bit of a blur for a few reasons, but mainly because there are endless vineyards which gave me serious FOMO. We actually only averaged 3/day as they all closed around 5pm. Womp womp. Despite that, however, we did enjoy some great meals, cellar tours and hanging around our charming Manor House catching up on work. Yes, we did work! No one wants wine at 9am :). Okay well most. Speaking of the morning hours, it must be mentioned that our accommodation had a breakfast spread coupled with a view for the books. I wish I would have taken better pictures because it was inspirational! Fully stocked with just about anything you could ever want. Coffee bar to order, fruit bowl with exotic local fruit, meats, cheeses, homemade croissants and scones, muesli, cereal, yogurt, AND a whole hot breakfast to-order menu. All included. Breakfast was something to jump out of bed for and was a solid, necessary base for a day of wine tasting.

That’s it for now, look out for Part II of this adventure coming soon!

Cheers, have a classic day! (More South Africa slang for you, meaning “great”)
Chels and Adam

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Vrendenberg breakfast fruit – dyying over fresh coconut, figs and papaya
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Enjoying the view after the effort it took to get to this particular vineyard – Hidden Valley
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The ONLY winery open until 7pm! Peter Falke Wines
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Avontuur – Our first winery visit
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Lunch at Avontuur
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Waterford Wine Estate was out of a fairytale

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