Harvest festivals in the Cape Winelands

Enjoy the fruits of the winemakers’ labour at these stomping soirees in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and surrounds

During summer in Cape Town, everything comes alive: the mountain glows a brilliant green, the azure skies sing with cheerful birds, the seas dance with surfers and swimmers and even the nightclubs blossom with a multitude of foreign booze-seekers. So it’s no wonder that this happens to be the time that the Cape Winelands’ vineyards are at their ripest and readiest too, spilling over with plump grapes waiting to be plucked and blended.

To pay homage to this period of plenty, the region’s many award-winning wine farms – and there are many ­– host vibrant harvest festivals that, like the traditional celebrations of past, give thanks for the year’s yield and rejoice in the abundance of fruit that was reaped. These lively, family-friendly soirees typically feature stomping contests, blending workshops, food markets, pairing sessions, cellar tours, live music and more.

In short, they’re the sort of fiestas you don’t want to miss out on. So, to make sure you don’t pass up the opportunity, and to ensure you have the liveliest Mother City summer possible, we’ve gathered together a rundown of some of the top, most memorable harvest festivals in the Cape Winelands below. From interactive jubilees in Robertson to delicious fruity feasts in Durbanville, this guide includes options for infants and elders, casual drinkers and connoisseurs.

WINE HARVEST FESTIVALS IN THE CAPE WINELANDS

Stellenbosch Wine Festival (24 January – 2 February 2014)
Formerly a winter fiesta, the ever-popular Stellenbosch Wine Festival was moved to the earlier part of the year in 2012 to better align with the start of the summer harvest period. This year, from Friday, 24 January to Sunday, 2 February 2014, the affair celebrates the vineyards’ bountiful yield with a jam-packed 10-day programme that includes everything from a harvest parade through the streets and a wine expo featuring around 70 farms to a 5-km women’s walk, a golf challenge, several dining events and more. Not to mention, various participating estates – there are over 150 in total in the area – will host their own unique activities, helping to turn this lengthy harvest fair into a truly memorable experience for both vino aficionados and informal drinkers.
Tickets: Prices vary according to the event, and tickets can be purchased via the Stellenboschwinefestival.co.za website.
Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 886 4310

Delheim Start of Harvest Celebration (25 – 26 January 2014)
To celebrate the beginning of the 2014 grape harvest, revered Stellenbosch estate Delheim, which is best known for its top-notch Merlot, is hosting a fun family-friendly vine-to-wine affair from Saturday, 25 to Sunday, 26 January 2014. Visitors to the picturesque farm will be treated to a free glass of fermenting grape must and complimentary mosbolletjies (sweet bread rolls) before enjoying an informative cellar tour and a buffet-style picnic lunch on the verdant greens that line the river’s edge. The highlight of the affair, however, is the grape stomping contest that will see teams roll barrels, grab grapes and smash the purple-skinned fruit enthusiastically to determine who can produce the most juice. Childminders will be present to watch over the little ones, so this is certainly an event fit for the whole family.
Tickets:
Tickets cost R220p/p per day for adults and R110p/p per day for children under the age of 12; kids younger than two enter for free. Pre-booking is essential.
Delheim Wine Estate | Knorhoek Road | Simonsberg Ward | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 888 4600

Riesling Rocks Festival at Hartenberg Wine Estate (25 January 2014)
This fun harvest celebration, which happens to be one of the first of the lot, pays respects to the aromatic German cultivar Riesling. Hosted at the acclaimed Hartenberg Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (the farm is well known for both its rich Riesling and its award-winning Shiraz), the garden party gives festival-goers the chance to sip and sample various versions of the versatile European white from a number of different Cape Winelands estates, including Klein Constantia, Nitida and Nederburg. And because the varietal is an ideal food pairing wine, there’ll also be an array of savoury and sweet eats on offer from on-site deli stalls. Not to mention, visitors can expect live music to top off a fabulous day of harvest fun in the sun.
Tickets: Entrance to the Riesling Rocks festival costs R120p/p (children under 18 get in for free), and tickets can be bought online via Webtickets.co.za, at the estate’s office or at the gate on the day.
Bottelary Road (M23) | Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 865 2541

