Winding around wine country

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Locked away in the valley is the Overture Restaurant, which boasts incredible views. Pictures: Yusuf Moolla

I have many fond memories of Cape Town, owing to the several trips made during my childhood as well as a family getaway three years ago. I always regarded it as pretty, clean and energetic, with a strong European influence.

But as far as travelling was concerned, trips were limited to within the city – not that I was complaining. The glorious Table Mountain and the peaks that surround it, the vibrant Waterfront, fine dining, malls and theme parks – it’s a dream holiday destination. However, on a recent trip to the Western Cape, Cape Town was bypassed and replaced with a refreshing trip to Stellenbosch. Beautiful, serene and grand are words that come to mind when thinking of the town known as the City of Oaks.

As a proud Durbanite, I always feel compelled to look at Cape Town and its surrounding areas as a rival force, a duel between the coastal cities for which has the best weather, the best beaches, oceans and entertainment. And while determined to find faults, I failed to unearth any in Stellenbosch.

The trip was sponsored by Ford South Africa, and journalists were invited to test-drive the new Ford Kuga, a smart and sexy crossover SUV. Jumping into one of the several performance derivatives of the Kuga, teams of journalists – equipped with tablets – were instructed to follow directions towards Stellenbosch.

The first instruction was to head east from the airport, but my own driver error had us going in the wrong direction towards Table Mountain – not too much of a problem, since we were spoilt by a breathtaking view of the clouds dancing over the peaks.

Redirecting and heading east, the drive takes travellers inland, where the warm coastal views change to open valleys and crisp air.

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Smooth roads lead to the Hidden Valley, which is surrounded by lush greenery and mountains.

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On the 50km or so stretch to our destination, journalists got a chance to get a feel for the Kuga and stretch its legs on the open road.

It is a stylish and exciting vehicle with some impressive technology. While it is not an off-road vehicle, it does have a substantial off-road ability, which makes it more fun to drive.

Back to Stellenbosch, which is the second-oldest European settlement in the province after Cape Town. The beautiful hilly region incorporates high mountains in the distance and an abundance of valleys. Directions took us to the magnificent Hidden Valley, an area uniquely positioned to produce the best wines and olives.

Boasting some of the best produce in the country, the valley thrives on productivity owing to its higher altitude, enjoying the cooling breezes that come off False Bay, originating from the deep Atlantic.

Locked away in the Valley is the Overture Restaurant, where we made our final stop. The location, nestled on a high spot overlooking valleys with mountains in the distance, was a welcome sight as we prepared for a five-course lunch.

The restaurant, which opened in 2007 and was voted fourth in the Presidential Eat Out Awards, is the initiative of Bertus Basson and Craig Cormack, talented chefs based in Somerset West. The meals, ranging from meat to fish and vegetarian cuisine, are carefully prepared and tastefully presented.

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Several Ford Kugas are lined up at the base of a steep path in the mountainous region around the Hidden Valley in Stellenbosch.

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As we bid our farewells, the unanimous decision was that this would not be the last time we visited. So next time you visit the Western Cape, a trip through the Hidden Valley comes highly recommened. - The Mercury

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