The so-called “off peak” season is actually the best time to travel to the Cape winelands

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WE are almost officially in winter, according to the earth’s annual journey around the sun; the solstice is on June 21, after which the days gradually begin getting longer.

It’s the saddest date of the year for me as I love these seasons, autumn in particular. There is so much to recommend it. Not only does it herald the months of fabulous discounted specials in the hospitality and restaurant industries, but we get to dress in lovely layers of jerseys, coats, scarves, boots and hats – all the better to go tramping about in the outdoors where the ground is soggy and squishy, leaves have been swept into piles which can be joyfully be kicked up in a spray, the grass is crisply frosted, and the air is clean and cool in your nostrils.

Then there is the light, the very special light. With the sun at a lower angle, all day becomes that magical “golden hour” which photographers seek out for the best pictures. Shadows and highlights give landscapes definition that is absent in summer, and nature is bathed in hues of orange, pink, brown and purple.

The vineyards of Stellenbosch – and all over the winelands – are resting…many are just bare naked twisted and gnarled branches right now while some are stubbornly clinging to their last leaves and even at this point of their cycle they are incredibly beautiful.

You’ll be surrounded by this kind of vista when you spend a couple of nights at Clos Malverne in the Devon Valley on the outskirts of Stellies. It’s a working wine farm, and the six rooms in the new-ish (as in August last year) luxury accommodation block – which used to be a shed – are set slap bang in the middle of the vineyards.

The view extends across to large fields populated by cattle, and a distant tree line filled with noisy birds. What they have to carry on so persistently about from before dawn until lunchtime is a mystery.

Behind the sliding doors, my room was quiet though. When I woke up, I peeked through the curtains and was rewarded with a delightful pastoral scene of cows (including a baby) nesting in the grass while an eerie slowly-drifting cloud of mist draped the ridge above and behind them. The sun only comes up over the mountains after 8am so you don’t have to get up ridiculously early to see it. The vineyard trellises on my doorstep were decorated with sparkling strings of dew drop jewels.

Besides these rooms – each of which is named after a wine grape varietal, mine was Cinsaut – there are three more up the hill where you’ll also find the restaurant, tasting room and spa, and a self-catering cottage that sleeps four. The Lifestyle Package includes two nights’ accommodation for two, a 90-minute spa treatment, a four-course food and wine pairing, and a gift box of three wines to take home. Or drink there, no one’s judging. All this costs R4950.

Do it with a lover, do it with a friend, do it with a family member…it’s the perfect opportunity to get away for a weekend, or even better, during the week for a sneaky sojourn when everyone else is working. In fact, the wifi everywhere on the farm is pretty good so you could even take your laptop and pretend you’re in the office.

For the couples spa treatment, you each get a blissful one-hour full body massage in a room furnished with a jet bath (but we don’t do that here anymore), double shower, loungers overlooking the deck (and there’s nothing to stop you from sitting outside in the sun), soft velour robes in dusty pink and blue, piles of towels, and a steam enclosure. The deal is, after the massage you can spend another half an hour in there doing whatever you please. I’m just going to leave it at that.

Perhaps the best part for me was that they serve you a delicious chilled glass of the estate’s Sauvignon Blanc post-massage. Frightfully civilised and very welcome. I’ve been in many spas in my time and often wondered why they only offer cucumber water and herbal tea when all we really want is wine.

When booking, take into account the spa is closed on Sundays. For the food and wine pairing, the restaurant does that at lunchtime. It’s a fantastic menu with several options for each course so you can have exactly what you fancy.

Think mussels on the half shell in Thai green curry sauce with roasted coconut flakes and crunchy calamari, with the lime zest and lemongrass picking up on that Sauvignon Blanc. The pork belly with cauli puree, roasted baby onions, baby apple and star anise was divine with the Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend; and the fillet steak with asparagus, truffle, bone marrow jus, mixed mushrooms and an irresistible crumbed ball of mashed potato served with the flagship Auret Cape blend was right up my street (pictured below).

For more information about the Lifestyle Package or to book, contact Michelle Nolte on 021 865 2022 or email accommodation@closmalverne.co.za

YOU NEED TO KNOW

Clos Malverne doesn’t do breakfast or dinner, but a light morning meal is delivered to the room – fruit, croissants, muesli, yoghurt and juice. Guests can order cheese and/or charcuterie platters from the restaurant, before 3pm.

All the useful information you need is included in a binder in the room – from restaurant suggestions and the wifi password, to where to find the hairdryer, things to do in the area and the TV channels. The best remote control in the world is here too: on, off, volume/channel up and down. That’s it.

Guests in the six-room block have their own swimming pool, while guests at the other end of the farm may make use of the pool at the main family house.

PICTURE CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN (including spa selfie)

  • This story first appeared in Independent Traveller on June 2, 2018

 

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