Marriage of old and new
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.