THE team at 320-year-old Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West has pulled out all the stops to ensure that local is lekker this summer, while observing strict Covid-19 protocols.
Ahead of the holidays, the team has reviewed the restaurant and picnic menus. A vast vegetable and herb garden has been established, staff are sporting fresh green-and-cream uniforms, and the estate has invested in new garden designs and plantings. The gates open earlier and close later, and all age groups and most budgets are well catered for.
Says Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer: “Vergelegen has a long-established reputation as a showcase of South Africa’s top wine, cuisine, culture, history and horticulture. We’ve worked hard to maintain and even exceed those high standards, while also ensuring that the estate appeals to visitors who enjoy a more relaxed ambience and lighter meals. It’s more accessible.
“We want more South Africans to put this special Somerset West spot high on their must-visit lists. Of course, all pandemic protocols are strictly adhered to, and the extensive gardens and walkways will suit families eager to destress and relax in the fresh air over the holidays.”
Camphors, the signature restaurant on the banks of the Lourens River, now offers the Camphors Veranda. The exquisite setting of trees and nature is reflected in outdoor fynbos-decorated tables, blooms overflowing from terracotta pots, and flowers spilling from oversized silver containers suspended from the trees. Tables on the expansive lawns ensure social distancing with style. Plumped-up cushions on the chairs, and on the lawn, ensure a relaxed mood. A plush upholstered swing, bedecked with flowers, provides an Instagram-worthy setting for guests to remember their visits. Children are now welcome, with suitable menu options. The Camphors a la carte menu offers larger portions and less “fussy” food. In addition, chefs’ family favourites are shared in daily specials.
The ever-popular summer picnics in the extensive camphor tree forest have been re-launched under this year’s theme of “chic nostalgia”. Updated furniture and a refreshed, contemporary menu complement the exquisite outdoor setting. Regular, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and children’s picnics are available for pre-ordering.
New, lighter uniforms reflect Vergelegen’s status as a beautiful Cape wine farm. White shirts, beige chinos, floral blouses and cream-and-green striped aprons suit the outdoor feel.
Family-friendly restaurant Stables has always been renowned for its great garden setting and mountain views. Freshly-planted pots of bright flowers now complement existing plantings and water features. Pride of place goes to a chic new outdoor Champagne trolley where staff serve the estate’s MMV Brut and oysters, and a daily cocktail.
The Stables summer menu has also been refreshed, and a consultant French pastry chef has added ooh la la to the dessert menu. Stables chef Roger Hindley is a specialist in meat smoking and is the man behind the delicious charcuterie that picnic guests have enjoyed for the past five years. The team have decided to make this item more widely available with a cured meat platter of coppa, prosciutto and bresaola at the wine tasting centre.
The gardens are more beautiful than ever. The main rose garden near the camphor forest has been refreshed with more plantings. Enormous terracotta pots overflow with mixed English annuals that are already blooming spectacularly. The former herb garden, outside the wine tasting centre, is evolving into the Sundial Garden with an inner zone of lavenders and seasonal bulbs, a mid-zone of ericas, and an outer zone of indigenous plants and grasses. Staff are hard at work with this transition. A tract of land near the Lourens River has been prepared for extensive vegetable and herb cultivation. The chefs will use these super-fresh ingredients for Vergelegen dishes.
The Octagonal Garden, at the historic core of the property, has not been forgotten either. A fountain featuring carved dolphins, that was showing signs of wear and tear, has been replaced with a finely sculpted replica. A tiny stone cherub in another water feature in the same garden has also been repaired. It forms a serene centrepiece surrounded by waterlilies and reflections of bougainvillea.
“A carpet of African daisies, spread out beyond Stables, was a great hit with our spring visitors who posted many Instagram pics taken there. Those spring flowers have of course died back, but a meadow of yellow sunflowers should soon be in bloom,” says Coetzer.
He acknowledges that wine estates, like many other tourism businesses, are challenged by a pandemic-induced dearth of international visitors and a depressed economy. However, Vergelegen staff morale is strong and team spirit high. “Our Jerusalema video here generated 70 000 views and we’ve doubled our Instagram following from 8000 to 16000 followers.
“We’ve also designed a new website and online wine shop, and extended our opening hours to cater for both early risers eager to start the day with a Stables breakfast, or those who want to enjoy a relaxing sundowner.
“We’ve done our best to ensure that anyone who has not yet explored this magnificent property, will want to do so. Visitors are assured of a wonderful day out, with their health and safety always top of mind.”
Vergelegen opening times
Sundays to Wednesdays 8.30am till 5pm (last entry 4pm).
Thursdays to Saturdays 8.30am till 6pm. Gates close 8pm.
Entrance R10 adults, R5 pensioners and scholars. Pensioners free Mondays. Find out more here.
Camphors: Lunch Wednesdays to Sundays and dinner Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Call 021 8472131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reservations via Dineplan here.
Picnics: Bookings are essential. Telephone 021 847 2131, or view the menu and wine list, and book online. Picnics available until end of April 2021.
Stables: Sundays to Wednesdays 8.30am till 5pm. Kitchen closes 3.30pm. Thursdays to Saturdays kitchen closes 6.30pm. Reservations essential. Call 021 847 2156 or email email@example.com