In addition to your very special Hamilton Russell Vineyards, what are three other spots in the Valley that no visitor should miss out on? In terms of wine production, the Hemel-en-Aarde area is divided into three wine appellations: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (both geographically in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (just over the watershed in the next valley). Wine interested visitors should visit at least one property in each of the three appellations. If not Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Newton Johnson in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Ataraxia in Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge.
What sets this Valley apart from the rest? Unusually close to the sea, we are at closest only 1,500 meters from the cool Atlantic - and an area of unusual beauty, hence the name Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth). It is surrounded by nature reserves and is the place in the Cape for quality Pinot noir.
Is there any particular experience that is available by invitation only? Lunch with Anthony and I in our home Braemar, following a tasting in the Hamilton Russell Vineyards barrel cellar.
When you and Anthony feel like popping out for a casual meal, where do you go and what is your favourite item on the menu? In Hermanus (only 10 minutes away), Bientangs Cave to enjoy a bottle of Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc and snoek pate, followed by grilled line-fish. In the Valley, chicken pies at the Plaas Kombuis on a rainy day, or on Friday night, steaks at B’s @ La Vierge with a bottle of Ashbourne.
And for special occasions? Where in the Valley would you book and what would you order? The Restaurant at Newton Johnson in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley or Origins @ The Marine in Hermanus. Both have such interesting menu’s that we always try to order something different.
Which is the most picturesque walk in the Valley? There are many walking trails through Fernkloof Nature Reserve, but our favourite is along Rotary Way and then the top of Hamilton Russell Vineyards connecting to paths on Fernkloof. It is also really beautiful to stroll along the Cliff Path, especially over whale season.
Are there any artist studios in the Valley to visit? Not really other than the artist Gillian Hahn who works from a small studio gallery on Southern Right. There are quite a few galleries in Hermanus and our favorites are the Walker Bay Art Gallery and Rossouw Modern gallery.
Are there any shops to visit? The Wine Village at the turn-off to the Hemel-en-Aarde Road showcases an extensive collection of South African wines and the owners Paul and Cathy are always there to offer advice and have a daily selection of wines available for tasting. They also have a lovely selection of local olive oils and other condiments, cheese and charcuterie.
Is there anywhere to overnight, should someone want to make a weekend of it? There are lovely cottages available to rent on Sumaridge, High Season stud farm, and Spookfontein.
What is your most memorable Hemel-en-Aarde Valley moment? Getting engaged at the top of Hamilton Russell Vineyards overlooking the sea, with a bottle of Christal 1996, foie gras and caviar!