South Africa drew me in as a destination the way it does most visitors. Pictures of beautiful Cape Town, promises of mighty ocean panoramas, quaint towns and excellent hospitality and best of all, a new wine destination.
I get excited when a destination has a good wine region in its boundaries. That’s because often the right ingredients for good wine to grow usually have a winning combination of sunshine and dramatic terrain.
This visit to the Western Cape region of South Africa began in Cape Town and stretched all the way along the garden route to the city of Knysna. Crossing almost the entire state, I beheld views unlike anything else on earth, but the jewel in the crown came on the return by stopping in Franschhoek. It has the history of Napa, the raw beauty of the Alps and the distinctive terroir of a great wine region. Not to mention so many award winning restaurants and wonderful homestay apartments.
The town and vineyards are nestled in a valley that is hemmed in on all sides by rocky cliffs. There are loads of places to rent for a stay, a wine train, daily tastings at most facilities and restaurants in every direction. The cost comes much more reasonably than other major wine destinations and that depends on the time of year as well.
Out of season some restaurants can be closed but the wineries are open and you can get right up close and personal with the vines and those who cultivate them, I even got a lift back into town from a vintner after trekking out to explore a more remote location.
So what started out as a journey to embrace and savor the local Pinotage grape became a discovery of a lovely town whose history is founded on persecuted immigrants, hard work cultivating rugged terrain and a modern industry that still has roots in small production and local initiatives. Franschhoek is a magical place and as much as I praise it, you have to feel (and taste) the magic for yourself to experience the surreal beauty.