Wine with heart: Magical moments await at Sensational Slanghoek

Wine with heart: Magical moments await at Sensational Slanghoek
Nicolette Waterford

Nicolette Waterford

Slanghoek is one of four wards that form the Breedekloof wine region, the remaining three wards being Rawsonville, Goudini and Breede River. Many stories exist about why this valley is called Slanghoek (translated as snake’s corner). Some argue that it is because of the serpent-like shape of the river flowing through it, connecting all the properties that form part of the valley. Others believe that the name Slanghoek originated because this splendid piece of wine country resembles paradise so closely. I must admit, drinking in the jaw dropping natural beauty all around, it is easy to imagine that Eve might have tempted Adam here with a bunch of grapes or two…

As a visitor you can look forward to being tempted by the cobalt blue mountains, stretches of vineyard spotted hills and the aura of romance that hangs around this part of the world. With its rugged beauty, affordable wines, dramatic scenery and family-run wineries, it is no surprise that the valley is fast becoming a popular wine tourism destination. Located roughly 90 kilometres from Cape Town, Slanghoek offers an abundance of activities including wine tasting, 4×4 routes, canoeing on the Breede River, hiking trails, trout fishing, bird watching and horseback riding. In a nutshell, it is the ultimate romantic retreat.

There are some fantastic accommodation options to choose from in the valley, but I fell in love with the Platbos Log cabins at the Slanghoek Mountain Resort. Situated on the slopes of the Slanghoek Mountains, each log cabin has an open-plan kitchen and living area, two bedrooms with queen size beds and a loft with two single beds, as well as shower and toilet facilities. There is no electricity but the cabins are equipped with gas, solar and battery power.

What I enjoy about Platbos is that you can smell the local Cape fynbos (delicate bush) in the air; it is a real sensory explosion to be surrounded with so much indigenous plant life. The lush Platbos forest is dominated by the Breede River Yellowwood, the smallest of the Southern African species of yellowwood trees. Other trees in the forest include Wild Olive and Kliphout. It is therefore not surprising that the Slanghoek Mountain Resort is a prime spot for bird watching, with more than 40 bird species being spotted over the past year.
Expect spectacular views, indigenous fynbos, impressive waterfall sites and many romantic lookout points. Children are catered for and weather permitting the Resort offers kiddie horse rides on Saturday mornings at a mere R5 per child. For more experienced riders, a vineyard outride is a real treat and if it is less strenuous entertainment you are craving, the scenic 18-hole putt-putt course situated on a fynbos hill, will provide hours of fun.

There are also two farm dams at the Resort. The first dam offers Blue Gill fishing, while the second dam is filled with trout for fly-fishing on a catch and release basis. In addition to the Platbos log cabins on the water’s edge, the Resort has self catering chalets and a tented camp, as well as an option for those who like camping with their own tents or caravans.
For more information, visit www.slanghoekresort.co.za, or call +2723 344 3138.

Once settled in, you can plan your visits to the Slanghoek wineries, all within a few minutes’ drive of each other:
Jason’s Hill Private Cellar is where Ivy du Toit is keeping the vine growing and winemaking tradition alive for the Du Toit family, building on five generations of tradition. Ivy is a celebrated winemaker and was South Africa’s Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year in 2003, as well as the Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2004.

Jason’s Hill is a great lunch spot and the Bistro@Jason’s is open from Monday to Saturday between 10am and 3pm.
Nature lovers will be interested to know that The Cape Leopard Trust erected cameras on the 6.5 km hiking trail around the winery to monitor the wildlife. Regularly snapped visitors include Cape foxes, honey badgers and even leopards. If you would like to walk the trail, register at the tasting room or bistro before 1pm on Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.
The charming little natural stone shop on the estate is the perfect browsing spot for handmade gifts and home-baked treats, while a visit to the wellness centre will leave you feeling pampered. Jason’s Hill also caters for weddings and other functions. For more information, send an email to www.jasonshill.com.

Surrounded by the majestic Slanghoek Mountains, is where you’ll find Slanghoek Cellar. This co-operative cellar has been making wine for more than 50 years and they are well known and loved for their pocket friendly offerings. Summer picnics can be pre-booked, and join one of the interesting harvest winery tours to learn more about the winemaking process. Slanghoek Cellars also offer the popular Blend & Bottle sessions where wine lovers can create their own unique blends. For the more active visitor, the newly redesigned mountain bike route, passing through vineyards and mountain streams will be the ticket, and if you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a Springbok or two en route.

No visit to Slanghoek Cellar would be complete without a sip of their Red Muscadel – it is love at first sip. The wine is light red in colour and full of strong raisiny flavours. In summer it is recommended to chill the Muscadel and it makes for a great topping on ice cream. It is hard to beat Slanghoek’s “sweeties” – they also produce a red Jerepiko, a sweet Hanepoot as well as a Cape Ruby port style wine.
It is refreshing to experience the seriousness with which the Slanghoek land owners approach conservation. The community has a huge respect for nature and most of the farms are biodiversity champions. The Slanghoek winery was the third co-operative cellar in South Africa to become a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI). They have achieved this by conserving 670ha of valuable natural habitats on their members’ farms.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm; and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. For more information, visit  www.slanghoek.co.za, or call +2723 344 3026

Opstal Estate is home to the Louw family; in fact it has been for the past six generations and boasts a rich wine history dating back to 1847.
The Louws produce a range of wines under the Opstal label, as well as the affordable Sixpence wine duo. Sixpence was the nickname given to a local shepherd Daniel Smiles who looked after the sheep on the farm in the 1950s and 1960s. Sixpence’s son Andries, who retired in 2008, still lives on Opstal today.
As vineyard plantings increased the Louws decided to stop farming sheep and focus on viticulture. Vineyards were planted on what had been the original grazing land, and these sites are referred to as Sixpence’s Vineyards. Current winemaker Attie Louw says that the Sixpence wines are not only to pay tribute to Sixpence, but a way to remember all the legends that have worked at Opstal, as some workers and their families have lived on the farm for three generations.

The Sixpence range includes two blends – a crisp Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend and an easy drinking Cabernet Merlot blend.
Opstal is also a very popular venue for conferences and weddings. For more information, visit www.opstal.co.za, or call +2723 344 3001.
There are so many elements that make a visit to Slanghoek memorable. It is the perfect place to lock out the world, create your own magic moments, laugh out loud or simply sip wonderful wines in one of the most beautiful wine valleys in South Africa.