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Wellington, wine and whisky

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By Adrian Rorvik

Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate has belonged to the Sonnenberg family since the 1940s.

David’s grandfather bought the 183ha farm in the shadow of the Hawekwa Mountains with a panoramic view of Du Toit’s Kloof and Bain’s Kloof.

From the stoep of the gabled Groot Huis, blue gums rustling in a hot summer breeze framed my view of the sweeping gardens, paddocks, dam and distant Paarl. The perfect breakfast spot.

The estate forms part of the buchu and olive trail, one of the Wellington Wine Walk trails. These trails, involving drinking and eating at the estates, can take up to four days.

I opted for a shorter walk to the tasting room, where the fruit of the labourers awaited sampling. I discovered that 70 percent of walkers are from KwaZulu-Natal.

Diemersfontein is highly regarded for its pinotages, but there were many wines I had not come across, including Carpe Diem, which was not for sale.

I particularly enjoyed the viognier, chenin blanc, Summer’s Lease and, like most, the coffee-chocolate pinotage.

Fortified by the selection, I wandered through the delightful gardens, wondering “Pool or dam, pool or dam?”

I opted for the crisp waters of the pool since it was closer to my garden room before settling, refreshed, on the bench outside my room to talk to my friendly neighbours, complimentary pinotage in hand.

From dappled shade, we admired the gardens, reminiscent of a more gracious era and abundant with roses, azaleas, shrubs and trees – a great venue for celebrations and a peaceful getaway destination for conferences.

Diemersfontein has 30 en-suite bedrooms dotted about the manor house and gardens and several other rooms with shared facilities. There are three cottages with kitchenettes and verandas.

Accommodation in Cape Town might be costly, but here it is surprisingly inexpensive. My room was simple and tasteful, with some lovely touches and air conditioning.

Horse riding and hiking mountain trails on such a baking day held little appeal, so I set off by car. Wellington has some lovely attractions to explore, but for me the main one is Bain’s Kloof Pass, which connects Wellington with the interior.

This feat of engineering provides spectacular views at almost every one of its hundreds of twists, and takes you over the mountains into an altogether different region, with gorgeous views and more wines on offer.

It’s not all about wine. At a recent whisky event in Durban I met Andy Watts, master distiller of The James Sedgwicks Distillery in Wellington.

I was impressed by the Three Ships Premium select five-year-old blend, which was recently awarded The World’s Best Blended Whisky accolade at the annual Whisky Magazine World Whisky Awards.

Watts, who has worked at and managed the distillery for 21 years, invited me to visit.

“We have always believed our whiskies are of a quality that place them among the best,” said Watts.

I concur, having stocked up on the Three Ships range as well as South Africa’s first single-grain whisky (another award-winner), Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky.

Hildenbrand Wine & Olive Oil Estate is also on the wine walk (I drove) and Reni Hildenbrand is a diminutive force of nature.

This buitelander (foreign upstart) has bucked many a local trend since arriving in 1991. She is a wine farmer and maker, olive grower and producer of excellent, sought-after olive oils, guest house owner and restaurateur.

Somewhere she finds time to rescue and house a multitude of animals, about 150 now, as well as market her products, principally in Thailand (so you won’t find them on our shelves).

Eight golf courses, as well as Franschhoek, Tulbagh, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Cape Town, are all within 45 minutes’ drive. Hence sections of Diemersfontein offered for country living are snapped up by people who want the advantages of a wine farm lifestyle, with none of the responsibilities.

David and Susan Sonnenberg created a public school on the estate and launched Thokozani to address black empowerment.

Thokozani incorporates a wine brand, art gallery and Diemersfontein’s conference business, plots and cottages.

It’s worth visiting Diemersfontein just for a meal at Seasons Restaurant, or a gourmet picnic.

Room rates start at R825. Call 021 864 5050 or visit www.diemersfontein.co.za - Sunday Tribune

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