The Breede River valley, centred on the quaint winelands town of Robertson, has long been famous for its chardonnay and shiraz, but look past the cellars and you’ll see that the so-called ‘valley of wine and roses’ has plenty of other delicious distractions. As the town gets ready for the annual Robertson Slow Festival from 8-10 August – one of four grape celebrations held there each year – Richard Holmes went down the river to find a few foodie destinations.
If you need to fill up your picnic basket, the Robertson Farmers’ Market should be your first stop. The market is held on the second and last Saturday of every month from 9am to 12pm. Stalls are set up around the shady courtyard behind the tourism office, and you’ll find everything from wonderful local cheeses to fresh fruit and moreish tuisgebak. (Sunday 10 August will also see a food and wine market pop up at Klipdrift Farm on Major’s Hill wine estate from 10am-2pm as part of the Slow Festival.)
Strictly Coffee recently expanded with a café section that sells light meals, but it’s the single-origin roasts that make it so worth a visit. Beans are roasted on a farm outside of town, and are sold at seriously good prices: from R45 per 250g. Owner Hanno Schwartz rates the Zimbabwean beans amongst his current favourite.
Marbrin Olive Growers in Klaas Voogds East is among the top producers in the country and offers wonderful tours that explain the growing and pressing process and allow for a tank tasting of single-varietal oils. After that, you can enjoy a guided tasting of their award-winning blended oils, cured olives and tapenades. Make sure you say hello to Stanley, the Airedale Terrier immortalised on the label. (On Sunday 10 August the estate will be closed, but tastings will be offered at the Slow Market on Major’s Hill.)
Turn your hand to wine blending at Excelsior’s quirky over-water tasting room. Three tiny barrels offer merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz for you to mix-and-match into your own personalised blend. Hint: a 20/20/60 mix of cab, shiraz and merlot is a good bet for an easy-drinking red. Blending costs R50 per bottle, including labelling and sealing. A brand-new deli next door offers light meals overlooking the dam.
Set overlooking a remarkable succulent garden, Mo and Rose, a wine bistro on the Soekershof Estate, offers upmarket bistro cuisine in a stylish renovated barn. The daily menu offers two- and three-course options (R210 per person and R280 per person respectively), with plenty of local influences and ingredients. The springbok loin with olive crust and sweetcorn bread is a must. There’s also a great wine list showcasing the best local estates.
With the celebrity chef’s spicy sponsorship deal of the same name, it’s perhaps fitting to find an outpost of Reuben Riffel’s empire in Robertson. Situated in the stylish Robertson Small Hotel, the Reuben’s winter menu offers upmarket comfort food – think lamb shanks and potato pureé – but you’ll also find his signature chilli-salt squid and pork belly.
A Klippies and coke is as South African as sunny skies and braaivleis, and the home of Klipdrift brandy draws a steady stream of pilgrims. The cosy visitors’ centre offers a long bar and deep leather couches for tastings and sipping brandy-infused cocktails, but don’t miss the informative distillery tour that delves into the curious history of Klipdrift and the secrets behind SA’s biggest-selling brandy.
Ever wondered why wine always tastes better in a decent glass? Esona, on the road to Bonnievale, offers an illuminating vertical tasting in varietal-specific Riedel glasses. Stemware aside, the chardonnay and shiraz are delicious in their own right and the tasting is held in the 90-year-old cellar. Booking required. Phone 076 343 5833 or visit www.esona.co.za.
Van Loveren’s estate offering is now as delicious as their quaffable wines. The tasting centre offers a range of food and wine pairings, alongside a deli packed with local cheeses, cold meats and preserves. The estate’s revamped Christina’s Bistro is also amongst the best casual eateries in the valley. Tip: Ask for the recipe to the late Ouma Jean’s famous sweetcorn fritters.
Enjoy a lunchtime picnic with a difference aboard the Viljoensdrift riverboat. A well-stocked deli offers breads, cheese, charcuterie and pâté for you to pick-and-mix for your basket before hopping aboard for a 50-minute cruise on the lazy river.
Saggy Stone, a farm-based craft brewery, is more than a little off-the-beaten track, but well worth seeking out. All four brews are available on tap, with the California Steam and Desert Lager the two most popular pours. There’s a small menu of pub-style food and a lovely lawn and kids’ playground. On the weekend you’ll need to book ahead for a table.