Winelands Without the Wine
The quacking is a pleasant background noise, but the Indian Runner ducks at Vergenoegd Wine Estate on the R310 to Stellenbosch aren't just there to create ambience.
Every morning the 1 000-strong web-footed crew forage for dune snails and worms in the vineyard to do their bit for eco-farming in the winelands.
"They walk up to two kilometres every day in search of food, allowing us to use minimal pesticides on the farm," says Nannie de Villiers Nieuwoudt, the estate’s marketing and sales manager.
And ducks are by no means the only wildlife you might encounter on a languid, wine-free weekend drive through the hills and valleys of Stellenbosch. At the eco-friendly Villiera Estate on the R304, you're as likely to bump into a black wildebeest as you are to spot a white-backed mousebird or a pin-tailed whydah.
The Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed through the tawny autumn vineyards, is a 220-hectare paradise that attracts a pleasing throng of birdlife to its dams and marshlands. While others are hunkered down in tasting rooms, you can appreciate the panoramic views of the mountains, no doubt training your camera lens on the giraffe, eland and kudu you encounter.
Alternatively, a horseback canter through the vineyards of Remhoogte,Morgenhof and Knorhoek affords you a very different view of the winelands.
If the idea of saddling up doesn't appeal, a personalised tour of the stables at Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm with the resident trainer lets you appreciate the sheer beauty of its world-class Saddlebred horses without setting foot in a stirrup. In this space, a contemporary palette of structural steel buffered with the warmth of grey-oiled timber cladding elevates it from an ordinary barn, and light through the high-level windows and massive central skylight forms a natural spotlight on the indoor arena.
In winter you can even try your hand at fly-fishing at one of the stocked dams at Eikendal on the R44, where the adrenaline rush of reeling in a handsome trout casts a fresh spin on your day. Best of all, the fully equipped fly-fishing store means you can get kitted out for a laid-back afternoon on the water's edge without too much advance planning.
And if you're in the mood to lace up your walking shoes, there are a number of excellent hikes on farms like Blaauwklippen,Waterford Estate and Hidden Valley, taking you through vineyards, forests, olive groves and coastal renosterveld.
Afterwards, there's a range of eateries (The Bakery at Jordan Wines on the Stellenbosch-Kloof Road is worth visiting for its excellent cheeseboards, charcuterie and salty caramel-chocolate tarts), cheeseries (Healey's at Lourensford Wine Estate produces naturally matured traditional farmhouse cheddar) and coffee roasteries to choose from for a post-walk refuel. And for those who feel they've earned a little more, indulge in a pampering session at the Delaire Graff Spa on Helshoogte Pass.
Better yet, if you're driving a state-of-the-art Mercedes-AMG S 63, ask for a gentle shoulder massage while you drive home. What better way to end a gorgeous day in the country?
For more inspirational things to do in your Mercedes-Benz, click here.