Hendrina Westoll: Words
Errol Westoll : Photography
They call Holden Manz Wine Estate “The Hidden Gem of Franschhoek” and as we drove through the winelands to discover it, we were awed by the grandeur of the blue-gray mountains floating on clouds that seemed to have lost their grip of the sky and had tumbled down the cliffsides into the valley to froth at their feet.
Somewhat off the beaten track, we came to an almost apologetic little white wooden gate at the end of a narrow dirt road, and were directed through the vineyards to the Country House, unsure of what to expect after this very rural approach. That’s when everything turned on
The stately entrance to this beautiful Cape Dutch manor opens into a wide lounge area that flows through to windows and doors leading to quiet koi ponds flanked by luxurious suites. But it was the magnificent pieces of art and sculptures that tastefully adorn the walls and grace tables and plinths that proclaimed the uniqueness of this superb home. Because home it is, despite offering superlative 5-star status.
Everywhere you are embraced by understated sophistication. Every picture, every vase, every sculpture, large or small, breathes the loving, personal touch of Migo Manz and Gerard Holden, owners of the estate that bears their names. The home is theirs and you are drawn in to be honoured guests of the family.
The truly remarkable art collection features the works of signed South African artists such as Karin Miller, Luhanri Bekker, David Filer, Marie Stander, Donna McKellar, Carl von Bach, Dedre Fouquet, Vincent da Silva and Lisette Forsyth, each personally selected by Migo and Gerard. Every living space is enhanced by an exquisite creation of contemporary art, from almost disturbing images by Shui-lyn White to delicate little sculptures, from the imposing head by Lionel Smit that dominates the lounge to pictures of buildings and people, reflecting a kaleidoscope of South Africa through unusual perspectives.
There is plenty to enjoy, from ceramic works, through wonderfully rendered drawings of wildlife, graphics and paintings. Contrasting styles subtly complement one another in a somewhat unexpected way lending a unique variety to the collection.
Migo has a similarly stunning art collection in Franschhoek village, Manzart, where he features the work of the many artists and collectors who have become his friends. He is also in the process of transforming the current yoga studio at the Estate into a fully-fledged art gallery.
Walking through the gardens and vineyards from the romantic spot at the confluence of two rivers before flowing into the Berg river, you are greeted by dramatic sculptures: “Cornering Cheetah” (by Vincent da Silva) tearing through the air, “Gazelle Pair” (by Etienne de Kock) dancing at the side of the road; the life-size “Wind Girl” also by Vincent, reflecting the grandeur of the craggy mountainscape behind the Estate. And then you are wonderstruck by the vista that opens before you.
The restaurant is cradled at the head of the valley between the slopes of two majestic mountains, overlooking the estate vineyards. As we gazed, delicate filigrees of mist were swathing the mountain cliffs, seemingly emerging from the rocks to melt into the air. The recent rains had greened the foothills, providing a striking contrast to the stark grey rock of the mountainside.The welcoming smiles at the restaurant were the entree to the unforgettable experience that awaited us. The cellar tour was fascinating and the wealth of information was given with personal delight from staff who obviously love their work and were sharing their pleasure with you.
The same passion was evident with each dish, each glass of wine, each snippet of information. The love and attention that had been bestowed on the food were undeniable. Here were chefs and staff who were intensely proud of their handiwork and genuinely wanted your enjoyment and pleasure. And the view from the balcony was breathtaking. The gathering clouds were sending sunshine racing after shadows over the vines, making them glow russet, gold and fading green in the autumn light. In the distance, majestic mountains rise mistily into the sky and one is enveloped in a sense of timelessness.
Here too, art enhances every space, but unassumingly, without imposition. Whimsical butterflies by Dominique Postera flutter on the walls of the balcony. Inside the restaurant, the wood-textured wall at the end of the hall contrasted delightfully with the elegant chandeliers, and the large open kitchen provided yet another unusual touch.
Then there were the wines. Even the locals, we were told, some reluctantly, others with admiration, acknowledge the uniqueness of the Holden Manz wines. The knowledgeable staff enhance your enjoyment, providing not the normal rather dry account of what flavours one can expect and how the wine was produced, but their own personal experiences and impressions that made each sip alive with adventure.
We will be back. So much still to explore.
The spa, afternoon tea, the picnic route, the quiet walks, new tasting journeys, constantly new additions to the awesome art collection. Truly, a gem. To be treasured.