Situated along scenic Helshoogte Pass, at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain, Tokara Wine and Olive Estate in Stellenbosch is one of the most stunning wine farms anywhere. This estate is famed for its award-winning wines and extra virgin olive oils. Yet, over time, it has become so much more than just a humble wine and olive estate.
Owned by GT and Anne-Marie Ferreira, who first purchased the farm in 1994, Tokara (which is touchingly a combination of the Ferreira children’s first names, Thomas and Kara) originally started as a farm for a peaceful family home. Soon, though, it blossomed into a pioneering wine and olive venture.
Thanks to its gorgeous tasting room and restaurant facilities, estate art and above all, iconic setting – Tokara has successfully sealed itself as a classy, popular destination.
Tokara Wine and Olive Estate, Stellenbosch: A Stunner By All Accounts
Over the years, the Ferreira family has created a tranquil oasis for visitors and wine lovers at Tokara. Here, art, good food and wine, olives and beautiful outdoor spaces come together beautifully.
Under the Ferreira’s inspired ownership, this estate has grown from strength to strength. The result? A visual and sensory delight for all who visit Tokara.
I have visited Tokara twice since 2014. Both times, its natural beauty, chic facilities and warm atmosphere have impressed upon me. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any more beautiful or interesting as a destination – it does!
On my most recent visit, I was privileged to experience this Stellenbosch estate in its entirety. I was able to sample the fine wines, olives and olive oils and good food, all while soaking up its beautiful art sculptures and outdoor spaces.
An Estate for All to Enjoy
Despite its modern, classy feel, Tokara is suitable for all ages. In fact, it is actually an incredibly family-friendly wine estate. Most especially since they added an amazing treehouse-type play area to the Tokara Delicatessen. Happily, the deli itself is also child-friendly and ideal for young and old to enjoy.
For those who prefer a more refined experience, Tokara Restaurant offers a fine dining-style experience. This restaurant rates as one of the best in the Cape Winelands.
Then, of course, there is the tasting room. A truly chic, elegant space with jaw-droppingly beautiful views. Here, while sipping on the estate’s award-winning wines (they just won Double Gold at the Michelangelo International Awards for their flagship Director’s Reserve Red), you savour the finest scenery around.
Perched on high, encircled by the estate’s vineyards and neat olive groves, the tasting room is perfectly positioned. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, it overlooks the estate’s crisp lawns and lush gardens. In the distance, the curve of Helshoogte Pass snakes out of sight, flanked by the Stellenbosch suburbs that lie beyond. The setting is magical.
Beyond its modern facilities, the estate offers rich art displays and sculptures. These can be found both inside its stylish interiors and out in the garden/outdoor spaces.
Even the pretty Orchard Walk – which connects the deli with the tasting room, restaurant – features interesting artworks. These are found scattered among the shelter of the olive trees like hidden wonders forgotten by time.
Walks through the Olive Groves
Few estates offer visitors the freedom to roam through the vineyards or orchards. Yet, at Tokara, they welcome it. The Orchard Walk is one of the loveliest strolls I have enjoyed at any estate.
Not only are the views stunning as you walk down to the tasting room – with dramatic mountains looming above the deli and Olive Shed – but it is peaceful and soothing.
I loved seeing the olive trees up close and personal, as much as I enjoyed discovering hidden art pieces and a Selfie Deck as I walked.
Once you reach the tasting room section, it is a steep incline downwards, past neat gardens and eye-catching sculptures. If possible, the setting becomes even more stunning here. I honestly could have stood admiring those views for ages.
But I couldn’t wait to explore the next part of this stunning estate! So, leaving the olive groves behind me, it was time for wine.
Tokara Tasting Room
Outside the tasting room, a small vineyard block and fascinating nature-inspired artworks add a sense of calm. Inside, a series of sliding glass doors give way to more art – even outside the bathrooms.
You can also see the stainless steel storage tanks to your left as you walk into the tasting room proper. Here, a cosy fireplace, couches and tables with stunning views can be found.
