Cape Town - You can expect a sensory overload before you even reach The Robertson Small Hotel in the small town of Robertson: beautiful valleys, vineyards as far as your eye can see and unsurpassed scenery. The route to the hotel is the longest wine route in the world.
I spent a few weeks in Robertson (the town) in the late 1980s and there was no wine route then – just a few estates and fruit farms, and a quaint hotel or two. No tourists to speak of.
Today over 50 wineries lie in the lee of the Langeberg mountain range with eager folk from around the globe snapping up South African wine at bargain prices. The now bustling town is still small and, I’m glad to say, unspoilt. We, however, were very, very spoilt.
One of the number of national heritage sites in this charming town is Zandvliet, built in 1909, which is now called The Robertson Small Hotel.
The elegant Victorian manor house shares immaculate grounds with contemporary buildings which are meticulously blended in terms of styling and design cues. The juxtaposition of colonial and hi-tech chic has been admirably thought through and works brilliantly.
Deoné McLean ushered us to one of three stable suites alongside a swimming pool.
There are two rooms in the house and a separate series of suites opening on to another, longer pool. They are all fabulous and impeccably fitted, including extra length king size beds with exquisite cotton, Oxford-edged and satin-stitched linen.
Our wheelchair-friendly suite had a massive wetroom with heated towel rails and underfloor heating for colder weather but in scorching heat the complimentary mini bar was most welcome.
All the bits you’d expect in a luxury place were there too – wi-fi, TV (and docking station) and good teas and coffee.
We were just a hop and a skip from the restaurant, so preferred to order coffee from the gleaming machine inside.
Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel is one of three restaurants overseen by Reuben Riffel. It is more intimate, more minimalist and chic than the others and the food is fantastic. Order eggs and you get free range duck eggs. We were in raptures over the strawberry soup, fillet, pork belly, sorbet… Reuben wasn’t in sight but I cornered chef Tiaan von Greuning to shake his skilled hand.
There’s a “wellness room” at the hotel but we felt sufficiently pampered and there is so much to do. We explored, drinking in magnificent sights and some wonderful wine.
Five generations of Viljoens have toiled the fertile soil at Viljoensdrift on the banks of the Breede, where I ate (or drank) my words, walking away with award-winning Villion sparkling wine and cabernet sauvignon after stating my indifference to both before tasting.
We didn’t walk far – just to the deli where we filled our picnic baskets – before boarding Uncle Ben 2, a flat-bottomed boat, for an hour-long meander past yellowwoods and wild olives, trailing our feet in the cool water.
We enjoyed award-winning wines in the company of Peter de Wet at Excelsior’s tasting room deck over a dam. We – and the horses cooling off in the water – overlooked vineyards towards the Langeberg before becoming honorary De Wet family members by blending our own varietal, bottling, corking and labelling our creation to take home and declare ourselves winemakers.
We skipped Excelsior’s educational wine walk through vineyards and orchards. Instead we drove over the engineering feat that is Bains Pass, and later made our way along a winding dirt road to Dassieshoek Nature Reserve.
We headed to McGregor, Ashton and Montagu – with a stop at Montagu Dried Fruit – and had a wonderful time at Weltevrede near Bonnievale.
Fourth-generation family winemaker Philip Jonker is a chardonnay specialist. There are accolades aplenty for their three terroir specific chardonnays and four Methode Cap Classiques. Wine tasting in the underground wine vault was followed by a splendid lunch at Weltevrede Bistro.
We also toured Klipdrift Distillery in town, had Klippies “met soush” – their four brandies paired with brandy-marinated grilled meaty nibbles – as well as a pairing with baked treats which included boozy apricot preserve, chocolate brandy truffles and the best koeksisters you could ask for.