Not often does one get to revisit a town you already think you have uncovered only to find a host more interesting places, each with their own unique experience, that entice you to want to become a part of the inner circle, and share in the pride, spirit and sense of community that makes Tulbagh the treasure trove of the “Valley of Abundance” that it is.
Wittedrift Manor House
I just loved this beautiful manor house from the moment we walked through the door. Every room yields unique decor and interesting art works that make you want to spend hours exploring. Wittedrift Manor House exudes charm and heart, and the owner, PJ Daly, and manager, Carol Collins, have you feeling like family throughout your stay. We enjoyed a lovely 3-course dinner, served in the dining room and were kept enthralled and entertained with PJ’s Irish songs and poetry.
Carol, the owner of Readers Restaurant, is also the manager of Wittedrift Manor House, and so we were fortunate to have all of our scrumptious meals served by her during our stay. We arrived to freshly baked scones served with preserves and cheese in the old farmhouse-style kitchen. Later on we enjoyed delicious quiche, salad, and fresh breads for lunch. Dinner was out of this world and lovingly prepared by the staff, but rather than detailing the mouth-watering starter and main course, I am saving my rave review for what I believe to be a unique culinary adventure… Carol’s ice-cream creations! Balsamic vinegar… wasabi and pickled ginger… Pims, cucumber and mint… coconut, curry and sesame… I am not joking! If I hadn’t had this unforgettable experience myself – twice – I’d think someone was having me on. Even if for no other reason, take a drive to Tulbagh just for Carol’s ice cream – it’s worth every kilometre on the road!
This was a tasting with a difference. I’ve enjoyed many wine tastings and pairings, but Oakhurst Olives introduced us to a sensory exploration like no other. We were led through an olive oil tasting and I had no idea how precise and specific the tasting method would be. For the olive oil, our host demonstrated how we warm the oil in the glass with our hands, sniff three times before tasting, block our noses, sip, swallow. It got even more intricate with the “sniff” process… on the first sniff she said we’d smell freshly cut grass, and sure enough a gentle sniff conjured images of frolicking through freshly mowed meadows. On the second sniff, banana skins and so on… the flesh of a grapefruit (not the skin!). Besides the unique aromas of each oil, different tasting methods applied too – for the first, a blocked nose but not for the second oil. I definitely have gained more of an appreciation for olive oil other than roasting my vegetables or dipping some bread!
This was our second visit to Saronsberg, and I fell in love with the setting, the art, and of course their dessert wine, all over again. The wine estate produces predominantly red wine (70% red, 30% white) with their primary focus on Shiraz, being situated in the best Shiraz area in South Africa. The cellar was constructed in 2003 with their maiden vintage Shiraz in 2004. Saronsberg was one of the first wineries to force cool grapes. Their Full Circle and Shiraz are placed first and second on SAWi’s Best Wines in South Africa list and are the most consistent performing wines over 10 years. On a hot Tulbagh day, with a glass of Saronsberg wine and a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains, life doesn’t get much better.
Tulbagh Tractor Rides
This is without a doubt a must-do when visiting Tulbagh. At the foot of the historic Oudekloof Pass, the charming Oudekloof Wine Estate has established an unforgettable tractor ride up the pass. The owner is really knowledgeable about the area and stopped along the way to point out interesting sites and share stories about the area’s history. At one point we all disembarked from the tractor for a short hike through the bush to where fresh spring water pooled in a pond. With some tin cups on hand, we all enjoyed a refreshing cup of mountain water before clambering back onto the tractor for the rest of the trip up the mountain. We arrived to breathtaking sights of the valleys below and a birds-eye view of the Swartland region. A scrumptious breakfast of muesli, yoghurt, fruit, croissants, juice and bubbly awaited us at the top, courtesy once again of Carol of Readers Restaurant, before a slow ride back down again.
Oudekloof Wine Estate
Our primary visit to Oudekloof was for the tractor ride, but I couldn’t help but notice the intriguing wine label: “Serious Wine… by Not So Serious People”. During our excursion up the mountain, one of our group asked about the jester on the label and I loved the explanation: “The jester was the only person who could tell the King the truth and not get killed… and we’re all about truth.”
Other places we visited, both on this trip and a previous trip also deserve mention, and I’ll include those in a follow up post. Tulbagh has so much to offer, and it’s easy to spend days exploring and savouring all the tastes and sights of the valley.