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Dornier Wine Estate Uncorked
With a rich history, successful wine selection and bustling restaurant behind it, this Stellenbosch-based winery is distinguishing itself with new blends and experimental winemaking techniques
Coming up with a checklist for why you’d want to visit a first-class wine estate doesn’t exactly require much brain power: coming in at pole position is sampling quality vino of course, closely followed by wanting to see anything but gridlocked roads and attempts at gentrification (looking at you Woodstock); the bronze medal position belongs to acquiring some knowledge about the winemaking process, and finally, indulging in a tasty meal paired with one of the estate’s top varietals brings up the rear.
Well, with a visit to the Dornier wine estate in Stellenbosch you can cross off all of the above as swiftly as Uma Thurman eliminates her foes in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. And in addition to giving guests a second-to-none experience, the wine farm is also pushing to be at the forefront of the industry by experimenting with new blends and winemaking techniques.
The boutique winery, located just 45 minutes outside Cape Town, presents itself against the ragged folds of the Stellenbosch Mountains with three structures:
“Here, we combine 18th century, 19th century and 21st century architecture,” says Managing Director Raphael Dornier, who carries a rather famous family name (his grandfather Claude Dornier was a Swiss aviation pioneer and he had a hand in executing the first crossing of the African continent in a seaplane back in 1926).
More specifically, the late 19th-century homestead is now a popular weekend getaway and wedding venue, the 18th-century barn has been transformed into the Dornier Bodega restaurant and the 21st-century addition is now the state-of-the-art winery where all the estate’s signature varietals are produced.
The latter is an ultra-modern construction that is the farm’s most striking feature: its curved, slanted roof combines with the use of face brick and reflecting materials to blend creatively into the scenic surrounds, and juxtaposed against the heritage buildings around it, it is every bit a work of functional art (Side note: if you have an eye for detail, you’ll notice the shape of the winery’s roof is mimicked in the labels on the bottles). Inside you’ll find the estate’s resident winemaker Phillip Van Staden.
The upper Blaauwklippen Valley has provided all the fundamentals for the estate’s popular and award-winning varietals and blends, such as the Dornier Donatus White, which merges a complex Chenin Blanc with a rich Sémillon (a combination they pioneered in 2003); the Dornier Merlot with hints of plums, mint and roasted nuts; and a Cocoa Hill Sauvignon Blanc that claims notes ranging from mulberry and plum to subtle roasted oak and touches of vanilla and spice.
Making a reservation at the resident restaurant is also essential, as Bodega’s farm-style eatery has become a must-try lunch spot for locals and tourists alike. The seasonal menu offers individually priced mouth-watering dishes, but a different set menu can be prearranged for larger groups or private functions. But, if you want to get some exceptional value for money, the sunset tapas menu (available daily between 3pm and 5pm in Winter, subject to change in Summer) is the perfect option.
Thematically speaking, an all yellow Uma Thurman-inspired tracksuit would be the ideal ensemble for a trip to the Dornier Wine Estate, but realistically, any clothing will suffice as anything goes at this laidback winery. And perhaps, after ploughing through your checklist, you will be inspired to a start new one comprising a list ‘happy places’ and with the Dornier Wine Estate comfortably occupying the number one spot.
Tip: The Dornier Wine Estate is one of the few kid-friendly estates around and has an outdoor entertainment area to occupy your tykes while you enjoy the view of the Stellenbosch Mountains and nibble on some top-notch dishes from the Bodega restaurant.
The Bill: There is no entry fee for the estate, and cellar tours are cost R50p/p - bookings are essential though. In terms of meals, prices are not on the cheap side, but considering the quality and integrity of the food served, they are reasonable. The eatery is well-priced, with costs being quite significantly lower than many of Cape Town’s coastal establishments.
Want to know more about the tasty dishes on offer at Dornier? Here’s our review of the Bodega restaurant in Stellenbosch.
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