Robertson Wine Valley’s Hands-on Harvest Festival (1 February – 30 March 2014)
As its name suggests, this region-wide festival, which features over 20 wineries and estates from across the charming Robertson Wine Valley, invites vino devotees to get actively involved in the harvesting and winemaking process. Stretching over two full months from Saturday, 1 February to Sunday, 30 March 2014 (it was previously just one weekend), the vine extravaganza gives visitors the chance to do everything from grape picking, bunch sorting and wine blending to nature walks, tractor trips and river-side picnics. Specific highlights include options like wine tasting by horse cart, open-air concerts, a magical cellar dinner and a cookie and wine pairing experience.  All events are open to only small groups so as to keep things intimate, and while some activities run throughout the festival, others are held on only one or two days during the period.
Tickets: Prices vary depending on the specific event, and each activity must be booked directly with the estate hosting it at least three days before the event.
Robertson Wine Valley | +27 (0)23 626 3167

Môreson Blessing of the Harvest Festival (1 February 2014)
Idyllic family-run farm Môreson, which sits pretty at the end of Happy Valley Road in Franschhoek, challenges anyone interested in winemaking to try their feet at grape pressing at the estate’s annual Blessing of the Harvest festival on Saturday, 1 February 2014. Eager visitors will first disappear into the winery’s vineyards to fill their baskets with the land’s bounty before squishing and squashing the fruit into flowing juice, like winemakers would do many years ago. The stomping is followed by an exciting label design competition (the winning sketch will appear on the 2014 harvest bottle) and a scrumptious buffet lunch at the on-site Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant. Patrons can match their meals with Môreson’s award-winning reds, whites and Méthode Cap Classiques and can ultimately take their own bottle of foot-pressed harvest wine home (though, this will only be ready for collection in November 2014).
Tickets: The cost of this experience is R495p/p, and this price includes all of the above as well as a glass of bubbly on arrival. Kids are welcome but this ticket price is yet to be confirmed. Booking is essential.
Happy Valley Road | Franschhoek | +27 (0) 21 876 4004

Bubbles and Braai at Grande Roche Hotel (1 February 2014)
Though not strictly a harvest festival, the sophisticated Bubbles and Braai evening at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl is nonetheless a sterling, sparkling way to pay homage to the yield of our local lands. Taking over the lawns of this fairy-tale Winelands property on Saturday, 1 February 2014, the culinary event will pair a selection of succulent barbequed steaks and seafood with an assortment of South African Méthode Cap Classiques and a delicious range of Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine). Visitors will be able to meet some of the winemakers and learn more about what goes into producing the perfect bubbly while being serenaded by world-renowned singer Cat Simoni. It’s a winning combination of elements that’s bound to make for a spectacular summer evening.
Tickets: Tickets to the Grande Roche’s exclusive event cost R420p/p and can be booked by phoning the hotel.
Plantasie Street | Paarl | +27 (0) 21 863 5100

Hanepoot Grape Picking at De Krans Wine Cellar (12 February – 8 March 2014)
Although De Krans Wine Cellar near Calitzdorp doesn’t host its own defined harvest fair, it does give locals a chance to celebrate that time of year when the grapes are ripe and ready by opening their vines up for public picking. Every Monday to Saturday between Wednesday, 12 February and Saturday, 8 March 2014, those from the area can visit the farm and fill containers with delicious Hanepoot grapes plucked straight from the branches. On Wednesdays and Saturdays during this time, pickers can also fill their bellies with braai food – think chops, boerewors and freshly baked bread – cooked over the coals on the property. Not to mention, De Krans wine and port is available for purchase to pair with the barbeque lunch, and those who simple want to sample the wine can do so for free.
Tickets: Picked grapes cost R5.90p/kg and the braai lunch goes for R63p/p. Booking is essential for the lunch.
Route 62 | Calitzdorp | +27 (0) 44 213 3314

Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate 2014 Harvest Festival (22 February 2014)
Boasting a lengthy history that stretches over 300 years, this grand Cape Dutch-style estate in the pretty Franschhoek Valley is a particularly majestic spot to pay homage to the vino harvest. On Saturday, 22 February 2014, the 30-hectare farm invites wine lovers to partake in its annual summer festival, which features everything from a tractor ride into the vineyards and an old-fashioned stomping competition to a cellar tour and meet-the-winemaker session. The fun is followed by a decadent buffet feast outside under an ancient oak tree; the spread includes homemade breads, salads, Karoo lamb chops, free-range baby chicken, chocolate brownies and more. While perfect for family and friends, the fair is also an ideal team-building activity, and discounts will be given to groups of 10 or more.
Tickets: Adults pay R450p/p and kids younger than 12 years of age are charged R280p/p to enjoy all of the above.
Main Road | Franschhoek | +27 (0) 21 876 8600

