South Africa's Wine Country

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La Residence looks out over acres of vineyards and mountains.
La Residence looks out over acres of vineyards and mountains.

Savvy oenophiles know that plenty of world-class vineyards are within an hour’s drive of Cape Town in Western Cape Province. Those looking for an over-the-top wine-themed excursion can head out to the winelands in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, where two luxury estates are top picks for a getaway of a few hours or a few days.

In the town of Stellenbosch, the Delaire Graff Estate is a great pick for luxury escapes from the city: It has a guest helipad with space for three helicopters and recently joined Relais & Chateaux.

La Residence’s Villa 4 has two bedrooms, both with direct access to the pool terrace.
La Residence’s Villa 4 has two bedrooms, both with direct access to the pool terrace.

This is a perfect pick for serious wine aficionados. In the Wine Lounge, which has a large fireplace and outdoor seating, guests can sample the vintages with wine tutors who provide insight and context. (Be sure to try the award-winning Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.) Top Tip: Group tastings and tours can be arranged, but these require reservations. For those who want to see neighboring wineries, the Estate can organize private guided wine tours and meetings with local vintners. Barrel tastings can also be arranged (where allowed). For something really special, ask for a picnic at Leopard’s Landing, which looks out over the vineyards, the valley and the mountains.

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Activities at the Estate can include helicopter or hot-air balloon tours, wine tasting on horseback, and hiking or cycling excursions.

Accommodations at Delaire are rather exclusive, with just 10 lodges for overnight guests. Couples will want to book one of the four garden-facing Deluxe Lodges or the four vineyard-facing Luxury Lodges, while families will want to nab one of the larger two-bedroom lodges. The top pick is the Owner’s Lodge, which can accommodate up to four adults and has a real log fireplace and views of the Stellenbosch Valley, Table Mountain and the Estate vineyards. If that’s not available, the Presidential Lodge also has two bedrooms and looks out over the mountains and the vineyards.

Luxury travel advisors should reach out to Front of House Manageress Anita Niedinger ([email protected]; 011-27-21-885-8160) or General Manager Jonathan Lithgow ([email protected]) with any special requests.

Continuing east (be sure to hire a driver for transfers! Or book a helicopter for top views!), the town of Franschhoek is another popular wine destination, and is also an easy drive from Cape Town or Stellenbosch. In Franschhoek, La Residence (www.laresidence.co.za), an intimate (as in 11 suites and five villas) hotel, is in the middle of a private 30-acre estate with lots of vineyards and plum orchards.

This is a top destination for foodies: Head Chef Lennard Marais changes his menus daily based on what’s seasonal and fresh, and many of the ingredients used are sourced from the estate’s gardens and orchards. Serious gourmands, however, will want to try the Chef’s Table experience: Guests spend time sourcing ingredients with Marais from local suppliers and forage in the La Residence gardens and orchards before participating in an interactive cooking demonstration for dinner.

All meals are served in a variety of locations, such as the sheltered “Persian alley” verandah (good for looking out over the palm tree-lined courtyard and surrounding mountains). Inside, ask for a table by the dining area’s fireplace on cooler evenings.

Delaire Graff’s Presidential Lodge has top views of the Simonsberg Mountain Range and the Estate vineyards.

Delaire Graff’s Presidential Lodge has top views of the Simonsberg Mountain Range and the Estate vineyards.

Good to know: While one table is left available for locals, guests have seating preference for all meals, so no need to make reservations. Even better, guests can decide on a whim if they want to dine at the Estate or head into Franschhoek to explore the local restaurants.

Guests can use the hotel as an all-inclusive bed-and-breakfast, with accommodations, breakfast, Wi-Fi, snacks, laundry, access to a mini-bar, local beverages, house wines and return transfers into Franschhoek included—everything, in other words, except lunch and dinner, which guests can take in town or on-site for a little bit extra.

Head Concierge Lee Ferreira ([email protected]; 011-27-21-876-4100) can arrange all kinds of customized experiences—helicopter wine tours (like Delaire, La Residence has a private helipad), culinary tours, interactive cooking courses and guided mountain trail walks are popular picks.

Good to know: The hotel can also arrange express walk-throughs for customs and immigration, and VIP guests can get close protection officers and private airport transfers.

Delaire Graff’s restaurant serves seasonal fare indoors and al fresco.

Delaire Graff’s restaurant serves seasonal fare indoors and al fresco.

The most popular rooms at La Residence are the superior rooms: The Frangipani Suite has a bed on a heated marble plinth and a bathroom that evokes Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors; the Disa Suite has a four-post bed and a balcony overlooking the pool; the Huguenot Suite has a private balcony that overlooks the vineyards; and the Maharani Suite has Indian décor, a built-in bed and two balconies.

Families and groups will want to book the Villas, which vary in size from one to three bedrooms, and two of the Villas can be combined across a central courtyard for larger groups. Villa 5 has three bedrooms—one with a king bed, one that can have a king or two queen beds, and one with two queen beds and a private shower (good for a security detail or nanny).

All 11 rooms of La Residence can be booked for an exclusive group. Good to know for families: The hotel welcomes kids ages 12 and above, unless it is booked exclusively, in which case younger guests can come as well.

Reach out to Central Reservations Manager Wendy Jack ([email protected]; 011-27-15-793-0150) or General Manager Edward Morton ([email protected]) or Deputy General Manager Nick Solomon ([email protected]; 011-27-21-876-4100) for any special requests.  

GETTING THERE

South African Airways flies directly into Cape Town from London, or North American visitors can fly from New York or Washington, D.C., to Johannesburg and transfer to a domestic flight.

Good to know: The airline is boosting its culinary options with pre-meal canapés, offering two or three options for each course.

ADVISOR INSIGHT

Katie Cadar of TravelStore Platinum Los Angeles recommends starting a trip to South Africa with a stay in the winelands: “Fly into Cape Town, do two nights in the winelands, then do two nights in Cape Town.

“The last time I was there, I went to a tasting at Môreson Vineyard and visited their restaurant called Bread and Wine. There are many vineyards in the region, and depending on people’s interests, they can do cellar tours or pop-in visits to just taste wines or talk with vintners.”

Daniela Harrison of Avenues of the World Travel just came back from a visit to South Africa, and recommended some unique experiences at La Residence: “They have a big vineyard on the grounds, so at harvest, they have winemakers come in and lecture and teach guests how to harvest the grapes.

“The Chef’s Table is really cool. A second kitchen is set up along a back wall and the table is set up for two or four people. The chef comes out [and customizes the menu] depending on what you like.”

Also outside of Cape Town, Harrison recommends a day trip to the Cape Peninsula to see the penguins. “When you go out there, about half-way, there’s a little place with a private chef: The Boat House. It’s Chef Bruce [Robertson’s] private home. Downstairs is private for his family, but upstairs, he hosts meals. People come in and sit down at his table and he cooks for everyone. He gets food that’s found, harvested or bought from within [seven miles]...He tells you everything about the food! It takes two and a half months to get a reservation because he can only take 14 people at a time. That’s how many fit at his table.” 

La Residence’s Villas all have unique designs and décor.
La Residence’s Villas all have unique designs and décor.

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