The grand dame that is Val du Charron Wine and Olive Estate dramatically welcomes me as I navigate a brief dirt road just outside the town of Wellington, before entering the majestically welcoming drive. I get the sense that, as I enter the grounds, she ever so slightly nods her head in a time-honoured acknowledgement of a sojourning traveller.
It’s late on a Monday afternoon and my friend Kerry and I have just arrived at the second stop on our Cape Winelands Tour. If you missed why we are touring the Cape Winelands, and what it is that we are in search of, see my first post in the series here. A deep feeling in my gut instinctively teases me with hints of the experiences we are about to embark upon at Val du Charron.
Taking pride of place in the Bovlei Valley overlooking the Groenberg mountains, with the infamous Bainskloof Pass to the east, Val du Charron offers 4-star guesthouse and 5-star luxury accommodation, based in the Coach House. This working farm, lovingly curated by owners Catherine and Stuart Entwistle, only the fifth family to hold title over this property, retains ties to the land and legends from which it has taken form, since being proclaimed in 1699.
Since purchasing the property in 2006, Catherine and Stuart have worked tirelessly to restore a then somewhat neglected farm, back to its rightful place of prominence in the valley. What they have achieved in this relatively short period, both in facilities on the estate as well as on the land, is impressive. My first insight into understanding that Val du Charron is driven by a relentless passion, takes form.
The next day we spent time with Val du Charron winemaker, Rosco Lewis. We started by exploring the property and the vineyards, fortunate to have our Ford Ranger Wildtrak to navigate the farm terrain. Rosco shared his passion for viticulture with us, making for many interesting and informative conversations in the heart of Val du Charron.
While we adventured through the vineyards, Rosco shared the story of the Bainskloof Pass toll keeper who granted free passage to travellers riding a horse with four white legs. Many failed attempts by disingenuous travellers to ensure their steads indeed had the required four white legs, brought down the wrath of the toll keeper upon them. It is said that, to this day, you can still hear the sound of horses hooves in the pass. This local legend lends its name to the boutique blend Four White Legs, one of three in the Val du Charron Theatre of Wines offering.
But the Theatre of Wine is more than just a collection of blends, it is also a wine tasting experience that won Val du Charron the title of Most Innovative Wine Tasting Experience in 2015. Hosted by the Black Countess, yet another local legend in the Bovlei Valley and second blend within the offering, this experience is a must when visiting Val du Charron. Theatre and wine do good friends make! Be sure to see my video below for more on this experience.
Returning from our tour of the farm, Kerry and I headed to the Cellar Door, the private tasting room at Val du Charron, in the company of Rosco.
Rosco continued to pour out his knowledge and passion during our wine tasting, taking us through the Theatre of Wines selection. A masterclass in swirling revealed that, like tennis elbow, swirler’s elbow is a real thing. See me in action experiencing swirler’s elbow, and its effects, in the video below!
We ended our day, still in the company of Rosco, taking a short road trip up Bainskloof Pass, where we discovered the tiny (and I mean tiny) Bainskloof Village. In what felt like a separate dimension in time, we eagerly explored this quaint village, engaging a local in conversation. Again, more on the video below!
After a long day spent exploring, learning, sampling and laughing with Rosco, a further insight into the essence of that which is Val du Charron takes shape in my contemplative mind. Here exists a reverence for the Bovlei Valley, complete with its characters and legends, which runs so deep as to be incorporated into the very DNA of Val du Charron.
In this frame of mind, Kerry and I retired to our 5-star luxury suites at the Coach House, eager to make use of our private plunge pools to cool down from the hot summer sun. No expense has been spared in these finely appointed rooms, which gloriously frame the Bovlei Valley below as I contemplate life, love and the universe from the patio off my room.
I started our final day at Val du Charron in an early morning chat to Catherine Entwistle, owner of the estate. Ever willing to share her obvious passion for the estate and the business of wine making, we spent a wonderful time together discussing the farm and the community surrounding it. More of our conversation is included in the video below.
A quick turn at The Spa at Val du Charron for some pampering followed by lunch at the Local Grill on the estate, brought our time at Val du Charron to an end.
Packing my Sealand Gear luggage into the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, I was struck by a sense of what I can only describe as familiarity; in a good, homely kind of way. Over the past few days, Val du Charron had become a home, if only for a short while. Certainly, a fine home in terms of accommodation, but my feelings ran deeper. Val du Charron felt homely more for the passion, love and connection to the space in time it occupies. An estate with family at its core and evidenced in every one of my experiences on its fine lands.
If asked to distill Val du Charron into one word, it would be experience. From the very moment of my first sighting of the estate, to exploring the vineyards and wine tasting, to the many conversations and time spent with Catherine and the view of the Groenberg Mountains from my private plunge pool, Val du Charron has been all about the experience. In ways that a good host understands and in ways that flow from the very lifeblood of an ethos that has restored Val du Charron as the Grand Dame of the Bovlei Valley.
I could not possibly have put into this post the full essence of my time at Val du Charron, so I made this little video in the hope of further sharing the experiences Kerry and I were blessed to have on the estate, with you.
Our Val du Charron experience was made possible by the friendly folks at Thompsons Holidays, who seamlessly arranged every detail. Thompsons bulk buying power means your trip, to literally anywhere, can be booked directly with them and covers all aspects of your holiday, from flights, car hire and accommodation. A Thompsons package translates into savings, leaving you with more to enjoy on your holiday. Go on, put them to the test! Thompsons Holidays have a deal to get you to Val du Charron Wine and Olive Estate, including flights and car hire, right here.
Wishing you as special a time at Val du Charron as I was privileged to experience. Be sure to share your thoughts and pictures on social media with me!