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October 30, 2004
The estate, from its height of over 200 metres above sea level, offers wonderful vistas over the Cape Town area. When we visited, the main restaurant was being used for a wedding, and my wife was entranced by the setting, so obviously being enjoyed by the newly married couple. The imposing manor house was the setting for some filming, and although we had to keep away from the actors, it did not restrict our viewing of the building, which is crammed full of period furniture, local artifacts, and artwork.
A fair walk up the hill from the manor house, you can see the 18th century "plunge pool" and stroll on the terraces of the old formal gardens. From up here, you can really appreciate the lushness of the landscape and those distant mountains. You know, the setting was so superb that we nearly forgot to taste the wine! There is a small tasting fee, but you get to keep your glasses. The tasting area was not the best we’d experienced (a bit too large, with no ambience), but Groot Constantia has a good range of wines, and we tried half a dozen.
The chardonnay is always a great starter, and the new French oak used here produces a crisp wine, not over-oaked (even my wife enjoyed it, and she doesn’t usually enjoy a white oaked wine). The Riesling was much too earthy and sweet for me, lacking the elegance that I would wish to associate with this grape (however, this has never been one of my favourites, so perhaps I’m prejudiced). Our favourites are the reds. The Shiraz was all you would expect – a tinge of liquorice on the nose and then a rush of rich, fruity flavours with a slight pepperiness; the shiraz-merlot was a delight to swirl, and the blend of grapes worked to give a ripe and rich complexity on the palate, with a grand aftertaste; my favourite was the pinotage unfiltered (Groot Constantia extols the virtue of unfiltered wine – is this eco-friendly or a chance to hoist the price?), which assaulted the nose with a mixture of the unconventional and then attacked the palate with a concentrated fruitiness and enticed you to "chew on the wine".
I’d recommend Groot Constantia to you as a place to visit – perhaps you can try the restaurant when you’re there and tell me what I missed!
From journal A few days in Southern Cape Town
February 12, 2003
There is an orientation center that houses an exhibition of several artifacts and photographs depicting the history of the Estate.
Simon van der Stel chose these lovely surroundings to build his impressive home more than 300 years ago. During the 1790's it was rebuilt to its current form. Entrance to the manor house museum complex is R8 (US$1) for adults and R2 for scholars.
Guided tours through the modern cellar are offered daily at 10 & 11am & 3pm during off-season and every hour on the hour from 10am until 4pm during December to April. Booking is essential. Tours cost R25 (US$3) for adults and R5(US$0.60) for students. A tour lasts 45-60 minutes and includes a wine tasting. Try the Evening Cellar Tours & Tastings in the Manor House, I was unable to go but heard they were quite different with the staff wearing period costumes.
The legendary wines of the Estate may be tasted and bought every day from 9am to 6pm in December to April and 10am to 5pm the rest of the year. No bookings are necessary. The cost is R20 (US$2.50) per person which includes a souvenir tasting glass (which I still have) that bears the logo of the estate. A gift shop, offering a selection of quality souvenirs and gifts, is also located here.
Groot Constantia is very well know for its red wines, their white wines are quite good too, but the reds are definitely tops.
There are two restaurants on the estate. The Jonkershuis Restaurant which is an exquisite restaurant with an elegant old Cape atmosphere where you can enjoy traditional Cape dishes like waterblommetjiebredie and curried fish -- either in the restaurant or under the oak trees. Estate wines are available by glass or bottle and sweet delights like koeksisters and brandy tarts are available throughout the day. It is open daily from 9am until late. On Sundays and Mondays it is only open till 5pm.
The other restaurant is the Tavern. The Tavern is housed in what used to be the bottling and maturation cellar and some of the old structures are still clearly visible. A variety of dishes can be enjoyed in the Tavern, from warm continental dishes and a la carte to a cold buffet and cheese plates. Enjoy it in the rustic cellar atmosphere or relax outside in the sun on the lawn, this provides great views of the vineyards and majestic mountains. Estate wines are offered by the bottle or glass. The Tavern is open every day from 10am to 5pm and later on weekends.
There are also expansive lawns and vineyards ideal for picnics.
From journal A piece of paradise