To my greatest embarrassment, I must admit that in my 34 years on this earth I’ve never been to Groot Constantia. And then I want to call myself a true Capetonian. Tsk tsk. I’ve not been there on the red bus, or for wine tasting, or for a meal. As you can imagine by now, I was super-duper excited when I was invited to celebrate #333 years of legendary wines with Simon’s Restaurant and Groot Constantia recently.
Not a fan of tour buses full of giddy overseas tourists with happy snappy fingers and slow moving legs, I’ve always purposefully steered clear of Groot Constantia in the fear of being swept up in the crowd and losing out on an experience that was meant to be of the best Cape Town has to offer. I put Groot Constantia on the back burner and scribbled it on my mile-long “to do” list, hoping I’d be given the perfect opportunity one day to visit this historic estate that is famous for so much more than just its location and impressive wine cellar.
That day recently arrived in the form of an invitation to attend an exclusive media event to celebrate three hundred and thirty three years of legendary wine made at Groot Constantia. A beautiful chance to visit the farm in all its glory on a balmy winter’s day. So, who am I to say no? Of course I was going to head on over to explore one of my bucket list items!
Setting the scene
I was greeted at the formidable gates to the estate by a jolly Napoleon Bonaparte, who directed me (with the greatest of smiles!) to the Cloete Cellar Museum where we were meeting up. Did you know that Napoleon enjoyed Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance wine while in exile on St. Helena?! I bet you didn’t! Anyways, I wound my way through the estate until I saw Simon’s Restaurant. The tasting cellar was just a short walk up from there.
Enter the freestanding ornate whitewashed building from another era and my breath was taken away. An ultra-modern and chic tasting venue, not only equipped with state of the art technology, but humbly paying homage to its heritage with a minimalistic display of museum items that reminisce over days gone by.
The cosy space was dotted with beautifully embellished ice buckets, filled to the brim with iced bottles of bubbly waiting to be popped and a couple of handfuls of excited media, bloggers, partners, friends and influencers who were joining the festivities. The atmosphere was positively buzzing and even early on, this event promised to be nothing short of spectacular.
Planting trees for the past and the future
After a few glasses of bubbles, finding friendly faces in the crowd and meeting new ones, the event was formally opened by Jean Naude, CEO of Groot Constantia, followed by a short input by WWF about the conservation of our natural surroundings, and how Groot Constantia has played a part in preserving this heritage for future generations.
We were invited to attend a tree planting ceremony along the majestic oak-tree lane that stretches in front of the Jonkershuis restaurant. The idea feeds into the conservation of not only our heritage, but also of our natural fauna and flora, and preserving our natural beauty for generations to come. Three trees were planted for the past, and three trees were planted for the future, on this specific day. We had some little hands helping with the planting ceremony, and the heartrending sentiment was felt and carried by the group of eager-to-get-their-hands-dirty spectators. Whilst we were planting trees, we were blessed with a well-timed rainbow over the Constantia valley. And a quick rain-shower, too, but I won’t focus on that as it doesn’t add to the romantic element of my story!
To celebrate, and to mark the occasion, Groot Constantia will be planting 333 carefully selected trees and indigenous plants on the estate. The planting of these plants will take place in stages over the coming months, coinciding with important events such as World Nature Conservation Day, Arbor Week, Universal Children’s Day etc.
The planting of plants at Groot Constantia is in keeping with this regional heritage site’s mandate, mission and passion for protecting and conserving what is effectively the origin of South Africa’s wine industry for many more generations to come.
After all the trees had their feet safely rooted in the soil of their ancestors, we made our way back to the tasting room for an absolute treat – the sampling two very exquisite wines: the 2005 Gouverneur’s Reserve and a gorgeously velvety 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. Served with an assortment of canapés, this was a superb experience and the first time I’ve tried an aged Sauvignon Blanc. Who said white wines do not age well?!
We had a slow meander over to Simon’s Restaurant, where we were greeted by the super friendly and attentive team of staff, as well as the gorgeous ladies from Fusion Design. More glasses of wine and we all settled in comfortably on the barn-inspired rustic benches and tables that were tastefully laid out for a lunch that promised to be otherworldly.
I took a few minutes to take in my surroundings. Simon’s is an eclectic blend of new and old, of rustic and modern, of quirky and classy. With a roaring fireplace separating the “barn” from a more elegant dining room, this vibe was totally up my alley. I loved the concept of communal eating that the long tables and benches begged for. It seemed like the type of place you can relax for a few hours over laden plates of hearty, homegrown food whilst sharing a laugh with old and new friends.
After we made our menu selections, we were welcomed by Dr. Ernest Messina, the Chairman of The Groot Constantia Trust.
An informative and educational talk by Hannetjie du Preez about Groot Constantia wines at the World Fairs between 1855-1880, lead us into our starters and I was more than ready to be presented with the exquisite food and wine menu that we have been teased with since the moment we walked in.
I opted for the smoked snoek starter, which was elegantly presented with delicate slices of melba toast, micro-salad and a wedge of lemon. The pate was incredibly fresh and creamy, and paired with Sauvignon Blanc.
For mains, I opted for the slow roasted lamb shoulder, served with pan-fried veggies and baby potatoes. Wow. That is all I can say. Such a stunning plate of food. I’m not even sure if my images will do it full justice. Just trust me when I say it was a total sensory takeover, especially when enjoyed with a special glass of Gouverneur’s Reserve Red.
We ate and chatted and sipped on Groot Constantia wines and the festive atmosphere was palpable throughout the afternoon.
Finally, for dessert I chose the trio of local cheeses. We all know by now I’m not a super sweet tooth, although the chocolate mousse and pana cotta did look decadently delicious. Three local cheeses, served with preserves and crackers, it was a match made in heaven when paired with the Grand Constance dessert wine. Deliciously sweet and aromatic; the perfect ending to the perfect menu.
We all still stayed for quite a while after the last empty glasses and plates were cleared, reluctant to leave and return to the real world. We really felt Groot Constantia that day. It was an impeccably organised afternoon of joyous celebrations of incredible achievements. We should really take pride in our inner city, as it really has so much to offer locals and tourists alike.
We often forget about the Constantia Valley when we think about wine and wine experiences, but it is filled with so much richness and variety, not to mention quality produce. Groot Constantia is steeped in history and offers so much more than just wine. It offers you an overview of the history of our city and early days, and also a glimpse into the history of wine making and the growing of the vines that are obviously so well-suited to our climate here at the southern tip of Africa.
A massive congratulations and thanks to Fusion Design for this sterling event, and a great thank you to the team at Simon’s Restaurant and the tasting room for looking after our every need and whim – we were so ridiculously spoilt! Last but not least – a round of applause for Groot Constantia on this incredible achievement. Cheers to another #333 years of uninterrupted legendary wine production!
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my capacity as photographer/writer as part of a media outreach. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.