I love to go on wine tours. This love/student-habit started while I studied at Stellenbosch and continued when I lived/worked in Paarl for 4 years after my studies. When I moved back to Swellendam this was one of the pass times that I was sad to leave behind. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of wine farms relatively close to Swellendam in the Bonnievale, Robbertson and Barrydale valleys, but I wanted a wine farm in my own valley. When can I classify a wine farm as "in my valley"? Less than 30 minutes' drive or +- 30km. This is not a need that is necessary for an organism (me) to live a healthy and fulfilling life, but is this too much to ask? Apparently not because I now have two.
Technically only one (which is enough) but I am going to allow myself to have two. The extra one that I am allowing myself to have is Sijnn vineyard and winery. At 39km from Buffeljagsrivier (where I farm) it is a bit too far to technically be in "my valley". And it is on the other side of the river which makes it the wrong side of the valley. Technically. But who has a wine farm where he can cross the river on a hand-pulled pont (ferry) to get there? No-one in Stellenbosch or Paarl.
The other true gem of a wine farm (situated in my valley) is Jan Harmsgat. Jan Harmsgat is located only 24km from Swellendam and less than 20 minutes' drive, on the R60 between Swellendam and Ashton. Jan Harmsgat have only started offering wine tastings to the public in the past 4 years. When we arrived there the first time the historic grandeur and beauty of the farm and farm house (now serving as 5 star guest accommodation) almost made us feel under dressed for the visit. But what surpasses even the 5 star luxury on this farm is their hospitality. After 4 visits in the past 6 months I can assure you that Jan Harmsgat is one of the friendliest places to visit in any valley with a hospitality I thought was lost in a previous era.On arrival you are greeted at your vehicle and escorted to the restaurant next to the pecan nut orchard.
You have a choice of dining inside the restaurant, just outside the restaurant or in the pecan orchard. During the winter they have big movable fireplaces for keeping warm outside and in summer time there are big umbrellas and the shade of the orchard trees protecting you from the sun. I do not know much about Pecan nuts but we have not visited once that our boys could not pic nuts from the trees or find some lying around the trees - even in winter when the trees have no leaves and supposedly no nuts. Sadly after 4 visits my boys still call them coconuts. The orchard floor is covered with grass and perfect for children to run around and play while the parents enjoy a wine tasting. Jan Harmsgat's wine are called single-block wines, which means that a cultivar may not exceed more than six hectares. This emphasizes that their main aim is quality and not quantity. The wine tasting are done in style and not rushed. The staff presenting it is well informed and can answer any question you might have.
The restaurant continues the experience of indulgence, quality and hospitality. The food reminds you of something that the owner might have enjoyed in 1723. It is the type of food that impresses visually and on the pallet. This is done while still being edible and filling for 6 & 7 year old boys. Which means it will be edible and filling for most grown men as well. On our visit the dessert options were traditional malva pudding, pecan nut pie or ice cream. Divinely presented.
Apparently Jan Harmsgat's name is the corrupted version of the original Jan Harmansz Schat - which means Jan's treasure. On your visit you will be able to experience this treasure yourself and I am proud that this farm is located in "my valley".
To avoid disappointment be sure to make a reservation before visiting Jan Harmsgat.
Phone: +27 (0)79 207 0777
Do not miss:
- Wine Tasting
- Sunday lunch specials
- Picnic basket under the trees