Cape Town - What a difference a day makes. Torrential downpours in the Western Cape had caused widespread flooding and road closures and the four-star La Petite Ferme Guest Suites, on the lower stretches of the pass leading from Franschhoek to the Overberg, was shrouded in low clouds when we arrived.
The next day, the clouds cleared and the sun lit up the beautiful valley. In celebration, we cracked open a bottle of their popular Maison Blanc and drank in the glistening, sparkling beauty from the veranda of my Vineyard suite.
La Petite Ferme is a busy stopover for local and international visitors, whether for a hearty meal, a wine tasting or a few restful nights.
Three generations have owned and run this hugely successful operation, and current owners Mark and Josephine Dendy-Young are actively involved.
Mark conducts cellar tours and wine tastings and has been producing La Petite Ferme’s fine wines for 18 years. When he isn’t around, his father John educates and entertains guests. It’s a family affair all round as most of the staff are married or related to others working the land and live on the property.
La Petite Ferme is rustic, with a classic French farmhouse feel. Accommodation ranges enormously. I spent a night in the self-catering Lakeside cottages across the road and the opulent Deluxe Vineyard Suite.
The cottage was more than adequately fitted out and good for a family holiday. The Vineyard suite was five-star: outside there is a veranda with table and chairs, pool loungers and a private pool with a water feature.
The lounge has a comfy sofa and armchairs, a large fireplace, TV set, fridge, airconditioning and underfloor heating.
There is a guest bathroom, foldaway doors dividing the living area and the bedroom. The bedroom leads to a dressing room and a huge bathroom with a shower, his and hers basins and a free-standing bath under a tall sash window offering a view of the vines, valley and mountains.
Lunches have been popular here for more than 30 years. The restaurant has been listed by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top 15 “best value” establishments in the world, so book ahead if you want to enjoy the fine cuisine.
Breakfasts are a quieter affair. You can enjoy the likes of smoked salmon and eggs, great coffee and views.
La Petite Ferme is essentially a B&B, which means dinner is not served. The cellar and wines are popular. A diverse range is available, including Baboon Rock unwooded Chardonnay, named after the troop that make off with a quarter of the grapes or the unusual Cabernet Franc-dominated Bordeaux blend Mark is proud of.
A short walk takes you to other cellars, such as the famous Haute Cabrière or Franschhoek Pass Winery, so you needn’t fear being over the legal limit.
When I visited Hartenberg Estate, I was thrilled to discover one of the driving forces behind it was Ken Mackenzie, a family friend.
The cellar has stained glass pieces and a heated floor and conveniently doubles as a function room. I much preferred it outside, though, sitting under the dappled shade of the tall trees and sampling excellent wines paired with scrumptious grub.
Hartenberg wines are popular choices at luxury lodges and range from around R60 to nearer R700 for the Gravel Hill Shiraz.
Fortified, I made my next stop at Muratie, which I last visited 27 years ago when I’d only tasted the famous Muratie port.
Muratie was South Africa’s first and only producer of Pinot Noir between 1927 and 1975. Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin, Verdello, Viognier, Shiraz and Merlot are well represented and named after Muratie characters, as was the delicious Laurens Campher burger prepared by chef Tanya Pohl.
Muratie is a delight to visit with its established gardens and tasting room. The wine has won numerous awards, the most recent being a gold medal at the 2013 Syrah du Monde in France for their Ronnie Melck Shiraz.
Closer to base, La Motte in Franschhoek has four national monuments and combines old with modern in a stunningly elegant way. It’s a must-stop for fine food, wine and art.
Neighbouring Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards’ style is different, more youthful and energetic. With its wide, enclosed stoep, contemporary open spaces and vast lawns, it’s ideal for family holidays.
Beyond wine tasting, there are wine-based cocktails, rotisserie-based lunches and taste treats for all, including decadent pastries and sweet treats. There are even cooking classes. - Adrian Rorvik, Sunday Tribune
If You Go...
La Petite Ferme bed and breakfast rates vary from R622 to R2 266.
Call: 021 876 3016