Wine heaven down the Annandale Road

So it’s time to continue with my Winelands explorations one carefully selected section at a time. This is a serious business that takes time so, to keep it simple, today I’ve selected four amazing destinations that are a stone’s throw from each other.

We headed down the N2 from Cape Town, took the R44 towards Stellenbosch and turned right after the strawberry farm. This is the Annandale Road and you’re officially on the Helderberg wine route.

First stop, Rust en Vrede (which means rest and peace, literally translated), towards the end of Annandale. The drive will take your breath away, take it slowly, there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way.

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Rust en Vrede’s elegantly stylish gates give you a taste of the grandeur to come

For the last 32 years Rust en Vrede has specialised in producing only red wine with a focus on Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. Their wines were chosen by Nelson Mandela to be served at his Nobel Peace Prize dinner in 1993. Very much at the high end of the price spectrum (their Proprietor’s Collection sells for R2,750 a bottle), these are proper wines and it feels like a privilege to taste them in such glorious and historic surroundings.

The estate is also home to the famous Rust en Vrede restaurant which was ranked second best in South Africa for 2013. I’ve never eaten there myself but by all accounts it’s a wonderful experience. You can tuck into a four or six-course tasting menu or totally push the boat out and indulge in the Estate experience menu. This is described as “a four to five hour long gastronomic journey”, has to be shared by the whole table, the menu is a surprise and it costs R2,000. Wow!

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This is the breathtaking view as you meander up to Rust en Vrede

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Welcome to the world of stupendous reds

If you can drag yourself away, it’s time to retrace your steps before taking a left turn and driving deep into the valley until you find (aptly named) Hidden Valley. It’s home to another of the top-10 restaurants in the country – Overture (rated no. 7). If you want to sample chef Bertie Basson’s menu, make sure you book well in advance, tables here are hard to come by. While you’re there, visit the shop and pick up some of their olive oil, it’s truly fabulous.

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Hooray for the Merlot at Hidden Valley

A very short hop away is Ernie Els Wines. The popular professional golfer decided to cement his love for wine by creating Ernie Els wines in 1999. Lucky him! He’s worked with winemaker Louis Strydom since then and offers a good range to try. While you’re there you can also check out his golfing achievements in the Trophy Room and settle in for lunch, again with stunning views.

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Our chosen venue for lunch today was Guardian Peak. It’s one of the few Wineland restaurants that’s open on Mondays. The sweeping views are simply gorgeous and the menu offers bistro-style food with an emphasis on their steaks. I had a delectable mussel starter which I am going to have to attempt to recreate at home. The combination of a creamy sauce made using sauvignon blanc, the plump mussels, bacon and pine nuts was simply wonderful. We also enjoyed their lovely Rose, perfect for a hot summer’s day lunch.

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My delicious mussel starter with bacon, pine nuts and a creamy white wine sauce

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Looking out towards the mountains from Guardian Peak’s restaurant

The most wonderful way to spend an afternoon, so much glory and deliciousness to enjoy on one winding road. Annandale rules!

You will find all these vineyards (and more) down the Annandale Road off the R44 on the way to Stellenbosch from Somerset West.

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