* This article first appeared here in Aspire Lifestyle Magazine
Less than an hour from Cape Town the Huguenot Tunnel swallows you up and several kilometres later spits you out into a seemingly new world – surrounded by towering fold mountains and fynbos-iced hills. I’ve always continued straight through, until one day I took a left turn to explore a valley with a curious name – the Slanghoek Valley. After all, aren’t the most rewarding experiences often waiting for those willing to take the path lesser-known?
Three visits later and the valley has crept firmly into my favourites folder. I’ve selected three unique offerings, all doubling up as gourmet food and wine experiences.
Intimate Cooking Experiences at Picardi Place
Our first stop is minutes outside of the small town of Rawsonville where the charming Jaco Brand welcomes guests his Picardi Place. After a decade’s work as a landscape designer in Cape Town, the 2008 recession saw him move to a smallholding he’d purchased in Rawsonville years earlier. While exploring what to do next, he used some inheritance money to celebrate his 40th birthday in Italy.
A pasta-making course in situ and a visit to a market for fresh produce, awakened a love for Italian cuisine – and the realisation that there was a gap in the market for such experiences back home. Returning to South Africa he began permaculture, setting up impressive vegetable gardens at Picardi Place.
A decade later, Jaco has run over 600 cooking courses and is still as passionate as ever. Experiences begin with coffee and an introduction to the property. Next is a wine tasting of local offerings – usually presented by the winemaker. Next, it’s off to the gardens to harvest produce for the course – and then the magic begins in the kitchen where no machines are used – everything is handmade.
Lastly, a table is prepared in a secret spot on the farm to enjoy the fruits of the day’s labour. It’s a five-hour experience from R800pp – or even better as an overnight stay with accommodation offered through rooms in the main farmhouse, or the freestanding cottage with its oversized hot tub. The farm also serves as a beautiful venue for weddings and small functions. picardiplace.co.za
Cabin Comfort at Opstal
Time to drive further into the Slanghoek Valley itself, where a ten minute’s drive from Picardi Place, is Opstal, a seventh-generation family-run estate with a history dating back to 1847.
High up on the slopes of the mountain, five cabins rise from out of the fynbos. Three of them as two-bedroom and offerings, and two as one-bedroom units. Each has its braai area set on expansive verandas, and of course, wood-fired hot tubs that offer warmth on cold winter nights and also comfort on cooler summer nights. In the last decade the Western Cape has seen a rise in country cabins accompanied by wood-fired hot tubs; a welcomed trend for weary city slickers looking to unwind.
If your idea country escape includes a glass or two of wine then don’t forget that a stay at Opstal means you’re in the heart of a working wine estate. The Opstal range includes enticing well-priced introductory wines, but also more complex premium offerings.
Winemaker Attie Louw told me he desired that people would say of Opsal that ‘these guys love Chenin, and do Chenin well’ – and true to his word – the Carl Everson Chenin Blanc is a drink to be reckoned with. Be sure to also try the Cape White Blend – a Chenin, Roussanne, Sémillon, Viognier, and Colombar blend awarded 94 points by New World wine commentator Tim Atkins. opstal.co.za
Visionary Design at BOSJES
Driving through the gates, the BOSJES Kapel which serves as the frontispiece for the property where visionary design meets soul-inspired architecture. Inspired by Psalm 36:7 ‘How precious, O God, is Your constant love! We find protection under the shadow of Your wings.’ The chapel’s innovation and beauty has captured the heart and magazine pages around the world.
The curved roof appears to float effortlessly midair like a giant sheet hovering in motion. Shrouded in glass and suspended above a shallow pond that effortlessly mirrors the chapel’s seductive curves.
From the chapel, the manicured gardens reach up the property, taking in a labyrinth of visual and experiential offerings. The Spens Garden Café and Winkel is the newest of the developments – and has already been the recipient of the revered international Architizer A+ Award.
As much as the gardens and architecture embody the BOSJES magic, a reason to stay over is in the evenings a light show happens when the mountains that form the ever-present backdrop, light up with the sunset. On our visit, the effect was even more dramatic with the sight of slivers of snow on the highest peaks.
De Skuur is a converted barn that now houses five luxury suites around a central swimming pool – and conveniently has a spa alongside for well-deserved pampering. Make sure to include a meal at the Kombuis Restaurant where visionary design continues into the finest of dining experiences. bosjes.co.za