Wine tourism can be a tough nut to crack. Being innovative and offering a wine tourism experience that is totally different is not an easy challenge. Some farms boast historical architecture; other magnificent views; lawns for picnics and sunset concerts; others award-winning restaurants or mountain-biking.
But then, the team at Hazendal Wine Estate on the Bottelary sub-route of the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, does not shy away from challenges. And when they accept it, they believe in the saying: “go big or go home” as their latest additions proves: a luxurious Russian tea experience, an edutainment centre for children, an art gallery and restaurant.
For more than three centuries, Hazendal has been a loved Cape Winelands landmark and has transitioned from its origins as a grain and livestock farm in the 17th century, into a notable premium wine producer and estate. After closing in 2017 for major renovations, it opened its doors again a couple of months ago, to reveal a destination catering for diverse tastes.
The Avant-Garde Restaurant under the helm of chef Michélle Theron offers fine dining with its contemporary and creative interpretation of South African and Russian recipes and the fusion of these two cultures, while deli-style eating at The Babushka Deli and picnics are also available.
“What was initially planned as merely a revamp of Hazendal’s tasting rooms soon evolved into a full-blown re-imagination of the Hazendal Experience. The result is unlike anything experienced on a South African wine estate before, and the re-envisioned Hazendal is set to become a sought-after destination for locals and tourists,” says Carina Diedericks-Hugo, marketing manager, who I meet at the restaurant before the Russian Tea Ceremony.
She tells me “spanning generations, Russian tea-drinking has become an integral part of the country’s culture, highlighting the principles of friendship and hospitality. It dates back to 1638 during the Romanov Dynasty when Tsar Michael Feodorovich received four chests of tea as diplomatic gift from Altyum-Khan of Mongolia. A new tradition was born.”
In the light and airy restaurant or outside under the trees, a black Russian tea blend is served from a steaming Samovar (ornate Russian tea urn) and presented in traditional hand-painted porcelain tea sets from the Dulevo porcelain factory, one of the oldest and most famous porcelain producers in Russia. You sweeten your tea with Varenya (jam) and not sugar, because jam was more accessible than sugar in the olden days in Russia,” explains our waiter, Blessing Magaisa.
Around the urn’s neck is Baranki, or an edible necklase - round baked goods make with flour, butter, eggs and vanilla. It represents the 17th century tradition where people decorated their walls with Baranki, to show off their prosperity.
Blessing tells me to dip the Baranki in my tea, and suddenly I feel right at home, because South African love to dip rusks in their tea or coffee.
The tea ritual is an intriguing experience that breathes new life into age-old tea customs. You can choose between a meat, vegetarian or gluten-free option for the eats with your tea, or even upsize your experience to include Beluga caviar and Hazendal Scarlet Sails MCC.
Children can enjoy a specially designed tea menu while enjoying Russian-themed colouring-in pages, before heading to the new Wonderdal Edutainment Centre; a one of a kind, state-of-the-art educational play experience for children aged 5 to 13.
A first of its kind in South Africa, Wonderdal, as the name implies, is a place of wonders. It combines technology with physical elements to create an innovatively designed indoor space and a creative outdoor play area. While playing, children learn about topics related to Natural Sciences and Life Skills that are covered in the South African school’s curriculum, including the various forms of energy, plant growing and healthy nutrition.
The interactive experiences stimulate children’s imagination, creativity and curiosity, and encourage them to learn and experiment. It can also help them to develop important skills, from fine and gross motor skills to problem solving, critical and creative thinking, as well as reading and listening.
The children are accompanied by Amuki, the virtual reality inhabitants of Wonderdal. The five Amuki (Zylo, Timpa, Shekku, Gomma and Vuvu), are the Guardians of Sun, Care, Water, Earth and Air - the elements needed to grow plants and maintain life.
Wonderdal’s visitors get a special magical bracelet, which enables them to see and communicate with their Amuki. The Amuki were created to aid the development of empathy in children by establishing the need to protect and care for another living being. They guide a visitor through the space. The Amuki’s mannerisms and actions are based on young children’s behaviour and movements - they are curious, clumsy, adventurous and playful and they represent different looks and personality types for children to relate and identify with. They depict the value that we are all different but equal.
All the activities are CAPS-aligned and designed for learners from Grade R to Grade 7, making Wonderdal the perfect destination for school outings. With the help educational consultants, special packs were created for teachers, to connect their learners’ experience to their classroom teaching and the curriculum, and to facilitate a classroom experience in one of Wonderdal’s three equipped classrooms.
Wonderdal is also a wonderful place for parents, who can either spend quality time with their kids, or leave them with trained supervisors known as ‘Wonderpals’, while enjoying the rest of the estate.
Wonderdal consists of various learning zones: Kora, the Tree of Light, Tinker Workshop, Wonder Garden, Health Kitchen, Story Cave and Wildlands which encompasses physical activities; experiment with different kinds of energy; play engineer with a wind tunnel and even learn how to cook a meal for their Amuki friend, to highlight that healthy food is an important source of energy for a healthy body.
In the Wonder Garden learners encounter a fantastical experience of how plants grow; they can play gardener growing different imaginary plants.
In the Story Cave children can have a break from the activities and listen to educational audio stories on the adventures of the Amuki in special nooks or read from the books in the library.
Beyond Wonderdal lies a wild area, where children can stretch their legs and engage in physical activities.
The ethos at Hazendal of giving back to the community, comes to play in a programme, in conjunction with educational and children’s charities, developed to enable learners, teachers and schools from disadvantaged areas to also experience the magic of Wonderdal.