Summer is on our doorstep which means it’s time to seek out the best outdoor spots where we can soak up the sun. Of course you can head to the white sandy beaches (which will probably be tinted crayfish pink with sunburnt tourists for most of the season) or the manicured lawns of the wine estates outside town. If you are keen for a more laid-back, rustic experience I’ve found a lovely little hideaway just outside Cape Town.
Mooiplaas is a family owned wine farm and private nature reserve situated in the Bottelary Hills outside Stellenbosch. This was my final stop on a Stellenbosch media trip where I got to eat my way through some of the area’s finest foodie spots. Go read more about my lunch at Cuvée, dinner at Jardine, sleepover at Batavia Boutique Hotel and tour with Bites and Sites. On the Sunday afternoon I steered my Volvo out of town, heading deeper and deeper into the Botterlary valley, then up and up into the hills following a narrow stone road, and finally I arrived at a rustic farm tucked away between bright green hills, surrounded by lush paddocks and horses grazing happily.
Once I had parked my car between the horse trailers, 4x4s and bakkies, I headed for the tasting room. My first impression was chaos. The old stone buiding was filled with horse riders fresh from an outing, all thirsty for a glass of wine. Turns out the commotion was caused by the The Cape Hunt club, an equestrian sport where the horse riders follow foxhounds who are trained to chase a scent. Yes, really. As in proper 1800 hunting without actually killing a fox.
Amused by the whole scenario I parked myself outside on the front porch of the tasting room looking out over the valley. Even though I knew that Cape Town was just around the corner, this felt like a piece of lush European countryside (the hunting club might have added to the romance) with all the Jane Austen charms that come with it.
The estate is part of a nature reserve that lies between the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and from the highest point you can see all the way across the Cape Peninsula from False Bay to Table Bay. Apart from giving hikers an epic view, this location provides excellent conditions for winemaking. Between the viticulturist Tielman Roos and cellar master Louis Roos, they have succeeded in producing elegant, delicious wines, taking an environmentally friendly approach in the vineyards, with minimal fiddling and tricks in the cellar. Louis believes in using wild yeast, natural fermentation, and maturation in small oak barrels to make the magic happen.
Louis is clearly incredibly passionate about every bottle he makes. We spent most of the afternoon with him in the manor house working our way through a good chunk of their selection, and nearly every wine had an interesting story behind it.
They produce three lines of wines. The Langtafel range is their lifestyle or easy-drinking selection. An interesting find within this range is their Vino Baruzzo Novello. During its making, whole bunches of grapes are placed into the fermentation tanks by hand with as little skin damage as possible. The whole berry starts for ferment and after about two weeks the whole bunches are gently pressed to release the wine. The result is a juicy, sweet, soft wine that I found it similar to a Granache, but also quite unique. Try it nice and cold on a summer’s day.
Most of the wines we tasted came from their Mercia range, and I was seriously impressed by every sip. Their Tabakland Cabernet Sauvignon is particularly special, boasting all the flavours you love from a Stellenbosch red wine. You’ll get cassis, dark fruits, leather, tobacco and spice, a lovely one for those stormy winter nights. I also really enjoyed the Houmoed Chenin Blanc, which boasts honey, peaches and marzipan on the nose and a weighty, full palette. If you love sweet wines you should also definitely try the Laatlam, a Noble Late Harvest that indulges in those syrupy apricot notes balanced by a firm acidity that keeps you going back for another sip.
Going into summer I’m particularly excited about the Sauvignon Blanc from their Roos Family range. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic choice for warm afternoons and this one is something special in my opinion. It has tropical notes of melon and litchi, with a crisp palette that really lingers.
After the tasting we were seriously ready to tuck into some food, and thankfully the Mooiplaas picnic was more than generous. We had the Deluxe Picnic (R450), which is more than enough for two people and includes a fresh baguette, paté, smoked salmon, tzatziki, charcuterie, brie cheese and mature cheddar, a pork pie served with apple chutney, a fruit compot and desert, all beautifully wrapped in white tissue paper or packaged in glass jars and served in a wicker picnic basket.
We sat ourselves down under the trees on the lawn overlooking the paddocks and hills beyond, and enjoyed the last bit of sunshine while we tore off pieces of bread to dip into this paté or that spread, nibbling on creamy cheese, salty olives and slivers of salmon, and indulging in that special type of calm and quiet you only find in the countryside.
I thought all the food was rustic, comforting and delicious, and it is great to share between friends. The Deluxe Picnic also includes a wine tasting of six wines plus four glasses of wines to enjoy. Nice. You can also opt for their Gourmet Picnic, which is only R280 with an equally tempting spread, wine tasting and two glasses of wine.
The picnics are available from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am. Just make sure you book at least one day in advance, and by Friday afternoon if you want a picnic over the weekend.
We only tried the picnic and wine tasting but Mooiplaas also offers hikes through their 70 hectare nature reserve, with incredible views of the valley and the Cape beyond. The hike is only 5.6 km so it should take you about an hour, and from there you can drink wine guilt-free. Yay. You can also book guided hikes led by viticulturist Tielman Roos, who is considered one of the foremost conservationists in the region with a wealth of knowledge about indigenous fauna and flora on the farm.
I think Mooiplaas is a gem, with a rustic, unpretentious, laid back countryside charm that provides an ideal escape from the city.
For more information, head over to mooiplaas.co.za