The original start venue for the FNB Wines2Whales Lourensford is one of the most iconic destinations for mountain biking in South Africa. With the Switchback the estate has the opportunity to wow riders like never before.

Lourensford is one of South Africa’s oldest estates. That said it has only been an active wine farm, in recent times at least, for about as long as it has hosted mountain biking trails. Though it has always been a world-renowned fruit farm wine making was only revived when Dr Christo Wiese purchased Lourensford in 1998.

There may well in fact be MTB trails which pre-date the winery then. Though none so old are used in FNB Wines2Whales. For 2021 the Switchback riders are to be rewarded with a brand-new trail. Dubbed the Lourensford Ultimate it provides a 6-kilomtre long sweeping singletrack finale to the three days of racing.

Wine lovers will already be familiar with the estate’s spectacular wines. To that end, Lourensford was awarded Top Wine Estate in 2020 at the SA Terroir Wine Awards. Cellarmaster Hannes Nel, who has completed 3 FNB W2W races himself, does all of his riding on the estate.

“I am fortunate to work and live on Lourensford,” Nel explained, of how mountain biking influences his wine making philosophy. “The best way for me to monitor the vineyards is by bicycle. I am able to cover much more ground than I can in a vehicle, and I can cycle in between the rows to inspect the development of the grapes. Cycling brings me closer to the vines, and connects me to the soil from where our grapes are harvested.”

The best way to experience Lourensford’s wines is by booking a “Blind Tasting”. For the gurus among the challenge is to correctly guess at least 4 of the wines in the flight. If they manage to do so the tasting is free. Beyond the cellar and the mountain bike trails Lourensford is also home to clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing, a yoga studio and spa. Beer, vodka, coffee and chocolate connoisseurs are also provided with the opportunities to indulge on the farm, while meals are served at the Millhouse Kitchen, Coffee Roasting Company and in the famous weekend market.

 

Lourensford Wine Estate
Location: Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West
Website: https://lourensford.co.za
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00

 

Nestled in the Helderberg Basin, surrounded by an imposing range of peaks on three sides with False Bay across the plains to the south, Journey’s End is undoubtedly a fitting name for this fine estate.

Journey’s End is by no means the end for FNB Wines2Whales however. Located within the opening kilometers of the standard route and within the final 30 of the Switchback it is one of the farms which the event races through. Their wines are however a fitting way to celebrate any milestone.

The estate’s ethos is one driven by principles of conservation and corporate social responsibility. Not only did they start a food programme, under the Journey’s End Foundation banner, in 2020 but the farm also received WWF Conservation Champion status the following year. The same decomposed granite soils and the micro climate which provide Journey’s End with its unique terroir are also responsible for the evolution of endemic fynbos species. These, in turn, are visited by specialised insects and birds which can only exist in harmony with particular fynbos plants.

In honour of Journey’s End’s continued commitment to sustainable farming and conservation of their native fauna and flora the WWF recognised the estate with their Conservation Champion grade in early 2021. The commitment to sustainability does not end with organic matter, the estate has been run solely off solar energy, since 2014. Journey’s End is also WEITA (Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association) and IPW (Integrated Production of Wine) accredited, and the farm became fully Fairtrade certified from April 2017.

Their wines are made with progressive techniques, both in the vineyards and the cellar, by winemakers Leon Esterhuizen and Mike Dawson. One of Joureny’s End’s signature features is their use of amphorae and concrete eggs for fermentation. This results in a range of complex, classically elegant wines, which remain approachable and easy drinking.

Along with the estate’s Journey’s End range they also produce wines under the Mount Rozier, Identity and Gabb Family Vineyards labels. The farm is currently closed for wine tastings, but wines can be purchase online at www.journeysend.co.za/buy-now.

 

Journey’s End
Location: Journey’s End, Somerset West
Website: https://vergelegen.co.za
Opening Hours: Weekdays 08:30 to 16:00 and Weekends

 

When Vergelegen was established, in 1700, it was truly far from the Cape Colony. Now, 321 years later, it borders on the bustling heart of Somerset West but remains an oasis of wilderness in the Helderberg Basin.

Not only is Vergelegen at the heart of Somerset West, but it also at the heart of FNB Wines2Whales. It is one of the race’s ever-present hosts, having graciously given route access to mountain bikers since the first edition in 2009. In 2021 riders will be excited to note that the Switchback route does not include the imposing Vergelegen climb, but rather the trails undulate in a downhill trend from the farm’s eastern border towards its western marches.

On the race through Vergelegen mountain bikers should be on the look out for the estate’s celebrated wildlife, including bontebok and eland, as well as their free ranging Nguni cattle. While visitors to the heart of the estate can view one of the oldest and best kept examples of historic Cape Dutch architecture. The three-century old homestead with its white washed walls, thatched roof and ornate gables is an icon of the form.

For those looking for a less physical way, than mountain biking, of indulging in the beauty of Vergelegen the estate boasts historic gardens, the opportunity to book a picnic in the forests, meals at the Camphors at Vergelegen or Stables at Vergelegen resultants, and wine tastings. On the wines front, Vergelegen is renowned for their Brut MMV, a 100% Chardonnay dry sparkling wine.

Vergelegen’s wine tasting and restaurants are open seven days a week, from 08:30 to 16:00.
 

Vergelegen
Location: Vergelegen, Somerset West
Website: https://vergelegen.co.za
Opening Hours: Weekdays 08:30 to 16:00 and Weekends

 

Situated high on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains Idiom Wines boasts an absolutely spectacular view. From its restaurant and tasting room visitors look out across the Helderberg Basin, over False Bay and back at the sweeping curve of the Hottentots Holland Mountain Range.

A traditional final stop before taking on the Gantouw Pass portage Idiom Wines is without a doubt the estate with the most breath-taking view on the FNB Wines2Whales route.

Outside of FNB Wines2Whales the trails on the property are off limits to mountain bikers, but outdoors enthusiasts can visit for an immersive sensory walk in Idiom’s Varietal Sensory and Fynbos Gardens. The real reason for visiting though is clearly their spectacular wines and gourmet restaurant.

Though there is an a la carté and pizza menu available the best way to experience Idiom in all its glory is to book a 3-course dinning experience. Each dish is paired with a wine from the Idiom Collection. Thanks to the pandemic you can even order take-aways from the restaurant too.

Wine wise, Idiom specialises in Italian varietals. The estate’s first vineyards were planted in 1999 and features 19 varietals. Winemaker, Reino Thiart favours lesser seen single varietals and iconic classic blends. Along with the Idiom Collection range they also produce a limited edition 900 Series, the Heritage collection which reflects the owners’ Italian roots, and the Imperium range. Idiom wines are open for tastings, breakfast and lunches, Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 16:30.

 

Idiom
Location: Idiom, Somerset West
Website: https://idiom.co.za
Opening Hours: Weekdays 10:00 to 16:30 and Weekends/Public Holidays from 10:00 to 16:00