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Exploring South Africa’s Culinary Capital and its Epitome of Opulence, La Residence Wine Resort

South Africa’s Western Cape is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest wine and is home to more than 800 wine estates. Franschhoek is South Africa’s culinary capital and a top oenophile destination that rivals Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley. There you’ll find La Residence,  Franschhoek’s finest abode, bar none,  heralded for its scenic beauty, stunning décor, and providing the quintessential wine resort experience.

Franschhoek is Africa’s mecca for the wine lover. This region has a deep wine tradition that began over 300 years ago when Dutch settlers and later the Huguenots from France created what is now one of the most notable of South Africa’s wine regions. This charming country village is home 40 wine estates producing world-class wines, most notably Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines.

The area could not be more beautiful with the Franschhoek mountain range as the back drop fronted by miles and miles of vineyards, plum orchards, olive groves and lavender fields creating one of the world’s most scenic wine routes. Past the picturesque vineyards is the quaint rural town with a main road straddled with gourmet restaurants, fancy boutiques, and art galleries in the iconic Cape Dutch architectural design found throughout the region.

Just on the outskirts of town is where you’ll find La Residence. This regal estate is cradled at the base on the majestic Franschhoek mountain range and is surrounded by the estate’s working farm of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vineyards as well as plum trees, olive groves and picturesque landscapes.  The grounds are lovely with flowering gardens,  manicured lawns, beautiful outdoor artwork, strutting peacocks and as well as lovely a pond, and which beg for you to explore by foot during your stay.

Past the grand entrance of the hotel is the Great Hall where the gravitas of the experience begins to set in. It is quickly apparent that this illustrious boutique resort cannot be described without such words as elegant, stately, grand, opulent, refined, sophisticated and other such well-deserved flattering labels. Throughout the resort the décor and design is striking, and the aforementioned superlatives begin to loop when describing the decadent design elements created by property’s visionary and owner, Liz Biden of the Portfolio Collection.

The Great Hall is similar to what one would find in the grand French chateaux or perhaps a nobleman’s castle in the English countryside where fine crystal chandeliers dangle from 30’ ceilings and dappled light over ornate statues and exotic object’s d’art. The centerpiece is the large fire hearth with a soaring ornate mantle, all around there are bespoke furnishings intermixed with elegant antiques, enormous mirrors in gilded frames and original works of art. There are comfortable spaces to gather for cocktails and canapés with friends or for a glass of wine before dinner with a loved one.

Out of doors, beyond the Great Hall, are sweeping open verandas with lounge areas created for guests to take in the fresh country air and panoramic views of the undulating mountainscapes. The atmosphere is opulent yet completely tranquil and serene where the natural views and setting creates a sense of peace and calm. This feeling is further enhanced by the staff of the property that are attentive yet never intrusive and gives genuine care and service during the stay.

The opulence continues in the 11 rooms and 5 villas of the resort with lavish interiors reminiscent of a French boudoir with intricate antiques, baroque furnishings, and whimsical objects d’art and a collection of modern artwork, most of which is by talented South African artists.

Each of the rooms is unique with indulgent layers of art and antiques creating an exquisite décor. This is the work of resort’s matriarch Liz Biden who carefully picked each piece of art and bespoke furnishings to create a masterpiece of function, vibrant in color, style and design. Nowhere does her design prowess come to the fore than in the palatial Victorian bathrooms with elevated ceilings,  crystal chandeliers, antique dressers, grand armoires, a chaise lounge and double vanity. The focal point is the claw tub bath in the center of the room begging its guess to languish, soak, and relax while taking in the views of the outdoors or the equality as attractive surrounding of the space. Outdoors of the suites features extensive wrap around porches giving panoramic views of the vineyards, mountains, and resorts grounds.

The accommodations are over generous in size with a four poster canopy bed and all of the mod cons one would expect. The indulgence continues with a fully stocked mini bar with snacks, spirits and of course the wines of the estate, as well as laundry, are all complimentary during the stay.

For another level of luxury, the resort offers it Vineyard Suites which are self-contained cottages ideal for groups of friends or families.

As Franschhoek is renown as the culinary capital of South Africa, its finest hotel has a tall order to fill and La Residence does not disappoint. Dining is exclusive for the hotel’s guests and presented by the talented culinary team that focuses on doing a short list of options extremely well and uses fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients from the surrounding environs.   The food and wine pairing are exceptional with the sommeliers perfectly selecting the ideal wine from their extensive wine cellar of regional and international wines.

There’s plenty to do on and around the property from taking in some sun in between dips in the pool, spa treatments of a visit to the gym. More active guests will enjoy tennis nearby as well as horseback riding, mountain walks, a bike ride or round of golf.

Some of the wines that you’ll definitely want to sample are the Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot and the South African cultivar, Pinotage which is a full-bodied Bordeaux style red. On the white side you’ll want to try the chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and of course the Champagne-standard sparkling white wines called Méthode Cap Classique or MCC for which  Franschhoek is renown. A few of the wineries that you’ll want to put on your short list are Moreson, Haute Cabriere, and LaMott.

Clayton Reabow-Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2018

Moreson is best known for producing some of the finest chardonnay’s in the region if not the world. In fact their most prized wine is their Mercator née Premium Chardonnay which has won numerous awards including the Diners Club Winemaker of the year for their heralded winemaker, Clayton Reabow.

Just on the outskirts of town overlooking the beautiful vineyards of the valley is where you’ll find Haute Cabriere which is one of the top producers of MCC from their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cultivars.

One of the oldest and most prestigious wineries and cellar door experiences is offered by La Mott. It is owned by one of South Africa’s wealthiest families, the Ruperts so no funds were spared in turning this into a top-notch experience complete with a heralded gourmet dining experience, and art gallery. The estate is known for their MCC / sparkling white wines as well as their Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Bordeaux style blended reds.

La Residence offers the ultimate wine resort experience – bar none – with endless accolades from the purveyors of luxury travel such as Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Andrew Harper, and the World Travel Awards to prove it. In fact, La Residence was voted the number one hotel in the world by Conde Nast and ever since is always been designated among the top of the world’s finest hotels. The luxury boutique hotel even draws a steady list of VVIPs from royalty and heads of state as well as a list of celebrities from Elton John to Lionel Richie and Richard Gere among many others.

For an ideal stay in the cradle of South Africa’s wine region, La Residence offers the epitome of accommodation sure to impress as well as a tranquil and rewarding stay while enjoying the best that this grand wine region has to offer.

WTM Africa 2020