Feast of the Grape (1 – 2 March 2014)
Taking place from Saturday, 1 March to Sunday, 2 March 2014 at D’Aria Winery, the Durbanville Wine Valley’s official Feast of the Grape festival celebrates the close of the harvest season with a whole lot of foot-stomping fun. Though it’s hosted by only one venue, the fair features 12 different wine estates from the valley, including De Grendel, Diemersdal, Nitida and Altydgedacht amongst others. Together, these top wine brands will treat festival-goers to grape-stomping sessions, tutored tastings, blending competitions, food and wine pairing workshops and more. Not to mention, there’ll also be live music, cook-offs between local chefs and plenty of energy-expending activities for the kiddies (think jumping castles, slip ‘n slides, face painting and sand art). As all the festivities take place in Durbanville only 20 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, this harvest celebration is one of the most convenient to attend for those living in the heart of the Mother City.
Tickets: Tickets can be bought via Webtickets.co.za, at any of the 12 participating wine farms or at the gate on the day for only R50p/p for adults; children under 12 get free entry, but must pay R20 to play in the kids’ zone.
D’Aria Winery | M13 | Durbanville | +27 (0) 83 310 1228

Darling Cellars Crush Day (1 March 2014)
Even the small West Coast town of Darling jumps on the harvest festival bandwagon annually . This year, the esteemed Darling Cellars is hosting its yearly do on Saturday, 1 March 2014, and as always, the family-friendly shindig begins bright and early at 8am before the sweltering heat of the day settles in. Visitors will kick off the festivities with a light breakfast of yoghurt, muffins and more before taking a tractor into the vineyards, where they’ll pick their own grapes. It’s then onto the stomping, crushing, trudging and squishing, which will be followed by a label design contest, wine blending and a delicious spit braai lunch featuring an assortment of tasty bites. Kids can participate in a host of games or cool off with a ride down the water slide. All this amidst the tranquil, rural scenery of the Darling area makes for an especially enjoyable way to get in on the harvest hype.
Tickets: Passes to take part in Crush Day can be secured by calling Darling Cellars; these cost R220p/p for adults, R150p/p for teenagers aged 13 to 17 years and R80p/p for children below the age of 12.
R315 | Mamre Weg Station | Darling | +27 (0) 22 492 2276

Muratie Harvest Festival (1 March 2014)
Steeped in centuries of rich history, the family-owned Muratie wine farm in Stellenbosch’s Knorhoek Valley is an old-world,  easygoing spot to share in the harvest-time festivities. On Saturday, 1 March 2014, the long-term owners of the farm invite family and friends to join them in gratitude for the rich crops reaped this year and celebrate outside under the estate’s ancient oak trees.  Here, in the fresh summer breeze, guests can sip on Muratie’s sterling wines, snack on bites from the on-site Farm Kitchen (options include quiches, hamburgers, samoosas, cheese platters and more) and soak up the catchy sounds of the Kitchen Jammin’ Blues Band. Of course, both little and big kids can also hike up their trousers and have some foot-stomping fun squishing barrels of freshly plucked grapes. And for the first 20 lucky people that book, there’ll be an intimate vertical wine tasting (the sampling of different vintages of the same varietal) led by the owner himself at midday (this costs an additional R50p/p).
Tickets: Entrance to this harvest festival is entirely FREE, but food and drinks are for patrons’ own account (though, everyone does get a complimentary glass of estate wine on arrival).
Knorhoek Road | Koelenhof | Stellenbosch | +27 (0) 21 865 2330

Eikendal Weintaufe Harvest Celebration (2 March 2014)
Once a small ceremony intended to give thanks for the harvest, Eikendal wine estate’s annual grape gala is now a large celebratory event eagerly anticipated by many. The vibrant affair – it happens on Sunday, 2 March 2014 this year – is ideal for everyone, from the teeniest tot to the greyest grandpa, and boasts a full programme that includes options like grape stomping, vineyard walks, cheetah viewing, laidback live entertainment and pony and tractor rides. Visitors can also pick up some wine and grub from the on-site restaurant and picnic on the edge of the property’s glistening dams, and as a highlight, guests can sample the brand new 2014 Chardonnay (Eikendal is known for this varietal) directly from the barrel – a rare harvest-time treat.
Tickets: Entrance costs only R30p/p for adults, and tickets will be on sale at the gate on the day; kiddies younger than 12 years of age can enjoy the festivities for free. Entrance includes a complimentary glass and barrel tasting of the Eikendal Chardonnay.
R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West | +27 (0) 21 855 1422

