Villiera Wines is a unassuming, family-run wine farm and wildlife sanctuary, situated on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. With its impressive mountain views (including of Table Mountain in the distance) and its somewhat secluded location, Villiera quietly and instantly packs a punch… Even more so once you learn that it offers a range of unique wine estate experiences!
Our arrival at Villiera Wines came bright and early, before the summertime sun properly had a chance to start baking… As we rolled up through the avenue of trees edging the drive, Villiera peeped around the corner, tempting us closer. The estate’s homely, working farm atmosphere seems to breathe life into every inch of the land… Even in the early hours of the morning.
As an exciting game drive and MCC and nougat wine pairing lay ahead of us, an early start was advisable. Game drives run for approximately two hours and ours was due to at 9:00 am. This meant we needed to be there at least 15 minutes beforehand.
We were (almost) there with the birds. Yet, the estate’s pioneering and keenly capable viticulturist and farm owner, Simon Grier, beat us to it.
As the estate is owned and run by the Grier family, with Simon playing pivotal roles in its farming and day-to-day activities, we were privileged to both meet and spend a good portion of time with him…. Especially as he would personally conduct our two-hour game drive.
From the Ground Up
Before our game drive properly commenced, Simon drove us around the farm, giving us added insights into the estate and its wonderful initiatives and farming practices.
Villiera one of the most sustainable wine estates you will find in South Africa (with many awards to honour its efforts) – and it is clear from Simon’s knowledge and passion of the land and estate that he is the one spearheading these efforts. Something that is both refreshing and humbling to see.
For a start, there’s the Pebbles Project. This inspiring initiative endeavours to change the lives of local school children by giving them safe, secure and lovely schooling facilities… Thanks to the CIPLA-sponsored OWETHU Community Health Clinic, they and their families have access to reliable, basic healthcare, including medication, general checkups, local GPs, a dentistry practice and more.
The Pebbles Project currently assists around 100 staff and 1 800 kids. The clinic, meanwhile, treats some 3 000 people. The impact of this on our society, where both education and healthcare are sorely needed, is surely monumental.
Villiera Wines: A Leader in Sustainability and Solar Power
Simon is a firm believer in utilising as much of what nature gives to Villiera as possible. With rainwater harvesting tanks, a 1 155 m2 solar panel installation (originally providing the largest rooftop coverage in the country), some 100 000 indigenous trees planted over the years and more, Villiera is certainly leading the way with its sustainable practices…
Villiera Wines has not sprayed insecticides for 15 of its 36 years of operation. Though birds and insects trouble them as much as any other farm, it is clear that the wildlife and bird life here must be protected at all costs.
Giving Back to the Earth and Animals
Another fascinating process at work is the biological control, which involves the 230 hectares of Australian invader trees. Rather than being cut down, the trees are allowed to grow up to a point… When they die out, with no seedlings to regrow, African acacias are planted underneath them. This creates the ideal terrain for the wildlife, while also protecting the new growth of the indigenous trees.
Furthermore, the wildlife sanctuary land has had no landscaping done to it. This means the game and local wildlife can enjoy a wider variety of dams, trenches, possible wetlands and more.
We were fascinated to learn about and witness each of these facts firsthand. Simon and Villiera Wines’ passion for the earth and preserving the natural environment and wildlife is completely inspirational.
One for the Birds
Villiera Wines has created a natural space, with an interesting range of dietary supplements, terrain and landscapes, for the game to enjoy… And with 12 farm dams, the animals are spoilt for choice in terms of watering holes.
The dams teem with wonderful bird life.
The estate is home to the widest range of resident birds I have seen. In total, there are 127 identified birds. These include guinea fowls, partridge, buzzards, blue cranes, spur-winged- and Egyptian-geese, coots and dabchicks (or little grebes).
An Immersive Game Drive at Villiera Wines
After our brief farm tour through the vineyards and numerous bird sightings, it was time for the real magic to begin: our game drive proper.
Almost as soon as we had entered the gate, we found the five resident giraffes. The giraffe calf, born on Christmas Day, is the third giraffe to be born on the estate. (A fourth was born since our visit.:))
It was wonderful to see these five majestic creatures up close and personal. And I loved how even the younger bulls affectionately care for the giraffe calf, licking and watching over it so its parents could enjoy some respite.
One of the highlights of the game drive is seeing the ‘giraffe restaurant’, where the staff leave indigenous branches for the giraffes to feast on. Although they weren’t there when we drove past it, I can just imagine their long tongues and necks reaching out to grab a tasty bough.
It was also amazing to see how Villiera combines the winemaking and the wildlife by giving the grape skins to the game as extra food… and boy, do they love them!
Next up, we saw the speedy springboks… I’m always a fan of these little guys but it was great to also see Gemsbok, Cape Eland (one eland calf looked brand new!), sneaky Kudu (who hid in the trees), Black Wildebeest with their distinctive blond tails, Burchell’s Zebra and Waterbuck. (I really liked those dudes; they even have a characteristic white ‘toilet seat bum’.)
We also saw some mongoose and a sleepy owl relaxing in the shade but the estate is also home to bush pigs, caracals, bat-earred foxes, mice and much more… There was also a rare guy sunning himself by the dam – but I don’t want to spoil the surprise by mentioning what he was. 🙂
Captivating From Start to Finish
Overall, the game drive was a thoroughly enchanting and exciting experience. The two hours flew by, without a dull moment. Best of all, Simon managed to get us close to the game without scaring or disturbing them.
