Bring out your inner mad scientist: experiment with unique spirits + meat cuts
Kleine Zalze Lodge in Stellenbosch
Livin’ it up at the hotel that breeds euphoria
Bid farewell to your car, you won’t be needing it post check-in. Though not a resort experience, the four-star Kleine Zalze Lodge in Stellenbosch – it rests amongst the regiments of vineyards on the Kleine Zalze wine estate - is all inclusive: no vehicle necessary. That doesn’t mean watered-down drinks on the house or hard-to-stomach Club Med-type variety shows; rather, it’s a nod to the unique destination-style journey that comes with the territory - and a mighty fine territory it is.
From my rather regal perch at the Cape Winelands hotel’s rim-flow swimming pool, I watch as the sloping shoulders of the Stellenbosch mountains shrug up toward the late afternoon sky. In the foreground, what looks like one of Southern Spain’s Los Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) spreads out like whitewashed fingers clutching at the countryside. On second glance, it’s clear that the darling homes belong to the De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate, but in the gilded light and with the day’s bouquet of scents thick with the smell of agapanthus and roses, the entire scene takes on the romanticism of a place far far away.
The luxurious water feature at my feet – one of the accommodation’s many trump cards – anchors the championship golf course and the cascading setting beyond to the modern Cape Dutch-style lodge. The intimate hotel – it has fewer than 50 rooms – and the surrounding attractions housed on the family-owned working wine estate – it’s over 300 years old – grant guests a crash course, of sort, in Cape Winelands touring.
“You can park the car, do a wine tasting in the afternoon, eat at Terroir restaurant [one of South Africa’s top 10 eateries] in the evening, stay the night and play a round of golf in the morning, and you would have experienced top Stellenbosch vintages, world-class cuisine and one of the best four courses in the Western Cape without ever leaving the property,” sums up Melvin De Kock, general manager of Kleine Zalze Lodge, on our walkabout of the grounds.
Though a somewhat concentrated version of the farm’s offering, the picture he’s painted is easily realised and ideal for those with no time to spare. More preferable, however, is a lengthier, leisurely series of overnights.
While the lodge’s standard and superior rooms are homely, comfortable and spacious (perfect for some serious shut-eye), the one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites are the true talking points. The latter room types boast plush furnishings, an open-plan lounge and dining area, a fully stocked kitchenette, underfloor heating and a balcony that invites sweeping views of the golf course’s first fairway. What’s more, nearly all of these quarters have working fireplaces, making the accommodation as toasty and cosy in winter as it is light and airy in summer.
Once Melvin’s wrapped up the tour and I’ve deposited my bags in the room, the real fun begins. Faced with the option of selecting one of the many mountain bike, jogging and walking trails that snake their way through either the ranks of the farm’s vineyards or the adjacent 18-hole golfer’s paradise, I opt, rather, to exercise my right to sip and swirl with a wine tasting.
Sampling sessions come complimentary with a stay at the lodge, and with the cracked heat of the day leaving a pleasant warmth in the air and the tables under the property’s ancient oaks looking especially inviting, I see no reason to exert anything other than my palate.
Just before settling in at the tasting area, which is a mere three-minute walk from the lodge, I pop in to Terroir to make a dinner booking. Though the eatery has been ranked as one of the top 10 restaurants in South Africa for seven years running (since 2005), the gourmet hotspot is decidedly informal: think chalkboard menus, dressed-down décor and a relaxed ambience.
If visitors are not in the mood for haute cuisine, though, the Kleine Zalze Lodge also claims its own bistro-style affair. The easy-dining eatery serves soul food, like fish ‘n chips and steak, at reasonable prices in the evening and dishes up sumptuous hot and cold buffet breakfasts (on the house with an overnight) for guests in the morning.
Reservation made, I slide onto the picnic bench and peruse the winery’s internationally recognised collections. Kleine Zalze is nearly synonymous with Chenin Blanc in South Africa, and the varietal’s signature tropical notes are a second-to-none cue for the start of the weekend. With all my needs but a hop, skip and jump away, this is going to be one unforgettable Friday evening.
By Stephanie Katz
Tip: Those keen to do some serious Cape Winelands touring will be happy to know that the Kleine Zalze Lodge is a mere three kilometres from the heart of Stellenbosch and centrally located, so that exploring even the Franschhoek and Somerset West wine routes is a cinch.
The Bill: Reasonable, considering the broad assortment of attractions at your fingertips. Guests will pay just over R1000 per night for a standard room (the most basic accommodation option) and just under R4000 per night for a two-bedroom suite, which sleeps four adults (the most luxurious accommodation option). Do note, all prices are subject to change depending on the time of year.
Interested in learning more about the farm’s reds and whites? Read more about Kleine Zalze’s award-winning wine.
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