Dating back to 1690, Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved werfs (farm yards) in the Cape Dutch tradition. Surrounded by vineyards and orchards, it is situated in the Drakenstein Valley, on the slopes of the Simonsberg, between Franschhoek and Paarl, in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
A formal fruit and vegetable garden of botanical diversity, inspired by the Company's Gardens in Cape Town, supplies Babylonstoren's restaurant Babel with fruit and vegetables. The layout of this 8-acre (3.2 ha) working garden can be viewed here, and a comprehensive list of the 300 varieties of plants in the garden can be viewed here.
The accommodation at Babylonstoren comprises fourteen cottages, and guests have access to the entire farm, as well as to spa and gym facilities. The hotel and restaurant offer top-class facilities[according to whom?] within the comfortable atmosphere, amongst the simple daily rhythms of a working farm.
Also on the farm are vineyards, an extensive winery, a bakery, farm shop, smoke house and distillery.
Babylonstoren is about 60 km (37 mi) from the city of Cape Town in the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is approximately a 45-minute drive from Cape Town International Airport.
GPS co-ordinates are 33 49' 26.73" S 18 55' 39.08" E, and can be found on Google Maps
Directions to the farm can be downloaded here
The Drakenstein Valley was home to Khoisan for centuries. In 1692, when the borders of the Cape Colony expanded after the arrival of French Huguenots, the farm was granted by Governor Simon van der Stel to the burger Pieter van der Byl. He laid out the first vineyards and altered water courses to provide irrigation. After his first wife died, he got married to a woman called Hester Terwinkel in 1702. After his death in 1723 she continued to own and manage Babylonstoren. Nine years later in 1732, she an[clarification needed] additional grant at Babylonstoren and she used managers on her distant farms. At Baylonstoren her manager was Johannes Louw – the next purchaser.
After Terwinkel's death in 1743, Babylonstoren was sold by public auction to Johannes Louw, Terwinkel's manager of the farm.
In 1752 there were 12,000 vines that yielded 12 leaguers[clarification needed] of wine (enough to be carried by six ox wagons) a year. In the next three years he almost tripled the amount of vine plantings to 30,000. There was also a lot of wheat and some livestock.
The Simonsberg mountain forms part of the Table Mountain sandstone complex, consisting of layers of sandstone in various stages of geological metamorphosis.
The foothills sport fertile red soils after years of weathering of parent materials, where clay intermingles with fine sand content. Along with organic matter, it provides an environment with good water retention capacity for vines to establish a deep root system.
Vineyard altitudes on the Simonberg range from 150 to 600 m (490 to 1,970 ft) above sea level, providing a range of different micro-climates. This variation results in vineyards producing fruit with distinct flavour differences, lending more blending options to the cellar master.
The Simonsberg area enjoys wet but moderate winters with an average annual rainfall of about 750 mm (30 in), and a warm, dry summer. Combining with vigorous wind, stress conditions may occur during the ripening stage of grapes. Inventive vineyard practises can turn these to advantage in grape berries with thicker skins, yielding higher flavour and tannin levels. Managed with flair, the Simonsberg terroir is excellent[according to whom?] for producing exceptional wines.
- Harris, Stewart. The Story of a Drakenstein farm. 2007