At every turn, art dramatically features, along with tasteful touches like fresh flowers and exposed lights that hang prettily from the ceiling. The atmosphere manages to come off as both chic and cosy all at once.
You really are spoilt for choice in terms of table placement and accompanying views, as every seat in the house offers a stunning vista through the floor-to-ceiling glass.
I opted to sit in the far corner and it’s possible my table had the best views of all.
Tastings should always be soothing – yet at Tokara, it is next-level kind of tranquility. This allows you to tune out everything and just focus on the quality wines you are sampling.
Fine Wines, Potstill Brandy and MCC
They have a comprehensive tasting menu. It offers everything from their Flagship Tasting to their Premium Tasting and more.
You can even try their XO Potstill Brandy, MCC or more unique Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting.
As Tokara’s guest, I had the freedom to try different wines from any of the tasting options, along with some delicious estate kalamata olives.
I am not normally a huge olive fan as I find them often too sharp and acidic – but I devoured nearly the whole bowl of Tokara’s olives. Their olives are sublime and perfectly balanced; a definite 9.5/10 rating for me.
As for the wine selection, my wine host, Lwando, asked if I am more a white or red wine lover. As a firm white wine lover, it was clear that I had to try some of the estate’s excellent whites.
But, after selecting the Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2020, I asked Lwando to surprise me with his picks. He did not disappoint in his recommendations.
Before my tasting commenced, he explained to me how the estate’s Flagship, Limited and Reserve wines are only found at the estate, their online shop and selected, top-end wine boutiques, while the Premium range is more mainstream and can be found at most local liquor stores.
We also chatted about the estate and how stunning the setting is. In addition to their normal facilities, Lwando also noted how Tokara is also a popular wedding venue (wedding prep was underway during my visit) and it isn’t hard to see why!
A Memorable Wine Tasting Experience at Tokara
Starting off with the Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2020 (13.5% alcohol), a beautiful wine, I enjoyed sampling several of Tokara’s wines.
Three Sublime White Wines
The Reserve Chardonnay was excellent and I rated it 8/10 overall. This is a wine that pairs well with grilled fish, roasted white meats or creamy cheeses.
Next, Lwando surprised me with the Limited Release Chenin Blanc 2019 (14% alcohol).
The reason for the limited release is that these grapes are also primarily used for the potstill brandy. This means that only six barrels were reserved for the Chenin Blanc itself.
Weirdly, I actually enjoyed this wine more than the Chardonnay, rating the Limited Release Chenin Blanc a easy 9.5/10. It is a wonderful wine, perfectly balanced.
It pairs well with things like seafood-based dishes (squid, scallops) or Asian-style chicken.
My next white was the more nuanced Directors Reserve White 2018 (13.5% alcohol). This is an interesting blend of 63% Sauvignon blanc and 37% Semillon. The wine is also made from grapes grown up on Tokara’s highest slopes.
Again, this is a wine best paired with creamy seafood or grilled fish dishes.
I found this to be quite an unusual white but in a good way, as I really enjoyed it. I rated it 8.5/10, even higher than the Chardonnay I usually favour.
Ending on a Quality Red
Finally, it was time for a red – and we definitely saved one of the best wines till last: the Limited Release Pinotage 2018 (14.5% alcohol).
The limited nature is explained by the fact that the Pinotage vineyard block was mostly claimed by a devastating fire in 2016.
This wine pairs well with red meats, like ribeye steak or a hearty venison stew.
I am always a Pinotage fan but this Pino was truly beautiful. It was easily my favourite wine after the excellent Chenin Blanc! I rated the Pinotage as a firm 9/10 and thoroughly enjoyed every sip.
Overall, my Tokara wine tasting was faultless, as everything from the service to the setting and excellent wines and olive samples impressed.
If I had to recommend a tasting option, it would be either the Reserve Tasting (R120 for four wines) or Limited Release Wines (R100 for two wines) as these really impressed on every level.
