With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
Kleine Zalze Winery in Stellenbosch
Eat, drink, stay and play – this trailblazing Winelands destination promises the whole package
When esteemed businessman and attorney Kobus Basson banded together with his brother-in-law in 1996 to purchase the century-old Stellenbosch wine farm now known as Kleine Zalze, he viewed the move mainly as a potentially profitable side business venture.
A change of heart and direction, though, soon had the co-owner committing himself fully to nurturing the land’s potential for top-quality produce. Determined to master the trade and to build his knowledge of the industry, he set off across international waters to study the market and to learn from the many regions and estates well-known for making word-class wine.
But what Kobus returned with was far more than mere know-how in viticulture and vinification; having noted the move overseas to multi-faceted lifestyle estates – those that offer accommodation and fine dining alongside their vino – back on the home front, his new approach to the running of the family-owned farm was coloured by one key realisation: in an increasingly competitive environment, it’s not enough to just produce wines; rather, what’s needed is an all-round offering.
Or, as Marketing and Sales Manager Wynand van Schalkwyk so aptly captured it, “It’s one thing to just have a winery, another to actually offer people a Winelands destination.”
And so Kleine Zalze, the fertile stretch of land that sits just below the mighty Stellenbosch mountains, became a pioneer in its field, being the first in the region at the time to combine the on-site cultivation and creation of exceptional vintages with the option to also eat, stay and play – and in superior settings, to boot.
That is, in addition to features more traditionally expected of such establishments – the sprawling vineyards, the well-stocked cellar, the charming, intimate tasting room – the farm also claims two other key offerings, both founded with only excellence and innovation in mind: their highly-acclaimed, four-star, country-style lodge and Terroir Restaurant, a multiple-time top-10-ranked culinary gem.
What’s more, to contribute further to the full leisure package, as the winery flanks the champion, 18-hole De Zalze Golf Course, visitors can also partake in a relaxed round or two on premier rolling greens.
Despite the focus on a comprehensive lifestyle experience and the drive to thread superiority through every facet, though, Kleine Zalze still holds wine as its top priority.
“Wine is still what we take most seriously,” explains Wynand, confident in the competitive quality of the vineyards’ produce. “You can have all of the other trappings, but if your wine is not up to scratch, you can forget it.”
And this serious approach has successfully solidified the farm as serious contenders in the industry on both local and international fronts. With an emphasis on consistency, the winery engineers a truly extensive, across-the-board range of reds and whites that caters to many palates and pockets and that falls within three distinct categories: an easy-drinking, fruit-rich, lifestyle selection; a more competitive, complex range; and a premium selection produced only from grapes harvested from the finest blocks. And as of May 2014, it also makes an elegant yet full-bodied Méthode Cap Classique that’s perfectly bubbly and irresistibly quaffable.
Although many of the candidates in the estate’s wide assortment have roped in a number of prestigious awards over the years – multiple golds in the International Wine & Spirit Competition and in the Michelangelo Awards, included – Kleine Zalze’s flagship wine remains its Chenin Blanc, a varietal with which it has become almost synonymous.
With three well-acclaimed styles in its collection – a fresh entry-level bush vines variety, a ripe, rich wooded one and a creamy top-of-the-range one – the farm is devoted to creating Chenins that push boundaries and set new standards. In fact, so firm is its confidence in the high potential of this white that it firmly believes, and is in fact driven to show, that it is a varietal that South Africa can ultimately identify itself with on a global stage, in the same way that other wine-producing countries have claim over other specific categories (for example, Argentina with Malbec and New Zealand with Sauvignon Blanc).
Such aspirations only stand as testament to the winery’s pioneering spirit, commitment to push forward and willingness to allow room for a little productive experimentation and play. Nowhere is this underlying philosophy even clearer, though, than in the champion Family Reserve selection, a unique range of wines that serves as the winemaking team’s outlet for creative expression.
“Winemakers don’t always want to be told exactly what to make and how to make it,” Wynand says of the farm’s open-minded approach. “They are creative people, so it’s necessary to give them leeway to express themselves.”
