Piecing together an experience in the Cape Winelands is like the stitchings of a fine tapestry, weaving the silk threads together that encapsulate elegance, refinement, taste and luxury. It’s not only about the vines and the beautiful, rolling landscape that they occupy. Or the robust blends of their grapes that you spend long, languid hours tasting. Or the handsome grounds that you get to explore, steeped in history and architectural grandeur. The fine culinary pairing in their restaurants, the art on their walls and the amusements that accompany the quaffing. It’s also about the story of the estate and the message it would like to convey. The ethos of its soil, its sentiment on sustainability and symphony with nature.
Set on 100 hectares of vineyards, indigenous gardens, equestrian paddocks – with a world class indoor training arena and its avant-garde stables – and three freshwater dams, at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains, Cavalli Estate harnesses all of these attributes, with a discerning nod to lifestyle, in all of its luxuries. Adjacent the equestrian arena – Cavalli Equine – and embedded into the burgeoning indigenous gardens, overlooking the paddocks, the dams, and all the way up to the magnificent mountains, sits Equestrian House. Three spacious ensuite bedrooms and a study flank the grand open-plan kitchen, dining and living space, that opens out onto a long wooden deck with a long outdoor dining table and loungers, an outdoor fireplace and weber. Natural light floods through the high apex ceiling windows and tall glass sliding doors, allowing the spectacular views of the landscape to permeate the contemporary interior spaces. Layered in equestrian regalia with subtle textures of leather and velvet, the open living space is separated from the corridors by beautiful oak cabinetry displaying some of the estate’s prolific literature, photography, boardgames and an enticing liquor shelf. Soft, earthy neutrals are emblazoned by a signature palette of gold, black and a rich African Violet purple. Even the bathrooms are adorned in golden mosaic tiles.
Equestrian House has become the perfect appendage to Cavalli Estate, that has long been revered as a seamlessly stylish estate to visit. Not only for its high calibre wines and outstanding culinary experience in its voguish 100-seater restaurant and 350-seater banqueting hall, but also for its inimitable art gallery, beneath a skylit ceiling, exhibiting poignant pieces by both contemporary and classical local artists. A luxury boutique, showcasing a range of South African products occupies space next door to the rather sexy tasting room that effuses elements of a rockstar’s studio with its impressive collection of musical instruments. Some of which have been autographed by the Greats of Rock ’n Roll. There’s a sports museum, too, displaying signed rugby attire and sporting equipment encased in glass frames or hanging on rails as they would in a locker room. It all adds to an ongoing sentiment of history, patriotism and passion, with a lot of fun.
With all of its unique qualities, incessant luxuries, life-changing dining and tasting experiences, and aesthetically pleasing elements, the most abiding attribute of Cavalli Estate, that makes this such a special place to visit, is the owners’ integral role as custodians of the soil it sits within. Located in the Cape Floral Kingdom – a Unesco World Heritage site – Cavalli’s gardens are consciously considered, with a focus on indigenous species and nurturing sustainability. With that comes the prolific birdlife and an ecosystem that is as inspiring to witness, as it is necessary. The farm has a greenhouse tunnel where seedlings are propagated and then transports to the organic vegetable garden for the chefs to forage for your forks. A philosophy that’s at the helm of their menu and palpable in every dish. You can taste the love, the passion and the commitment in every mouthwatering mouthful at their restaurant. It’s the pickled peppers that have been blistered and the creamy, citrusy grilled chokka. The braised wagyu short-rib and sweet, honeyed-grapefruit raddichio. It’s the horseradish, the frilly mustard, the sage and the chillies of the harissa that’ll keep you lingering on the restaurant’s deck, overlooking the dam, watching the resident Blue Crane sauntering through the gardens, for hours on end.
Such is the tapestry at Cavalli Estate. As you and your favourite people occupy Equestrian House and venture out into the gardens, followed by a dip in the dam, a sip on the deck, a snooze on the lounger or a game of backgammon at the table, as you watch ‘Fancy Guy’ – the Cremello Palomino – prance around the paddock, together with all of the other American Saddlebreds. Then to the tasting room, the gallery space and restaurant deck for some more feasting and birdwatching. Its silk threads are the very essence of its ethos. Woven into each unforgettable experience.
What we love!
- The indigenous gardens are spectacular and incredibly soothing to walk through or park off under an acacia tree with a book, listening to the birds and watching the horses graze the paddocks. There’s also a lovely little deck beside the dam for you to relax and read, or enjoy your morning brew before a revitalising dip into the water. Perhaps even a bit of yoga to start the day.
- Visiting the horses for a Stables Tour – which does need to be pre-arranged – or witnessing the training at Cavalli Equine. There are also carriage tours around the farm and wine-tasting on horseback for the more experienced riders that you can enjoy on the estate.
- Cavalli’s restaurant is outstanding and was recently voted one of the most stylish restaurants in the country. There is also a private dining experience available in The Conservatory, right on the water’s edge, overlooking the Helderberg Mountains.
- The art gallery is considered one of the Cape Wineland’s best kept secrets and as soon as you visit the space you’ll understand why. The same can be said of the tasting room.
- You won’t really feel the need to leave the estate, as there is so much to enjoy and savour from the grounds. But should you fancy a trip into the region, it’s the perfect spot to pivot from.
What you need to know…
- As well as the 26 hectares of vineyards, 10 hectares of indigenous gardens, 20 hectares of manicured paddocks, there is also an impressive organic vegetable garden where the team of gardeners farm organic herbs and vegetables for the chefs of the restaurant to prepare those five-star meals. Jerusalem artichokes, prickly pear trees, wild garlic, zucchini and aubergines, lime basil and frilly mustard bushes. Sweet peppers and horseradish. And plenty of tomato vines. The list goes on and on.
- Equestrian House is self-catering. All meals at the restaurant and activities should be booked in advance.
- The Estate is located on the R44 in the prestigious Helderberg Region of Stellenbosch. Somerset West is a 10-minute drive away and the centre of Stellenbosch is 20-minutes. Cape Town International Airport is only a 30-minute drive from the Estate.
- No pets are allowed.
Reviewed by Colleen Ogilvie