Mar­riage of old and new

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WHEN look­ing at the lat­est re­newal project of Vergele­gen Es­tate’s hos­pi­tal­ity fa­cil­i­ties, the com­mon thread run­ning through this chal­leng­ing task is the suc­cess­ful main­te­nance of this his­toric prop­erty’s cul­tural and her­itage value.

The farm’s own­ers, An­glo Amer­i­can, have em­ployed a team of pro­fes­sion­als to pro­duce a con­tem­po­rary style en­vi­ron­ment best suited to its clas­sic be­gin­nings.

The pos­i­tive re­sults of the first phase of mod­erni­sa­tion and up­dat­ing of this Som­er­set West wine route land­mark are ev­i­dent in a seam­less de­sign that al­lows stun­ning views of the Hottentots Hol­land Moun­tains from the new wine tast­ing cen­tre and bistro res­tau­rant, manned by Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Ali­cia Gil­iomee.

By align­ing its

re­newed hos­pi­tal­ity of­fer­ings with the longterm de­vel­op­ment of the Cape’s wine tourism in­dus­try, the es­tate is go­ing ahead with the sec­ond phase in the re­de­vel­op­ment of the old Vergele­gen Res­tau­rant as a for­mal din­ing fa­cil­ity and gar­den.

The newly launched re­vamp re­flects a mind­ful com­bi­na­tion of new and old, and MD Don Tooth said that Vergele­gen, both in its orig­i­nal and re­newed form, de­serves ac­co­lades from a her­itage and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­spec­tive.

He said as a re­sult of the es­tate’s rare 18th cen­tury ar­chi­tec­tural and aes­thetic sig­nif­i­cance it presents the ideal in­te­gral com­po­nent of a se­rial nom­i­na­tion of the Cape Winelands cul­tural land­scape as a World Her­itage Site.

Tooth said the team of her­itage con­sul­tants, ar­chi­tects, builders, in­te­rior de­signer and artists had to strive for har­mony be­tween old and new with­out over-com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion, while ex­pand­ing tourism and vis­i­tor fa­cil­i­ties.

Em­pha­sis was also placed on the pro­tec­tion of the es­tate’s en­vi­ron­men­tal riches when a huge alien veg­e­ta­tion clear­ing project was ini­ti­ated 10 years ago by An­glo Amer­i­can.

Fol­low­ing the clear­ing of 2 200ha of non-arable land, and with 1 000ha re­main­ing for com­ple­tion by 2015, it is seen as the coun­try largest pri­vate project of this na­ture. Not only has it gen­er­ated 231 jobs lo­cally, in­creased water flow on the farm has also boosted wet­land ar­eas.

Most no­table is the emer­gence of six streams feed­ing the Lourens River and the re­vival of indige­nous plant species pre­vi­ously deemed ex­tinct in the area. As a re­sult Vergele­gen re­mains an en­vi­ron­men­tal leader in the Bio­di­ver­sity and Wine Ini­tia­tive in the lo­cal wine in­dus­try.

As an award-win­ning es­tate it has in­vested in win­ning the war against the leafroll virus through co-op­er­a­tion be­tween res­i­dent wine­maker An­dre van Rens­burg and viti­cul­tur­ist Dwayne Lot­ter­ing, with the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s Arc-plant Pro­tec­tion Re­search In­sti­tute and field ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Ger­hard Pi­etersen.

In ad­di­tion to its fauna and flora, Vergele­gen is home to a herd of Bon­te­bok re­lo­cated from the Helder­berg Na­ture Re­serve, and a heard of Nguni cat­tle.

His­tor­i­cally, Vergele­gen is no new­comer to high stan­dards and unique achieve­ments, as seen from 312 years ago when in 1700 Willem Adri­aan van der Stel be­came its owner. In just eight years of own­ing the land, be­fore he fell from grace as Gov­er­nor of the Cape and was de­ported to Hol­land, this mul­ti­tal­ented farmer cre­ated a prime ex­am­ple of an early Cape farm werf.

He was also a keen hor­ti­cul­tur­ist, botanist and forester who built a num­ber of his­toric build­ings, planted vine­yards con­tain­ing 500 000 dif­fer­ent vine stocks, or­chards, orange groves, and owned 18 cat­tle sta­tions of 1 000 head of cat­tle and 1 800 sheep.

Since then this prop­erty has lured many well-heeled in­vestors, some more pas­sion­ate about wine­mak­ing than oth­ers, such as Lady Phillips, who owned the farm be­tween 1917 and 1940.

One of the es­tate’s great­est out­door at­trac­tions to­day are the 18 mag­nif­i­cent gar­dens open for public viewing dur­ing all sea­sons, fea­tur­ing herbs, roses, camel­lias and many more va­ri­eties.

Its prize of­fer­ing has to be the stately cam­phor and oak trees planted by van der Stel about 1700 that have been a back­drop to many a states­man’s pose and re­main care­fully con­served un­der the watch­ful eye of pro­fes­sion­als.

In­no­va­tive in­ter­ven­tions that con­tinue to max­imise its en­vi­ron­men­tal, her­itage and wine pro­duc­tion po­ten­tial have re­sulted in Vergele­gen be­ing named the global award win­ner in the Great Wine Cap­i­tals Global Net­work and Best of Wine Tourism awards for two suc­ces­sive years.

Seam­less views from the Sta­bles Bistro res­tau­rant at Vergele­gen, left. The orig­i­nal, re­stored homestead at Vergele­gen, right.

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