These are a few of my favourite things and Route 62 has them all. In quality, and quantity.
Media giant CNN seems to agree with me, and recently nominated Route 62 as one of the top 10 road trips in the world. Quite rightly so!
Since I haven’t done any of the other 9 on the list, I can safely say that Route 62 is my #1 favourite of them all.
I’ve done 5 road trips along this magnificent stretch of road this year, and each one has been uniquely wonderful. I’ve driven it at leisure, alone and in silence. I’ve made quick, half-day forays that were meticulously planned and executed with surgical precision that allowed no time for tasting anything. The last, most recent and memorable trip was a three-day break in the company of the ultimate road trip soundtrack master and designated driver. We both loved every second, returning home refreshed and rejuvenated, filled with joy for life anew.
Route 62 is so much more than a road trip, you see: it’s a decompression zone for body, mind and soul.
Part of road tripping fun is veering off the main route and onto little country tracks. Never mind if there’s no reception for your GPS: prepare to get lost, and enjoy it.
Your greatest assets on a road trip are patience, and being in the moment.
My first Route 62 trip, late summer, started out rather ambitiously as a solo 4-day exploration of the region’s food and wineries. That excursion ended abruptly when the virus I’d unwittingly taken along as unpaid passenger announced itself halfway through my journey, in a stone cottage in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, resulting in bathroom scenes like something out of The Exorcist. 10 days recovery time later and 4 kg lighter, I set about planning my next Route 62 road trip.
If you love long distance driving as much as I do, living near such a prime route is like a gambling addict finding the keys to the casino. 1) You can’t believe your luck and 2) You just can’t get enough.
All you need is time, a tankful of petrol and some cash. Quite a bit of cash, actually. Not that it’s an expensive journey – far from it – but you will want to buy some of the fabulous wines you encounter. And I highly recommend having a designated driver too, because what’s the point of visiting boutique wineries without tasting?
Top PR’s Mira Weiner of Hot Oven Marketing and Robertson Wine Valley along with Sonja Bezuidenhout of Hatch Communications kindly assisted with planning my initial route. What I found just blew me away.
Expect no franchise fast-food chains and soulless B&B joints on Route 62 – that’s N1 territory – and the beautiful, personally run wineries will leave you spoilt for choice.
Top of my list would have to be Weltevrede Estate outside Bonnievale, for its unique cellar tasting in underground cellars built by Italian prisoners of war after WWII. A candle-lit trail through the atmospheric underground cellars leads to a snug little room where the tasting is conducted. Wine has never tasted better than underground and I particularly loved The Ring Blanc de Blancs MCC Brut from the Philip Jonker Collection, and the Place of Rocks Chardonnay. Tiny sips only, though, so I must revisit with a designated driver for a proper tasting!
Further along on the R317, Excelsior Wine Estate excels in offering an abundance of food, wine and accommodation choices. Stay overnight in the luxury Manor House with its lush old-fashioned garden, or pop in for wine tasting overlooking the dam.
Excelsior Manor Guesthouse offers luxury accommodation in the heart of the Robertson Wine Valley on a working wine farm. The Cape Dutch Revival Manor, once a family home, has been lovingly restored and offers elegant comfort and serenity along with personal hospitality.
There are nine classically decorated en-suite bedrooms with one offering facilities for the disabled.
Summer days can be spent beside the deep blue swimming pool which is situated on an elevated, yet secluded wooden deck on the southern face of the house. Enjoy breathtakingly panoramic views of the vineyards and the Langeberg Mountain ranges.
You can even blend and bottle your own personally labeled wine in the Tasting Room! Cafè Graze@Excelsior serves hearty, simple country cooking made with love from seasonal ingredients. Freshly baked wood-fired bread, tasty sandwiches and healthy salads feature on a menu that changes monthly. Relax underneath the trees to admire the scenery and horses, knowing that your children have ample room to roam about and play in safety.
Zandvliet Estate recently had a major overhaul of their Kalkveld Lounge tasting room, resulting in a chic and glam modern space in which to showcase their splendid wines and Clemengold Gin to best advantage. Shiraz specialists, this Ashton-based estate is planning further developments, including a restaurant and function venue, for the historic manor house.
