A trip down memory lane unearths an old favourite with a five-star vision for the farm and its wines
IT STARTED as a trip down memory lane. It developed into a tour well laced with nostalgia, and finished on a high note of anticipatory pleasure. The Lanzerac renaissance is well under way and this singular estate is again a destination encompassing history, beauty and warm hospitality.
Some senior citizens may recall trips in the sixties to Stellenbosch to indulge in the hotel’s Sunday suppers and cheese lunches. Some still blush when remembering sessions in the ladies’ bar – in particular the women’s cloakroom, where the outline of a man on the back of the door was adorned with a fig leaf hinged in strategic position. Warned not to lift it up, of course we all did, unaware that it triggered a bell to ring in the bar. The knowing laughter that greeted our exit coincided with the realisation that we were the bell-ringers.
The farm, originally known as Schoongezicht, dates back to the late 17th century when the first vines were planted. Elizabeth English, who bought the farm in 1914, honoured her friend, a French general, by giving the farm his name, Lanzerac. She bottled the first wine from estate grapes. More vinous history was recorded when the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery, who had taken over vineyard management in 1958, made the first commercial pinotage, the 1959 Lanzerac. It started the rosé tradition with the same vintage.
By the end of the 20th century, then- owner Christo Wiese had added a modern cellar and negotiated a return of wine production. Last year, he sold the estate to a British couple who appointed Steinhoff Properties to manage it, with Boets Nel as general manager. Heading a team with a five-star vision for Lanzerac and its wine are a small group of committed staff.
Cellarmaster Wynand Lategan and marketing manager Adinda Booysen took me through the three ranges. The Alma Mater trio are a nod to the estate’s long connection with Stellenbosch University. The rosé in its tear-shaped bottle is back with a 2012 vintage, made from shiraz and with a little malbec. There’s a 2012 red, mostly shiraz, which slips down easily, along with a 2013 white, fruity chenin, finished with pinot blanc. The trio sell for R50 each.
There is plenty to savour in the premium range, from a chardonnay (R85) presenting citrus and butterscotch to the 2010 merlot (R105), four-star and full-bodied. The 2011 cab (R115) and pinotage (R110) are also four-star, the former well-balanced, the latter well-rounded.
The Heritage range reveals careful selection and craftsmanship: Mrs English is an award-winning chardonnay finished with pinot blanc – at R185 pricy but complex, poised and delicious. Homage is paid to her friend with Le Géneral 2009 ( R235), cab- dominated with merlot, shiraz and splashes of pinotage and malbec. The Pionier pinotage 2010 (R280) is equally impressive, and set to improve over years.
There are plans to use the manor house for more than weddings. The tasting room is to give way to a deli and bakery for summer, and the lawn on the cellar roof is set to make a picturesque picnic venue.
“Oom” Manie Antonie continues to preside over the bar, with 45 years’ service to his credit.
New upholstery and napery make The Governor’s Hall restaurant lighter and brighter, worthy of chef Stephen Fraser’s talents.
Reading Fraser’s winter menu makes for a mouthwatering experience. I lunched on the cheese platter, enhanced by beetroot relish, preserves and excellent hummus, and finished with dessert samples that made faultless finales.
● The hotel is tempting couples with an overnight gastronomic experience over the next long weekend. Fraser is joining Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris to present a three-course dinner, on August 9, paired with estate wines. Breakfast the next day will be followed by a cook-off between the duo, with the results served for lunch. At R1 250 inclusive, it’s advisable to book early. E-mail email@example.com or call 021 887 1132.
HERITAGE ELEGANCE: Lanzerac’s lounge has hosted a long list of celebrities and politicians from across the globe.
FIVE-STAR MISSION: Wynand Lategan, cellarmaster at Lanzerac.