Just outside the historic town of Wellington, bound by the mighty Hawequa Mountains, the road leads to a lovely verdant valley, and there before your eyes stretches a splendid avenue of palm trees arriving at an exquisite, pristine white-walled estate. This is Val du Charron Wine and Olive Estate, Guesthouse and Spa. Set high up on the slopes, visitors are greeted with sweeping panoramic views across the valley to the majestic mountains in the distance.
In 2006, Stuart and Cathy Entwistle purchased this 45ha farm in the historic Bovlei Valley, ten minutes from the town of Wellington, and under an hour’s drive from Cape Town. One of the first farms in Wellington, it was initially proclaimed in 1699 and granted to one Pieter Erasmus by Willem Adrian van der Stel, and the Entwistles are only the sixth family since then to hold title. Sadly the farm had been in a steady decline for many years and the Entwistles arrived at a semi-derelict fruit farm (called Groenberg at the time). The farm however offered tremendous soil potential, deep cultural significance and outstanding panoramic views. The Entwistles christened the farm Val du Charron as a tribute to its rich background – Val du Charron or Valley of the Wagon Maker was the original name of the Wellington valley. The French influence stems from the Huguenots who settled in the area in the early 1700’s while the reference to wagon making refers to the fact that Wellington was the last town where the Afrikaners’ ox wagons could be serviced before heading over the majestic Bainskloof into the then unknown hinterland.
The Entwistles set about reviving the property and a winemaking tradition that dates back to 1720, revitalising the existing few hectares of old vines and planting vineyards as well as olive groves. Today this historic estate boasts an ultra-modern tasting room, a 400-ton state-of-the-art wine cellar and a luxurious eight bedroom 4 Star Guesthouse with swimming pool overlooking the valley. The latest additions include a wellness centre and beautiful wedding venue located in the original wine cellar (which dates back to the early 1800’s), complete with its very own Chapel. The lawns and gardens have also been expanded for picnics and wine tasting. And Val du Charron’s new 5 Star Boutique Lodge will be opening towards the end of 2014. The Entwistles’ respect for the farm’s historic integrity is evidenced in the rehabilitation of the historic buildings and the current style of architecture.
Speaking about how it all started, the Entwistles, who have actuarial and construction backgrounds, say they went into buying the neglected Wellington fruit farm with “our eyes wide shut”. A few years down the line they are reaping the rewards of their hard work and are both bemused and delighted by their success to date, having been honoured with numerous local and international wine accolades from the likes of Veritas, Decanter, Michelangelo, Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show and Top 100 SA Wines, as well as a 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
This award from the world’s largest travel site celebrates hospitality excellence and is only given to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor. The Certificate of Excellence award gives top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most- their customers.
One of the latest TripAdvisor reviews recommends “Excellent service and dining”.
Val Du Charron is 4-Star rated with absolutely a 5-Star service. Staff are professional, dining and wine tasting is an experience.The morning vineyard walk is highly recommended. A hidden gem in the fairly unknown Welington winelands!
WINE TASTING CENTRE
Architecturally designed to draw in the natural light, this ultra-modern tasting room has folding, stacking glass doors and expansive windows that let in the majestic views of the Hawequa Mountains and vineyards. Adding to the modernity are the stainless steel contemporary light fittings and abstract art dotting the walls. Dark and heavy furniture contrasts the ‘lightness’ of the space and entices one into a relaxed tasting environment. In the summer the doors can be opened on to the patio, swimming pool and gardens. In winter the venue is centrally heated and a crackling fire provides a cosy ambience. There is no charge for wine tasting and cellar tours are available on request.
The restaurant at Val du Charron offers breakfast and light lunches daily, dinner (set menu) for guests, and dinner, by reservation only, for the public.
VAL DU CHARRON 4 STAR GUESTHOUSE
Val du Charron’s 4 Star Guesthouse comprises eight luxurious suites each individually furnished. Amenities include flat screen TV and DStv, complimentary WiFi access, gourmet coffee and tea stations, air-conditioning and ceiling fans, personal safes, laundry service and more. All the rooms have private patios offering heavenly views. One of the rooms is a family suite which sleeps four and has its own kitchenette. Guests can enjoy a full farmer’s breakfast served in the dining area; which integrates with the wine tasting facility and allows guests to access the working cellar during the day.
VAL DU CHARRON 5 STAR BOUTIQUE LODGE – THE COACH HOUSE
Val du Charron’s new 5 Star Boutique Lodge, consisting of three luxurious suites each with its own pool, jacuzzi bath and mini bar, will be opening in December 2014.