Not too far away, off Robertson Road in Klaasvoogds, you’ll find Marbrin Olive Farm. At the end of a bumpy country lane amidst olive groves straight out of a Tuscan movie fantasy, lie the rustic farmhouse and shed where these award-winning extra virgin olive oils are grown, harvested and made.
Enjoy a guided olive oil and olive tasting before stocking up on the delicious tapenade, imported Italian balsamic, plain and flavored oils and olives. See why I said ‘take lots of cash’? Buying straight from source is always better value for money, and I left with practically half their stock.
At the end of another long and winding gravel road – and then a little bit further – lies Lord’s Winery outside McGregor.
From their website:
Lord’s Wines was established in 2006 when viticulturist, Jacie Oosthuizen, turned his love for cricket and wine into a wine estate and cellar. The estate is named after his favourite cricket ground Lord’s in England.
High up on the northern slopes of the mountains surrounding Robertson in the fertile McGregor valley lies Lord’s Wines cradled amidst fynbos and Proteas. At 500m above sea level, the vineyards are the highest in the Robertson valley, enjoying a climate which is cooler than most and making it suitable for producing Pinot Noir and our other award winning wines from specially selected cultivars.
The whole Oosthuizen family is very much hands-on at the estate, with Jacie’s son Jacques in charge of PR and Marketing. Jacques took me through a tasting of Lord’s wines, starting with the Brut and Brut Rosè and then on to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that have made people sit up and take notice of Lord’s wines. The vertical tasting of Pinot Noir made me fall in love with this particular cultivar all over again, with the Lord’s 2011 Pinot Noir my tipple of choice this winter. Very reasonably priced at the cellar, making it well worth the drive. Added temptation is the staggeringly good tasting platter served alongside the wine tasting. I’ve simply never seen anything like it at a winery, and that’s Lord’s Winery for you all over: quality, abundance and generosity.
Just off the R62 between Robertson and McGregor you’ll find the 4 star Lord’s Guesthouse.
The rugged stone cottages and stark landscape reminded me of Scotland and it was not surprising to meet a retired Scottish couple who told me they’ve made an annual pilgrimage to Lord’s Guesthouse for the past 7 years. Its isolation is in inverse proportion to its appeal – they’re fully booked long in advance, so best you plan your sojourn well. A great escape for the ultimate unwind.
Cherry on top for me on any Route 62 road trip is always a visit to Montagu. That village is my Holy Grail and I need no excuse to plan a journey there.
My most recent discovery in Montagu has been the Montagu Country Hotel. An astonishing and delightful Art Deco gem, it has been lovingly restored and decorated with authentic period pieces by owner Gert Lubbe. There is a luscious spa on the grounds, with well-tended gardens to soothe even the most frazzled of city nerves. Enjoy sunset cocktails next to the pool, with birdsong and the gentle murmur from water features lulling you into just the mood for a long and leisurely candlelit dinner by the fireplace. The menu offers crowd-pleasing country classics in hearty portions, with a limited (and pricy) wine list from some local wineries. It would be nice to see some local craft gins and a few great cocktails on the list, especially given that the splendour of your surroundings will beckon forth your inner movie star.
The staff are lovely – friendly, helpful and efficient, with that unique Montagu charm that continues to draw me back time and again.
Book a drive with American Dream Cars through the hotel, to be squired around the countryside by General Manager PJ Basson in the vintage 1956 De Soto or Cadillac. Talk about ending off your road trip with a bang!
PJ is also a certified tour guide, available for bookings to explore the nearby nature reserve and historic sites.
No visit to Montagu is complete without a slap-up breakfast at legendary Rambling Rose on the Main Street. Deli, bakery and restaurant all rolled into one, it serves simple, perfect country cooking with a twist. And the best breakfasts, cakes, pastries and bread up and down Route 62. All are hand-made on the premises by master baker, owner Sergio Fernandes and his wife Cay in the kitchen. The cafè is busy and buzzy over weekends, with attentive and personal service that makes it feel like home from home. You can’t possibly leave without some of Cay’s peri-peri sauce and the pasteis de nata is the Real McCoy. That, plus serving the flakiest butter-rich croissants this side of Paris, makes Rambling Rose my #1 stop for food, wine and a rocking good time on Route62.