A Unique Olive Oil Tasting with Tokara’s Olive Oil Master
After a quick stroll around the tasting room gardens below, it was time to foot it to the Olive Shed. Here, I would enjoy my first extra virgin olive oil tasting with Tokara’s Olive Shed Manager, Gert van Dyk.
Gert and I met midway along the Orchard Walk. From where he began my tasting experience by showing me the olive trees.
At the time of my visit, the trees were just beginning to flower. This was interesting to see, as I am more accustomed to seeing unripe olives or plain silvery green leaves waving among their branches.
Tokara: Land of Olive Oils and Wine
As we walked to the Olive Shed, Gert explained that the estate’s olive season usually runs from March to July.
Olives are a winter crop, whereas the wine is naturally a summer crop. This means that the estate utilises seasonal workers for harvesting both. As one crop finishes, the next begins.
He noted how, at Tokara, the olive focus is largely on their award-winning oil olives. This means that very few table olives are grown on the farm.
With some 21 years in the industry, Gert is a wealth of knowledge. It is fascinating talking to him. His skills and understanding of the intricate olive oil harvest, machinery and overall process is incredible.
As he gave me a first-hand tour of the machinery and different Olive Shed facilities at Tokara, I learned so much.
A Detailed, Intricate Process
Gert detailed how Tokara uses a boutique-style press. This gives their clients the option of different cultivars and blends.
He also emphasised how, as delicate and time-sensitive as the whole process is, a great olive is still made on the tree. So, as much as manmade machinery and careful processes come into play, a lot is still left up to nature. Just as it has been for centuries.
Where Rules and Constant Attention are the Name of the Game
As I marvelled at Tokara’s amazing Italian equipment (which must be carefully serviced and maintained annually in between each season), Gert told me how there are so many rules for extra virgin olive oil. What’s more, it is a delicate process that requires constant attention.
What was once cold pressed is now cold extracted. The entire process is detailed and time-constrained.
It requires intense, pressurised hard work for very little reward in terms of the yield.
After Gert had explained the harvesting and machine extraction process to me, we looked at the different cooling tanks and storage rooms where the bottling and labelling happens.
Interestingly, the olive oils are safest in the tanks, which generally sit at around 18 degrees Celsius. As such, the oils are bottled on order.
There is so much else that goes into the making of quality extra virgin olive oil – but it is well beyond my skill levels to try to explain. 🙂
Time for my First Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting
Once we finished our tour, we sat in a cosy, scenic room overlooking the lush gardens for our one-on-one olive oil tasting.
I have enjoyed many different tastings over the years – everything from gin to wine and brandy – but extra virgin olive oil is a first. And I couldn’t have had a better host to guide me through this experience than Gert.
Sniff, Swirl, Sip and Swallow
Tokara’s premium olive oils were set out before us, behind beautiful navy glasses. These glasses are specially designed for olive oil tastings.
Before you can sniff or sip the olive oil, you actually warm the glasses first. This is loosely done by covering them with your palm and moving them gently around in your cupped hands for a short time. It feels daunting at first but you quickly get the hang of it and with each glass, it feels quicker.
Gert also explained and demonstrated how to then swirl and sniff, before sipping a small amount of olive oil. It’s something of an art that I don’t think I grasped properly but it is fun trying all the same.
What interested me most about this tasting experience is how each olive oil has different aromas and flavours that spring forth as you sniff, swirl and then swallow them.
Some have an instant burn that is felt down your throat as you swallow, while others burst with aromatic smells or aftertastes that are reminiscent of everything from freshly mown lawn to almonds or green tomatoes.
As you taste, Gert prompts you on what aromas and flavours you detect. Happily, there is no wrong answer here.
It is hard placing your finger on many, though, so he carefully puts ideas into your head that, once heard, make instant sense. This is both simultaneously helpful and interesting.
It really is a fun, unique tasting experience from start to finish.
