When gazing out over the natural amphitheatre of Stellenbosch and its surrounds, it’s easy to see why some of the first Dutch settlers upon our shores decided to settle in this fertile region within eyeshot of Table Mountain. The introduction of the vine here was really a no-brainer, and today we’re lucky to have a world-class wine region dotted with a multitude of wineries producing award-winning wine you’ll find in every corner of the world – with thanks of course to the efforts of these pioneers from the past.
Asara Wine Estate & Hotel encapsulates the charm of Stellenbosch. Speaking historically, the estate may not be as much in the public’s attention when compared to some of the other original wine farms in the area, but the first grant on the land where present-day Asara now stands dates back to 1691. There is certainly enough historical value here to keep visitors curious. An old belltower, located at courtyard within the estate, is an interesting relic from the early days at the farm. Some readers may remember a winery in the same locale called Verdun in the latter half of last century – the main part of present Asara used to form part this legacy wine estate.
Located just 4 km from the centre of town, the setting lends itself to an avenue lined with pin-oak trees that passes well-kept lawns and tracts of water. When you arrive at the main buildings, wine-tasting is in front of you, with the hotel & eateries to your right. Undoubtedly our first stop is at the tasting cellar. Here you step into a gorgeous wooden affair complete with knowledgeable staff to boot, but it’s the wines we’re after, and the Bell Tower range is where we begin – a series named after the estate’s iconic structure consisting of three delightful red wines. There are many other standout performers to be discovered at the cellar; linger a little longer and you may be quaffing the 2014 vintage MCC or the Avalon (a terrific blend of pinotage and shiraz) from their Speciality Range, while Asara’s Vineyard Collection will get you acquainted with such wines as the Cape Fusion, where Pinotage, Shiraz and Malbec come together for a special Cape blend. Winemaker Danielle Le Roux, collaborating with farm manager and viticulturalist Alan Cockcroft, are producing impeccable wines right here on our doorstep. Certified fair trade and certified fair labour practice, you can see that special care has been placed in the winemaking process – from terroir to table.
Although you probably won’t find it during your visit, Asara also produces Pickled Fish, a range of uncomplicated, easy-drinking wines that get you excellent value for money.
Venturing back out of the tasting cellar and into main wing, we reach reception. Asara’s hotel offers luxury accommodation in the form of feature rooms, executive, deluxe and courtyard suites. An allure from yesteryear has been retained particularly in the external aspect of the hotel’s buildings, while stepping inside a room such as one of the executive suites you’ll notice a modern, contemporary theme prevail. A grade of five stars has been awarded to the Asara Hotel, a rating that is seeing this winelands retreat become an increasingly popular port-of-call for travellers seeking the Stellenbosch experience.
Mise en place is the jewel in the crown of Asara’s dining aspect. This upscale restaurant only opened its doors as recently as October 2016 but has in that time already solidified itself as a reputable food destination. Sophisticated dining in an elegant setting, you’re likely to find exquisitely-plated food created from a fine menu which pays homage to local ingredients and seasonal produce.
Other dining options at the estate include the dedicated breakfast restaurant Raphaels, where guests are treated to a full-spread buffet each morning along with a breakfast a la carte menu. On the other hand, Sansibar Bistro is a lively eatery offering both inside seating and al fresco dining. Here lunchtime classics can be savoured with a second-to-none view to match, dishes like their signature flatbread pizzas, ribs, burgers, salads and more.
There is a secret about Asara that I’d like to share with you. When talking alcoholic refreshment and tasting, many believe that the Asara experience begins and ends with wine. But they’re wrong. Located within Sansibar is a gin lounge, nowadays not too uncommon a feature owing to the spirit’s resurgence in popularity, but in this lounge is something truly special – the largest gin collection you’ll find. Over 280 gins are to be found here from local sources and abroad, a collection surpassing those of other dedicated gin bars closer to city limits. If you’re jovial about juniper, you’ve come to the right place.
Asara Wine Estate & Hotel
Polkadraai Road, Stellenbosch, 7600
+27 21 888 8000
Photography Asara Wine Estate & Hotel