It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m driving with my friend Kerry through the streets of Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. A sense of excitement is building from that mysterious place within we call the soul, as I navigate my way through these familiar streets. For a period in my life, Stellenbosch was home.
I am on my way to Spier Wine Farm, the last stop on our Cape Winelands Tour. See my first post in this series for more on why we are here and what we got up to at our second stop, Val du Charron, here.
I am excited for two reasons; firstly Spier is a legend on the South African wine farm scene, as much today as in 1692 when then governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, signed the title deed over to Arnoud Jansz, making it one of the first farms established in Stellenbosch. But I am also excited for a rather personal reason, making my time at Spier somewhat of a coming full circle experience for me.
You see, back when I was blue-eyed and innocent in the ways of life, Spier was a place I spent a long weekend at, in a desperate session of soul-searching. At the time I was a recently qualified Chartered Accountant with very little peace in that soul of mine I mentioned earlier. Life was confusing on just about every front and I felt I was existing more than living. A quality of life was something other people had and I wasn’t even sure of the spelling.
Fast-forward 15-odd years and I’m again checking into the 4-star Spier Hotel, to a hearty welcome from the friendly staff. I was greeted with a kindness I had come to enjoy from my time in the Cape Winelands. It was almost as if the staff shared the home-coming secret with me, but that could not be. Right?
Entering my suite was a familiar experience, save for the design update it had undergone since my last visit. The king-sized bed, a personal frivolity, welcomed me literally with open arms. With unpacking attended to, Kerry and I met up for a sundowner on the magnificent property.
The next day we headed off to the tasting room to enjoy the fruits of the Spier vines. With stunning views of the Helderberg mountains and featuring an iconic Heath Nash chandelier, constructed from 334 recycled Spier wine bottles hanging majestically over the tasting table, this space is something to behold.
See my video below for more on our wine tasting experience, including the savoury popsicles expertly paired with wines from the Spier Signature Range, Creative Block and 21 Gables offerings.
Following our wine tasting, I wondered off to explore the grounds and gauge my feelings at being back at Spier. The original manor house stands proudly one side of the werf (space around a homestead and outbuildings) and took me back in time with many historic documents and artworks on display within its walls, including the original Spier title deed signed by Simon van der Stel.
Just off the werf I came across Farmer John’s food garden, which supplies greens and fresh veggies to the 8 Restaurant, also on the farm. The garden is lovingly tended without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or artificial chemicals, as Spier constantly seeks new ways in which to rethink traditional farming practices.
Later that afternoon, Kerry and I spent some time in the Spier Hotel lounge and bar, taking in the impressive art collection on display. The Spier Art Collection is one of the largest collections of contemporary South African art and is displayed in buildings throughout the property. Each venue is treated as an exhibition space, showcasing works by both emerging and established South African artists, in a manner that is both comfortable and approachable. There is certainly no stuffy, rigid gallery approach at Spier to displaying their magnificent collection.
Be sure to see my video below for our thoughts on the Spier Art Collection as well as a brief tour of a few of the pieces.
The start of the next day marked the beginning of our last day at Spier Wine Farm and the end of our time in the Cape Winelands. I decided to get up early and take in more of the property in the hours before it came to life for yet another day under the African sun. I was also eager to find some sort of closure on my personal journey of self-assessment.
Kerry and I spent our last morning becoming acquainted with the farm at large, taking a Segway tour through the vineyards. After a brief training session from our very patient tour guide, Q, and in the company of fellow tourists, we were off to explore, with the wind blowing through our hair. Well, for some of us.
We glided through the vineyards, breezed through the river garden and took a turn past the yin-yang water recycling and re-energising plant, experiencing first hand how things are done on the farm. Stopping in the grazing fields, we dismounted our mechanical steeds and Q explained how the chicken coups, mounted on wheels, were moved daily and used the manure to fertilise the fields, where during the day the hens roamed freely. As if on cue, they approach us and seemed rather taken with the idea of a little nip at Kerry’s ankles! For more Segway exploring, see my video below.
Shortly after our Segway tour, we were on our way, leaving Spier and the Cape Winelands behind; minds awash with memories of experiences of the last week. I felt a little saddened and somewhat a sense of disappointment, at a lack of closure on the personal issue so prominenty in the front of my mind. Was my journey of introspection, started all those years ago here at Spier, still on-going?
And then it occurred – yes and no. In a momentary flash before my eyes I saw myself as I now am, a blogger, writing about travel, fashion, lifestyle and just about anything else that takes my fancy. That’s a far cry from that merely existing Chartered Accountant.
My eyes are however still blue, but I am rather more awakened to the ways of the world. Life is less confusing and the bits that remain confusing present opportunities for me to grow. Yip, and I most definitely know how to spell QUALITY OF LIFE, caps all the way I tell you!
For more on our time at Spier Wine Farm, see my video below.
Our Spier Wine Farm experience was made possible by the friendly folks at Thompsons Holidays, who seamlessly arranged every detail. Thompsons bulk buying power means your trip, to literally anywhere, can be booked directly with them and covers all aspects of your holiday, from flights, car hire and accommodation. A Thompsons package translates into savings, leaving you with more to enjoy on your holiday. Go on, put them to the test! Thompsons Holidays have a deal to get you to Spier Wine Farm, including flights and car hire, right here.