This outlook is certainly well received by the winery’s esteemed Cellar Master Alastair Rimmer, whose desire to create and to ‘grow’ wine is, in part, what initially drew him to the industry.
Having gained extensive international experience in places as far and wide as Spain, America and New Zealand, this experienced grape guru has developed a deep, almost unrivalled, understanding of the intricate processes that go into cultivating award-winning harvests. Of course it helps that he is backed by gifted wine whizz R.J. Botha, who won the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award in 2010.
But the greatest determiner of this duo’s success at Kleine Zalze is, in fact, not their broad knowledge or detailed approach, but rather their steadfast commitment to innovation and, even more importantly, their unwavering fervour for the trade.
It would seem then that Alastair and R.J have certainly found their niche at Kleine Zalze, a farm that’s driven as much by skill, know-how and a promise to offer guests an all-encompassing experience as it is by dedication and passion.
Kleine Zalze Lodge
Located flush alongside the first fairway of the De Zalze Golf Course, with rolling vineyards and the majestic Stellenbosch mountains as backdrops, the farm’s on-site four-star lodge adds an element of luxury to Kleine Zalze’s full lifestyle package. Deemed as a boutique accommodation option, the Cape Dutch-style country house boasts 47 spacious units that comprise a mix of five room types: standard rooms, superior rooms, one-bedroom luxury suites, two-bedroom family suites and one two-bedroom luxury suite. All units feature en-suite bathrooms and come equipped with a range of amenities – satellite television, wireless internet access, air conditioning, underfloor heating, European wall fittings, safety deposit boxes and tea- and coffee-making equipment – to match the cosy yet elegant furnishings, and the one- and two-bedroom suites also boast large fireplaces, balconies with spectacular views and self-catering facilities in the form of well-stocked kitchenettes.
For those less inclined to cooking and more disposed to dining in style, a full English breakfast served on the lodge’s patio is included in the room rates, and, at extra cost, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in either the Lodge Restaurant or at the esteemed Terroir, a stone’s throw away. What’s more, in line with the focus on leisure, guests also have the options of lazing on the surrounding lawns, sunbathing by the crystal-clear, rim-flow pool, hiking through vineyard trails, or partaking in a game of golf on the premium neighbouring course – those interested can arrange rounds as part of their accommodation package.
All in all, the full range of offerings here – together with the lodge’s prime location in the heart of the Winelands and a superior level of service – make for an especially comfortable, memorable stay, one so enticing, in fact, that a loyal following of local and international guests reliably return year after year.
Ranked consistently as one of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants, Kleine Zalze’s on-site eatery Terroir has been particularly instrumental in establishing Stellenbosch as a premium culinary destination. At the helm of this gourmet jewel since its opening in 2004 is celebrated Head Chef Michael Broughton, a man who champions a precise, honest preparation style and values freshness of ingredients and a bold, well-balanced blend of intense flavours above all else. His innovative yet simultaneously down-to-earth approach to food is evident in the eatery’s seasonal, European-inspired menu, which features rich delights and carefully-planned pairings of tastes – oxtail ravioli with home-cured bacon or roasted pork belly with rhubarb and truffle mac, for instance – to accompany the wine farm’s extensive range of award-winning reds and whites.
Although the food exudes an element of opulence, the restaurant’s atmosphere is relaxed and the décor simple, pared-down and unpretentious – a deliberate ploy to keep the focus on the fine cuisine and exceptional service. Within such informal settings, guests can choose to take their meal either inside by the crackling hearth or, on warmer days, outside under open skies and ancient oaks. Here, diners can indulge in the small, evolving selection of lunch and dinner options while keeping a watchful eye on their little ones frolicking in the nearby kids’ playground and breathing in the panoramic vistas of sweeping vineyards and lush, landscaped fairways.
Fancy indulging in fine, flavourful fare at one of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants? Read more about Kleine Zalze wine farm’s acclaimed eatery Terroir.
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