Tasting Heaven on Earth: Navigating the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route
Fancy a splash of world acclaimed Pinot Noir? Or perhaps a refined Chardonnay? Whichever your choice, you can do no better than those found in the little explored but much celebrated Hemel-en- Aarde valley. Just outside of Hermanus, this easily managed 20-km wine route with 15 farms makes for a perfect day in a terroir that not only produces our country’s best cool-climate wines but also offers some of the most dramatic views of the Overberg region.
But where to quaff your Pinot, Chard, Viognier and bubbles? Follow our guide below to make the most of your Hemel-en- Aarde (Heaven and Earth) wine tasting pilgrimage.
1. The Award-Winning Originals at Hamilton Russell Vineyards
As one of the Hemel-en- Aarde’s pioneering wine producers, Hamilton Russell needs
little introduction, accoladed as they are with an award list longer than your arm. A
thatched and cobwebbed cottage perched on the edge of a lake makes for an
ambient first stop from where to taste some of the region (and New World’s) finest
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pull up a seat by the fireplace in winter or stretch out on
the deck during sunnier days. Enjoy their light and bright Ashbourne range before
moving onto their own Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which you will undoubtedly
choose to take home, such is the elegance of this beautiful wine. They also produce
a gorgeous olive oil packaged in a wine bottle and a fynbos honey (perfect for pairing
with your purchased vino).
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm
Saturdays, 9 am – 1 pm
2. The Fynbos at Bouchard Finlayson
Clear your head with a stroll amongst the indigenous fynbos at Bouchard Finlayson.
With three different trails to choose from, one can expect to see rare specimens of
our Cape Floral kingdom, as well as their shy inhabitants (lucky hikers have seen the
Blue Crane and even the footprints of the Cape Leopard). Should you choose to
complete your visit with a wine tasting, the cellar offers nine wines to choose from,
six of which you can taste for R40 per person, either in their cellar (slightly chilly in
winter) or out on the veranda overlooking the vineyards. True oenophiles should
take note of their Vintage Tastings. Conducted daily, they showcase the excellent
maturation potential of their wines and come with a scrumptious cheese and
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm
Saturdays, 10 am – 1 pm
3. The Chapel on the Hill at Ataraxia
Church wine is not conventionally regarded as anything to shout about but Ataraxia
certainly makes for the exception. Meaning ‘serene state of calmness’, the tasting
lounge, built as a chapel in the traditional style of the Overberg region, has been
described as ‘one of the most spectacular and dramatic positions in the whole
world’. Soak in the heavenly views of the towering Babylonstoren mountain range
while sipping on their four wines from the comfort of one of their squashy couches.
We particularly enjoyed the Serenity blend. Described as a ‘Pinot with muscles’ this
unique combo of Pinotage, Pinot Noir and Cinsault is produced only by Ataraxia and
one other winemaker in the world.
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 4 pm
Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 4 pm
4. The Seven Course Pairing at Creation
Wine tasting can be hungry work and Creation unquestionably knows how to satisfy.
The jewel of the Hemel-en- Aarde valley, you cannot miss out of the excellent food
and wine pairing options offered by Carolyn and JC Martin – the duo behind this
absolute must. We’ve enjoyed their summer pairing menu and can confirm with lip-
smacking certainty that their winter menu is just as moreish. Served in chapters that
help to explain the fascinating story of Creation’s inception and growth, each course
melds the flavours of their exceptional wines with plates that delight the eyes and
palate in equal measure.
Guided by Leo, our wonderfully knowledgeable wine ambassador for the afternoon,
we enjoyed dishes that included the likes of an unusual passion fruit and pawpaw
jelly served on a crunchy nest of granola, leek and baby marrow before tucking into
pickled hake (a homegrown favourite) served with poppadum, sweetcorn and
coriander. The pear and peach nose of the Creation Chardonnay paired ideally with
the roasted pumpkin and smoked salmon dish, drizzled in a cosy reduction of
wintery cinnamon, chai tea, orange and butter, while the bright pink of the goats-
milk cheese, beetroot, raspberry and smoked duck breast, served with the Reserve
Pinot Noir looked almost too gorgeous to eat. The creamy gorgonzola, onion and
cauliflower soup, served with the luscious Merlot, is a fixture for a reason while the
bites of local Boerenkaas cheese, dipped into the gooey pot of fynbos honey, bee
pollen and truffle oil it’s served with makes for an indulgent ending to a glorious
experience you won’t soon forget. If you’ve got room for dessert don’t hesitate to
lob one (or two) onto your meal as they’re prepared daily and are all excellent.
Those visiting with little ones in tow will be pleased to know that Creation even
offers a Kids Surprise Pairing with juice, flavoured milk and healthy snacks. In fact,
their Seven Course Tasting Menu is just one of eight tasting options available as part
of their constantly evolving offering.
10 am – 5 pm
Booking for tasting menus is essential
5. The Pink Bubbles at Domaine Des Dieux
What better way to end the day than by popping a bottle of the area’s first and
finest MCC. The tin roofed shed, perched right at the pinnacle (and end) of the
Hemel-en- Aarde route opens to reveal a small but sweetly decorated tasting room
from where to enjoy Domaine Des Dieux's traditional Claudia Brut Méthode Cap
Classique and Rose of Sharon – a reverse blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20%
Chardonnay. Both bubblies have achieved multiple awards, both for their current
vintages as well as their older reserves that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
On sunny days, they spread picnic blankets (with accompanying picnic food) out on
the lawn and celebrate life and love (their wines named as such) in abundance.
1 September – 30 April:
Monday to Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm
Sundays, 11 am – 4 pm
1 May- 31 August:
Monday to Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm
6. The ‘One Stop Shop’ at The Wine Village
We can’t get enough of this gem of a wine shop, based right at the beginning of the Hemel-en- Aarde wine route. As a specialist store, Wine Village stock the best of not only the route you would have just come from but other acclaimed boutique South
African wines too! With wines from over 700 top South African Wineries, Estates and
Cellars, and daily tastings, you’re spoiled for choice. However, if you’re feeling a little
overcome, do ask for assistance. The staff are exceptionally helpful which is one of
the reasons why they’re constantly voted as one of SA’s top wine stores.
Monday to Friday, 9 am – 6 pm
Saturdays, 9 am – 5 pm
Sundays, 10 am – 3 pm
See the full Hemel-en- Aarde wine route here and make sure to arrange a designated
driver with our concierge team for your day out in this dreamy landscape.
Blog post by: Tarah Darge