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May 13, 2013

Reds, whites and greens – golf in the Winelands

"Many professional golfers are wine aficionados, and worldwide recognised names have launched or are in partnership with vineyards throughout the world." This quote is by golf and travel writer Michael Cunningham, writing in the Wineries Refined magazine in British Columbia, Canada.

The Steenberg vineyards in Cape Town are one of the best places in South Africa to enjoy both golf and wine. Photo courtesy of Larry Gould

Cunningham has been to Cape Town and admits that in South Africa we certainly have our own golf and wine Legends, with Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and David Frost very much on the leaderboard of this international trend.

He readily admits that amateur golfers visiting South Africa, who are also interested in the grip of the grape, have an abundance of choice – especially in the Cape, where wine routes abound around the golfing choices on offer.

An example is the Constantia Wine Valley, the oldest wine-growing area in South Africa. In this valley, "on course" the golfer can enjoy Westlake’s flat golf experience and its deserved reputation for its social atmosphere. Within easy distance, the Royal Cape, South Africa’s oldest golf course, offers a traditional classic layout, while the Steenberg Golf Club is at the heart of historic vineyards and superb real estate and hotel developments. The course has immaculate manicuring throughout, and the Constantia Valley backdrops add scenic pleasure to the challenge.

The Pool Bar at the Steenberg Hotel. Photo courtesy of Larry Gould

"Off course", the historic Steenberg Winery is enhanced by the Bistro Sixteen82 restaurant, a modern, sophisticated daytime venue with a very welcoming pool terrace. It has succeeded perfectly in the fusion of food and wine.

On my last visit, I had the memorable Namibian crab risotto, which can be chosen either as a starter or a main course – it still makes me salivate as I reminisce. Red crab, charred corn, asparagus and crème fraiche are the ingredients, and the visual and smell sensations emphatically add to the pleasure. To complement this wonderful dish, I chose the Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011. Green figs, asparagus, lime and nettle on the nose and a beautiful creamy lingering aftertaste was a perfect match for the food.

There is also another restaurant choice at the Steenberg Hotel on the estate – this is the more formal and classic Catherina’s Restaurant, which has an added bonus in the Graham Beck champagne bar. 

The Steenberg golf course and clubhouse. Photo courtesy of Larry Gould

Buitenverwachting and Constantia Uitsig both have award-winning restaurants, while the Jonkershuis Restaurant, at the famous Groot Constantia Wine Estate, offers a marvellous choice of traditional Cape Malay dishes in spacious surroundings. The cellar is worth a visit!

Groot Constantia's impressive cellar. Photo courtesy of Groot Constantia.

There are also other wonderful venues in the valley for a golfer to sample wine and food after a scenically splendid round of golf. There are wine farms and historically famous hotels, such as The Alphen Hotel, where the hip Rose Bar is a favoured meeting place for the in-crowd. At the Cellars-Hohenort hotel, the Greenhouse Restaurant is regularly voted as a top-10 restaurant in South Africa and, under the talent of chef Peter Tempelhoff, it is a must-visit when in the Constantia Valley.

As Michael Cunningham reminded me, the words of Robert Percival, an English officer arriving in the Cape in 1796, ring true today: “Every stranger who arrives at the Cape makes a point of visiting the village of Constantia and those famous wine plantations: for these, with the Table Mountain, are looked upon as great and first objects of curiosity at the Cape.”

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