Cape Town is famous for many things. The mountain, obviously. The beaches, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch, and of course, its winelands.
The winelands make me happy. Whenever I drive into an area where vineyards suddenly start appearing, a feeling of calm and wellbeing descends upon my world. Drinking the delicious nectar of the fruit of those vines doesn’t hurt either.
Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are our biggest and most well known wine producing regions, but there are other small valleys which should not be overlooked. The one in Durbanville, for example.
Its proximity to the Atlantic ocean and resultant cooler climate make it ideal for producing particularly great sauvignon blancs, although a wide range of reds and whites emerges from the 12 wineries in the area. Many of them win prestigious awards, and the other day a group of renowned wine writers were invited to taste some of them. They also invited me, although I am not entirely sure why because I could never be a proper wine expert. For one thing, I cannot spit, only swallow. But I do have a healthy appreciation (okay, love) of wine, and enormous respect for wine makers, who are part artist, part scientist, part agriculturist, part poet. If only more people knew about the blood, sweat, tears and passion that is inside every bottle of wine.
We tasted the wines in the cellar at Durbanville Hills, surrounded by barrels of future winners, followed by a Moroccan themed lunch in the DH Eatery upstairs.
The food wasn’t from the menu, although when I have eaten there on previous occasions I have always found executive chef Riedwaan Rooknodien’s dishes to be the kind that deliver every flavour they promise.
Durbanville Hills offers a variety of different wine tasting experiences as well, from just wine to wine and biltong, or wine and chocolate; and regular food pairing evenings hosted by the wine makers.
All the places to eat can be found on the Durbanville Valley website which each offer something unique and special.
Besides the aforementioned event at Durbanville Hills I most recently ate at the newest addition to the food route, which is the restaurant at De Grendel, a collaboration with Crown Hotels and Restaurants which owns the Michelin-starred The Crown at Whitebrook (voted 2011 Best Restaurants in Wales) and Celtic Manor.
Impressed? You can be, but rather put it to the test yourself.
Chef Ian Bergh (Five Flies, La Colombe and Pure) is in charge of the kitchen, and his dishes are a sublime mix of creativity and daring flavours, with sheer excitement built on a solid classic foundation.
I wouldn’t normally order chicken but the open ravioli starter (pictured) in which the chicken was prepared was sous vide, with pea puree frozen into a disc then inserted in the ravioli to melt again during cooking, and gorgonzola mixed with cream into a thick foam, with chardonnay sauce, was delicious.
My friend enjoyed her starter of mussels in the shell in sauvignon blanc, cream, garlic and parsley sauce (are you seeing the wine influences here? Hard to miss), and declared the sauce to be the best she’s ever had. More bread was requested to mop it all up.
I can never resist pork belly, so that’s what I had, in sweet apple sauce, with beetroot, a quenelle of creamed potato crisped on the outside and skinny strings of crackling. The pork was tender enough to be eaten with a spoon. My friend thoroughly enjoyed her beef onglet, or hanger steak – an unusual and under-utilised cut which properly prepared medium rare is flavourful and tender. With fries, and a pink peppercorn sauce this is Ian’s take on steak ‘n chips.
With De Grendel wines being sold in the restaurant at cellar door prices, it helps to keep the cost of the bill down.
Another reason I love the Durbanville Valley is that it is surprisingly close to the city bowl – hardly more than 20 minutes drive from the centre of town, even if you get stuck behind a truck or two. And when you get there, you realise it offers a magnificent view of Table Bay, the city and of course, the mountain. Put that together with the opportunity to sip some great wines, purchase at often very reasonable cellar door prices, and eat delicious meals and the valley checks every box.