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Devon Valley on the map

Cape Town - Devon Valley is changing in character. From being placid and unassuming, its road lined by farms with discreet and unobtrusive entrances, this sub-route of the Stellenbosch Wine Route is becoming assertive, with new venues adding glitzy diversity.

From Middelvlei and its pleasing Victorian farmstead – where the Mombergs host traditional braais for weekend lunches – the valley road meanders past wine farms on its upward route, some of which, like Louisvale and Clos Malverne, are well established.

The Devon Valley hotel enjoyed a revamp some years ago but retains its rustic charm, while the hilltop House of JC Le Roux, the only cellar devoted to the production of bubbly, has compounded existing bling with the revamped restaurant, new La Fleurette tasting room and deck, where visitors partner sparkling rosés with snacks ranging from oysters to nougat, meringues to cupcakes.

Halfway down the road, two additions to the route are almost opposite each other.

The solid curved wall and sign at the entrance to Aaldering Vineyards reflects the farm’s Dutch ownership: Marianne and Fons Aaldering completed their cellar in time for last year’s harvest and today winemaker Dustin Osborne offers consumers a trio of maiden whites, including a limited edition pinotage blanc.

Across the road, Brenaissance invites travellers in for tastings and meals at its informal Café de Blanc Noir, with its al fresco terrace and airy interior. The black and white theme used on exterior walls continues inside, right through to menus and staff uniforms.

Gauteng go-getters Tom and Hayley Breytenbach are behind this new venture, having transformed parts of an old fruit and grape farm into a family-friendly restaurant, guest house, wedding chapel and wine sales point. The pair exhibit boundless energy as they extol the pleasures and work involved as wine producers and investors in the hospitality trade.

During a recent tasting we started with Lady H, an enjoyable and well-balanced 2011 sauvignon blanc (R68), and I also like their ’09 wooded chardonnay (R128). Lord T, (R78) named after mine host, is definitely one of the vinous stars, a non-vintage red blend of “whatever’s the best of that harvest”.

The current blend of four cultivars and five vintages is moreish, satiny mouthfuls of fruit and spice from shiraz, malbec and cab providing tannin and backbone. It makes a companionable partner for pizza and pasta, grills, braais and more.

The ’09 cabernet (R228) is a superior Stellenbosch product, while a 2010 Bordeaux-style blend and a merlot complete the range. The whites were made by Jasper Raats of Longridge, the reds by Clos Malverne, Billy Marklew and Nico Grobler of Eikendal. Thin-crusted rectangular pizzas start at R60, and there are mezze, wraps and salads.

One terrace wall sports a gallery of photographs of humped cattle. They are Boran, a hardy Kenyan breed, in which Breytenbach has invested. Visitors will soon see them grazing there.

Get your hands dirty down on the wine farm

The perennially popular Hands-on Harvest festival takes place across the Robertson wine valley during the weekend of February 22-24.

It’s a family event, offering fun, exercise, sweat and stiff muscles for those taking part in picking, stomping and crushing, while others can focus on wonderful wine, savouring farm breakfasts, spit-braais and picnics and taking boat trips and tractor rides through the vineyards.

As in previous years, farms, some of which are normally closed to the public, offer a programme of events to appeal to all palates and tastes. There are various talks and demos, and the popular harvest market makes a good finale.

Visit www.handsonharvest.com to compile your itinerary and book directly with the wineries of your choice. Contact 023 626 3167 for more information or e-mail [email protected]

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