When one of the major jewelers in the world wants to create a vineyard where the focus is not only the wine but also on art, you get something called Delaire Graff Estate. The owner Laurence Graff wasn’t frugal when designing and constructing the estate. You can expect an incredible experience in one of the most luxurious lodges in the Western Cape when staying over here.
Following our stay at Lanzerac (you can find my review on the website), we literally drove 6 kilometres through Stellenbosch up to the top of the Helshoogte pass to arrive at one of the most known and praised wine estates in South Africa. The reputation that Delaire Graff has built over the years is mainly thanks to the quality wines, but also the whole entourage like the restaurants, the amazing location with splendid views, the luxurious accommodation, the art, the service,….you name it, Delaire Graff has it. Many tourists make this a mandatory stop, as they know everything will be close to perfection and it will allow them to enjoy the whole experience, irrelevant if you are here for a wine tasting, lunch, dinner, the spa or as a guest in the luxury lodge that is part of the estate.
As mentioned, it is located on the top of het Helshoogte pass, with a stunning view over Stellenbosch and the surrounding vineyards that are covering the hills as far as the eye can see. On the other side, there is also the Simonsberg and the Hottentots-Holland mountains making sure the views are incomparable, no matter what direction you look at. It’s tough not to take a picture of the landscape every time you turn your head to enjoy a different view. Paarl and Franschhoek, (two of the other hotspots in the Cape Winelands) are just a short 30 minutes ride away, while dozens of other wine estates are literally located minutes away from Delaire Graff. You can imagine this is the perfect place to explore and even more importantly enjoy the whole region.
We stayed in a Superior lodge, but I would rather describe it as a superior suite. Rarely did I stay in a room with this level of high-quality finishes and luxury amenities. The overall feeling you get when walking (and staying) in this room is one of luxury, indulgence and relaxation. Everything you could wish for is here; a beautiful terrace to enjoy the amazing views, a heated pool, a cozy living room, a full-size dressing with both summer-and winter bathrobes, an oversized king-size bed wherein case your orientation isn’t great you possibly can get lost, … The butler’s kitchen (don’t look surprised, this is Delaire Graff we’re talking about) has a fully stocked wine fridge but also an endless array of snacks going from truffle chips and popcorn all the way to Delaire Graff’s own chocolate range. What else do you need to enjoy that glass of wine in the evening? The bathroom comes with all the marble you would expect in a place like this, yet they didn’t overdo it cause together with all the natural light that flows in, it gives it a warm and inviting feeling. The big eye-catcher of this suite is, of course, the view and thanks to the floor to ceiling windows which can open completely, you can take it all in. It also makes the suite feel even bigger which wasn’t really necessary but who am I to say no.
Staying here feels like you are living in a jewel designed by Lawrence Graff himself, with the highest quality materials, flawless finishes and the always present eye for detail. Your butler will serve you canapés and a glass of champagne every evening, to make sure you start it of well. Beforehand I didn’t expect too much about it as often these little touches are overrated or sold by the hotel as the one thing you can’t miss while actually it is the first thing you do want to skip. Not over here though, as we soon found out. When the butler arrived he promptly started to set our table outside on the terrace and out of nowhere he served us a trio of hot canapés, which were all proper explosions of taste and texture. Ow…and that glass of champagne, well…that instantly became a full bottle which is always the perfect start of an epic evening.
The estate is part of the Relais & Chateaux group, which is an instant sign of great gastronomy. There are 2 restaurants of which one is located in the main estate building near the wine tasting area. The other one is located in the main building of the lodge. You can enjoy both, irrelevant if you’re a visitor or a guest. The Delaire Graff restaurant is more like an upscale bistro that produces some superb classics with a modern twist. The menu is of course seasonal as they only want to use the best produce they can find. Hence why they made their own vegetable and herb garden to ensure the best quality of the food. Indochine is more focused on Asian cuisine, but once again making use of only the best and fresh ingredients. It’s a given to have pairing wines with the meals, especially with the quality wines they produce on the estate. The focal point in the restaurant (besides the obvious food and wines) is without a doubt the Swallows in Flight art installation from Lionel Smit and Andre Stead. More than a 1000 swallows are included in this piece of art and it surely gives the whole restaurant a unique look and feel. Breakfast is also served at Indochine. It has several Asian influences through the classics (and much more) are also widely available. The perfect way to start the day full of energy.
It ain’t easy to leave the gorgeous suites or the amazing restaurants, but if you succeed you will be able to enjoy all the facilities at the lodge. There’s the Spa which is widely regarded as one of the best in the Cape Winelands. When staying at Delaire Graff you can enjoy all of the Spa facilities like the steam rooms, sauna’s,… without booking any treatment. And the best part of it is the fact that those facilities are open 24/7, meaning you can have a wellness session in the middle of the night if you feel like it. Afterwards, you can cool down in the outdoor pool or jacuzzi while watching the stars above you. There are also several boutique shops situated in the main buildings. Of course, one of them is the high-end Graff Diamonds jeweler, but there is also a sleek clothing shop as well as a boutique souvenir and local art shop where you can find some amazing pieces. The biggest attraction though is the wine tasting itself, and as a guest, you are guaranteed to receive a table with great view over the surrounding area. The wines are (as you can imagine) very good quality wines and there are few things in life more relaxing than sipping some good nectar while having one of the most amazing views in the Winelands.
Laurence Graff is a big art lover and you’ll notice this as from the moment you enter the driveway that goes all the way to the estate. Sculptures and other works of art are dotted around, all of them belonging to his private art collection. The same style is continued inside all the buildings, irrelevant if it is a restaurant, tasting room, walkway, suite or the reception area. It feels like you are walking through an art gallery which is incorporated into a beautiful wine estate. The main focus is on African art but you can expect to see a broad array of styles and art pieces.
It all sounds pretty much close to perfection, and the ideal place to escape reality while indulging in all the luxury you can find on the estate. Though it comes are a price which might scare you a bit in the beginning, but when you think about it is also rather realistic. The whole lodge is very exclusive, with just a little over 10 villas. And by maintaining everything to the highest standards possible, they only use the best materials and services they can source. This also keeps the exclusivity guaranteed. On the flipside, the lodge is almost fully booked year round which proves there is a need and clientele. Our room was 28.000 ZAR/night but that price drops to 23.500 ZAR/night during the low season.
It remains a big chunk of money, but it is unique and this place is ideal for a special occasion, or just to treat yourself. The location, service, villas, and so many other aspects make Delaire Graff lodge a place you have to experience whenever you have the chance. You will not regret it for a single moment.
Guest Blog: Text and Images by Kristof Eyckmans @KEyckmans