Day 1 (14,5 km)
A blanket of mist covers the Robertson Valley as we set off from the graceful Cape Dutch Excelsior Manor Guesthouse at dawn. The surrounding vineyards are bathed in the warm glow of the sun’s first rays, and the dewdrops on the leaves look like amber crystals. It is springtime and the vines are small, but you can just imagine what this vineyard will look like come harvest time. We’ll soon be getting a taste of the fruit of these vineyards on our first wine tasting of the day because this is, after all, the Excelsior Wine Walk.
In recent years, the number of wine walks have increased. They are also offered in Wellington, Stellenbosch and Hermanus, and it is easy to see why they are gaining in popularity. As the name suggests, it’s part hiking, part wine tasting. The Excelsior Wine Walk, varies in distances between 14 to 17km a day, and you stop off at half a dozen top wine estates. There are also some non-wine-related surprises along the way.
The stately Manor Guesthouse is the daily starting and ending point for the hikes. It has been in the family for five generations and accommodates guests in nine beautiful suites. Wholesome breakfasts and three-course dinners are served at the Manor, and a light lunch is enjoyed at one of the tasting venues along the route.
Our first stop is the grandiose House of Chardonnay, the tasting room at De Wetshof. The building’s facade is a replica of the Koopmans De Wet House in Cape Town’s Strand Street – a nod to the first De Wets who settled in the Cape in the late 1690s.We’re still cautious about the combination of wine tasting and walking, and pace ourselves, but can’t resist ordering a few cases of wine to be shipped home. Before long we’re out on the trail again, and it’s a short but brisk walk to the nearby Van Loveren Family Vineyards. The tasting room here is set in a lush garden, lovingly cultivated over generations.
With two wine tastings done, our guide picks up the pace so we can work up a bit of a sweat before lunchtime. As we make our way towards the Breede River, the vines give way to orchards of mandarin, plum and prune trees. After crossing it, we climb a ridge on the foothills of the Elandsberg mountains for a sweeping view of the valley below. Then down again to board a barge that takes us to Viljoensdrift, where we enjoy lunch and taste more wine! From here, it’s only a short walk back to Excelsior.
Day 2 (17 km)
It’s a nice, crisp morning as we head out to Klaasvoogds, a small ward of the Robertson Wine District north of the R60 between Robertson and Ashton. We ramble past groves of nectarines, plums and pink peach-tree blossoms. River reeds tower above our heads as we pass by a farm dam, and flashes of bright orange reveal southern red bishops. Our trail follows the back roads through vineyards, along citrus groves and past farmyards of chicken and geese.
Our first stop for the day is at Mark Dom’s blueberry plantation. He explains how the berries are grown and how their popularity has led to more diverse cultivation. “Traditionally blueberries were small, sour and soft, but now we go for big, firm and sweet. You’ll find these quite crunchy.” We sample the berries right off the bush and they are indeed in a league of their own.
Kranskop is our first wine-tasting stop of the day, and by now we’re getting the hang of this wine-walk ramble. Shortly we are on the move again and the trail leads through carpets of brightly coloured wildflowers to our next stop, Marbrin Olive Farm, where we are greeted by Clive and Briony. Their passion for olives is contagious.
We taste a variety of olive oils, vinaigrettes en tapenades before moving on to the scrumptious olives harvested from the trees outside the tasting room. My taste buds have been experiencing some of the best wines in the country, but here I am left stunned by the nuances in the taste of the humble olive. Lunch is a delicious selection of tapas, served with limoncello, and a few bottles of wine round off the experience.
Our limoncello-induced merriment makes light work of the short hike back to our starting point. Back at Excelsior, we have the opportunity to sample our host’s own wine selection. The de Wet family has been making wine since 1859, and the estate is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosé.
This time, we don’t hold back as we’re done hiking for the day and our guesthouse is just across the road.
Day 3 (13,5 km)
Today we are led in a south-easterly direction up to the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains. Our climb is rewarded by a stunning panoramic view of the sweeping valley below. From here, you can see our route of the past few days, and we’re shown our next stop, Zandvliet Wine Estate.
At Zandvliet I learn that the Robertson Valley is famous for another export: racehorses. Zandvliet is the birthplace of the famous Pocket Power, and the nearby Arabella Wine Estate has a long-standing affinity for thoroughbred racehorses. Excelsior has also produced some champion horses over the past 100 years. En route to Arabella, we pass paddocks with elegant mares and their foals.
Leaving Arabella behind, we set off for the last stretch back to Excelsior for our final lunch. It’s a fitting way to end what has been a unique and fulfilling experience - both for our Fitbit metrics and our taste buds.
After three days of sampling excellent local wines, we are given the opportunity to create our own blend. In Excelsior’s tasting room, we all pretend to be winemakers, and everyone seals the cork of their unique souvenir.
Cost: R5 000 per person sharing for three nights (R7 200 for a single room). This includes luxury accommodation, breakfasts, picnic lunches, three-course dinners with wine, wine tastings at various cellars, a barge cruise, wine blending experience at Excelsior and guide.
A minimum of six guests are required
Hikes take place from April to September. If you would like to book for other months, please enquire about the costs.
The barge cruise at Viljoensdrift is subject to availability.
The order of the hikes may change.