Elgin is often the place you travel through on your way to somewhere else. But hidden in plain sight are some of the region’s best restaurants, wine farms and authentic farmstalls where you can taste freshly squeezed apple juice or cider and extend your wine collection with some truly remarkable wines.
Nestled in the lush green valleys embraced by the Hottentots Holland Mountains, the name Elgin has over the years become synonymous with apples, as 60% of the national crop is produced there. But Elgin is also becoming one of South Africa’s most unique and successful wine regions, with the coolest climate of any region in the country. As with the lifestyle in this area, the grapes ripen slowly, resulting in fruity and sprightly wine, with sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and shiraz doing particularly well.
So, next time you drive trough Elgin, turn your trip into a meander and savour the sights, sounds and tastes of this unique area. Here are some of the highlights you dare not miss.
On your way from Cape Town, your first stop should be The Orchard Farmstall at Grabouw, the gateway to the Overberg, situated just off the N2.
Stop and celebrate this iconic farmstall’s 5th anniversary under new ownership, with daily specials and fresh and tasty fare.
Everyone’s taste is catered for here. The shelves are lined with local honey, homemade jams and preserves, including orange marmalade, passion fruit jam, pear and ginger preserve, pineapple jam, apricot jam, strawberry jam and quince jelly. There are local and imported teas on sale, any number of local arts, crafts and bespoke gifts. There is an array of the usual – chips, sweets, cold drinks – that we’ve come to expect from farmstalls.
Orchard is the perfect stop for families, with a lovely playground and jumping castle for little ones to play on and the grassy surrounds of the farmstall make a good spot to sit and picnic if you’re so inclined. Fresh drinking water and a large sprawling green lawn are available for pets.
Just past Bot River on the N2, put your flicker on and make the turn into the Gabriëlskloof Estate where on cold wintery days you can join them by the fireside (or bathe in sunshine overlooking the mirror ponds) for a memorable wine tasting experience. The estate range consists of four wines (the chenin blanc is currently sold out) and a tasting costs R60 pp, while the small production Landscape Series is made up of five wines that can be tasted at a cost of just R150 pp. The cost of both tastings is refundable on purchase.
Ingrained in the Overberg culture is an authentic generosity dispensed informally, which has long been at the centre of The Restaurant at Gabriëlskloof’s philosophy, along with a focus on seasonal produce. This country-style hotspot occupies a wing of the celebrated hilltop winery and has views of the surrounding valley and a large fireplace that’s fired up on cold days. When the weather’s fair, it’s the courtyard stoep that draws families for slow-cooked, shared meals, served with authentic platteland passion and a generous hand.
A hop, skip and a jump from the N2 turn-off takes you to Wildekrans Boutique Wine Estate. A picturesque 1 000 ha estate tucked away in the beautiful Bot River Valley amongst fields of indigenous renosterbos, Wildekrans is known for its award-winning wines, olive oils and dining experience. Wildekrans also offers luxury self-catering accommodation, and many outdoor activities for nature lovers and biking and hiking enthusiasts.
The focus of this estate lies very much in creating a fully home-grown product and warm family hospitality for everything from their wines, to hosted events and functions – or even a simple weekend away with friends or family.
From concept to execution, Forage restaurant at Wildekrans delivers a fine-dining experience. Nothing is half-baked. Each dish reflects the region’s diverse history and its produce – mostly foraged by the Forage team. The restaurant offers great decor, a cosy fireplace and welcoming staff who are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, adding to a truly exceptional experience.
While the fresh farm flavours of Wildekrans still delight your taste buds, pop around the corner to Bakenshoogte where Johan and Wilma Punt and their sons Gilbert and Hendri nurture 1 200 olive trees on their 5.5 ha farm. The oils made from Frantoio, Leccino and Coratina (with a touch of Favolosa and Nocellara) are intense and well-known for their fresh, green, grassy aroma and peppery taste.
