Vergelegen gets R20m faceliftAugust 29th, 2011 by Andrew Moth | Categories: beverages, environmental, food, industry, restaurants, tourism
The grande dame of premier South African wine estates, Vergelegen in Somerset West, is undergoing a facelift. The 311-year-old estate is enjoying a R20-million upgrade of its hospitality assets.
The improvements include a new wine tasting centre, a new bistro-style restaurant and revamping the existing Vergelegen Restaurant into a premier culinary destination.
The estate was bought from the Barlow family by the current owner, Anglo American, in 1987. The existing buildings underwent low-key refurbishing in 1990 for hospitality use, and thereafter investment focused on the staff and service levels.
Vergelegen MD Don Tooth said: “The estate has now developed a reputation for service excellence and has received numerous awards from wine and tourism bodies. The appearance and structure of some of our offerings has, however, become somewhat dated. The original concept has limited relevance to our current competitive position.
“We decided to review our overall hospitality assets as an entity rather than as different components. After careful consideration and receiving expert architectural, heritage and environmental opinion, we received board approval to go ahead for the long-term benefit of the estate.”
The renovations include:
• The new wine tasting centre: Building is currently underway with interior design starting during the first week of November. Opening is planned for mid-December in time for the main tourism season.
• The Bistro Restaurant: This area originally had stables and was adapted to house the gift shop, wine tasting centre and an interpretive centre. It is now being developed into an informal bistro-style restaurant that will maximise its views of the Hottentots Holland mountains. Builders are already on site, with handover to the interior design company planned for the first week of November. The opening is also scheduled for mid-December.
• Vergelegen Restaurant: The existing restaurant was established in the former dowager house of the estate, with minimal changes to the interior, leading to layout and kitchen constraints. The plan is to develop it into a leading culinary destination with more facilities for private functions and increased outside seating. Provided that the new bistro-style restaurant is up and running, building on the Vergelegen Restaurant should start on 15 December, with the opening planned for April 2012.
The main consultants on the project are:
• Architects: Cape Town-based MLH Architects & Planners (Paul Truscott and Belinda Young).
• Building Contractor: Hare & Liddell Construction.
• Interior Designer: Stellenbosch-based Christiaan Barnard.
• Heritage Consultants: Sarah Winter and Nicolas Baumann
Covering over 3 000 hectares between the Helderberg and Hottentots Holland mountains in Somerset West, Vergelegen was first developed by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700. Subsequent Vergelegen owners included randlord Sir Lionel Phillips and his wife Florence, who supported the arts, and business magnate, sportsman and conservationist Charles “Punch” Barlow.
Since Anglo American took over the estate in 1987, it has been restored to its former glory and opened to the public. Its wines have often won top awards.
Vergelegen was the venue for the first meeting of the ANC after Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
Other distinguished visitors have included Queen Elizabeth II (Anglo American hosted a private luncheon during a state visit in 1995) and Bill and Hilary Clinton – a state banquet was given by Nelson Mandela in their honour in 1998.