Tokara’s Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Tokara excels at their extra virgin olive oils (EVOO). They offer a formidable EVOO range that includes: Mission, Frantoio, Multi-Varietal and their Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (The latter won a gold medal at the SA Olive Awards 2021.)
I was fortunate enough to sample all four of their extra virgin olive oils.
Not only are their products of the highest quality but their new packaging and labelling is beautiful and eye-catching. It offers softer colours and a more feminine feel.
Different EVOO Styles
As Gert explained, extra virgin olive oil has a fascinating historical significance and amazing health benefits. Something that, sadly, most people are unaware of.
It also is wonderful for cooking with. It really enhances different food flavours and dishes in subtle, yet powerful ways.
In EVOO, there are three styles of oils: delicate (1-3; generally fresh and subtly fruity), medium (3-6; generally has a balance of fruitiness and bitterness) and intense (6-8; intensely fruity, with strong bitterness).
EVOO styles are determined by the olive cultivar, as well as its degree of ripeness (when extracted). Styles are normally indicated on the labels.
What I Thought of My EVOO Tastings
First up, we tried Tokara’s Premium EVOO Mission. This is mild and gentle “with finely balanced grassy, herbaceous aromas and flavours”.
It goes well with salads, steamed/broiled fish, mayonnaise and more.
Next, we tried the Premium EVOO Frantoio. This was my favourite (followed by the Multi Varietal) when sampled on its own from the glass.
The Frantoio is known for its “robust fruitiness and full herbaceous aroma and flavour”.
It goes well with things like vegetable soups and red meats etc.
After the Frantoio, this was my next favourite when sampled alone. It is a fusion of “Frantoio, Leccino and Mission olive oils” and “has a full fruit character rounded with delicate herbaceous and spicy flavours”.
It works well with stir-fries, meats, stews, salads and pastas so it is very versatile in that sense.
Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This award-winning offering is a fusion of the Coratina, Leccino, Frantoio and Mission olive varieties.
The premium EVOO can be found exclusively at leading supermarkets – or at Tokara Estate and their online shop. (Note: It is packaged as Estate Olive Oil in Woolworths.)
EVOO Sampled with Bread and Cheese
After trying the olive oils individually out the glass, we also paired them with bread and/or cheese and bread.
This was one of my favourite parts of the tasting because oddly, the flavours and tastes seem to change from the glass to bread to cheese and bread.
Overall, I loved Mission the most (with just bread) but when paired with added cheese, the Frantoio and Multi Varietal were my top picks.
But this varies from palate to palate. There is no wrong choice, as each is excellent in its own right.
This was the most wonderful olive oil tour and tasting and Gert was such a warm, easy-to-talk to and insightful host.
I definitely rate this olive oil tasting experience 10/10.
A Delightful Meal at the Family-friendly Tokara Delicatessen
After that, it was time for a lovely lunch at the family-friendly Tokara Delicatessen.
Not only does the deli offer the most sumptuous setting, overlooking vineyards and groves but its gardens and interiors, like the rest of Tokara, also feature the most interesting art sculptures.
The deli also has an incredible treehouse-type playground that was introduced to the estate in late 2019. With a wonderful nature-inspired theme (it even features 50 different birds on its branches) and a four-part play section, this is one of the most exciting outdoor playgrounds I have seen anywhere.
And the proof is in the pudding because children literally cannot leave it alone for longer than two minutes at a time.
Best of all, with the deli’s chic floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors, parents can sit indoors and still keep an eye on their active little ones.
In addition to this marvellous playground (which has a fun how-to-use guide included in the deli menu), the deli also offers a kids’ menu, along with their excellent array of breakfasts, lunches, wood-fired pizzas and desserts.
Honestly, the deli is a dream for both parents and children alike and its elegant interiors, which also feature a great giftshop space, are aesthetically pleasing in every way.
During my visit, I sat at a scenic spot in the corner and honestly could not stop admiring the outdoor space and incredible views. Among the lush gardens, tame peacocks and pea hens roam, adding a sense of mystic to this hidden oasis.
