Many award winning and memorable wines hail from Stellenbosch, wines that have not only put this historic wine route on the map but also opened the eyes of purist wine aficionados to the fact that South African wines can stand up to the familiar and famed Bordeaux’s.
I visited the Glenelly Wine estate when I first arrived in Stellenbosch merely by chance on route to one of the said South African Red Greats; Rustenburg. Driving alongside the quaint Cape Dutch village of Idas Valley you’ll find a strikingly modern building made of glass that almost protrudes into the panoramic mountains view that surrounds the estate. Making it impossible to not want to drive towards the said contemporary construct and explore.
At this stage the estate offered wine tasting and a priceless surprise beneath the ground, a glass collection by Lady May (de Lencquesaing) who I met walking stick in hand and she literally and figuratively took me on a tour of her life, farm and family history and of course her treasures beneath us.
Telling of her less than easy path of becoming a female wine maker (one of the first in history) and leaving a well known Chateau in France to build a life in what was volatile and sanctioned South Africa.
A few years on and I find myself in the same glass capsule but this time I’m greeted by the winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain and the new vine-bistro chef and manager.
After closing to the public for extensive renovations over the past year, this striking Stellenbosch estate has re-opened as a world-class Winelands destination including a hospitable bistro, a tasting room with spectacular mountain views and a new showcase of Madame’s unique glass collection.
“Change is hard at first,
messy in the middle
and gorgeous in the end“
How things have grown, changed and yet the space is still as familiar as that first day.
Luke takes us to the barrel cellar which I might say may just be more impressive that the other gems alongside us, hidden in a melange grey room I discovered many moons back. The space is echoed with intelligent architecture, sustainability and air of age old oak and of course young ruby reds.
We are lifted (literally) from place to place and told yet another touring tale of how Lady May and her team came to create Glenelly’s wines, and now new spaces. Naturally we had to see the ever expanding Glass Collection which I distinctly remember being the inspiration on their wine labels I took home back in 2009.
However as with everything things have evolved and the new labels depict the new vision that Lady May’s grandchildren Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing hope to bring to the estate, from working with wines through to the creation of the on-site restaurant.
The Vine Bistro, according to May was an organic relationship that created a synergy on the farm where food and wine could harmonically come together and elevate on another.
“Wines are made to pair with food, so introducing a culinary experience at Glenelly was the logical next step on our journey.
My grandchildren initiated this project a few months ago with Christophe Dehosse, the ideal chef to look after this exciting new venture: French, but very established in South Africa, mastering haute cuisine but cooking simple dishes, getting his inspiration from traditional bistros of his homeland while experimenting with African and Mediterranean ingredients.
Christophe sources local organic farm products and serves very seasonal food”.
-May de Lencquesaing
Inside, the decor is warm and elegant and includes a harmonious mix of 19th century chairs, classic Parisian tables, a contemporary cellar, a fire place for the winter, leather banquettes and a traditional bar with brass. Outside, on the terrace or under the pergola, expect long wooden tables, a water feature, plants and a pétanque court for long lazy afternoons enjoying the picturesque views of the estate.
The farm is still undergoing a few tweaks a welcomed change that I can’t wait to re-visit with friends and family. Weekend lunches are made for spaces like The Vine Bistro!
Bookings at the tasting room
Bookings at the restaurant