The day breaks clear and blue; the air is warm and dry. I’m in Constantia, one of the famous wine-growing regions of South Africa, at the stunning five-star Steenberg Hotel, “minutes from Cape Town, miles from the world.” (Miles from the world, maybe, but a world unto itself.) Though the hurly-burly of Cape Town beckons, you will find everything your heart desires right here at the exclusive hotel and its highly–touted winery.
Stepping outside after a glorious night in the luxurious Khoi Khoi Suite, you breathe in the fresh brightness of the Mediterranean-like climate and survey the surroundings: rows and rows of grapevines interspersed with rose bushes, a quaint Cape Dutch Manor House, a regiment of white villas, a flowering herb garden, and withal, the Steenberg mountains, dramatic backdrop to the whole.
You’ll love the accommodation. It’s one of three Heritage Suites that combine all the luxuries of modern living with the charm of an historic house. A duplex, it comprises two bedrooms, a kitchen, a lounge with fireplace, and an office space complete with WiFi and fax. The turn-down service is a little luxury – posh linens and pillows strewn with fresh lavender. Adorning the rooms are African artifacts and art such as framed, original, Steenberg-commissioned drawings of a Khoi Khoi man and woman, members of a tribe of pastoral agriculturists once native to southwestern Africa. I’m told these drawings are so popular, so many guests order copies. But the visual enjoyment is not only inside. From the windows you can behold the vineyards, the immaculate Steenberg Golf Course, and False Bay shimmering in the distance.
One of the best things about the Steenberg is you can be as active or as idle as you please. The first full day after the long flight over, I “please” to relax and avail myself of The Spa at Steenberg, operated by the highly-regarded Ginkgo Spa & Wellness Group, and opt for the 90-minute ScenTao Hot Stone Therapy Massage. Do you fall asleep under the magic hands of a gifted masseuse? I do. Wound down to zero, it’s time for a stroll through the grounds to admire the bold, modern sculpture juxtaposed with the green of the vineyards and the soft glow of the roses. Beyond their beauty, these flowers serve a practical purpose: like canaries in a mineshaft, the rosebush will be the first to catch a fungus that also infects grapevines, a red flag to the wine farmer.
What fun to quaff a glass of bubbly in the spanking new, cool hotspot, “Gorgeous by Graham Beck” – the only “champagne” bar in South Africa dedicated to an exclusive brand. (The late Graham Beck was a South African entrepreneur, who began planting vines in 1984 at his farm outside of Robertson, South Africa, becoming one of the country’s leading wine producers.) Hotel Manager Gaby Gramm joins me in the comfy lounge. “Try Garth’s personal favorite – Graham Beck Brut NV with West Coast Oysters Naturelle,” she suggests. We sip the tingling wine and savor the robust mollusks, and agree that oysters pair perfectly with the crisp Brut!
Day two is so beautiful and the weather still so fresh and favorable, I decide to take lunch on the terrace of Bistro Sixteen82, named for the year Steenberg was established. You can sit outside at an umbrella-shaded table close by the reflecting pool and sensory gardens. The air is alive with buzz and laughter from fellow diners, and the menu is mouth-watering. What to choose? You might select the Bistro House Salad composed of “fresh greens, shaved fennel and Granny Smith apples with mint and candied walnuts” and the Line Fish with sautéed baby potato salad, anchovy crème and olives. You’ll find everything is excellent. Once sated, go inside to tour the Wine Lounge and Tasting Bar. From the central space hangs a massive “grape sculpture,” a chandelier that doubles as a chime when the door opens, a charming grace note to the graciousness of the hospitality.
The next morning, gather up a foursome and head to the greens of the 18-hole championship Steenberg Golf Course, distinguished by its unique natural terrain and environmental diversity, designed along the contours of the original farm. Traditionalists can ‘bump and run’ (a rare shot in South Africa) in the rough and try to meet the challenges of strategically placed sand pits and waterways. Seasoned golfers will get a kick out of the par-three, not-so-short 14th hole featuring a 250-foot green, the longest in Africa. Not-so-seasoned golfers will relish the scenery as much as the game.
When you go to dinner at Catharina’s, Steenberg’s fine dining restaurant, dress up. Here, Cape Town comes to Constantia: the fashionable eatery is the place to see and be seen. If you’re in a festive mood, order the Steenberg Brut 1682 Cap NV, and proclaim it creamy and crisp with the aroma of apples. You’ll find the tasting menu irresistible -- a divine line-up of Caramelized King Scallop; Winter Truffle Risotto; Malay Spiced Kingklip; Kudu Fillet; Dark Chocolate Flourless Cake and more. You’ll swoon with the goodness of it all, and feel wrenched to realize your sojourn to the genteel world of Steenberg is over.
Room rates for Steenberg Hotel from US$290. For reservations or more information, please visit www.steenberghotel.com or call +27-21-713-2222.