Honestly, he has to be one of the most knowledgeable and captivating storytellers on all things farming, nature and wildlife… His passion for the land and its creatures, much of which he studies through observation and avid reading, was certainly a highlight of our experience.
But even if not everyone is as fortunate as we were to have Simon as their guide, rest assured because his team of staff is also capable and stealthy when it comes to tracking and spotting the game.
Overall, the game drive was a memorable and fun experience and I can highly recommend it. Based on my experience and the wonderful game we saw, I can easily rate the Villiera game drives 10/10, especially when you think this kind of experience lies just outside Cape Town.
Please note: Villiera games drives are priced at R250 (per adult) and R125 (per child under 15) – and bookings are essential. Please call +27 (021) 865 2002 to book a game drive.
Fun Facts We Learned on the Villiera Game Drive
With the Villiera game drive, you really can learn and observe a lot about the game. If you have a decent smartphone or camera, you can come home with some memorable shots too.
Here are some of the fun facts we learned during our game drive:
- Giraffe possess a giant heart, which can weigh as much as 11 kilograms.
- Eland can weigh up to 1 000 kilograms but, despite this, are still able to jump roughly 2.2 metres. (Although they are normally too lazy to…)
- Waterbuck have glands, which secrete a smelly odor to keep crocodiles away when they enter the water. (This is also why their meat isn’t too palatable if the glands are cut while skinning.)
- Villiera Wines is home to Springboks, Kudu, Giraffe, Bontebok, Eland, Gemsbok, Bushpigs, Burchell’s Zebra, Duiker, Black Wildebeest, Steenbok, Grysbok and Waterbuck.
- With its neighbours, Wild Clover Farm and Cape Garden Centre, Villiera has set aside 230 hectares for the wildlife sanctuary.
A Sweet, Bubbly End to Our Visit: MCC and Nougat Pairing
Villiera Wines has a beautiful, opulent and plush tasting room, which is the ultimate in comfort and leisure. But, if you prefer to sit outside, there’s also a lovely terrace, with popular tables beneath the oak trees.
We sat inside and, after the heat of outdoors that day, I was delighted to find myself back in the cool, beautiful tasting room interiors.
Villiera Wines offers a host of wonderful tasting options. These including the following:
- Standard Wine Tasting (R40 for a choice of six wines).
- Reserve Wine Tasting (R110; by appointment only).
- MCC and Nougat Pairing (R120 for four MCC sparkling wines and four nougats; pre-booked basis only).
- MCC and Chocolate Pairing (R130 for four MCC sparking wines and four chocolate pieces, from Cape Town’s famous My Sugar Chocolatiers).
Of these, I strongly recommend either the MCC and Nougat Pairing or the MCC and Chocolate Pairing, which I must someday go back for. Both are very popular and come highly rated.
MCC Sparkling Wines and Nougat to Hit the Spot
The MCC and Nougat pairing offers four enticing wines and nougat pieces… It’s quite a tempting spread – so much so that the couple next to us joked and said they nearly ate our nougat before we arrived! 🙂
The tasting offers the following gorgeous MCC wines and sweet treats:
– Grier Brut with Sally Williams honey and almond/cranberry nougat;
– Villiera Tradition Brut with Sally Williams honey and macadamia nougat;
– Monro Brut with Sally Williams honey and almond nougat;
– Tradition Brut Rose with Roses Goji Berry, almond and rooibos tea nougat.
The Domain Grier, it’s interesting to note, is a wine imported from the Roussillon region in the South of France, where the Grier family owns an estate.
While the Tradition Brut (of which we brought a bottle for R110, to celebrate my birthday in early February) was an entry-level wine, first released in 1984.
The Monro Brut, the richest and maturest of the Villiera bubbly range, was previously voted the best in South Africa… no small feat!
I loved all the pairings but my favourite was definitely the Grier Brut and honey and almond/cranberry nougat option, with the Monro pairing coming in as a close second… In fact, of the MCC wines, I think the Monro might even have been my best pick, as it was sharp, crisp and beautiful. My companion enjoyed the Villiera Tradition Brut and honey and macadamia nougat pairing best.
The Roses nougat was definitely also an interesting one though and I could really taste the rooibos flavouring.
How Our Pairing Rated
All in all, the MCC and Nougat pairing was great, with good service and a beautiful setting. I am happy to rate it 9/10, despite nougat not being my strong suit.
Please note: The Villiera Tasting Room is open Monday to Friday (and on public holidays), from 09:00 am – 17:00 pm and on Saturdays, from 09:00 am – 15:00 pm. They are closed on Sunday, Good Friday, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Villiera Wines: An Impressive Stellenbosch Estate
I loved my first visit to Villiera and will definitely be back sometime. It was a fun experience from start to finish and I especially loved the estate’s prevailing ‘relaxed farm vibe’ feel. The best part though is undoubtedly the game drive experience and top class bubbly one can enjoy here.
Villiera Wines is well worth a visit; I have only heard good things about them and can certainly attest to this myself.
In closing, I wish to especially thank Simon Grier, his team and Villiera Wines for making this amazing game drive and pairing possible. It was such a pleasure to visit this fine estate and to learn about all the incredible things they do to give back.
For more information on Villiera Wines, please contact: +27 (021) 865 2002 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit their website or find them for yourself at: Villiera Wines, Corner of R101 and R304, Koelenhof, 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.