Despite being described as the ‘Jewel of the Cape Winelands’, I was surprised at how I was seduced by the Delaire Graff Estate, near Stellenbosch, in South Africa’s beautiful Western Cape, writes Andrew Forbes.
Was it the lavish private lodge accommodation; the holistic wellness spa; the gourmet restaurants; the world-class art collection; or the award-winning wines that enchanted me the most? It’s one of the places that defines luxury, extravagance, style and glamour.
This sparkling estate, at the foot of the Botmaskop Mountain, in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s airport. After a few minutes’ on the Helshoogte mountain pass heading out of Stellenbosch towards Franschhoek one comes to the entrance to Delaire Graff. Passing the security gatehouse the long drive way sweeps up through the vineyards and countryside flanked by landscaped gardens, a vast natural canvas for monumental bronze sculptures by artists including Dylan Lewis, Deborah Bell and Anton Smit. The estate is alluringly hidden, and slowly unfolds before you.
The estate is a manifestation of the passions of Laurence Graff; wine, food and art. The now Chairman of Graff Diamonds was 24 years old when in 1962 he opened his first shop in London’s Hatton Garden. It was to be the start of one of the world’s great diamond dynasties. His success has allowed him to indulge his interests for not only diamonds but for fine food, with two gourmet restaurants on the estate; and art as well; visitors and guests get to enjoy his extraordinary collection of paintings and sculptures throughout the property.
Graff bought the Delaire Estate in 2003 and since it opened to the public in 2009 it has become one of the most glamorous destinations in Africa.
Wine Lodge & Boutiques
The main wine lodge and reception is the first building one encounters. This part of the estate is open to non-residents and is home to upscale boutiques, such as 100% Capri, an Italian lifestyle clothing, homeware & gifts store; and the Graff Diamonds’ Flagship African store offering a dazzling selection of modern, creative diamond jewellery and Graff Luxury Watches.
Here too is the winery – where the estate’s award-winning wines are created under the skilled direction of winemaker Morné Very. I took the chance to try one of the different wine tastings on offer, accompanied by a friendly wine tutor – oh, and a tasty plate of cheeses too!
Delaire Graff Restaurant & Terrace
Adjacent is the signature Delaire Graff Restaurant, decorated with originals from Graff’s personal art collection. The menu, by head chef Michael Deg, is driven my seasonal foods from the estate’s vegetable garden and produce from local farmers.
The terrace is the place to sip a glass of wine and enjoy the views out across to the mountains.
The Lodges and Spa
Yet the real magic is for residents staying at the ultra-luxurious, architect-designed lodges. I had been invited to stay the night, so I was one of the privileged few who get to pass through the entrance to the most exclusive enclave – past the huge bronze ‘big cats’ that flank the gates into the residential part of the estate.
As soon as I drew up in the car, Glen, a member of the friendly team came out to greet me and welcome me to the Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa. The reception has an ethnic, Asian ambiance with carved wooden artworks and spectacular flower arrangements.
An Asian style water garden leads to the Delaire Graff Spa offering treatments using products from Aromatherapy Associates, La Prairie, Mama Mio as well as the Terres D’Afrique range of artisan products, made from sustainably harvested ingredients, inspired by the use of botanical, healing plants in African cultures.
Glen explained the dedicated facilities for lodge guests including a private cinema, and the fully-equipped gym. He led me past the ‘Indochine’ Asian restaurant out through the manicured gardens to my guest lodge. To my right was an immense bronze sculpture – later I was to discover this was one of the latest pieces by Lionel Smit – his ‘Morphous’ work, an immense piece of mirrored faces.
Then we reached the lodge – it was breath-taking. From the outside the initial impression is of a contemporary house, influenced by classic Cape Dutch architecture. Yet once inside the spacious private villa is appointed like an ultra-luxury home. There is a living area with a separate small butler’s kitchen, then a master suite with a luxuriously appointed dressing room, mini bar and a fabulous bathroom.
The lodge opens out with concertina floor to ceiling windows onto a terrace with private plunge pool – this is what heaven must feel like.
The ten guest lodges opened in 2010 and already expansion is planned with more lodges are being built.
Each space is thoughtfully furnished and decorated with art – ceilings are double height and light is everywhere.
In the stylish master suite expect Egyptian cotton linens by Coleman Prowse, whilst in the bathroom one can indulge with amenities by Aromatherapy Associates. Thoughtful touches include a scented candle by Charlotte Rhys and a choice of bathrobes – cotton and silk.
However, with so much to enjoy, it didn’t take me long before I jumped into the heated plunge pool and just soaked up the fabulous views.
Before dinner a butler visited the lodge – looking as if he had just stepped out of the pages of lifestyle magazine, he carefully laid out canapés and poured glasses of bubbly; Pierre Jordan Brut from nearby Haute Cabrière winery. It was an elegant way to start the evening.
The fully stocked mini bar in the villa is also included in the stay, a temptation that is hard to resist, but one that would have to wait, as I had a dinner reservation at Indochine.
UPDATE: December 2018 opens the new Villa, a spectacular 4-bedroom private property for up to 8 guests; complementing the existing guest lodges and signature Presidential and Owners lodges.
The restaurant delivers genuine impact as soon as one enters. The rich blue leather seating and the warm beaten copper-topped tables create a welcoming ambience, whilst the ceiling is dominated by an extraordinary piece of art. The sculpture, called ‘Swallows in Flight’ by Lionel Smit and André Stead, sets a tone of creativity and originality.
We tried some of the restaurants exotic dishes, created by the team under head chef Virgil Kahn.
The head waiter created a truly personalised dining experience for us and also suggested estate wines to pair with the dishes.
It’s a very elegant dining experience in a refined, exclusive setting.
The next day I was so reluctant to leave the lodge that I ordered from room service breakfast. It was delivered and presented with real finesse – I just wanted the final few hours to slow down so I could linger and enjoy this corner of paradise.
At present exchange rates, South Africa represents exceptional value for money. A night at one of the Delaire Lodges presently starts from 600 GB pounds.
Superlatives often come easily to me when I discuss luxury properties, but with the Delaire Graff Estate they are very much deserved – it is a truly remarkable destination.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
T: +27 21 885 8160