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Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Stellenbosch
March 27th 2013
Published: June 12th 2017
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Geo: -33.9322, 18.8586

We packed our bags on Wednesday morning, checked out of our hotel, and headed out of Cape Town, heading due west to the wine region of South Africa. The largest town in this area is Stellenbosch, which is an Afrikaans stronghold and the city where the apartheid movement started and first segregation laws were passed. While only about 45 minutes from Cape Town, the geography is vastly different, and it looked a lot like Tuscany in Italy.

Our friend Jeff is an admitted wine snob and aficionado, and had taken great pride in planning our two days in the Stellenbosch area. He first "got into" wine when he was studying in Cape Town and had already spent a lot of time in the area. That said, with dozens and dozens of wineries, he concentrated on setting up visits to vineyards where their product was not yet available in the United States and which were highly rated. While winery heavy, Stellenbosch does not have the commercial and tourist-y feel to it which Napa did. There are no tour buses and tourist-orientated tasting rooms. At each winery, Jeff had been in contact -- usually multiple times -- with the owners to arrange private visits and tastings. It was true VIP treatment.

For the evening, we stayed at Sugarbird Manor, which is a large protea (native South African flower) farm and vineyard. The guest house had an idyllic setting looking over the valley, and was a great place to unwind for the afternoon. The owner, a very bold former Fortune 500 CFO from Manhattan, met with us, and we spent more than two hours sitting with her around a table in the guest lodge overlooking the pool and valley. It was less a tasting than just a chat session, during which she told us all about her foray into the wine business (a whim after she got a huge post-buy-out settlement) and ongoing battles with a billionaire Spanish wine magnet who is fighting the trademark on her wine branding.

With South Africa noted for his "meat-centric" cuisine, our dinner was at a famed Stellenbosch restaurant, noted for its steaks and cuts of exotic meat. We all gorged -- literally -- on Morton's-like portions of meat. While really enjoyable, we all went out of our way to avoid steak for the remainder of the trip, as it was simply too much food. We also were able to concentrate back on seafood, once we returned to Cape Town.


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