Expect exotic themes, delectable brunch dishes and destination-inspired cocktails
Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards in Franschhoek
The wine estate leaping ahead with its hip new offering
“We make lifestyle wines, so we wanted to create a lifestyle experience around it,” asserts Hein Koegelenberg, CEO of the trendy Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards in Franschhoek, when asked about the new home for the label’s well-recognised range of versatile, quality-driven reds and whites.
The family-friendly visitor centre, which was launched in early 2012, is a fresh, welcome addition to a region dominated by refined estates and fine dining establishments.
Cleverly conceptualised and beautifully designed by a gifted creative team, including celebrated Cape Town architect Mokena Makeka, the Frank Lloyd Wright-type visitor centre marries a graphic steel front exterior with high ceilings, ample glass, warm wood and trickling water to create a space that’s uber-modern, hip and edgy and in perfect harmony with its stunning natural surroundings. With impeccable attention to detail; a light, flowing, open-plan interior; whimsical décor (like whisk-shaped light fittings); a wide, sunny stone stoep and sprawling lawn, the Leopard’s Leap premises is decidedly inviting, easy-going and informal.
In essence, it’s a youthful, social spot in which it’s all too easy to while away a full day.
“We wanted to create a venue where people can walk in and feel as though they can decide their own pace and pick their own activities,” explains Hein, who initially conceptualised the brand with the help of his internationally renowned father-in-law, Dr Anton Rupert, back in 1999. “Here, you design your own experience,” he sums up.
And with a handful of different facilities and options on offer including a sleek culinary shop and a distinguished cooking school as well as a recently established rotisserie lunch and harvest table, it’s not difficult to do so.
Easy-drinking wines for everyday enjoyment
One of these key attractions is the expertly designed wine tasting centre, a funky, free-standing, irregular-shaped counter that introduces visitors to the label’s four diverse collections of wines: the entry-level Lookout range, the slightly more serious Classic selection, the full-bodied Family Collection and the signature Culinaria Collection.
The newest addition to the Leopard’s Leap family, the latter comprises a small selection of vintages specifically made to be matched with certain dishes, tastes and textures. Unlike the other collections that are generally available, this exclusive series, which includes an elegant MCC, is only available from the estate’s tasting room, and comes with specially developed recipes so that patrons can cook and enjoy the carefully paired combinations at home.
While each range is different from the next, all the Leopard’s Leap wines, which are crafted by Cellar Master Eugene van Zyl and are popular in over 40 countries worldwide, are specifically created to be fun, easy-drinking wines ideal for everyday enjoyment. The farm’s speciality is producing quality vintages at affordable prices and providing an all-round accessible leisure experience – reflected in the relaxed venue– that’s perfect for families.
But this focus on accessibility doesn’t mean the estate lacks in innovation: on weekends, the winery also serves an inventive range of wine cocktails, mixed pointedly to enhance and complement the natural flavours of 10 of their wines. The invigorating assortment includes options like a cranberry Rosé Cosmopolitan, a pineapple-based Sauvignon Blanc Cooler and a cinnamon-edged Chardonnay Margarita blended from unwooded Chardonnay, apple syrup, lime juice and Cinzano Bianco and rich with the essence of sweet apple pie.
A cornucopia of culinary delights
Because, as the new Culinaria Collection indicates, the marriage of wine and food is so close to the estate’s heart, and because, as Hein sums up, “We’re in Franschhoek, South Africa’s capital of cuisine,” a number of culinary offerings are also threaded throughout the label’s Cape Winelands home.
The highlight of Leopard’s Leap’s food-focussed attractions has to be its affordable, family-friendly rotisserie lunch and harvest table, which is quite unlike anything else available in the area. Modelled on a similar successful concept seen in London’s Harrods, the delicious, sociable option spoils visitors from Wednesday to Sunday with succulent free-range meats on the spit (think crispy pork belly, tender lamb neck and chicken) and a buffet-style table laden with home-baked breads and fresh, seasonal salads sourced from the on-site vegetable and herb garden.
“Chef Pieter [de Jager] goes out into the garden every morning, selects what he needs for the day and this is what he uses,” explains Hein, who also has a keen interest in organic farming.
Lunchtime visitors can choose to tuck into their spreads at a welcoming wooden table inside or on the vibey sofa-lined stoep overlooking the vineyards and sister estate La Motte, while the little ones scramble up the on-site play structure and scamper across the winery’s verdant lawns.
Aside from the easy-going buffet, there is a state-of-the-art cooking school that rests in glinting silver at the back of the visitor’s centre. The spacious culinary studio, which boasts 24 working stations, offers the public a series of monthly hands-on cooking classes. The seasonally themed courses are run by Pieter; though, guest celebrity chefs can be pre-arranged for large groups and special functions.
Then, complementing the cookery school is a contemporary culinary shop, a treasure trove for anyone who’s fervent about food preparation. As thoughtfully designed as the whole estate, the sleek store stocks an assemblage of kitchen accessories, appliances and equipment – including pots, pans, pitchers, crockery, carving knives and more from notable international brands like Legnoart, Opinel and Eva Solo – alongside quality recipe books and gourmet goods.
The cherry on the top, this cutting-edge shopping experience is simply more proof of how the good things in life come together in the laidback home of Leopard’s Leap wines.
Eager to make a lunchtime visit to this informal family estate? Read more about Leopard’s Leap’s delicious rotisserie offering.
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