THE SPA @ VAL DU CHARRON
At Val du Charron’s new wellness centre, guests enter through ancient Egyptian doors to a quiet oasis of tranquillity overlooking the majestic Hawequa Mountains. Fully-trained therapists are available to assist with a wide array of treatments and products.
WEDDINGS AT VAL DU CHARRON
Set high overlooking the Bovlei Valley, Val Du Charron Estate provides the most perfect, tranquil backdrop for a dream wedding, whether one is looking for a relaxed intimate celebration or a dramatic formal affair. Val du Charron offers the bride and groom a professional service with a very personal touch. The wedding ceremony can take place in the Gazebo, offering breathtaking views over the valley and mountains, or in the Chapel in the Orchard Room, the restored original old Cape wine cellar on the estate, which is adorned by a magnificent stained-glass masterpiece containing almost 1000 pieces of brilliantly coloured hand-cut glass and 48m of lead. Made locally, it is reminiscent of the olive trees on the farm and symbolically, represents the tree of life. The original wooden beams are inscribed with the dates of wine harvests in days gone by, with 1830 the earliest visible date. In keeping with the name Orchard Room, a citrus grove has been planted alongside the venue, exactly where the original orchard used to be.
The vistas at Val du Charron make for exquisite wedding photographs. Venues for cocktails and the wedding reception include the Gazebo, the Orchard Room, the tasting room, the wine cellar or a Bedouin tent on the front terrace. Menu options for dinner are created by Val Du Charron’s resident chef, catering for a wide range of styles and tastes. Val du Charron is fully licensed and the cellar provides a selection of fine wine for the special occasion.
CONFERENCES AND FUNCTIONS
In addition to weddings, Val du Charron also specialises in conferences and functions, offering a variety of suitable venues for up to 150 people.
Val du Charron is one of the most attractive farms set against the hills in the Bovlei Valley. Not only does the sheer beauty blow you away, but also the huge potential of the estate’s natural resources … all the vineyards are planted on south-facing slopes and have rich red soils. There are 22ha under vine, with a 60/40 red to white split. The 17 varietals planted include: pinotage, shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, grenache, mourvèdre, tinta barocca, touriga nacional, sauvignon blanc, 30-year old chenin blanc, chardonnay, nouvelle, viognier, pinot gris and a little bit of hanepoot.
“Why so many different cultivars?” says Cathy, “Because we strongly believe in blending! We have a continental climate, just like the well-known great wine producing areas of the world – Rhône Valley, Dão, Rioja and many others. These different varietals have very unique qualities, and if blended, produce a composition which is more complex and richer than any cultivar on its own.” She goes on to quote Fabrice Langlois, winemaker at Chateau Beaucastel and a very good friend of the Entwistles: “A blend is much like a symphony orchestra where you have all the various sections … the crisp woodwinds, the solid brass instruments, the rhythmic percussion and the elegant strings … on their own they are instruments, but together, under the hand of the conductor, a symphony.”
VAL DU CHARRON OLIVES
Val du Charron has 4.5ha of Mission and Frantoio olive groves. The olives are sold at the tasting room.
VAL DU CHARRON WINES
Winemaker: Bertus Fourie
Val du Charron Wines is privileged to be associated with winemaker, Bertus Fourie, who created the coffee Pinotage style in South Africa. Bertus fell in love with Val du Charron in 2010 and began his involvement on the production side after a few glasses of red wine with Stuart and Cathy. Mr Starbucks, as he is known, brought his skills and knowledge of local conditions and his energy, passion and ideas to Val du Charron. “The human dimension of the wine industry is definitely one of the aspects that I love. I meet wonderful people, make wonderful friends and enjoy loads of laughs whenever I present a wine tasting or have a wine chat, which is probably 80% of the time. Making wine, selling wine, enjoying wine is all about quality relationships.” This approach to winemaking and living the wine lifestyle has made Bertus a celebrity in wine circles and this special magic has rubbed off on the Val du Charron Estate range, making it a sought-after brand.
Val Du Charron Estate Reserve Range
Val du Charron Reserve Chardonnay
Tasting notes: An unwooded true expression of the queen of cultivars – a Chardonnay in her virgin form. Glowing green in colour with yellow notes, this wine is an extraordinary combination of vignettes offering honeyed tropical fruit flavours with concentrated aromas of ripe summer fruits including nuances of peaches, pears and fig, hints of wild flowers and notes of vanilla. It is a clean fresh wine with strong minerality and crisp acidity.
