Moody, pewter clouds swirl around the jagged mountain peaks. The sun is sinking, but the light is still bright enough to see the patchwork of green and stone rising up the mountainside. The Webersburg mountain face surrounds us like a crest of a wave, giving life to animals, plants, insects, fruit – and us.
Lockdown has been tough. With AJ being so ill with pneumonia and the ceaseless cycle of sitting at a computer, day after day; it started to become difficult to believe a beautiful world still existed outside our covid-free bubble. Enter: Webersburg, our very own version of Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds.
Mini Breaks at Webersburg
An eagle swoops above the vineyards as the evening breeze swishes through an old oak tree alongside the dam rippling under the same breeze. The excited shrieks of a toddler, running away from mother, pierces the evening air at twilight. The smell of braai and wisps of smoke puff past from the cottage below as the man of the house prepares dinner for his family.
We’re locked behind remote controlled security gates. Safety is a concern in South Africa, but we haven’t felt as safe and free in so long.
Thoughts of dinner interrupt our vineyard viewing. The self-catering cottage has modern amenities including a stove, microwave, fridge, toaster and braai (upon request). However, there are curfews in place and we’ve got dinner decisions to make before it gets too late. Stellenbosch, here we come.
Popping To Town
“There’s no Covid in Stellenbosch”. The restaurants are full. The bars are overflowing into the streets. It feels unsafe and we’re nervous. Calling the Hussar Grill from the car, we’re pleasantly surprised when the loved staple restaurant can accommodate us at our own table.
We splash out on a steak dinner with all the sides and sauces. Butternut, creamed spinach, deep-fried onion rings – the good, thick slab kind not the grated version, (which belongs nowhere but on a salad) and two ice-cold Coca Colas. Not eating my own cooking after so many months is such a joy! With a full tummy and a smile hidden behind our masks, we head back to the farm to settle in for the evening.
I’ve already learnt that the couches are deceptively comfortable. The wine in the fridge is available on an honesty bar tab and the TV has DSTV (which we couldn’t get to work – again! Clearly we have satellite gremlins!). But we don’t care. I have my Kindle, a beautiful art history coffee table book and a large king-sized bed. Weekend – you are welcome.
Mornings at Webersburg
The following morning I’m woken up by bright sunlight glaring through the bedroom curtains. I’m happy I’m not hungover! If we had attended a wedding the night before, this would have been an intrusive awakening!
Just as I make peace with the light, I hear a knock at the door. Do I hear a knock at the door? It knocks again. “Oh God! What to throw on?” Looking in the bedroom’s full-length mirror (super helpful had this been a wedding occasion), I realise I look like a troll. Curly hair in a total mess, puffy face, but I’m just going to have to trust whoever’s at the door isn’t anyone to impress. I pull back the drapes – it’s breakfast!
The messenger greets me as warmly while handing me paper bags containing crisp grapes, a Darling yoghurt, bran flakes, cheese, a freshly baked croissant and the announcement that a warm breakfast awaits down the hill in the restaurant.
AJ is still asleep as I decide to do the unusual and go for a walk. Pulling on my trainers, stepping into the light and stomping down the hill, I get as far as the edge of the dam only to realise the whole cottage plot is securely fenced in. Back up the hill I climb before finding AJ at the front door admiring the views. “Breakfast is served my love! I’m going to walk down, I’ll meet you there!”
Walking down the winding brick road I can’t help look into the golden field for the rafter of turkeys, surprisingly – not Christmas lunch but rather the owner’s pets! The edges of the road are lined with beautiful roses; vibrant coral reds, blood reds, mauve, white and pink. They adorn each room and each dining room table in the restaurant fresh from the garden.
I turn down the lawn and skirt the wall of the manor house, cruising along the 150 m long path between the old farmhouses, each more than 200 years old, and under the cool shade of the old oaks. As I arrive, AJ drives into the car park.
Brunch is Served
It’s a birds’ paradise at Webersburg. Geese waddle around the lawns. Fish eagles cry across the valley. Jacky hangmen fly from wire to wire as Egyptian geese honk around the dam shoreline. Maintenance men sail out across the dam to keep the water healthy as chairs for wine tasting are placed under the 200-year-old oak trees.
I’m the quirky customer who brought along my own gluten-free toast. Sadly, taste no longer overrules the inconvenience, but the kitchen is more than happy to use my pre-toasted bread for the croquet madame I order from their breakfast menu. It was a tough call with so many absolute classics like a farm breakfast, waffles and Eggs Benedict, but the pulled pork wins me over. As we enjoy our breakfast, we watch nature at play through the large restaurant windows.
Wine Tasting at Webersburg
Before we head back to the cottage for a luxurious shower (we all know – not all showers are made equally!) we squeeze in a wine tasting with Florence, our jovial hostess. Webersburg produces delicious white, rose and red wines, which we taste while learning about the history of the farm and how the wines reflect the land. It’s an easy past time that may see the day disappear if you’re not careful.
The whites are on the green grass side for those who like a crisper wine. I’m a Chenin drinker so I was very impressed with the rose. It may be rosé all day for some, but not for me – until now. The Webersburg rosé is unexpected and delicious. The reds are also a range of delectable hues, scents and tastes, which we experience through Florence’s expertise.
The sound of a working tractor chugging past, the birds tweeting, the neighbour’s dog faintly barking in the background; the dimension of the vineyards against trees, against mountains, against blue skies, all pin me down. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here and keep pretending that the world is right again.
It’s time for us to say goodbye to Webersburg, but I refuse to let it go easily as I sit on the edge of the dam. I can feel my shoulders starting to burn as dragonflies zoom around and bees land on the short purple flowers around me. Swimming in the dam is allowed, but I discover this too late to exercise the freedom, a great regret but good reason to return to the exquisite farm.
But, at least, I’ve been reminded that beauty does still exist, that there is still wonder and magic in the world. Wearing a mask and keeping safe is worth it just for these farm visits. The most important reminders of 2020: nature, family, freedom.
Find Webersburg on the Annandale road on the east side of Stellenbosch. It’s conveniently located just around the bend from Hidden Valley, Ernie Else and Uva Mira. Each cottage is semi-detached so we recommend booking at the same time as friends and family to have a joint experience. (We didn’t have neighbours when we visited.)
Thank you to Webersburg for having us, we can’t wait to return!