I’ve always been curious about Vergenoegd estate, the first wine farm you get right after you turn off from the N2 towards Stellenbosch. So when I was invited to view the newly improved destination, I eagerly agreed.
Vergenoegd was established all the way back in 1696, making it one of the oldest farms in Stellenbosch, and they’ve been making wine since 1820. In 2015 the farm came under new ownership and they have spent a lot of time, energy and investment to renovate, upgrade and improve this historic site.
Driving in, the farm definitely does not have that manicured, glossy feel many of the surrounding estates are sporting these days, and that isn’t what they’re after either. Vergenoegd wants people to experience a working farm with all its rustic, country-style charm and to create an atmosphere that is relaxed and casual. It looks a little shabby as you turn in at the gates but as soon as the homestead comes into view the charm of the winelands starts to kick in. You get the feeling of history and heritage, presented in an honest, authentic way.
We were asked to arrive promptly at 10:30 so that we would be in time for the runner duck parade. Yes, I raised an eyebrow when I read this too. On arrival we were served some bubbles while we waited for the quacks to make their entrance, a daily ritual that has become one of the main attractions on the estate.
The ducks aren’t just for show though. They are part of the workforce on the farm, helping to control snails and bugs, and they have even earned the farm a WWF biodiversity certification. Each morning around 800 ducks are led across the werf and it is pretty spectacular if also totally hilarious and adorable. You can see them run every day at 9:45am or 3:30pm.
Vergenoegd aims to provide gusest with a range of activites to choose from so that they may become the top new lifestyle destination. So apart from being able to join a farm tour, sip wine, enjoy a harvest lunch or picnic on the lawns, you can also take part in one of several blending experiences.
The farm has set up stations throughout the manor house where you can blend your own olive oil, coffee, tea or wine. You either pay for the blending experience alone or you can purchase your freshly blended treat, and they also store your specific blend in their database so that you can reorder it again in future if you want to.
The blendings are all R95 except for the wine blending experience, which costs R150pp. You then have the option to purchase your blend, with the olive oil costing R100 for 500ml, the coffee R100 for 250g and the tea R100 for 150g. You can purchase your personal bottle of wine for R150.
Another cute touch is option to print a customised label for your olive oil or wine bottles, allowing you to individualise your blend with your name or a personal message. I think this is such a clever gift idea for corporate team buildings, client meetings or birthday parties.
The picnics have been put together by Chef Ryan Shell, who joined the Vergenoegd team from Haute Cabriere in Franschhoek and prefers to be called The Food Dude instead of chef. His laid-back approach reflects in his food, which is rustic and unpretentious, showing off inherent flavours. The picnics showcase fresh, seasonal produce and hand-crafted foods from the area, and while we didn’t taste any of samples they did show us what the basket would include and it looked lovely.
You can choose between the Driving Duck picnic or the more deluxe Running Duck picnic, both of which is packed for two people and includes a beverage and some spring water. They also offer a special picnic for the kids. View all the prices here. Picnics are served in the gardens or if the weather isn’t playing along they can set you up in their barn.
After we finished our tour, we sat down at a harvest table where we were served a gorgeous feast. Our lunch table was piled high with roasted lamb shank that pulled off the bone, root vegetables and salads, fish and fresh bread, and for dessert we had incredible roulade, with a cheese platter for good measure. The meal was accompanied by Vergenoegd wines and I must say I was impressed with everything I tasted.
These farm to table harvest lunches are also open to the public and I think it is a great way to embrace the charm of this venue. The Vergenoegd Harvest Experience happens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and will run throughout February and March. The lunch is served 12:00 – 15:00 and space is limited to 20 people so make sure you book ahead. The entire meal including three courses, wine, ice-tea, water and coffee costs R350.
The farm has only seen the first round of improvements and I am excited to keep an eye on them in the future. Plans include a 50 seater restaurant which could later expand, and they are steadily renovating the buildings on the farm to increase their offering of experiences.
While I think they are a bit pricey, it is a lovely place to spend a day and since they have so much to offer you can park and play for an entire afternoon. Stay long enough and you can see the ducks run by twice.
Head over to their website to see more.