Coming this way, everyone in the car was silent as if overcome at the change of scenery from that which it had been in our respective cases, for seemingly endless weeks. Then, Johan said to no-one in particular, “I’ve taken so many pictures of that wind pump”. The lollypop structure in an open field whizzed by. “With wheat, with rainbows…” his voice trailed off.
This short trip was conceived as a re-discovery and we were champing at the bit to the return to the Riebeek Valley.
We pass the turnoff to Riebeeksrivier and briefly re-visit the happy memory of stoep-sipping a G&T at the home of Relihan Gin. That’s of course the way to the Mullineux & Leeu wine brand’s Swartland farm, Roundstone, too.
Over the ridge, the familiar view greets us that runs out from the kloof all the way to the Groot Winterhoek Mountains in the distance. Then, turning left after Kloovenburg Winery, there’s another sight before we make our first detour. Just past The Barn, a gap in trees and buildings provides a postcard glimpse across rooftops and fields with the century-old Dutch Reformed Church in the foreground. We turn into “Kasteel”, as locals differentiate the village from its Riebeek West neighbour.
There’s life about; people coming and going about their day’s things.
We circle the town square with the remains of its tennis court still hanging on, then past the tourism office, Crystal & Twine décor warehouse and little Panera Bakery & Bistro. We embrace an old tradition by grabbing a take-away coffee at Beans About Coffee, across the road from Bay Leaf & Thyme restaurant and The Biggest Little Market fruit & veg shop.
Not eager to rush to a stop, we take the long way round to our next destination and pass houses with interesting post boxes, lazy dogs and stoep couches.
We park in front of the La Parilla Latin Grill, whose owners no doubt relish the opportunity to return to full operation, along with neighbour Julien Debray’s Au Bouchon Rouge brasserie and others everywhere.
A light rain begins to fall so our walk is suddenly cut short and we duck into the incomparable Wine Kollektive shop for a chinwag with proprietor winemaker Anton Espost. Sam Rogers, co-owner of the Red Tin Roof restaurant down the road, pops in while we’re there to order some personal stock, “for those nights by the fire,” she says. We add a few bottles to our own account and head back out.
Back on the R311 that links Kasteel and West, we pass Flagship Brew; a blackboard at the front door proclaims: “We’re OPEN!”
Next stop for us though is the Riebeeck Valley Garden Centre or Die Boomhuis (The Tree House), so-called for the baobab around which the main building was designed. A relatively new addition to the area, the marvellous destination incorporates a handful of small businesses including a coffee shop, nursery, art gallery and deli. In the garden, we strike up a chat with Corné Pretorius, who co-founded the enterprise with André Beaurain. His apparent good spirits seem not too ruffled by the recent storm that split their Natal Fig tree.
To the wines in our boot are added a few plants, and we’re off. Again, we reminisce on passing Allesverloren (remember the wines, remember the weekends, remember the weddings!). At Pulpit Rock we pull up again for wine. Our last visit was a tad longer; we’d made time for walking the winery’s trail to the top of the Kasteelberg that rises behind it. The views are spectacular, but you’ll need to be fit, or at least have a few hours spare.
Further down the road, on the grounds of the PPC cement factory, is the place where Jan Smuts was born in May 1870. The small, white-walled place is now a museum open to visitors when regulations allow.
While on this side of town, we make another quick stop at the factory producing Swartland Rusks. It always seems appropriate to get it where it’s made, irrespective of price. Then, another slow cruise through the neighbourhoods follows. Trees and shrubs crowd in on beautifully restored period homes and new, more modern additions. Riebeek West has always been the less commercial part of town, but it’s no less pretty than its neighbour.
The occasional sign alerts us to the private gallery of an artist, and it reminds us how the valley is home to many and a vibrant art scene too. There’s the Solo Studios festival while some of the country’s most renowned artists residing in the valley including amongst others Hannetjie de Clerq, Emma Willemse, Philip Barlow, Anthony Harris, Wiehan de Jager and Solly Smook.
On the way back, Johan points out the Old Dalby, one of the town’s longtime and beloved eateries that’s also marketing like crazy on Facebook. Food stays on our minds as we make the two final stops with one of the region’s other big produce in mind – olives, celebrated annually during the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival, and through a number of retailers and visitor-friendly farms.
We re-stock at the Olive Boutique, owned by Derek and Susan van der Riet, which has a diverse range of extra virgin olive oils, cured table olives and olive pastes, along with skin and hair care products. Across the road, there’s Het Vlock Kasteel that sells olives in almost every conceivable (delicious) form.
Some re-packing of the boot is in order before we hit the road back home with one thing in mind: the Riebeek Valley is open for business and we’ll be back for more, soon.
For more …
About the region’s wine producers, go here https://swartlandwineandolives.co.za/swartland-wine-producers/
About the region’s olive producers, go here https://swartlandwineandolives.co.za/swartland-wine-olive-producers/
About general information, call the Swartland Wine & Olive Route on 022 487 1133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.