On the outskirts of the town, Laborie Estate in Paarl is a surprising hidden gem of natural beauty

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EVER since that day I bought myself a pair of bright yellow gumboots at Agrimark in Bredasdorp, I have been filled with oodles of good intentions involving long country walks in the mud or on the beach.

The actual terrain is not crucial to this fantasy but the idea of getting some brisk exercise – while wearing suitable footwear – is appealing, at least in theory. And we all know what “they” say about good intentions…

I did take a bit of a stroll through the vineyards while spending the weekend at Laborie Estate; enough to gain some elevation and admire the view, and to snap some nice photographs. Then somehow, after that, there just didn’t seem to be enough time, what with all the drinking of wine and basking in the sunshine. It’s amazing how well one can fill one’s day this way.

The afternoon was simply too perfect to squander the opportunity to lie back with my eyes closed while bathing in that gentle golden glow. The oak trees outside my room were teeming with noisy birdlife and busy squirrels, so smart cookie that I am, I went up to the pool area and nicked the long cushion off one of the loungers. This I laid on the small stone-paved stoep outside my room, placed my glass of wine close at hand, and just let go and relaxed while nature did its thing all around me.

Photo: Bianca Coleman

Walking around the estate does bring its own rewards as it rises gently into the foothills of Paarl Mountain. If I was a more dedicated hiker or climber, I could have ascended Paarl Rock. Apparently even children can do it. Also up there is the upward-jutting finger of the Taal Monument or Afrikaans Language Monument, which was erected in 1975 to commemorate the semi-centenary of Afrikaans as an official language. Whatever your feelings about the language itself, it’s an impressive structure, the views are indeed spectacular, and events like full moon picnics and music concerts are often held on its lawns.

Back at Laborie Estate, I was figuring out some other facts to do with wine. The Laborie label is owned by KWV and is now separate from the estate (the full range can be found at KWV Wine Emporium, and you can learn more here) although the grapes in the bottles still come from this working farm. Taillefert Wines is the official range of Laborie Estate, and takes its name from the French Huguenot Isaac Taillefert who was granted the farm in 1691.

The range consists of Crémant De Taillefert Brut (MCC), Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which can be tasted (included in your stay and also open to the public) Wednesdays to Sundays and bought at the Manor House. A carefully curated list of award-winning wines by Cape Wine Merchants is also available for tasting.

There are two restaurants on the estate – Pearl Rock Terrace (Paarl is Afrikaans for “pearl”) and Cucina di Giovanni’s. It was at the latter where I hung out as the Terrace was closed for renovations when I visited last month. It reopened at the beginning of August.

Giovanni’s is very family-friendly, with grass for the children to run around, and playground equipment. For us adults, al fresco dining and wine-drinking is the order of the day (and night). We began with more than one and less than four bottles of pink bubbly, which flowed seamlessly into a recommended dinner of oxtail (with a suitable glass of red) which was delicious.

The following evening, I was back with a hankering for calamari, which was equally good, and the service made me feel extra special. Those guys are such charmers…

Photo: Bianca Coleman

Breakfast is served in the Manor House at a long communal table, or – if like me you are not a sociable morning person – outside on the stoep, where you can soak up more of that glorious sunshine with your coffee.

All these feeding locations are conveniently close to the row of cottage-style accommodation: seven luxury double rooms and one deluxe suite, all furnished in a Cape French style. The wifi is good, and the selection of DStv channels excellent. I was particularly delighted by the inclusion of electric blankets; there are some things without which life can be very challenging (first world problems).

In addition to these rooms, the Jonkershuis cottage offers self-catering accommodation for six guests, and ​Villa 28 for up to 12 people. The 1920s thatched roof house, on a property adjacent to the estate, has been renovated to modern perfection while retaining its old world charm. It’s a short walk through the vineyards to enjoy all the attractions of the estate itself.

Villa 28 has six double/twin rooms, a living room, dining room and a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a garden and private swimming pool.

Travel companion Shaun The Adventure Sheep. Photo: Bianca Coleman

What is quite remarkable about Laborie Estate is that the entrance is literally – and I do not use that word lightly – 230m from the main road (which, incidentally, is famous for being the longest in the country). As such, you can see and hear the traffic but somehow it is barely noticeable or intrusive; I’ve stayed at a lot noisier places in the winelands.

The location also makes it super convenient for exploring the region, in particular the architecture along the 12km main drag, which comprises examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco.

From this launching pad, visitors can fill their itineraries with outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking, historic walking tours, the gentler pursuits of wine tasting at surrounding farms or a tour of the KWV Wine Emporium (the organisation is celebrating its centenary this year), sporting events and festivals.

Or simply embrace your inner cat and sit in the sun.

Photo: Bianca Coleman

CONTACT DETAILS

Address: Laborie Estate, Taillefer Street, Paarl

Telephone: 021 807 3095

Email: reservations@laborieestate.co.za

Website: www.laborieestate.co.za

MORE INFORMATION

Learn about Paarl and all it has to offer at www.paarlonline.com

  • This story first appeared in Independent Traveller on August 11, 2018
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