It’s not exactly like the safari excursions you could take at South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park, but it’s a safari of a kind.
At Waterford Estate in the Stellenbosch growing region of South Africa, guests can board a safari-type game-viewing Landrover that has been outfitted with bucket seats. No more than 10 passengers at a time embark on tours of the property, which sits on the slopes of the beautiful Helderberg Mountain.
Because the owners of the estate—Jeremy and Leigh Ord, and Kevin and Heather Arnold—have committed to planting no more than half of the land to grapevines, there’s plenty to see. In a word, the flora and fauna that’s native to the Blaauwklippen Valley is stunning.
“As part of our biodiversity program, we wish to show visitors our intensions in terms of sustainable agriculture, since we are aiming to achieve an organic approach to wine farming,” Jeremy Ord explains. “The Cape is home to the largest and most spectacular concentration of flowers and plants found anywhere on Earth. It is our intention to play a small role in preserving the Cape’s floral kingdom by leaving sections of the property untouched, while showing guests some of the Cape’s natural beauty.”
The excursions also provide an unusual setting for sampling Waterford’s wines: amidst the grapevines.
“While out in the vineyards, we are able to explain our ‘terroir’ to guests, and get them to smell the soil and rocks in which the vines grow,” Ord says. “At the same time, they can enjoy the beautiful vistas, geography and topography of the Cape winelands.”
The families even manage to sneak in a little history lesson along the way.
“At certain vantage points, we stop to explain the 350-year history of South African winemaking, while looking at Table Mountain and Constantia, where it all started in 1652,” Ord says. “We wish to explore all the senses—sight, smell, sound, touch and taste—on the ‘Wine Drive,’ in order for our guests to experience both what is inside and outside the bottle. We call this the ‘Waterford Way.’”
The “Wine Drive,” which runs anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two hours, is just one way guests can experience Waterford Estate and its wines—including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and the top-of-the-line bottling known as “The Jem,” a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese.
There’s also a “Wine and Chocolate Experience,” featuring the sumptuous creations of chocolatier Richard von Geusau; a “Romantic Wine and Chocolate Experience,” which also includes a glass of sparkling wine; and a “Reserve Vintage Tasting,” which includes some of the experimental bottlings from the early days of the estate.
How did Waterford Estate come to be? It was created through a special partnership between two families who had a shared dream to create a wine farm where life is cherished, the seasons mark time, and the fruit always reminds them of blessings, abundance and the beauty of nature.
Waterford Wines (Pty) Ltd. was founded in 1998 when the Ords purchased prime Stellenbosch vineyard land that previously was part of the Stellenrust Farm. The Arnolds were responsible for identifying the site, planning the new winery and resurrecting the existing vineyards and orchards, and have been instrumental in developing Waterford into the showcase estate it has become.
“Just as in winemaking, it is not about a single season, harvest or vintage,” says Ord. “It’s about continuity, longevity and perpetuation—building for the future and the generations to come.
“The ‘Waterford Way’ is a philosophy that celebrates prosperity, life, food, wine, family and friends, and guides all that we do here. Every guest is made to feel a part of the ‘Waterford Way,’ and those who have visited are drawn back often not only to the sumptuous wines, but to the heart and soul of Waterford.”
Not to mention the ancient citrus groves, rolling lawns, water features and fragrant lavender beds.
The winery was designed by architect Alex Walker and constructed using quarried local bedrock, stones from the vineyard, and timber grown on the estate.
It was styled along the terracotta design of the classic Bordeaux chateaux of France. The centerpiece of the magnificent courtyard is the Waterford fountain, which is depicted on the winery’s label and, as Ord puts it, “represents a fundamental component of our philosophy.”
A philosophy that has served the Ords and the Arnolds—not to mention their guests—very well.
Helderberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Open Weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.