Experience the Heart of the Helderberg

wine-tasting-450large20090619105520The Western Cape is subjected to some nasty weather during the gloomy winter months. However, locals and visitors wanting to break out of the winter ‘cabin fever’ still have a lot to choose from – especially on crisp, clear days when the clouds roll back and the already breathtaking Cape views are sharpened. One of the finest environments for fun and captivating indoor and outdoor activities surrounded by tranquil nature is to be found in Lourensford Road, Somerset West. A picturesque setting known as ‘the Heart of the Helderberg’.

A few kilometres down Lourenseford Road you will discover several wine estates, a golf course and a boutique hotel, all in close proximity, offering an appealing range of leisure activities and a taste experience you’ll not want to miss.

The environment is family-friendly, so you don’t have to leave the kids behind (unless you want to). If the sweeping views of vineyards and olive groves and flowing streams have surprisingly little soothing effect on the younger members of your family – blame the internet and the PlayStation games you bought them for Christmas – a bribe of a hearty meal followed by delicious dessert (more about that further on) works wonders. This will also buy you time to nose fine reds like a true connoisseur.

There really is plenty to see and do in the Heart of the Helderberg. Let’s start with golf.

Where to play

Erinvale Estate Golf Course, a world famous Gary Player-designed championship course, is superbly maintained and offers the golfer two distinctly different nines. The flat outward nine is defined by challenging approach shots to long, narrow putting surfaces; the inward nine offers beautiful vistas from undulating fairways and a finish that rates among the best in the world.

Visiting the Heart of the Helderberg will give you the opportunity to play a round where professionals have achieved greatness, whether you have an impressive handicap or just love the game of golf.

Where to play some more

You may be into a number of adventurous outdoor activities, like hiking up craggy mountains, tearing about on a quad bike or galloping along on a horse. You’ll find these and many other thrilling pursuits in the Heart of the Helderberg. But if you’re after a more leisurely way to spend a day, weekend or several days, this is still the place to find yourself.

A good place to start is the Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa. Ask the very friendly people at the hotel to tell you about the Heart of the Helderberg taste experience. You’ll want to visit all three estates – Morgenster, Vergelegen and Lourensford. Here is an idea of what awaits you …

At Morgenster Estate you will be treated to a tutored tasting of their acclaimed olives, extra virgin olive oils, olive pastes and splendid red wines while taking in panoramic views from inside or outside the tasting centre. You may never have thought of nosing and then sipping an olive oil, but there’s a first time for everything. Smell the cut grass? How about the garlic? And just how enriched will you feel after learning that one kilogramme of truffles costs in the region of $25 000 (that’s well over R200 000)? The truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil is worth every really expensive truffle. As is the entire taste experience at Morgenster, which dates back to the same period as its neighbour, Vergelegen.

The historic Vergelegen Estate next door is a custodian of South African culture and heritage. As you drive onto the estate (it’s a sprawling 3000 hectares), you will pass through the remnants of a magical Camphorwood forest where visitors can enjoy a luxurious picnic on warmer days. You’ve primarily come to taste their selection of white and red wines, but while you find yourself on the estate founded by Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700, you may as well give your family an idea of what life was like on the estate hundreds of years ago. Set among extensive, immaculate gardens are the refurbished Manor House and associated buildings displaying antiques that capture 300 years of history. A great learning experience, even if you prefer the modern era.

You may want to break for lunch at the hotel and follow this up with a visit to Lourensford Estate. This hub of outdoor activities is situated on a vast property incorporating a river, dam and mountains. Their variety of homemade products to taste include award-winning wines, custom-roasted coffees, delectable chocolates and scrumptious cheeses. You can spend days exploring this magnificent estate and all it has to offer.

Each of these estates offers something distinctive, which will leave you planning another trip as soon as possible.

Where to stay

Whether you’re making a day of it or have budgeted for a longer winter getaway, the ideal base to savour the delights of the Heart of the Helderberg is Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa. This Cape Dutch-style hotel owned by Louis Group Hotels, Spas & Vineyards has sophisticated conference facilities, a spa for all your pampering needs, luxury accommodation and a number of dining options: Magnolia Restaurant is open for dinner and the Irish-style Skelligs Pub has a diverse menu – their signature burger is a fantastic lunchtime option and the curry is another popular choice. And a pint of tapped Guinness or a glass of one of SylvanVale’s award-winning wines will go down well with any of its gastro-pub meals.

“The Heart of the Helderberg is a delight for your senses, the ideal getaway to de-stress and renew yourself,” says Craig Seaman, MD of Louis Group Hotels, Spas & Vineyards. “There’s something for everyone here – come and see for yourself.”