Past awards: 2013 Top 100 SA Wines and Best Value, and 2013 Michelangelo Gran D’Or.
Cellar door price: R85
Val du Charron Reserve Pinot Gris
Tasting notes: 100% Pinot Gris with a hint of oak. Lemon green in colour, it offers generous aromas, intense citrus, pineapple, tropical fruits and honey on the palate and a delightfully zesty acidity.
Cellar door price: R85
Val du Charron Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasting notes: The opaque deep red, with a vibrant ruby edge, indicates the youthfulness of this wine. The 2013 vintage shows seductive sweet black cherry, cassis, plum and blackberry fruit aromas along with dark roast coffee, vanilla and smoky mineral notes. Subtle wafts of violets, hints of cedar and mint complete the aromatics. A brilliant and refined peppery spiciness adds to the complexity.
Cellar door price: R95
Val du Charron Reserve Syrah
Tasting notes: Inky purple in colour, this Syrah presents rich plum and cherry on the nose with complex nuances of spice, fresh cracked pepper and dark chocolate. With this array of dark fruit flavours and spiciness, it shows good depth with soft tannins that add to the long, smooth finish.
Cellar door price: R95
Theatre of Wine Range
Val du Charron’s Theatre of Wine Range, with evocative names from local history, brings you the very best of their blended wines. These wines are showcased at extraordinary theatrical events in the Val du Charron wine cellar where guests enter a fantasy world of outlandish multi-genre theatrical entertainment, carnival cuisine, live music, dancing and award-winning wine.
Val du Charron Four White Legs
A New World dry white blend
The story: This wine tells the tale of the treacherous Bainskloof Pass and how owners of a horse with four white legs were exempt from the toll fee when using the newly-built road in 1853.
Tasting notes: A fusion of classical and exotic varietals with an element of wood and the colour of the early morning sunshine on the day it was harvested. This is an elegant floral wine, with hints of orchids and ripe tropical fruits, brightened by greengage and a fine acidity.
Past awards: 2013 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show Silver and 4 Stars in the 2014 Platter’s wine guide.
Cellar door price: R69
Val du Charron Erasmus
A Bordeaux-style red blend
The story: This wine tells the tale of Piet Erasmus, the first owner of Val du Charron, as he toasts his first day as a free burgher, sipping on the first vintage from his new land.
Tasting notes: This elegant blend offers a basket of ripe plums, blackcurrants and a minty richness complemented by earthy nuances, cloves and pepper, with the oak backbone ensuring excellent maturation potential.
Cellar door price: R85
Val du Charron Black Countess
A R hône-style red blend
The story: This wine tells the tale of the mid 19th century love story of a freed slave’s daughter who fell in love with a British nobleman, and henceforth became the first black Countess of Stamford.
Tasting notes: This is an intriguing blend with a luxurious ebony colour, a seductive perfume, mulberry and plum richness complemented by butterscotch, dark chocolate, sweet spice, vanilla nuances and velvety tannins.
Cellar door price: R85
Girlfriends Range of Wines
A funky delightfully-labelled great-value range of wines exported to the USA but are also available at the tasting room. Depending on one’s mood, one can choose between:
Good Girl (Sweet White)
Crazy Girl (Moscato)
Wild Girl (Sweet Red)
Classy Girl (Chardonnay)
Party Girl (Pink)
Romantic Girl (Cabernet)
Cellar door price: R39
For a holistic view of the wine making process or simply to enjoy the tranquillity of the estate, vineyard tours are available and a number of walks and bike rides have been set up around the farm, highlighting aspects such as the various grape varieties grown, the bee hives necessary to pollinate the vines and the dams that catch and supply the farm with all its water. Guests may also fish for bass on a catch-and-release basis.During Wellington’s hot summer months the sparkling swimming pool,overlooking the valley and distant mountains, is a main attraction. During the winter months large fire places with couches provide the perfect ambience for board games or reading while sipping on a glass of Val du Charron’s premium wine.
VISIT VAL DU CHARRON
Open daily for wine tasting
Mon to Fri: 8am – 5pm
Sat and Sun: 10am – 4pm
Cellar tours: during tasting hours
Breakfast and light lunches daily
Dinner (set menu) for guests and, by reservation only, for the public
Weddings, conferences and functions: 100 – 150 pax
Walks, hikes and mountain biking trail