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The Locals’ Pick of the 5 Best Wine Farms in Stellenbosch – And 1 to Avoid

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4 weeks ago

Stellenbosch boasts over 150 wineries, so it pays to know the best wine farms in Stellenbosch. The region is an easy and picturesque 45-minute drive from Cape Town. This might get you thinking that it might just be a day trip from Cape Town.

Stellenbosch certainly can be a day trip from Cape Town, but it’s unquestionable that the best way to experience the incredible food, wine, vistas and serenity of the region is to spend one (or ideally two) nights in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek.

We use ‘Stellenbosch’ to mean the wine region immediately around Stellenbosch, but there is a small and pretty university town named Stellenbosch that is worth taking an hour or so to explore.

The main drag is Dorp Street which is lined with restaurants and shops. Otherwise, what you’re really in Stellenbosch for is its unparalleled wineries (or wine farms, as they known to South Africans). We’ve rounded up the best wine farms in Stellenbosch as corroborated by locals – and one to avoid.

Rust en Vrede

Rust en Vrede is the vineyard that is famous for being selected by President Nelson Mandela to be served at the Nobel Peace Price dinner. Go for the wine, sit for the views, and stay for the Winemaker’s Lunch (more on that below).

The lion’s share of Rust en Vrede’s produce is Cabernet Sauvignon but there are other grapes like Syrah. Viticulturalists will tell you that the area has near-perfect growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon on account of its humidity. This has traditionally been the best Cabernet Sauvignon in South Africa.

Rust en Vrede is unique in that the full winemaking process occurs at the estate.

Rust en Vrede is one of the best wine farms in Stellenbosch because it doesn’t just rest on its amazing views and wines, but the service is also impeccable. The waiters truly have personal opinions about the wine. It doesn’t feel like the waiter is just pouring the wine for you which really makes a huge difference to the experience.

And if you don’t like Cabernet, Rust en Vrede also produces brandy which itself is a treat.

Make sure you call or email ahead if you want to secure a reservation. Otherwise, your best option is to arrive just before midday to try to get a seat at for the Winemaker’s Lunch (ideally outside). It’s incredibly good value for money and, like virtually all other restaurants in the area, is the highest quality food.

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley Wines stands out among the rest for a lot of reasons, but it is particularly unique in that the team offers a wine + chocolate tasting as one of their tasting options. But it isn’t just your run-of-the-mill chocolate. This is an incredibly considered pairing which would make a sommelier at a restaurant nervous.

The Hidden Valley chocolatier handmakes chocolate to pair with each glass of wine you are served. She first tastes the wine and then makes a chocolate which properly complements the profile of the wine, so quite a lot of effort goes into every flavor that you’ll try.

With only 20 hectares under vine, their wines are quite exclusive. Hidden Valley is also growing (no pun intended), with new grape varieties being grown on their terroir.

Cabernet is the king grape of the Haldeberg region of Stellenbosch. So, just like Rust en Vrede, you’ll find some excellent Cabernets at Hidden Valley.

You’ll find more premium red wines in the Golden Triangle area because it’s cooler.

Ask the staff to try the tannat grape which is originally from Uruguay and also grown in the south of France. It’s similar to a Malbec (which is one of my personal favorites, admittedly) but has a pronounced difference that’s quite unusual.

Delaire Graff

Delaire Graff is a must-visit, either for lunch or a wine-tasting, if for no other reason than Delaire Graff is perfectly positioned for the best mountain views in Stellenbosch. The way the light hits the mountains, wow. You can feel the anxieties of life leave you as you take in the changing colors of the mountains.

Delaire Graff can get quite busy, so you want to try to time your visit around non-peak times (i.e., in between lunch and dinner, or in the morning). You’re also more likely to get the undivided attention of your server for your wine tasting if you go during non-peak hours. In our opinion, that’s a huge bonus because the staff are very well informed about the estate and the wine farms of Stellenbosch generally.

The views from Delaire Graff are so beautiful that you’ll be pinching yourself to check you’re not dreaming.

If you’re looking for premium accommodation, Delaire Graff offers lodges and a spa on site. If you don’t want to pay the (admittedly very high) price for a stay at Delaire Graff, a local secret is to stay at Clouds Estate. Almost as luxurious, Clouds Estate is connected to Delaire Graff by a gate allowing you to easily move between the estates and get the best of both worlds, without paying the price for a night at Delaire Graff. That’s a travel hack if I’ve ever seen one.

Tokara Estate

Tokara Estate is one of the more underrated wine farms in Stellenbosch, which is surprising because it has it all. There’s everything from stunning views from their vineyard, modern buildings which stand in contrast to the older buildings in the area, an art gallery, a deli, an incredible restaurant, and even an olive oil tasting.

Just to mix it up, you can do an olive oil tasting and then go to the wine tasting. The last seating for the Tokara Olive Oil Odyssey is at 4 pm but you can do an informal tasting (without the food) if you get there before 4:30 pm.

Tokara Deli is also great for a casual lunch, and is usually a lot less busy than other eateries in the area. With an area specifically designed for children, Tokara Estate is probably the best wine farm in Stellenbosch if you’re visiting with children.

Waterford Estate

With its captivating scenery, Waterford Estate is the perfect place for wine tasting. The resounding theme among locals is that Waterford Estate proves that it doesn’t always have to be the big names with the best views that create the best experiences, but rather the smaller wine farms of Stellenbosch are able to deliver just as good (if not, better) experiences.

Waterford Estate is also an amazing experience for those visiting Stellenbosch in winter. The team has created a warm, cozy space which makes you want to sit and drink far more than you should, but at everybody else will be doing the same so you won’t be alone. Generally speaking, Waterford Estate’s evening experiences are also well worth your time.

And the one to avoid…

It might be a bit strong to suggest that one avoids Babylonstoren, but unfortunately it has become quite touristy over the years. Touristy isn’t always a pejorative term, but it is sometimes used as a byword for loss of quality in favor of serving mass experiences, and that is what it feels like has happened to Babylonstoren.

One of the things that is so delightfully refreshing about Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is that it feels like you’ve got the whole winery to yourself at times. Babylonstoren can get rammed with people which isn’t the most positively memorable experience.

To be clear, Babylonstoren is still very well-known for its stunning gardens which you can tour. There’s a great restaurant called Babel for which you’ll need a reservation, and then a more casual restaurant. The wine estate is huge so there is plenty to explore if you’d rather just go for the views and the wine tasting.

You can also stay at Babylonstoren which is an objectively incredible experience because the surrounding views are absolutely stunning. The wine farm might be a little overrated, but the hotel on site is luxurious and guarantees great views.

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