I was invited to a Relais & Chateaux workshop that was held in Durban a while back. There were a number of member properties exhibiting at this workshop, all superb properties in South and Southern Africa. I always try and attend these events, as one is almost always bound to learn something here, and this event was no different – a property in the Kalahari, Tswalu, which I had always been interested in, had set out their programme for 2011, which I realized may suit some current clients. Two things immediately caught my eye – if you stay for four nights there is a complimentary air transfer to/from either/or Cape Town and Johannesburg to the property, and if you confirm three months in advance, you are guaranteed your own private ranger and vehicle. I have since discussed this with these clients and it seems as if they will be spending some time there next year.
But more than this – as is customary at the end of these events, there is a lucky draw, with some wonderful prizes up for grabs. One always sits down with hope, and there I was, hoping for a prize of some sort. Well, business cards were drawn, prizes were handed out, and the final draw was to take place, with my name still in the bottom of the hat, as it were. So, as you are now no doubt expecting, my name comes up last, and I have won a two night stay at the Asara Wine Estate and Hotel in Stellenbosch in a de luxe room, with a complimentary dinner at Raphaels for two, as well as wine tasting for two.
This was great, and I made plans to get to Stellenbosch a few weeks later. What a wonderful hotel. Set on an enchanting, three-century old wine estate, Asara has risen over the past seven years to become one of the Cape's most exclusive Wineland destinations.
Guests can indulge in five-star luxury accommodation, fine wine tastings, superb service, and gourmet and casual dining. All facilities boast spectacular views, with their tranquil waterside setting, backed by the grandeur of the Stellenbosch- and Helderberg mountains and vineyards, providing an idyllic backdrop.
Our stylishly decorated de luxe room had its own private terrace which offered spectacular views over the vineyards and surrounding mountains as well as en-suite bathroom facilities. The bedroom was equipped with a fully stocked mini bar, hairdryer, satellite television, telephone, tea and coffee making facilities as well as an electronic safe, with a king sized bed. We spent the one night here and did a bit of sight-seeing in the Stellenbosch area the following day. Upon our return to the hotel the duty manager had bad news for us – there was a problem with the geyser, and we would have to move to another room. And which other room? The Avalon Suite of course.
Named after Asara's most prestigious wine, the Avalon Suite offers its guest a slice of opulence. The stylishly decorated suite consists of a spacious king sized bedroom with a large walk-in cupboard, a luxurious en-suite bathroom fitted with a jet bath, as well as a private lounge with an open fireplace. Its private balcony offers spectacular views of the Estate's well-maintained vineyards as well as panoramic views of the Stellenbosch and Helderberg mountains. It is equipped with air conditioning, a fully stocked mini bar, hair dryer, electronic safe, two satellite televisions and a DVD player as well as tea and coffee making facilities for your use. Bad news indeed! This was heaven.
That afternoon we did some wine tasting there. We had a choice of tasting five wines each, and these were not the puny little wine glasses so prevalent at other estates, but proper wine glasses. I chose four reds, and a noble late harvest to call it an afternoon – all good stuff.
That evening it was dinner at Raphaels. Asara's main restaurant offers classic European style cuisine ranging from very easy and light snacks to the finest of dishes, using only the finest and freshest locally sourced ingredients, including seafood. The environment is relaxed and informal with a touch of elegance, perfect for enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner on the estate. This was a superb meal, complimented by delicious desserts and what other than a bottle of Asara Shiraz.
Certainly a place to go to if one has the means.