Turning a corner in a quiet residential area in Stellenbosch, the majestic and historic Lanzerac Wine Estate makes her grand reveal. Her gates guide the eye up a gorgeous tree-lined avenue, at the end of which lies sweeping lawns, manicured gardens, lush vineyards, dramatic mountain vistas, and – the heart of the estate – the regal Manor House, a sophisticated and elegant example of Cape Dutch architecture.
Lanzerac is one of the Cape’s oldest wine estates and, lies stretched out on the foothills of the Stellenberg Mountains in Stellenbosch’s verdant, vineyard carpeted Jonkershoek Valley. The history of the farm began several centuries ago with the arrival of Simon van der Stel in the Cape and the subsequent population of a European outpost (outside of Cape Town) by the free burghers – Dutch-speaking colonists who had broken free of the Dutch East Indian Company. The outpost was named “Stellenbosch” after Simon van der Stel and has since blossomed into a major epicentre for education, viticulture, and winemaking in South Africa.
Today, Lanzerac stands as a proud and majestic testament to the history of Stellenbosch and truly epitomizes the exceptional calibre of the Cape as one of the world’s leading winemaking regions. And it was on the weekend of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival that we had the distinct pleasure and privilege to be among the first guests to preview Lanzerac’s luxurious hotel and spa.
No two rooms or bathrooms are alike
In 1914, Lanzerac (previously Schoongezicht) was purchased and given a new name by Elizabeth Katharina English, the wealthy widow of Frederick Alexander English who had been a diamond merchant and a close friend of Cecil John Rhodes. It is, however, alleged that Katharina actually named the farm after General Charles Lanzerac, a French General who lead the Fifth Army at the outbreak of World War I and with whom she had fallen in love.
The subsequent decades saw the refurbishment and expansion of the estate, hotel, and vineyards, as well as the addition of a state-of-the-art conference centre. Today, the Lanzerac Hotel & Spa has 53 absolutely beautiful rooms and suites, all of which look out onto lush, colourful gardens and/or vineyards.
During our stay on the estate, we were treated to a tour of these facilities, and it was explained to us that no two rooms or bathrooms are alike. Each one is uniquely decorated with furniture and furnishings that have been purchased from antique stores or from auction, lending each and every space its very own personality. This unique and endearing approach to creating luxury accommodation is a consistent theme at Lanzerac, where loving care and attention to detail is paid to all its offerings, from the hotel and spa to the deli and wine cellar.
A phoenix rises from the ashes
Walking around the idyllic and peaceful Lanzerac Wine Estate, it’s almost impossible to believe that, less than a year ago, it was the scene of a tragedy that just about broke the hearts of the farm’s staff and loyal patrons. In the wee hours of the morning of May 28th, 2017, a freak electrical fire sparked off in the building adjacent to Lanzerac’s Manor House. The fire tore through the Governors Hall Restaurant, vastly popular Taphuis Bar, Craven Lounge, hotel reception, and staff offices, doing millions of Rands’ worth of damage and reducing irreplaceable antique furniture and artwork to ashes.
Mercifully, fire fighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjacent Manor House, wine cellar, and vineyards, but the damage was devastating and the hotel, restaurant, and bar had to be closed. Nine months later and from the outsider’s perspective, evidence of the fire has practically been erased. The building that once housed the restaurant, bar, lounge, and hotel reception has been gutted and is in the throes of a spectacular remodelling, but the rest of the estate is fully operational, and the hotel is mere months away from reopening its doors to guests.
If ever there were a modern example of a phoenix rising from the ashes, Lanzerac would be it.
The Lanzerac deli and wine tasting
The hard-working soils of Lanzerac Wine Estate have been producing quality grapes since 1692, but it was in 1997 that talented and widely respected winemaker Wynand Lategan came on board to produce the estate’s new generation of wines. These outstanding wines have since perpetuated the farm’s formidable reputation as a top Stellenbosch (and South African) winery.
Our stay at the hotel was complemented by lip-smacking breakfasts at the deli (accompanied by a glass of their gorgeous MCC), as well as a tasting of Lanzerac’s heritage range, the farm’s top tier of wine. This range includes the MCC Blanc de Blancs Brut, the decadent Mrs English 2016 Chardonnay, the full-bodied Cabernet-based Le Général 2014 (Red Blend), and the elegant Pionier Pinotage 2015, a 5-star Platter wine that was made as a tribute to the world’s first bottle of Pinotage, which was bottled in Lanzerac in 1959.
Lanzerac’s tasting room also offers guests a tasting of their premium range of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a delectable chocolate and wine pairing experience.
Taking luxury and privilege to unprecedented heights
Walking around Lanzerac, one cannot help but be deeply impacted by the estate’s exuberant natural beauty and enormous historical gravity. History seeps out of every quarter, from the ancient oak trees that shade the emerald lawns and house the resident owls that hoo-hoo at night, to the Cape Dutch buildings with their antique furniture and artwork. A stay here takes luxury and privilege to unprecedented heights, and the hotel isn’t even open yet so one can only imagine how extraordinary it will be when it is.
We left Lanzerac feeling more than just pampered and spoiled, but deeply moved; touched by her history and her people’s kindness and hospitality and forever changed by the extraordinary quality of the estate’s wines that have ruined our palates for anything lesser. There surely cannot be a more romantic, enchanting, and wondrous place to spend a day, weekend, or long holiday.