Exploring the Stanford Vineyards

The end of February marks the first furtive stirrings of autumn, but for winemakers in the Overberg, it heralds the fruition of another year of devoted cultivation, stooped labour and eager expectation.

Roused from their ripening slumber, vineyards in the Stanford to Cape Agulhas (the fabled tip of Africa) belt are now teeming with activity at sunrise as the sweet, low hanging orbs are hand harvested; soon to be transformed into what aficionados the world over would argue to be the apotheosis of agriculture and art.

Enviably positioned for their cool maritime winds and favourable terroir, wine estates from Stanford to Cape Agulhas produce award winning vintages which confidently hold their own with the best, both locally and abroad. While far from comprehensive, we give you a whistle-stop of some of the finest in Stanford, all within comfortable proximity to De Kelders.

The Sir Robert Stanford estate enjoys an impressively historic pedigree, owing its name and origins to the storied life of entrepreneur Robert Stanford. Wine has been cultivated on the grounds as far back as the 1890’s. Sample some Cutters Cove or Sir Robert Stanford – the two premium labels produced by winemaker Jan – in the beautifully appointed wine shop.

Neighbouring the Sir Robert Stanford estate is Stanford Hills, a charming boutique wine farm owned by Peter and Jamie Kastner, two well-loved faces in the Stanford community. Their Jackson’s Pinotage garners consistently high praise among the wine set, and their olive orchards and fynbos (part of the unique and stunningly diverse Cape Floral Kingdom) plantations keep them exceedingly busy year-round. The Tasting Room is a fast-growing presence on the local restaurant scene, opening onto lily-jewelled dams and expansive views of the Klein River Mountains, the southernmost mountain range in Africa.

Raka Winery near StanfordFollow the Klein River just 17km out of Stanford and you’ll discover the Raka vineyards distinctively laid across gently rolling gradients. Spanning 68 hectares and accommodating up to 400 tons in its commodious cellars, Raka is one of the flagship wineries in the Overberg. A family run operation eponymously named after the squid fishing boat which patriarch Pieter Dreyer helmed, the rich mythology and romance of winemaking proved just as intoxicating as his former seafaring life.

After experiencing the sophisticated scale of Raka, you’ll find the little Vaalvlei wine farm, whose vineyards occupy just 3 modest hectares, a surprising, down-home delight. Adopting the traditional open fermentation process of winemaking forbears, Naas Terblanche epitomises the current handcrafted trend. Of his rather eccentric second passion, frogs, Naas effacingly concedes: ‘I’m a bit crazy, I suppose.’ He’s discovered 13 distinct species on his farm, including the endangered Western Leopard Toad which he proudly honoured as the Vaalvlei emblem. Small, plucky and full of character- just like Vaalvlei itself.