WineTots Blog: Whales & Wine - Our Whale of a Wine Tour
Updated: Jul 26
Day One on our Wine and Whales Tour
Record sightings of Southern Right whales!
2018 has brought record numbers of Southern Right whales to South Africa’s coastline, in particular to De Hoop Nature Reserve (where 1000 calves have been counted this year) and Walker Bay, where the beautiful seaside hamlet, Hermanus, lies. One of the 10 hotspots to see these incredible creatures not only in Africa, but in the world! The whales come to the bay to have and nurture their calves from June to November, peaking in September to October.
We therefore decided that it was the perfect time for another tour of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley and Stanford wineries, before the peak whale season is over – a supreme blend of seaside fun, whale sighting and wine discovery!
After a little surf, while trying to spot whales at the small cove of Sandbaai (Afrikaans for ‘sand bay’) with the kids and collecting some beautiful shells, it was time to head out to start our wine tour.
Top Cape Wineland Spots for You and Your Tots (or kids)
All the wineries chosen for our weekend tour were first-time visits for us. We have visited most of the Hermanus wineries on previous occasions (those that are generally open to the public without appointments), and there are indeed some heavenly gems in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. The aim on our wine tours is to try all public wineries to discover new gems and identify the best ones in the Cape Winelands for wine, food, views, kids, art, nature, adventure or – as often happens – all of the above! Follow our @WineTots adventures if you wish to keep updated with what’s hot in the Winelands, and which are the Top Spots for YOU (and your Tots – if you have any)!
Whalehaven, Hemel-en-Aarde Valey Wine Region
At the bottom of the Hemel-en-Aarde (Afrikaans for ‘Heaven and Earth’) valley lies Whalehaven, which was our first stop on our Wine and Whales tour for this year, and is part of the Hemel-en-Aarde wine route.
Chocolate and Wine pairing
I chose the chocolate and wine pairing, which consisted of 4 delicious pairings namely:
Viognier 2015 & White chocolate with orange blossom
PinotNoir 2015 & Milk chocolate with rose & rooibos
Merlot 2013 & Milk chocolate with lavender & rosemary
Pinotage 2014 & Dark chocolate infused with fynbos (saving the best for last... and taking some home!)
The kids were served their own chocolate tasting, without the wine of course!
Hubby enjoyed the vertical tasting of Cabernet Franc – 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Our clear favourite was the 2011, which is an exquisitely balanced wine – the seven years since harvest have served it very well.
Misty Mountains, Stanford Wine Route
We were then on our way to our second winery, Misty Mountains, the first stop on the Stanford Wine Route, just outside Hermanus, heading towards Stanford. The Stanford Wine Route was officially established only three years ago, in 2016, and now consists of eight wineries.
Not only many glasses, but also a multitude of tasting options await you at Misty Mountains, including its own wine, beer, cider and gin.
We first all sampled the wine, and then the boys tried the beer tastings while the girls shared a tasting of the ciders and gins – Butterfly, Firefly and Dragonfly. This we paired with some focaccia and mouthwatering Mexicano pizza while watching the Bokke play New Zealand.
The kids were entertained for hours on the jungle gym outside and worked up quite an appetite for some pizza.
Misty Mountains is usually open only during the day, but opened longer for the rugby into the evening (and will open late on some evenings in peak season). This is a great place to stop by during the December holidays.
Day Two on our Wine and Whales Tour
We first headed to central Hermanus to the main whale-viewing area off Marine Drive, Gearing’s Point. Hermanus has a beautiful coastal path that you can follow for most of the bay (11 km stretch in total), which meanders up and down along the rocky coastline, giving you the ideal opportunity to spot whales while enjoying the sea air and scenery.
There are also a number of fantastic sculptures at Gearing’s Point ‘Sculptures on the Cliff’, which are great to admire while waiting for a whale to appear, which it might do at any moment by lobtailing, tail sailing, breaching, or spyhopping. We had our own fun too ‘whaling’ about with the whales and sculptures!
There were so many sculptures to inspire whale watching but Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe's Marvel Diver (Contemporary Hercules), exhibited from 24 September 2018, inspired quite a few handstands or 'Sailing' (the term used to denote the act of a southern right whale waving its tail above the water).
Stanford Hills, Stanford Wine Route
First wine stop for the day, and our second stop on the Stanford Wine Route, was Stanford Hills. From fun tractor jungle-gyms to canoeing on the dam filled with Waterblommetjies (an edible water plant perfect for the typical South African stew, namely Waterblommetjiebredie), with spectacular views of the Stanford Hills... what more could you want?! ... Well, perhaps a great wine tasting, really delicious food (try the seared tuna – you will not be sorry), and some very warmly friendly staff.
Glamping with AfriCamps
Stanford Hills also has its own accommodation as well as an AfriCamp, one of South Africa’s Boutique camping (otherwise know as ‘glamping’) specialists. This is an ideal place to stay with kids while on a wine tour. There are five AfriCamps currently, with fantastic views of the mountains and dams, with more in the pipeline!
Springfontein, Stanford Wine Route
Our next stop on the Stanford Wine Route was Springfontein Wines. This you will find if you travel through Stanford and connect to the dust road that follows the bottom of the lagoon.
A beautiful, tranquil setting awaits you, with original Cape-Dutch homesteads and buildings (now converted into holiday cottages), the Springfontein Eats restaurant (to my knowledge the only restaurant in South Africa run by a Michelin chef from Germany), and the Springfontein Bar(n), where wine tastings and food are served daily until 9pm! These generous opening times are a first that I know of for a winery estate in South Africa that is not a large hotel. There should really be more places open in the evening in the Cape Winelands, since the sun takes its time to set in Summer and there is accordingly much beauty for visitors to enjoy in the evenings with the exquisite African sky paintings, often over the spectacular Cape mountains.
What a treat pairing Springfontein’s incredible Single Block 2014 Pinotage (from Limestone soil near the southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas), with delicious beef sirloin, mash and garden vegetables, bobotie spring rolls and prawn risotto.
We have now as a family, with our two kids, visited four out of the eight wineries on the Stanford Wine Route. Can’t wait to go back for another few days, to try out the rest!
While you are in the area you must also visit some more of the spectacular local wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, famous for their cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The number of wineries in this area keeps expanding and is home to around 20 different establishments at the moment. Quite a few are open by appointment only.
Hermanus Wine Hoppers
The Hermanus Wine Hoppers (tours in safari-style vehicles) is an excellent way to explore the valley. They will pick you up and drop you off at the bottom of the valley from the Hermanus Village Market. Collections are roughly every 30 minutes from the 10 participating wineries, starting at 9am. This currently costs R250 per person (R110 for under 18s – 2018 rate).
See you there soon!
Follow more adventures with us on Instagram @WineTots and find out more about the destinations we visited by following the links below:
Walker Bay: https://goo.gl/maps/WReYAos2E2o Sandbaai, Hermanus: https://goo.gl/maps/xm32CJyTuGu
Whalehaven Wines: http://www.whalehavenwines.co.za/
Stanford Wine Route Info: http://www.stanfordinfo.co.za/cat/wine-tasting/
Misty Mountains: http://www.mistymountains.co.za/
Whale spotting and sculptures at Gearing's Point: https://goo.gl/maps/LAdZqPuNJnH2
Stanford Hills: http://www.stanfordhills.co.za/ Stanford Africamps: https://www.africamps.com/farm/stanford-africamps-stanford-hills/ Springfontein: http://www.springfontein.co.za/ Hermanus Wine Hoppers: http://www.hermanuswinehoppers.co.za/