Three kilometres outside Tulbagh along the Winterhoek road on a rise stands the majestic De Oude Drostdy, designed by French-born architect Louis Michel Thibault. Gracious in proportions and flanked by oak trees and iceberg roses, it welcomes with a wide flight of stairs into formal rooms featuring high, yellowwood ceilings and flaunts with a fabulous collection of art and antiques. It is one of five museums in Tulbagh – the others being De Oude Kerk, the Pioneer House, a Victorian period house and the Earthquake museum – one might even say it is the jewel in our crown of heritage buildings.
In order for a town to be proclaimed as such in the good old bad old days, it needed to have a church and a magistrate’s court in place. Tulbagh is the fourth oldest town in South Africa (after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam); our museum church was built in 1756 (extended in 1795) and De Oude Drostdy (magistrate’s court) in 1806. Later the magisterial district was moved to Worcester and, no longer needed as a courthouse, the building was sold by Lord Charles Somerset into private hands. In the course of time it fell into disrepair but happily was salvaged and lovingly restored by Sir Meiring and Lady Beck, including having the original coat of arms of Governor Rijk Tulbagh (after whom the town is named) reproduced from Holland.
The magnificent manor house has withstood the test of time – including the great storm of 1822, the ravages of fire in 1934 and even the momentous earthquake of 1969. Today it is home to Drostdy-Hof wines, inspired by the legacy of impeccable craftsmanship and passionate dedication to the preservation of heritage. For a mere R20 one may wander through the vaulted rooms breathing of yesteryear and then, descending via a stairwell hewn into the rock of the foundations, sample the range of wines by candlelight in what used to be the old gaol beneath.
The Drostdy plays benign host to events and festivals, it is also very pleasant to enjoy a bottle of its finest on the garden terrace behind. Leaving, one cannot help goggling at the breath-taking view from the veranda across the valley to the Saronsberg… what a quality experience!
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run
John Keats surely knew a thing or two about this lovely season…
Tulbagh is, of course, beautiful in every season of the year. This year, however, we locals are particularly looking forward to a softening of the harsh summer drought and the occasional weak cold front pushing tentacles of cloud through the poorte. Our hearts leap when we feel the north-west (rain-bearing) wind freshen and the drop in temperature is just as welcome, as is the greening of the grasslands.
The harvest from the fertile soils of our Valley of Abundance is in; our winemakers are eagerly anticipating the new wines of the 2016 vintage and hardworking farmers can turn their attention to more mundane housekeeping tasks and perhaps, depending on the summer’s yield, begin to think of taking a well-deserved holiday themselves…
Visitors to the valley can revel in the crisp champagne weather (sorry, we’re not allowed to call it that, but pssst! do you know you can enjoy a fascinating cellar tour at our very own House of Krone as well as taste their heavenly vintage MCC wines for free!). Energy revives after the long, hot summer and a gentle hike in the foothills of the Winterhoek mountains at Murludi or to the Waterfall (which may actually start running) Reserve now seems vastly more appealing, not to mention a magical horseback ride through the glorious autumnal shades of the orchards and vineyards.
Why not try a self-drive ‘tastes of Tulbagh’ tour – alternatively bikes may be hired from Detour or Vindoux. Try award-winning olives and oils at Oakhurst, cheese at Kimilili, artisanal bread from the Amazi House of Bread, handmade chocolates at Moniki, traditional bakes, preserves and dried fruit from the Home Industry shop and wonderful wine from an array of more than a dozen cellars. All you need bring is a receptacle to collect your preferred goodies and a blanket to park off for a picnic in the Community Gardens in historic Church Street.
Those with especial forethought could organise a picnic hamper from Readers Restaurant or the deli at Vindoux and simply collect it!