Decidedly one of the most underrated wine routes in the Cape, Paarl plays humble host to a goldmine of undiscovered gems. You might not find Franschhoek’s manicured gardens or Stellenbosch’s gastronomic flash here, but what you will find on the less-traversed winding gravel roads between the Drakenstein and Paarlberg mountains is generations-old tradition, proud heritage, and Boland hospitality at its finest. Not to mention fantastic wine made with a whole lot of passion, heart and soul.
Though it’s famous for its chenin blancs and reds (these grapes grow beautifully in the region’s hot climate), we urge sauvignon blanc and chardonnay purists to take a walk on the wild side and appreciate the prowess of winemakers in the area; some taking bold risks with lesser-known grapes; some sticking to tradition and producing world-class single varietals.
Wine aside, explorers can expect to find picnic spots with breathtaking views, family-friendly mountain-biking trails, mouthwatering food-and-wine pairings, and wonderful country accommodation… to name a few!
So make a date with your favourite wine-drinkers and join us on our journey through the forgotten valley as we unearth its undiscovered gems.
Landskroon Wines: For lovers of red
On the southwestern slopes of the Paarl Mountain, this estate is well-known for its award-winning red wines and port. With the day-to-day running of the farm done by five family members (the same family who has owned the farm for more than 300 years), this is a passion project that exudes a welcoming and knowledgeable atmosphere.
Stunning vineyard views set the scene for wine tasting, which takes place in a casual country setting. You can choose a standard tasting or up the ante with a food-and-wine pairing.
Enjoy a pairing with your wine, with either the Heritage Food & Wine Pairing that includes five wines and a selection of locally produced cheeses, olives, droëwors and Turkish delight; or Paul’s Food & Wine Pairing, which includes six wines, cheese, olives, biltong and dark chocolate. Guests are also welcome to BYO picnic (R40 per person), which includes a wine tasting.
A section of Paarl Adventure Trails’ mountain-biking, hiking and running trail runs through the farm, but you’ll need a day permit from Paarl Adventure Trails (R80). The estate is home to a permanent display of fascinating stone artefacts that guests are welcome to explore.
The Landskroon self-catering cottage is a charming, homely spot for four guests and has lovely views of the garden and farm. The stable door in the open-plan kitchen and living area looks out onto this view (above), and opens onto a stoep where you can braai, while enjoying a glass of the good stuff, and drinking in the valley yonder. The best part? When everyone on the farm has clocked off for the day, you have the estate all to yourself!
Mitre’s Edge Wine Estate: For aficionados
This family-run boutique winery, named after the mountain adjacent to the farm that bears an uncanny resemblance to a bishop’s mitre, is undoubtedly one of the Paarl Wine Route’s hidden gems. With a grand Cape Georgian-styled manor and a vintage cellar, this estate is both beautiful and an award-winning wine producer.
Wine tasting is by appointment only and can be done in the cellar or the dining room with winemaker Lola Nicholls. Must-try wines include the viognier, the Bordeaux-style blend Shalto and the cabernet sauvignon.
Book a wine-blending class for your next special occasion where you’ll get to create your own Bordeaux blend that will be bottled and labelled for you to take home.
Spend a night (or two) soaking in the old-world charm of the estate at The Pool House, a self-catering home with a sparkling pool and hot tub.
Mitre’s Edge is committed to sustainable and ethical winemaking. Taking responsibility for their carbon footprint and ensuring they contribute to reduced carbon emissions in their industry is an important objective here.
Perdeberg Cellar: For lovers of Cap Classique
Named after the wild zebras that once roamed the area and were mistaken for horses, Perdeberg Wines lies at the foot of Paardeberg Mountain. One of the most distinguishing factors of this cellar is the predominant use of unirrigated vineyards – dry-land vines – which yield concentrated-flavour wines. Well-known for its popular range of chenins, Perdeberg also produces a lesser-known selection of Cap Classique (made from chenin grapes) and sparkling wines.
Tastings can be enjoyed indoors in a comfortable setting or our outside in the family-friendly seating area. Try a unique tasting paired with a braai picnic or chocolates and marshmallows!
