On a hilltop in Franschhoek is Mont Rochelle, a new addition to Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition collection of award-winning retreats. Georgie Bentley-Buckle visited the 96-acre private estate for winter sun, wine and tennis.
Hotel Review: Mont Rochelle, South Africa
The namesake of the nearby nature reserve, Richard Branson’s South African retreat, Mont Rochelle, dates back to the 1800s when it was a family farmhouse. All whitewashed walls and thatched roof, the estate is reminiscent of the region’s traditional Dutch heritage, and was taken under Richard’s wing in 2014. With much of the property described as ‘late 20th century Cape revival’, the Virgin team brought the wine farm back to life, lovingly replanting each vine across the 96 acres. Kritzinger Architects led the re-design, and local Cape Town based design studio Hotcocoa to lead the interior vision.
With extensive views of the valley surrounding the property, the 22 unfussy, contemporary rooms and six suites are suitably in keeping with the wine producing region and Richard’s private estate: ‘Shiraz Rooms’ include king-size beds with courtyard or valley views; larger ‘Merlot Rooms’ also have king-size beds and valley views; and the six ‘Cabernet Rooms’ come with a private terrace overlooking the valley.
We had the pleasure of staying in one of the four ‘Pinotage Suites’, which each feature a separate lounge and sweeping views over the romantic valley. Meanwhile, there are also two ‘Cap Classique Suites’ which include a lounge, private terrace and plunge pool. Or there’s the Manor House, also on the estate, which is ideal for larger groups seeking privacy from other guests, with four deluxe suites and a children’s bunk room.
At Mont Rochelle, there is more to do than simply drink wine or stretch out beside the pool (though this is a popular option should you wish). For us, this included rallying on the breathtakingly set tennis court overlooked by the magnificent mountains. Beside the court, a stylish outdoor lounge with bottles of ice-cold water awaits players with their rackets. There is croquet on the lawn behind the pool and the gym for a less sweat-inducing ball game or, beyond the garden games, guests are encouraged to explore the grounds with a picnic – stocked, of course, with wine entirely grown, produced and bottled on site.
The spa isn’t central to Mont Rochelle’s offering, though a small, serene spa is popular with guests who pad their way through the property in their slippers. With two treatment rooms and a Hammam, visit and rejuvenate the body from any signs of a lingering hangover. Using eco-friendly products made with essential oils and natural plant extracts, we visited for a couples massage. Should you want to try something a little different, the Swedish inspired bespoke deep tissue ‘Little Rock’ massage relieves muscle tension – or try the restorative ‘Soul of Africa’ for a ceremonial treatment created to improve skin hydration. Featuring a detox mud mask and massage using Africa’s Miracle oil ‘Marula’, the latter is said to help soften signs of ageing to treat inflamed, irritated, or sun-damaged skin.
The pretty vineyard town of Franschhoek in the Western Cape is just an hour from the city lights of Cape Town. A contrast to the city, its convenience makes it a popular rural retreat, widely considered the gourmet capital of South Africa. A notable attraction is The Franschhoek Tram. Possibly the most glamourous tram you’ll ever encounter, it weaves through the famous wine producing region, allowing passengers to hop on and off the variety of wine related activities found in Franschhoek – from tastings to cellar tours and vineyard lunches.
With a choice of ten different lines, each passes through a collection of estates across the valley of vineyards for easy access to the region’s best farms and producers. Considered the cultural centre point of South Africa’s Dutch heritage, learn about the Huguenots who made the valley their home over 300 years ago. With them came the passion and knowledge for winemaking that makes Franschhoek the place it is today. winetram.co.za
Mont Rochelle’s two restaurants are MIKO and the Country Kitchen. The former is the namesake of the property’s previous owner, and the hotel’s signature fine-dining restaurant in the main hotel. Offering a ‘taster to South African favourites’, MIKO’s menu aims to ‘tell a story’, serving local produce from the on-site herb garden (parsley, thyme and rosemary) alongside olives and fruits picked from local trees. Vegetables are grown on neighbouring farms, lamb and springbok are reared down the road, and the trout comes from the Franschhoek valley itself. Breakfast is also served here, with fresh fruits, yoghurts and cheeses followed by hot egg dishes layered with hollandaise sauce.
On the other side of the estate, The Country Kitchen is attached to the winery. Dating back to just after the Second World War – with the original cellar over 150 years old – this is a more informal (but still suitably smart) daytime dining spot. Open to guests of the hotel alongside regular visitors who often hop off The Wine Tram, tastings can be paired with hearty dishes, from deep-fried calamari to the popular ‘CK’ 200g beef burger.
THE FINAL WORD
Situated in what is described as South Africa’s ‘French corner’, Mont Rochelle is an elegant boutique hotel and winery that epitomises Richard Branson’s love for this beautiful wine producing-region.
Mont Rochelle is committed to responsible supply chain management, fair trade and ethical dealings with employees, the local community and the environment. The winery and vineyards are proud certified members of the IPW Scheme, to ensure that South African wine producers focus on working with the environment sustainably.
To book visit virginlimitededition.com
Featured image: Manor House Loft Suite Terrace at Mont Rochelle.