The winding stretch of road between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is arguably one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the world, snaking its way past a handful of vista-drenched, internationally renowned wine estates.
Oldenburg Vineyards is one such destination. Nestled in a corner of the Banhoek Valley, somewhere between the Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountains, this 40-hectare farm is home to a charming, immaculately renovated 200-year-old Cape Dutch homestead, whose rich and chequered history has deep significance for its current owner Adrian Vanderspuy, who was born on the neighbouring farm.
His grandmother lived in the historic homestead for over 50 years and, even though Adrian was raised abroad, he and his family would return each year to visit his grandmother on the farm where she eventually died. The property passed into a trust in 1993, but went up for sale in 2003, which is when Adrian snapped it up, and began the process of restoring and renovating the house that holds so many fond childhood memories…
Views for days at Oldenburg Vineyards
We arrived at the farm at sunset, as the mountains were turning a gazillion shades of orange, and the sun’s last rays were trickling through the bright-green leaves of the ancient oak trees lining the driveway. Before entering the homestead and checking out our lodgings for the next two nights, we lingered outside, marvelling at the utter majesty of the setting: miles and miles of vineyards as far as the eye can see, and majestic wrap-around mountain views stretching into infinity…
Inside, the villa’s lofty proportions, chic decor and state-of-the art appliances will impress even the most well-heeled globetrotters. And, while the house has been given an utterly modern overhaul, complete with all the trappings of a ultra-high-end villa, the homestead retains the charm and character of its Cape Dutch roots, something the architects and interior designers were careful to consider. At Oldenburg, the emphasis is on homeliness and warmth – the kind that can perhaps only be found in a place with such a rich personal history.
The younger members of our party made a weekend pastime of unearthing all the surreptitiously concealed high-tech features, high-fiving each other every time they discovered a new gadget – from the electronic shutters that allow you to black-out your room at the push of a button to the underfloor heating in the light and airy, double-volume kitchen, to the hidden speakers in all the living areas, and even the nifty magnetised water dispenser and glasses in the bedrooms (that stick to the tray when you put them down to prevent spillage).
As you’d expect from a farmhouse worth its (Maldon Sea) salt, the heart of this homestead is a dreamy, double-volume eat-in kitchen that’s fully equipped with everything that opens and closes – including a super-wide fridge set into sleek touch-sensitive Bulthaup cupboards, an entire drawer of Victorinox knives, state-of-the-art bendy basin taps, two Siemens dishwashers and a Siemens microwave/convection oven (which you need an engineering degree to operate – but if you opt for the private-butler service, you won’t need to).
But, perhaps, the most abiding feature of this homely-yet-hitech kitchen is the massive counter-to-ceiling sash window that maximises the breathtaking mountain and vineyard views on all sides. Some of our most memorable moments of the weekend were spent sitting at the long dining table, enjoying lazy breakfasts (and cosy dinners), marvelling at the outside vistas.
“One of my grandmother’s traditions during the winter months was to host kitchen suppers,” recalls Adrian, “a tradition that we intend to keep.” Well, if grande dame Vanrenen was alive today, she’d be chuffed to learn that her customs are still going strong – even in this modern media age.
In addition to the kitchen, there’s a more formal dining room, adjacent to the impressive glass-walled wine cellar, that’s home to a 12-seater walnut table, and a series of antiques and collectibles (some of which belonged to Adrian’s grandmother), but we chose to dine in the kitchen for the duration of our stay.
Even the outdoor braai beneath an enormous oak tree on the swimming-pool veranda couldn’t lure us away from the comfort of the cosy kitchen… (In our defence, our stay was during winter, which is still not an excuse for not making an outdoor braai against the breathtaking backdrop of mountains and vineyards!)
In summer, the manor’s indoor-outdoor design, where the spacious kitchen, dining and living areas spill onto deep verandas through capacious French doors, make it the perfect all-inclusive escape. We brought our own provisions, but shopping for food can be taken care of, if you opt for the private-chef option.
The villa comfortably sleeps 12 guests in six warm and luxurious bedrooms, each with their own bathroom (five are en-suite), and equipped with all the bells and whistles you’d expect: air-conditioning, underfloor heating (in the bathrooms, too), wi-fi, flat-screen TVs (with DStv, Netflix and Apple TV available), heated towel rails, and so on. And, just like the rest of the home, the decor in the bedrooms is stylish and the palette is pared-down.
The eaten track
Gourmands will feel like they’ve died and gone to food-and-wine heaven being at Oldenburg, whose Helshoogte neighbours include the award-winning restaurants at Delaire Graff and Tokara. Other top-drawer wining-and-dining options in this neck of the woods are Babel at Babylonstoren, Terroir at Kleine Zalze, and Boschendal.
Oldenburg’s tasting room, a stone’s throw from the homestead, is the perfect way to while away an afternoon, sampling some of the farm’s award-winning nectars.
On nature’s doorstep
One of the highlights of our stay was the three-hour hike we enjoyed on our first morning there. The homestead’s unique (and enviable) location in the depths of a valley, with impossibly easy access to endless nature, was an unexpected bonus for nature-lovers like ourselves. After a leisurely breakfast, we literally slammed the frontdoor behind us, and within seconds we were on a dirtroad, making our way up the mountain, passing neighbouring farms, waterfalls, pebbled riverbeds, a dam, and the odd mountain-biker along the way.
And, even though we were on private property, there are no fences and gates, so you can wander for miles and miles. The privacy and seclusion is invigorating, and we felt incredibly safe – and at peace – with towering mountains all around us.
Back at the homestead, some of our party spent the rest of the afternoon reclining on the verandah sofas – vino in hand – while the children played endless games of catch, soccer and cricket on the velvety front lawn, and the foodies among us rustled up a late lunch. The sleek, glass-fronted view-drenched gym beckoned, but none of us felt the urge.
At the end of our weekend, ensconced in a luxury villa and surrounded by the majesty and serenity of nature, we left Oldenburg Vineyards feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.