SEVEN OAKS WINES COTTAGES
Saturday 27 January to Sunday 28 January 2018
Wine tours are always fun! My first ever weekend trip was to taste the wines from Wolseley. I visited Bergsig Estate, Mountain Ridge Wines, Seven Oaks Wines, Waboomsrivier Wynkelder and Waverley Hills. After, I enjoyed after a most comfortable night at Arum Lily Log Cabins. I have also toured the Franschhoek and Hermanus regions and their vineyards.
I returned again to Wolseley to taste at the Lateganskop Winery. Ladera and Rico Suter were not accepting tasting by appointment so I ventured north to Tulbagh to Lemberg Wine Estate, Manley Wine Lodge and Rijk’s Private Cellar. It was almost a year since my previous visit and, knowing that the cottages had been extensively refurbished, I chose to stay at Seven Oaks instead.
As ever, each Wolseley vineyard is unique in character: Bergsig – old school with some interesting single cultivar and dessert wines; Lateganskop – traditional cellar offering vertical tasting of whites and reds; Mountain Ridge – decent wines with witty labels at affordable prices and monthly Farmers’ Market I have yet to attend; Seven Oaks – Cape Wine Lovers’ Society Best Pinotage 2017 and high quality, well priced wines; Waboomsrivier – vast co-operative making low cost, quaffable wines; and Waverly Hills – organic producer of a wide range of high quality wines. Further afield, the Tulbagh producers offered yet more delights: Lemberg – top quality, high end boutique wines; Manley – value-for-money decent red wines; and Rijk’s – Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz specialist with different price/quality ranges.
Seven Oaks lies 5 kilometres South of Wolseley and is easily accessible from Cape Town. Wolseley is always closer than I think. The 115 kilometre journey via the magnificent Bains Kloof Pass takes little more than 1½ hours. My partner and I left Cape Town at 6.30am as she was meeting her parents to pick figs and peaches at nearby Hoogwater Farm whilst I was wine tasting.
We regrouped at Seven Oaks later in the day. The winery has 4 cottages that make for a perfect weekend getaway, romantic time away, or business base. The cottages offer a range of accommodation options that sleep 2 or 4 people. Prices vary according to length of stay and time of year, so check before booking, but range from R950 to R2050 per night. Appropriately for a wine farm, each cottage is named after a wine cultivar: Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Malbec. We stayed in Merlot Cottage.
Seven Oaks is easy to find on the R43 between Worcester and Tulbagh. Look out for the distinctive sign on the Northern side of the road with row of red wine coloured oak trees. Ask owner Jacqui or read here to find out the story behind the name. Head along the dusty dirt lane, over the railway line, and follow the signs that direct through leafy vineyards (full of Chardonnay and Pinotage grapes ready for harvest) and you will be at the cottages in no time.
I was impressed from the start. Each cottage has parking for 2 cars close by. The Breede River Valley setting is superb with majestic views of the surrounding Waterval and Witzenberg mountains. Each cottage is spaced to allow privacy between guests, aided by screens at the rear. These helped provide essential shelter from the late afternoon wind that fortunately eased as evening turned to night. Much thought has been given to the garden surrounds that are well cared for. Old containers or nooks are filled with healthy, delightful aloes and succulents.
Merlot Cottage was spacious and well equipped. The open plan kitchen contained all that is needed for a self-catering stay – stove, microwave, fridge, crockery and cutlery – and of good quality and cleanliness. Tea, coffee, sugar and all the makings, complete with milk and a bottle of Seven Oaks Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge for our arrival, were provided. We chose to have a potjie braai (wood supplied) in the sheltered stoep at the back of the cottage beside the hot tub – more later.
The lounge was beautifully decorated and with comfortable seating. There were plenty of nice touches and local artefacts to catch the eye: a coat rack made with old bent spoons, display of ancient keys (perhaps from buildings on the farm), barbed wire lamp decoration, dried seed head and more. Wi-Fi was provided – which worked! – for those who need it for business or up-to-date holiday research, with a selection of board games for those who preferred to play and be offline. Once dark, the lounge lighting was from ceiling lamps which are less relaxing than table or standard lamps but that is purely personal preference rather than criticism.
We spent the evening on the rear stoep that had sufficient, comfortable seating. We lit the braai – built-in and at convenient height – which was well provided with tongs and braai grid. Matches, firelighters and kindling were supplied for easy starting. My partner and her family had already ‘road-tested’ the hot tub before I arrived (extra towels are supplied with the cottage). The baking hot late summer sun had provided plenty of warmth for a refreshing dip to start their stay. I took braai coals to light a fire in the sunken grate beside the hot tub. It took a while to get going. Slowly, the night temperature was raised to a pleasant warmth as the water circulated via pipes in the tub wall from the heat of the fire.
We brought our own potjie though I am sure Jacqui could have supplied one if we had asked in advance. It is the most relaxing of cooking as once the pot is assembled there is nothing to do for a couple of hours. It also avoids the challenge of cooking multiple meats of different types and sizes on a braai. It was a truly relaxing evening as we chatted about our experiences of the day and watched the colours of the mountains change as the sun set for nightfall. The moon rose and the stars came out brightly. One final dip in the quiet of the night and it was soon time for bed.
The 2 bedrooms, each with double or king (2 single) bed, were equally comfortable, well decorated and equipped. The mattress and pillows were clean, the duvets soft, and all perfect for a restful night, with little sound coming from the other bedroom. I slept like a baby. Maybe I should correct that since babies typically don’t sleep through the night! As my partner observed, I slept like a baby with too much Panadol syrup …
The bathroom is set at the end of the cottage with dual access from each bedroom. I had seen this arrangement before. It makes sense, even if sound-proofing is not perfect, to make optimum use of space whilst providing an ‘en suite’ facility. I was tempted to use the traditional cast iron bath but months of water saving in Cape Town has meant that baths are a luxury of the past. Besides, I had already enjoyed a soak in the hot tub. The shower was comfortable enough and plenty of soft towels were supplied for all our needs.
Morning dawned all too soon with its bright sun lighting up the surrounding vineyards. We were in no hurry to leave and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before packing up to return to Cape Town. We stopped for one final look at the grapes on the vines as we departed. As we left, we said that we must do this again. I am sure we were not the only guests to say so. Seven Oaks offers a 10% discount for return bookings.
Merlot Cottage and Seven Oaks Wines gave just what I wanted and needed. It was great not to rush home at the end of the day – even though the journey was relatively short – which made for a restful and relaxing weekend. The accommodation was well appointed and with plenty of small touches that made for an excellent visit. Do try it out. It’s most likely just the tonic that you and your family or friends need. I have just thought that a weekend stay would make an ideal present if ever you are stuck on what to buy the person who has everything. I promise you will not be disappointed.