South Africa, Wellington
The 45 minute drive from Cape Town to Wellington is just long enough to get accustom to the shift of the steering wheel to the opposite side of the vehicle, but not long enough to not be jarred by the billboards warning you not to stop for fear of death.
Wellington is surrounded by mountains – Groenberg, Limietbberg, the Hawequas, and the two Sneeukoppe. European settlers arrived in 1677, developing South Africa’s Napa Valley into a picturesque agricultural area populated with lovely wineries, beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, and thriving gardens.
It should be noted with respect that Reverend Dr. Andrew Murray inspired the building of the Huguenot seminary, making Wellington the birthplace for education of women in South Africa.
DIEMERSFONTEIN WINE AND COUNTRY ESTATE
In the heart of the Boland wine area, this iconic Cape Dutch manor was built as a family retreat and stands as a testament to the elegance of the cultivated lifestyle of Diemersfontein’s third-generation owners. Since 1942, it has been transformed into a ground breaking winery and known for its coffee/chocolate Pinotage.
A delicious, cooked-to-order, proper English breakfast featuring locally-roasted Kaleidoskoop coffee starts adventures with a full stomach at the on-property restaurant, and is included with the manor rental.
Locally-produced cheeses, charcuterie, spices, cordials, and sweet treats can be purchased to pack a lovely picnic to enjoy while taking in the expansive mountain range views of the estate, complete with music of the farm’s cows, horses and
There are eight golf courses within half-an-hour’s drive from Diemersfontein, and sunset game drives are available.
Farms on the Wellington Wine Route, cheese and olive estates, the world-famous Bains Whiskey Distillery all offer tours for those who wish to imbibe. Point of note, the Bains estate is phenomenally beautiful.
Conversations with Diemersfontein’s owner, David Sonnenberg, prove most enlightening as the lessons he learned in the bumpy apartheid conversation have been applied to creating the same empowerment that Alaska Native corporations experienced with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. In short, education and opportunity has enriched the enterprise extensively.
Unique in the South African wine industry, the estate has been transformed by offering a majority of ownership shares to the 65 employees, and focusing resources on training and development as an absolute necessity to achieve sustainable economic empowerment. They support an area school to lift up the opportunities of those who live nearby the winery as well.
The setting is inspiring on a number of levels. The Diemersfontein Estate treats its patrons as if they are guests in their own home, and that level of graciousness is felt and beautifully expressed.
The well-maintained interiors are heavily stocked with art and books rich with the history of the area, and vibrant flowers are ever present. The decor fells very British, and comes by it honestly over decades of well-curated additions.
Very much an experience that engages all the senses and encourages guests to sit back on the veranda and listen to the birds as the sun sets over an exceptionally lovely vista.
Working out of the Diemersfontein stables, Fynbos Trails, offers half, one, or two-day trail rides that gallop through Wellington’s vineyards, fruit farms, herb fields and natural fynbos with unparalleled views of the Hawequa Mountain valleys.
They also offer wine tasting trail rides to prestigious boutique cellars on historic farms in the area.
I found my guide to be exceptional - a very capable and fun riding partner. She also does horseback tours where you ride within the great herds of zebra and giraffe. Count me in for that on my next trip!
I really enjoyed the athleticism of the South African creole horse, a mix of Arab and Boerperd blood. I much preferred it to the bouncy gait of the Frisian that was also offered as an option at this stable. Must say though, the Frisian was very well trained and was a flat handsome mount.