The groves produce around 20 tons of olives which are pressed within 24 hours of being handpicked. The oils are blended to Bakenshoogte’s special recipe with the love and respect these trees from Biblical times deserve. The oil is bottled on the premises in elegant 375 ml glass bottles and 1 and 5 litre tin cans. Oil can also be purchased by filling your own container on the farm.
Stocked up on wine and olive oil, the next taste adventure awaits you just down the R43 towards Hermanus at The Cheese Stall.
Yes, it’s a cheese stall; one may even say, The Cheese Stall, and it stocks around 35 different kinds of cheese to prove it. But the shelves and refrigerators in the spanking new shop groan with a dizzying range of locally-made and -grown jams, olives, nuts, dried fruit, bottled fruit and veggies, fresh eggs, boerewors, beautifully-woven baskets and so much more.
Owners Willem and Wilma Botha source their produce from small farmers mostly within a radius of 250 – 300 km from the shop, but some as far away as the Eastern Cape. So, from the creamiest of cream cheeses, the mozzarellas, fetas, bries and camemberts, to the harder and more mature cheeses, you’ll be sure to find them there.
So if you haven’t had the pleasure of an old-time shopping experience where all the high quality produce is as fresh as can be, and where Willem and Wilma have all the time in the world to get to know you and your needs, The Cheese Stall at Melunah is a must. It’s much more than just cheese.
Taking a sho’t left on the R43, another taste adventure awaits you at Ecology Lifestyle Farm. A stone’s throw away from PaardenKloof Estate, Ecology offers you the opportunity to soak up the sun and sounds of farm life while tasting all the different wine ranges produced by PaardenKloof.
Ecology offers an incredible venue with a kitchen to match – sit down with the family or celebrate a momentous occasion, all while enjoying local, authentic cuisine.
Locally sourced and locally made is their motto when it comes to the boutique farm shop, while the nursery’s focus is specifically on Protea and fynbos plants.
For the children there is a beautiful play area and farmyard animals to keep them entertained. Tame and well-mannered (most of the time), the four-legged friends are feathered and furry and can’t wait to meet you during your visit.
All PaardenKloof ‘s exclusive wines are available at cellar door prices from the wine shop at Ecology Lifestyle Farm.
Just a little further along the way on the R43 towards Hermanus (if you pass, the Kleinmond turn-off, you know you have gone too far and need to turn back) a tasting experience with a difference awaits you at Honingklip Brewery.
Before leaving your car, make some space between the wine, olive oil, cheese and other goodies in your boot because you will want to take some of these Belgian-inspired beers home with you.
Set against the mountain you can relax on the stoep overlooking a secure child-friendly play area. Oh, and pets are more than welcome.
Naturally fermented, unfiltered and unpasteurised, the Honingklip brews will delight and surprise you.
While enjoying one of a selection of light meals, ranging from a snack plate to fresh mussels and open sandwiches, start off your tasting with Saison, a light refreshing beer, with a touch of wheat, a moderately spicy aroma, light fruity flavour and a dry finish. Saison is designed for people who aren’t beer drinkers (yet) and those who want a light beer to drink all day.
Follow this with Wit, a zesty Belgian wheat beer, made with barley, wheat and oats, flavoured with coriander, camomile and lemon zest and continue your tasting journey with a Blonde (no, not that kind!). This Blond is brewed with 100% locally produced malt and barley hops, offering a more flavoursome replacement for lagers.
Now, brace yourself for Honingklip’s take on India Pale Ale, brewed with local and Belgian malts, local and German hops, and Belgian yeast, delivering a complex, intensely flavoured IPA, without being too bitter.
And to top it all, there are still the Stout, Dubbel and Trippel to follow before you tingle your beer buds with the Honingklip Special – where the brewer’s creativity runs wild. It is available while the keg still has something in it and it probably contains some alcohol.
And if that is not enough, Honingklip Farm also has a 4×4 route and mountain bike trails and regular dog walks in aid of animal charity.