A South African Road Trip, Part IV: Delaire Graff


Our travelogue series across South Africa concludes this weekend, in which Alwynne Gwilt arrives in Stellenbosch and the ultimate destination property…

If one could define luxury, the Delaire Graff Estate near Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Western Cape would surely be used as an example of what makes up that concept.

Nestled away amongst mountains and indigenous gardens, the entire estate is a tribute to life’s beauty. From an expansive art collection, to private lodges and award-winning restaurant, spa and a diamond boutique, it’s a place to come settle into for as long as one can.

I’ve arrived for an evening’s stay in the heat of summer and immediately know I will want more time to explore all of what it offers. As my husband, H, and I are shown to our luxury private lodge, we take in the heady aroma of wildflower blooms along the winding pathways tucked away from the restaurant and terraces, where people of great beauty enjoy glasses of chilled wine from the estate.

Originally purchased in the early 1980s by John and Erica Platter – who would go on to create the famous wine guide of the same name – the estate has grown in size and stature over the interceding years to one of such renown it can be difficult to find a date when any of its lodges are free for a stay, with many people booking for repeat returns year after year.

Walking into our lodge through its heavy mahogany door, I’m not surprised by this. The beauty of the room is almost overwhelming: from the polished wooden floors and soft, expansive grey sofas, to the marble bar room stocked with local spirits, and the view out the sliding glass doors to our private deck with heated pool and eyeline towards one of the many nearby mountain ranges, everything begs to be photographed for a magazine shoot.

The estate comprises lodges like ours, alongside some smaller but no less refined Garden lodges, larger family orientated Superior lodges, two Presidential lodges and the Owner’s Villa, with those able to stay there usually arriving from Cape Town by helicopter to the private pad on the grounds. All lodges have private plunge pools but there is also a shared and much larger guest pool and lounge deck near the restaurant, and an award winning on-site spa.

Instead of getting my camera out, I kick my sandals off and hop with glee to the deck, feeling the cool floor beneath my feet. As I test the water to see if it really is ‘heated’ – I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to any cold water – I exclaim with happiness to H that it is indeed warm enough for even me to swim in. To the other side of the pool sits large lounge chairs and an outdoor table, which leads through another set of sliding glass doors into the bedroom, fitted with a plush, enormous bed and cream and leather trunk desk which pops open to reveal a TV at the end. Black and white framed artwork adorns the walls, while soft, drooping orchids wink at us from their perches on marble topped side tables.

I long to stay safely ensconced in the cocoon of our room, but a wine tasting beckons us to the estate’s wine lounge. Open to the public, the wine tasting space is busy with people from all over the world who’ve come to tour the art-filled grounds and sip on award winning wines, or perhaps have a quick look at some diamonds in the boutique.

The estate has transformed itself from its initial roots as a farm in one of the most spectacular settings in South Africa’s Cape wine region at the top of the Helshoogte Pass, into this luxurious destination following the purchase in 2003 by English born diamond magnate and chair of Graff Diamonds International Laurence Graff. His vision to turn it into one of South Africa’s most sought after art and hospitality destinations has meant huge investment has gone into tailoring the Estate to what it is today.

Featuring works by leading contemporary artists, Dylan Lewis – whose famous cheetah sculpture greets guests upon arrival – Lionel Smit, Deborah Bell alongside dozens of others, Graff and his teams have worked hard to curate an experience for the art lover and art curious alike. The gardens, meanwhile, have been designed by renowned South African horticulturalist Keith Kirsten, giving guests a look into the diverse flora of the Cape.

Back in our lodge, with local G&T from our mini bar in hand and firmly stretched out on the lounge chair by our pool, I am captivated by how well the man made space has been blended into the natural landscape. Every direction I look I see winding vineyards, lush greenery and imposing mountains. Whilst I know neighbours exist in surrounding lodges, and guests are enjoying food and wine in the nearby restaurant, I feel completely tucked away making it an ideal spot to while away the afternoon in privacy.

That evening we find just enough energy to slowly wander like the relaxed sloths we are to the Indochine restaurant where Head Chef Virgil Kahn makes a wide variety of dishes inspired by the famed Cape Malay cuisine, which has developed on this coast over many a century due to the spice trade which would navigate around the southern Cape. Dishes are elegant, but full flavoured, with a coal fired tuna with tiger’s milk and jalapeno dressing, and a wagyu beef tartare standing out as favourites. The meal lasts for course after course, but the lightness and brightness of each dish means we are left wanting more, and excited to see another one come out from the kitchen.

A long lie-in the next morning, followed by a bountiful breakfast on our deck of poached eggs, salmon and avocado, and piles of fresh fruit, rounds out our brief encounter with this little piece of luxurious paradise. We depart leaving refreshed, refined and relaxed, our eyes overwhelmed by the elegant beauty which exudes out of every seam and corner of the Delaire Graff Estate. Mr Graff has clearly taken his love of life’s finer things and tailored them into an experience he can share with those visiting for a day or a week – and what a fine job he has done. A destination in its own right it surely is.

For more information about Delaire Graff, including details of their wine and art collection, please visit www.delaire.co.za.