Apart from the weather, taking your kids around wine farms in winter has much to recommend it.
Cash-conscious parents can take advantage of the many winter specials both at cellar doors and in restaurants, the queues and crowds are considerably reduced meaning fewer boring delays whilst your wine or food is fetched and let’s face it – it’s not like our winters are exactly harsh is it, which means that there are a surprising number of sunny days when you can forget the leaking roof and the blankets at home and just enjoy yourself.
Here are a few farms which I enjoy visiting in winter with kids. Some of them are more suitable to the sunnier days, others are great if the weather is awful, although do keep an eye on smaller kiddies as many wine farms have open fires in winter.
Kleine Zalze – perhaps not top of mind for most people when it comes to kid-friendly, but I love visiting here in winter. If it’s nice weather, there is a little jungle gym at the bottom of the hill and if not, then the staff are remarkably tolerant and friendly and there is space to sit and colour in. But my main reason for visiting here in winter is to have the chance to eat at Terroir – I can’t afford it at other times, but I spend most of the year dreaming of Chef Michael Broughton’s oxtail and it’s great to take advantage of their winter specials.
Blaauwklippen – good options here for both wet and dry days. If it’s wet, the tasting room is spacious with plenty of seating for bored kids whilst parents work their way through the wines. If the kids are feeling brave, they can wander round the carriage museum (it scares the life out of me personally!) and if you go at a weekend, their Family Market is held undercover with plenty of things to look at, eat and drink. If it’s nice weather, there is oodles of space and a jungle gym to play on.
Haskell Vineyards – again a good option for playing both inside and out. If it’s nice, there is a jungle gym and secret woodland walks, if it’s not nice, there is a decent-sized lounge-y bit away from the main tasting counter where kids can draw pictures or play on their parents’ phones. Food-wise, it’s always good and the staff are warm and cheerful.
Laborie – newly-revamped and very family-friendly options abound at Laborie. If it’s wet, despatch the family off to the Lazy Days Market which is held undercover and features a wide range of food, wine, beer and crafts. The tasting room is a little small for anything other than sitting at the table and behaving and the restaurant would call for some decorum on rainy days as well, but the staff are very friendly and kind and if it’s a nice day – say farewell to your kids for a couple of hours on the jungle gym, boule pit and lawns.
Glen Carlou – lots of interest and entertainment here for all ages. If it’s nice, then there’s a jungle gym outside along with lovely fynbos gardens to play in. If it’s not nice weather, there is a bunch of funny-looking pictures on the wall for you to giggle over (that’ll be the Hess Modern Art Collection) and a separate couch area with low tables and chairs for sitting and drawing pictures on. Walking over the glass floor is also very scary-cool and the restaurant is adaptable and friendly for small appetites.
Dunstone – every family I know is eagerly waiting to see what’s going to happen at the Stone Kitchen which was every parents’ dream destination until chef Johan left last month. The tasting room is inside the restaurant and not very big. Outside was perfect for families with a jungle gym and ducks to be fed, but if it was rainy, the van Schalkwyks had a comfy sofa inside, complete with books, games and a smiley lady whose job was to keep an eye on your family. Really, really hope this continues under the new regime – consider this article a very strong hint!!
Allée Bleue – there are so many facets of this business, it would be difficult for a child not to be amused here! Jungle gyms, bouncy castles, large lawns and quacking ducks provide entertainment if the weather is nice, but if not, and you’re having lunch, there is a separate room with videos, colouring books and other entertainment for the family whilst you sit back, relax and drink wine.
Jason’s Hill – possibly a bit off the beaten track for many people, but I cannot think of a wine valley I’ve enjoyed more than the weekend we spent in Slanghoek last year. Lovely wines up and down the valley, all at bargain prices and if you end up at Jason’s Hill, your kids will forgive you for dragging them in and out of tasting rooms all day. Lots of interesting birds and monkeys to look at if the weather is nice, and if not, then the restaurant is the place to be with its separate kids’ room full of toys. Better for girls than boys, but massively better than nothing at all!
Nitida – if you go and visit this winery on the weekend, there’s every chance your child will pick up a playmate or two from amongst the Veller children who live on and roam around the farm. The barrel cellar cum tasting room is interesting for kids, albeit a bit small for much adventure, but if the weather is nice, there is plenty to do outside. Another attraction is the miniature airplane club which comes and flies cool planes at the weekends.
Groot Constantia – you can spend a day at this place whatever the weather, and your family is sure to have a good time. Indoor attractions include the manor house itself and the museums out the back, whilst outdoor attractions basically involve huge amounts of grassy space in which to run and run and run. The Jonkershuis restaurant is cheerfully and efficiently family-friendly and is well-used to catering to lots of Constantia mommies with babychinos on tap.
That’s my top ten – unless you know any better! If so, tell me below.