Most people know Elgin for its apples, pies and Paul Cluver estate – but that’s not all there is to this verdant valley. I booked a night at Windermere Orchard Farm this past weekend, and it turned out to be the most wonderfully whimsical winter getaway. We stayed in a sweet cottage reminiscent of a large Wendy house, surrounded by trees, with a tree house to boot.
Saturday was spent exploring some of the wine farms along the road we were staying on, starting with Almenkerk. What a find! The estate overlooks the mountains, with a modern tasting room boasting eclectic modern art. We sat outside and did the full wine tasting, with the friendly staff expertly explaining each vintage. The wines were delicious – I’m a big fan of the Lace range – and the atmosphere was lovely and relaxed. We wandered around with our wines and took endless photos of the view, which really is quite special.
Next, we visited Charles Fox, which produces a range of MCCs. Charles’ mother-in-law was knitting at the table next to us and Charles himself made an appearance as we left. An ex-Olympic Welsh/Zimbabwean swimmer who chose to pursue his passion for wine, he certainly seems like an interesting man. The MCC range was exceptional – the Brut Rose was my particular favourite. Again, the view was gorgeous, made all the better by the bubbles.
From Charles Fox, we went to Terra Madre, where we indulged in homemade pies, fresh scones, Terra Madre cider, and coffee and aniseed biscuits. It was a fantastic feast and just what was needed following a boozy afternoon.
Back at Windermere, we napped till the sun set then we headed to the Hickory Shack for dinner. The restaurant got high ratings on TripAdvisor but I was rather disappointed. The food was a bit bland, and although our waiter was very nice, we felt rushed. By 8:30pm, the staff started packing up the tables around us and it was quite clear that we were holding them up from closing. For a restaurant that claims to be open for dinner on Saturday night, it was a bit strange. But maybe it’s better in summer? Tom enjoyed it more than I did – he said his ribs were excellent.
On Sunday, we went for a walk around the farm, ably guided by the family dogs. A ridgeback, jack russel and two boerbulls completed our pack and we set off through the orchards, in the soft morning light. Windermere is such a beautiful place. The apple orchards are all wizened branches with the sweet scent of overripe fruit, and the route we took led to a river, surrounded by woodland. The air was crisp and dewy, a spider web shone jewel-like in the sun, and a leaf hitched a ride on my boot as I scrunched along the path.
We then packed up and popped into Peregrine for coffee, breakfast and those famous golden homemade pies – dinner sorted.
Elgin is a lovely alternative to Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, especially if, like us, you’re looking for somewhere new to explore. There are plenty more estates we didn’t get to, including Iona, Belfield and Paul Cluver. We’ll just have to go back soon.