Situated on the R317 road between the Western Cape towns of Robertson and Bonnievale and just a little outside of Ashton, one finds the immaculate Van Loveren Wine Estate.
Their regional deli and wine shop is one of the most modern and architecturally beautiful that I have yet seen on any wine estate, and the estate itself, which is open for business 7 days a week, offers visitors – both local and foreign alike – the following delightful range of fun experiences: wine tasting in the tasting room, food & wine pairings, a kiddies’ grape juice tasting platter, cellar- and garden tours (they have one of the most beautiful, lush gardens that I have seen on any estate in the Western Cape and even the rose garden could rival Boschendal’s famous one), bird watching, hiking- & MTB trails (this includes a bike rental option), as well as having a lovely restaurant and bistro in Christina’s @ Van Loveren. (Note: The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays).
Once you have turned up the neatly gravelled and palm tree-lined driveway, you will find ample parking space in front of the wine shop and most immediate outbuildings. (Tour groups are most welcome.)
There is free WI-FI available and the trading hours run as follows during the week (Mondays to Fridays): 8:30 a.m. – 17:00 p.m. and on weekends: (Saturdays): 9:30 a.m. – 15:30 p.m. and (Sundays) 11:00 a.m. – 14:00 p.m.
In 2013, Van Loveren was awarded the Klink Wine Tourism Award for the “Best Food & Wine Pairing and Child-Friendly Winery”.
Their food & wine pairings consist of the following delicious options: chocolate & wine; cheese & wine; nougat, nuts & wine; charcuterie & wine; Four Cousins (their famous and much-loved brand of top-class wine) Fan tasting; Christina Van Loveren master tasting and finally, the Non-Alcoholic pairing.
(Kids can enjoy their very own grape juice platter if you order the ‘Kids Tasting Platter’.)
The in-house bistro and restaurant, called Christina’s, is located in the midst of the well-known lush, shady Van Loveren gardens – which are the living legacy of Jean Retief, who started them in 1939 when she married Henry Retief Snr – are housed in the original and decidedly beautiful old family manor house and they offer relaxed, yet smart indoor or outdoor seating arrangements.
Inside it’s nice and cool during summer (and presumably warm and well-closed in during the bitter winter months) and on top of that, you have a great view of the garden out the side-door, which opens out into the main garden, and, aside from the standard wooden tables and chairs, you have the option plonking yourself down on their comfy leather couches.
However, if you do choose to sit outside (which most people do, weather-permitting), you have the option of sitting beneath the lime-green, flecked shade of the vineyard pergola (there are also Van Loveren umbrellas in case the summer sunshine happens to penetrate through) on the comfortable wooden tables & chairs.
Christina’s is famous for its wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas and burgers. (The couple next to us ordered the burgers and their meal looked positively mouth-watering.)
The staff, both here and at the tasting room, are extremely friendly and efficient, which is always pleasing for me personally and says a lot about any given establishment.
(Note: Bookings are advisable on weekends)
Nevertheless, if you do sit outdoors, be sure to check Christina’s out from the inside (it’s very tastefully decked out), admire the beautiful blue farm dam sheltered close by on your right and, even if you aren’t going to purchase anything, make a quick stop at the wine shop (which sells: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, coffee, chocolate, their excellent range of wines, most notably the Four Cousins and namesake Van Loveren ranges, cheese, preserves, condiments, charcuterie and some excellent VL merchandise including: peak caps, glassware, bistro buckets and bubbly stoppers to name but a few of the available items.).
Another small point of interest in garden is the tiny, thatched outdoor hut, situated in front of Christina’s, which has ‘Ouma’s Trees Tell Stories – Please Enquire’, written on it and inside, houses family and estate photographs, including some of the worst flood in recent years where one can see how the cellars were flooded with flowing water as opposed to wine in March 2003.
You can go on a guided garden tour but we chose to walk around the garden by ourselves. I noticed many of the trees had name tags on their trunks, detailing their species and the like, but apparently many of these mark significant family, political or even historical events and, on the tour, the guide(s) will undoubtedly explain this in finer detail to you.
Much to the delight of myself and the other visitors on the day, the presumably resident ginger cat (which, in my opinion, is something every true Cape wine estate should have on-site.. how else does one safely ensure that the cellars remain field mouse-free? :P) was found outside near the bistro and proved to be a huge hit. There was a certain degree of cat-hogging from the foreign tourists but I was more than happy to wait my turn, especially after the friendly feline decided to accompany me on my walking tour of the garden.
(There are also cellar tours with brand ambassadors which enable visitors to learn about the intricacies involved in the wine-making process, as well as giving one the chance to sample some of the ‘nursery’ wines still in development.)
There is also a mountain bike tour available for the more adventurous outdoor visitor in which you can head off-road to better explore the farm and vineyards on your own bike or a rented one.
And lastly, there is the ‘Fish Eagle Hiking Trail’ and accompanying bird watching available. This 7.5 circular trail starts at the winery and (quote), “… crosses the Breede River. From the river, there’s a short steep climb up the ‘Rooikrans’ to enjoy breathtaking views of the Robertson valley vineyards and Langeberg mountain range. The descent meanders through the vineyards and finishes at the winery.”
The route has now been upgraded to a bio-diversity trail and has 7 themed boards, which offer insightful information on the region’s geology, local bird- and plant life, the famous Breede River, fauna, water and farming itself.
Apparently you can see small game, a wide variety of bird life and diverse flora species, which include the virgin Klein Karoo vegetation and Renosterveld, on the hike.
The trail is said to afford one panoramic views at each point on the route and, if one goes at a leisurely pace, is estimated to take roughly 3.5 hours to complete.
Back at the wine shop, you can also drop a complimentary or suggestive note or simply leave your name and/or signature in the visitors’ book, whilst admiring the trophies and awards, which are largely displayed with the fine selection of wines at the back of the wine shop.
The estate, located near the towns of Ashton and Robertson, is well-worth a visit, even if you only stop by for a quick tour of the place or to purchase some of their fine wines.
Van Loveren contact number: (023) 615 1505
Christina’s @ Van Loveren contact number: (072) 604 6275 and/or email address: email@example.com
Home web address: www.vanloveren.co.za (you can also subscribe to their newletter for the latest news and info.)
(Many thanks to the official Van Loveren pamphlet for the ‘Fish Eagle Hiking Trail’ information and contact details used in this blog post.)
Below are some photos I took on my visit to the estate:
A view of the wine shop entrance from the parking lot.
The parking lot.
A view of the palm tree-lined driveway.