Ever heard of the Devon Valley Detour? Neither had I, even after 17 years in the Western Cape. So it was a lucky surprise to be invited on a media tour to explore this haven of gustatory delights in the Stellenbosch surrounds. The Detour is an initiative by the Devon Valley Hotel, the Stellenbrau craft brewery, and three valley wine estates. For R230 you’ll experience boutique food and wine pairing at SylvanVale Vineyards, Clos Malverne, Middlevlei Wines and JC Le Roux, and beer lovers could get waylaid at craft brewery Stellenbrau. For an extra charge, lunch at any of the excellent restaurants on the estates is an experience not to be missed, and you can book for the tour at the hotel.
The Devon Valley Hotel welcomed us on a chilly day with sparkling wine and orange juice or coffee, and a fire in the Cederberg Lounge that made us reluctant to move away. But the call “Come, come, come” meant that our transport had arrived to move us onwards, and five us piled into the Stellenbosch Tuk Tuk, the rest into the van, heading to the Stellenbrau craft brewery.
I’m not a beer drinker, but my husband was fascinated by Jaco’s enthusiastic talk about the brewing process; the brewery itself was a photographer’s dream with its immaculate shining vats in copper and steel. In the small pub we were treated to four samples of the various beers described by Jaco – Jonkers Weiss, Hefeweizen, Craven Craft Lager (named after rugby legend Danie Craven), and Alumni Ale, which in fact I could almost be persuaded to drink, and I definitely nosed its strawberry accent.
Lunch at Middelvlei estate was preceded by owner Jeanneret Momberg’s talk on the estate wines, which were paired for us with delicious tapas. Mini potbrood and Snoek pâté were paired with Middelvlei Chardonnay, biltong and cheese baby braaibroodjies with Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot and cocktail boerewors sosatie with Middelvlei Free-run Pinotage. As if this wasn’t enough, delicious and varied braai meat, pap and salads kept coming – we ate until we simply could eat no more.
Rising with difficulty, we were whisked over to Clos Malverne, where the chef specialises in creating unique ice creams. Again we were treated to a talk on the estate wines, then the piece de resistance – before us were helpings of blueberry cheesecake and lavender, paired with Clos Malverne Ellie MCC, chai tea and honeycomb paired with Le Café, white chocolate and star aniseed paired with Pinotage Reserve, and my all-time favourite fig and goats’ cheese feta, paired with the estate Merlot. Oh my word.
Now it was a question of prising ourselves from our table. We literally rolled onto the bus taking us to the House of J C le Roux and its vintage Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines. Five blocks of sublime nougat were accompanied by five tasting glasses of supremely delicious sparkling wine (of course, we’re not allowed to call it Champagne now). What a wonderful finale to a day of delights.
Back at the hotel, a spot of R&R flat out on the beds was mandatory, but it was difficult to tear myself away from the views of the valley, watched over by the Helderberg mountains. The terrace must be wonderful for a summer lunch, but tonight was too cold and we headed to Flavours restaurant for their extensive buffet - a dish for every possible taste. Here the sommelier demonstrated SylvanVale and Ghost Tree Wines, each paired with a canapé menu item, and again, it was difficult to choose a favourite from these mellow vintages. I even happily drank the red, although not usually a red wine fan.
Walking into breakfast the next morning, I felt almost hard done by not to see four wine glasses for pairing with my cereal. What a food and wine experience – life surely couldn’t get much better than this.