Perdeberg offers delicious country-style family dining in its restaurant, Eat@Perdeberg, or more casual meals can be taken outside on the lawn, such as the braai picnic for two.
Little ones will be kept busy in a fun garden play area and (on weather-permitting weekends) a jumping castle. There is also a Kiddies’ Busy Box, with a selection of treats and activities for children to enjoy while parents are wine tasting.
Painted Wolf Wines: For niche-varietal enthusiasts
In 2006, Emma and Jeremy Borg decided to create a wine company to raise money for the highly endangered painted wolf. Apart from their incredible conservation efforts that have raised over R2.5-million in donations, the duo has created three distinctive and award-winning ranges of wine from a variety of grapes from vineyards all over South Africa. As they don’t have their own farm, winemaker Jeremy is able to create new, niche types of wine – such as Roussane, a grape peculiar to the Rhône region, not common in South Africa.
The Den (tasting room) is located in the lovely Simondium Guild, where you can join a guided tasting and find out more about the endangered wolves.
Painted Wolf shares the premises with Papi’s Eatery, a casual eatery where you can grab a light meal while you enjoy a glass of wine. If you’re not into wine, there’s a brewery and gin distillery next door, so you can grab a beer or tasty gin cocktail.
Druk My Niet: For discerning connoisseurs
Situated on a biosphere reserve, among 24 hectares of endangered fynbos and several species of proteas, this boutique winery is known for its environmentally friendly farming methods and scenic surrounds, which are host to a view-drenched tasting room and luxury self-catering cottages.
By appointment only, visitors are taken on a private tour of the boutique winery, learning about the area and production methods before enjoying a tasting at the newly built tasting room that overlooks the Paarl Valley.
Those looking to spend the night can rest their head in farm-style luxury at one of the four modern self-catering cottages, three of which boast a shared infinity pool for cooling off in the hot Paarl summer. The Olive and Protea cottages sleep two respectively, while Guava (sleeps four) and Fynbos (sleeps six) are great options for larger groups. Each cottage is fitted with a spacious open-plan kitchen and living room with a TV, complimentary wifi, an open fireplace and private terrace with a braai overlooking one of the farm’s dams, the vineyards and mountain ranges.
Mellasat Vineyards: For history lovers
This boutique cellar, founded by the Richardson Family in 1996, enjoys a spectacular position under the dramatic Klein Drakenstein mountains, where sweeping vineyards and panoramic views over Paarl and its famous granite domes set the scene for a variety of attractions and a unique wine-tasting experience.
Sip on a selection of award-winning wines (including the one-of-a-kind white pinotage) at the tasting room that boasts stunning views of the Paarl Valley and the craggy Klein Drakenstein mountains.
The tasting room offers a selection of cheese and charcuterie platters, while gourmet picnics are available during summer.
Visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Wines in their underground cellar, host to an interesting and bizarre collection of museum wines reflecting South African historical wine culture that visitors can interact with.
Rhebokskloof Wine Estate: For wine lovers with kids
In a secluded valley between the granite hills of the Paarl Rock mountains, Rhebokskloof Wine Estate is a quintessentially family-friendly Winelands experience. With rolling lawns and 100-year-old oaks – and the scent of jasmine and lavender wafting through the air Rhebokskloof is known and loved for its warm hospitality and a slew of exciting offerings for children and adults alike.
Spend an hour or two tasting the exceptional red and white wines in the estate’s tasting room, under the guidance of the knowledgeable (and extremely passionate) wine advisors. Tastings cost R50 and include five wines of your choice.
The rolling lawn is the perfect spot for a picnic, while the outdoor restaurant offers delicious farm-fresh food and estate wine pairings. Those looking for a more relaxed dining experience will love the recently opened pizzeria, that serves crispy, wood-fired pizza.
Go mountain-biking, running, hiking, horse-riding and quad-biking, or explore the surrounds with a nature walk. There’s also a jungle gym to keep the little ones entertained.
Hosting an event? Book The Rhebok or The Cape Dutch venues, while kids’ summer parties can be hosted next to the dam.
Ridgeback Wines: For scenic sipping
Named after the dogs that live on the property, this farm is loved for its wonderful wines and magnificent setting, perched on the northern slopes of the Paarl Mountain in 64 hectares of untouched fynbos and a dotting of proteas.