Paarl OmmiBerg ‘Round the Rock’ Festival (8 – 9 March 2014)
Paarl, the lesser-known gem of the Cape Winelands, is home to a number of esteemed wine estates, and every year, the region commemorates yet another bountiful crop with the annual OmmiBerg festival. Held this year on Saturday, 8 and Sunday, 9 March 2014, the fiesta takes place at over 17 different participating Paarl farms all located around the area’s famed rounded rock (hence the name of the fair). Each winery has its own programme of events aimed at giving festival-goers a behind-the-scenes look at the winemaking process, and visitors can look forward to highlights like grape picking and stomping, wine blending workshops, cooking demonstrations, cellar tours and art displays. Adults can also taste the very first juices of the harvest while little one are kept busy with everything from kids’ croquet and pony rides to face painting and slippery slides. And of course, there’ll be plenty of gourmet fare to keep the stomachs well lined.
Tickets: One-day passes bought in advance via Webtickets.co.za cost R80p/p and those purchased on the day at any of the participating farms cost R100p/p; under-18s enter for free.
Paarl Winelands | +27 (0) 82 787 4118

Wellington Wine Harvest Festival (15 March 2014)
To keep things interesting this harvest season, Wellington’s 2014 grape festival takes place at three different locations and is made up of three unique themes. Firstly, there’s the New-fashioned Boere Bazaar, which kicks off at Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate and features an authentically South African food and wine court, old-school games (think spoon and sack races), a wine and livestock auction and live boeremusiek. Then there’s Bosman Family Vineyards’ laidback Top Chilling event, which takes the form of a long, leisurely kid-friendly lunch. And finally, there’s the Wilder as Die Wildtuin bash at Welbedacht Estate, which focuses on an animal theme and invites revellers to pet alpacas, ride a mechanical bull, enjoy a wild boar spit braai and more. At this last stop, visitors can also look forward to a performance by a surprise big-name band and appearances by a few Stormers players. Though the festival is spread out over only three venues, over 15 wineries and distilleries from the area will be represented. Plus, the next day has been nominated Wine Crawl Sunday, an event that invites vino lovers to visit all of Wellington’s farms.
Tickets: Festival entry costs R100p/p, and tickets can be bought via Webtickets.co.za (food and drink is for patrons’ own account).
Wellington | +27 (0) 21 873 4604

ATKV Oesfees (formerly the Franschhoek Oesfees) (22 March 2014)
Bringing the lush grounds of Solms-Delta wine estate to life on Saturday, 22 March 2014, this authentic annual harvest festival, which is now in its seventh year, aims to not only show appreciation for the bounty reaped from Franschhoek’s fields, but also to give thanks to the farm workers that made the harvest possible. First and foremost a music festival, the lively fiesta shows gratitude through song, featuring a number of local musicians performing a range of traditional Mzansi genres, including Cape jazz, langarm, boeremusiek and ghoema. More specifically, the line-up this year includes the likes of Robbie Wessels, Karen Zoid, Theuns Jordaan, Albert Frost and more. To extend the celebration of Boland culture, a medley of local dishes – think waterblommetjie bredie, lamb afval, koeksisters and snoek en patat – will be on sale alongside Solms-Delta wines. With plenty of entertainment for the tiny tots and a general atmosphere of joy, the Oesfees promises to be a particularly happy harvest celebration for all.
Tickets: Festival passes can be bought online via Plankton.mobi at R130p/p for adults and R30p/p for children aged 2 to 12 (kids younger than 2 are free); alternatively, a limited number of tickets will be sold at the gate on the day for R150p/p.
Delta Road | Groot Drakenstein | Franschhoek Valley | +27 (0) 21 874 3937

Bot River Barrels & Beards Harvest Celebration (5 April 2014)
A unique and quirky take on the conventional harvest festival, Bot River’s annual soiree – it takes place on Saturday, 5 April 2014 at Anysbos farm – combines grapes with the growing of facial fuzz in an end-of-season celebration like no other. Throughout the harvest period, local winemakers toss out the razor and sprout their best beards to be paraded and judged at the yearly fair, and hence the April do is a showcase of both finely groomed whiskers and finely made wine. Visitors can attend to both watch the contest and to sample various different Bot River estates’ vino straight from the barrels. Not to mention, the event also spoils guests with a three-course dinner plump with the flavours and produce of the area and live entertainment performed by a marimba band and an upbeat boereorkes. It may not be the most well recognised of the Winelands destinations, but Bot River certainly puts itself on the map with this unusual hairy jubilee.
Tickets: Tickets cost R270p/p and can be booked by contacting Nicolene Heyns on the number below. There are only 200 spots, so early reservations are essential.
The Old Shed | Anysbos Farm | Swartrivier Road | Bot River | +27 (0) 82 852 6547

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Read more about another seasonal Western Cape pastime: strawberry picking in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

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