Excellent Breakfasts, Lunches and Desserts
I am a stickler for good coffee and the deli boasts a fine array of hot and cold beverages, including an extensive coffee section. They also have some interesting teas, estate wines, beers and non-alcoholic options.
During my visit, I sampled a latte (8.5/10) and macchiato (8/10) and both were outstanding. Drinks prices are reasonable.
As for food, they have a great selection of interesting meals to choose from, divided into breakfast and lunch hours respectively.
I opted for the Line Fish of the Day (R170), which was sea bass on that particular day.
This was served on a bed of rice, along with (mild) curry sauce, lemongrass and coconut broth with sautéed garden vegetables (like divine cherry tomatoes and green beans).
Portion size was ideal (not too much, not too little) and pricing was competitive. My only qualm was the curry sauce was very mild but I love hot food so this is more a personal preference than anything else.
Overall, my lunch was flavourful, healthy and well-cooked (8.5/10 rating) and served promptly.
Service at the deli is another thing that really stood out to me. Every staff member I encountered was friendly, welcoming and efficient. Best of all, service was prompt and drinks and meals are served surprisingly quickly even at their busiest.
With space left for dessert, I ordered a slice of carrot cake (Baker’s Treat for R70). This was well-priced and huge. But in terms of plating, taste and freshness, it is also one of the loveliest slices of cake I have had.
All in all, the Tokara Delicatessen made for a thoroughly memorable meal experience and I rate it highly based on my second visit to it in recent years.
Experiencing Tokara’s Private Gardens during Stellenbosch Garden Week
I was lucky to visit Tokara during the inaugural Stellenbosch Garden Week. This meant that the estate was a hive of activity (with strict COVID protocols in place) and I could visit the normally private estate gardens.
Found at the top of the farm (above the deli), these gardens encircle the owners’ private residence and are only open to the public during open garden events.
For R20 for a self-guided or R30 for a guided tour, guests could visit the gardens from around 10:00 am to 16:00 pm for this particular week.
Included in your tour ticket was a complimentary map that highlighted each of the estate garden sections and attractions.
In total, there are 15 main sections in a kind of circular route, along with temporary toilets setup inside. (For refreshments, guests could stock up at the deli.)
The private gardens are utterly incredible and certainly a highlight for me this year. They are beyond beautiful and there is so much variety, artful beauty and peacefulness found within.
- Indigenous garden
- Cottage (private)
- Main house (private)
- Wisteria Walk
- Lawn and Dionysus Sculpture (this was amazing; one of my firm favourite parts)
- Cork Oak Walk (282 metres and another favourite for me)
- Boat house
- Moss garden
- Mountain stream walk (absolutely beautiful)
- Lily pond
- Flower terraces
- Fruit garden
- Food garden (another spot I loved exploring, set high against the mountains)
- Indigenous wetland
- Walk around the dam (678 metres; this was so tranquil and picturesque, another favourite of mine)
Overall, the estate gardens are amazing and I definitely recommend a visit during Tokara’s open garden events to experience this estate in all its splendour.
The gardens took me about 1.5 – two hours to cover but that is probably because I took so many photos. 🙂
How Tokara Rated Overall
Overall, Tokara was incredible from start to finish. I have been doing many reviews over the years and very few estates have impressed me this effortlessly, in every way.
Everything from the people to the setting and incredible food and wine make Tokara Wine and Olive Estate a true gem.
I would like to thank Tokara Wine and Olive Estate and GC Communications for hosting me for this outstanding food and wine experience, olive tasting and garden tour.
A special thanks to Gudrun and Chante of GC Communications, as well as Suzanne, Rob, Gert, Leonie and the entire Tokara tasting room and deli teams for this excellent hosted review experience.
For more information on Tokara Wine and Olive Estate, please contact: +27 (021) 808 5900 or email them at email@example.com.
You can also visit their website or find them for yourself at Tokara Wine Estate, off R310 Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.
Author: Tamlyn Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.