Celebrate South African culture and history and make the most out of this annual holiday
Avontuur Wine Estate and Thoroughbred Farm in Stellenbosch
The stand-out Winelands destination that’s home to top-quality vino and champion race horses
Standing out from the crowd either takes a lot of effort and bells and whistles or is achieved by an implicit je ne sais quoi. And while the former usually results in a short-lived, one-hit-wonder impact, the latter lends itself to sustained and consistent success. Epitomising the second description is Avontuur Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, which, despite finding itself competing in the increasingly competitive “Winelands destination” industry, is inherently unique.
“We are an estate, which means we can only produce wine from what our terroir allows us to make. In that sense, no one else has what we have,” says Michael Taberer, who co-owns and manages the farm with his brother, Philip.
And it seems as though the wines that resulted from these one-of-a kind conditions have struck a chord with consumers and critics alike as Avontuur’s creations, particularly its Luna de Miel Chardonnay and flagship Baccarat Bordeaux Blend, have been bestowed with over 150 awards over the years and continue to delight.
But it’s not just the reds and whites that distinguish Avontuur Wine Estate, which lies on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain just off the R44 highway close to Cape Town, a must-visit Winelands destination. There’s itspopular restaurant, guided farm walks (R120p/p) or self-guided walks (R70p/p) and, of course, the fact that it’s a thoroughbred stud farm. And while elegant horses – there are roughly 100 on the estate – help create a farm-like experience for visitors, for the Taberer family, they mean serious business.
“I think we are probably more known for the horses than we are for our wines, to be honest,” says Philip, the youngest Taberer brother.
Established by Michael and Philip’s late father, Tony, in the late 80s, the stud farm is home to two prized stallions, VAR and Oratorio. The Taberer family bought the former as a European sprint champion in 2006, and in 2008/09 he became the Champion First Season Sire of South Africa. When the latter, a stud recognised as one of the world’s best sires, was purchased in 2013 he was welcomed nationally as an exceptional addition to the South African breeding industry. Dark, gracious and imposing, the pair keep themselves busy by covering some of South Africa’s top mares for four months of the year, earning their keep by sending more champion race horses into the world.
Furthermore, for those thinking that a winery-cum-stud farm is somewhat of an incongruous concept, Philip points out that both activities involve a lot of history and passion.
“There is a lot of history and passion involved in both [winemaking and breeding horses]. They both take a while to develop. Breeding is a long waiting game. You breed a horse and wait for it to grow up in five years’ time, and then you eventually realise its potential. It is the same thing with wine; a good wine takes a lot of passion, maturing and effort to produce. And I suppose they are both luxury goods that lend themselves to a certain lifestyle,” he clarifies.
But, despite its luxurious products, Avontuur doesn’t just beckon to the nouveau rich and ever-growing crop of talentless socialites.
“We are a farm first and foremost. We don’t want to be that place that is inaccessible and alienates people with over-the-top glamour. It must still feel like a farm, and we want people to come and visit us and enjoy everything the farms has to offer, even if that is just to take a stroll around the paddocks and vineyards,” explains Michael.
This welcoming and laidback attitude is evident from the moment you turn into the estate from the busy R44 highway; the vineyards and horse enclosures are immediately visible and easily accessible for a closer look, the restaurant and tasting room terrace are inviting and populated with smiling staff members and the magnificent Helderberg slopes in the background inspire a sense of tranquillity.
So with its commitment to facilitating an accessible Winelands experience sans most of the usual gimmicks employed by others, it comes as no surprise that the Avontuur Wine Estate is sitting pretty in the upper echelons of many bucket lists.
Tip: Avontuur’s tasting room and terrace are inviting and casual. A wine tasting session costs R30p/p for a choice of five wines, including its 10-year-old Estate Brandy and MCC Brut. What’s more, Avontuur also offers monthly speciality pairings - think biltong, chocolate, macarons and nougat combos - for R80p/p. The tasting room is open daily from Monday to Friday 8:30am - 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30am - 4:30pm.
The Bill: There is no entry fee for the estate, but a wine tasting of five wines will cost R30p/p (the speciality pairings go for R80p/p). The restaurant is popular and bookings are preferable especially over weekends. Email: email@example.com or call +27 (0) 21 855 4296. In terms of meals, prices are not on the cheap side, but considering the quality and integrity of the food served, they are reasonable. Breakfast (daily from 9am - 11am) options range from R85 - R100; lunch and dinner dishes cost in the region of R100 to R180 and desserts cost between R60 and R85.
Eager to explore more of the Winelands? Here’s a selection of day tours covering the region.
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