Enjoy award-winning wines at the popular wine-tasting centre, overlooking the gardens and dam, where exotic waterfowl and swans paddle.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the Deck Restaurant shares the scenic space with the tasting centre and offers a more child-friendly wine farm experience, with home cooking and an array of platters.
Ridgeback House is a stylishly decked-out five-roomed B&B surrounded by beautiful gardens and views of the vineyards. A swimming pool beckons on hot summer days.
Under Oaks: For heritage and heart
This family-owned working farm, dating back to 1695, is as scenic as it is drenched in history. Sprawling lawns lead to a tranquil dam, where a slew of secluded spots creates the perfect backdrop to kick back and enjoy the natural beauty and watch the farm animals roam free.
Enjoy an informative tasting of fine boutique wines (and a variety of wine-pairing experiences) in the welcoming, contemporary tasting room.
The popular pizzeria, housed in the authentic old wine cellar under majestic oak trees, serves delicious wood-fired pizza. Booking is recommended, and children are welcome.
Spend the night in four-star luxury at one of the eight en-suite vineyard suites, stylishly decorated, with access to a small saltwater plunge pool and spectacular views of the tree-dotted lawns below.
Windmeul Kelder: For classic country hospitality
This old favourite epitomises the traditional country warmth and hospitality that the Paarl Wine Route is known for. Although famous for producing high-quality, award-winning wines, the cellar welcomes aficionados and casual drinkers alike, making it a worthy stop when you’re in Paarl.
Taste your way through the range of award-winning signature wines in their cheerful and relaxed tasting room where a knowledgeable team member will guide you(r palate) through some classics!
The farmers’ market, held on the first Saturday morning of every month, is foodie heaven! Attracting local vendors and artisans, it’s the place to stock up on farm-fresh produce and homemade goodies.
The Parskuip Neighbourhood Marketplace, open daily, is an on-site deli that showcases a variety of locally farmed and produced goods. You’ll find an assortment of artisanal foods, fynbos honey, freshly baked goods and preserves.
Windmeul Kelder also makes an outstanding brandy: Reserve Brandy VSOP
Given its scope and pedigree, the Paarl Wine Route is home to a handful of well-known and well-loved wineries, namely:
Surrounded by rolling, vineyard-covered hills, this working cheese and wine farm is home to a variety of attractions including a fresh-produce deli for take-home goods, a bakery, tasting room, tasting classes and the popular Goatshed Restaurant.
Enjoy a plethora of tasting experiences, including wine, brandy and tea, at KWV Emporium in the heart of Paarl – one of the world’s largest Cathedral Cellars.
Primely positioned just outside of Paarl, the captivating views of the Drakenstein mountains, verdant vineyards and stunning gardens at this estate create a perfect backdrop for tasting award-winning wines, enjoying lazy picnics and savouring delicious food at The Manor restaurant.
Voyage of discovery
While you’re there, set aside time for these lesser-known gems that are by appointment only.
One of the oldest farms in the Paarl area, Calais boasts breathtaking views of Paarl Rock and the surrounding valley and mountains. Their Bordeaux-style wines are delicious!
Olsen Private Vineyards
Owned by Dr Greg Olsen, an American scientist and entrepreneur who took a trip to the International Space Station in 2005, this family-owned winery produces wonderful wines in its boutique cellar.
Freedom Hill Vineyards
Situated on the slopes of the Wemmershoek Mountain, Freedom Hill lies between Franschhoek and Paarl, and gets its name from the vineyard views of the legendary Victor Verster Prison (now the Drakenstein Correctional Services Facility) where struggle icon, President Nelson Mandela, took his first steps to freedom.
This delightful farm, with its leafy old-Cape ambience and characterful tasting room, is owned by the Le Roux family. Produced by Jannie Junior (a 10th-generation Le Roux), Vendôme wines are naturally fermented and matured in French oak barrels.
Pearl Mountain Wines
Originally established in 1747 as a blacksmith’s home and forge, Pearl Mountain Wines is situated on the northern slopes of Paarl Mountain, and is home to Blacksmith’s Kitchen – a bistro-style restaurant that makes great pizza.