If you're booking the Owner's Cottage at South African winery Grande Provence Estate, www.grandeprovence.co.za, do note that it sometimes comes with the owner. Not that you'll mind the company of Dutch entrepreneur Alex van Heeren. He knows how to charm and, after all, is providing the eminently drinkable Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that graces the table come evening.
A 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Grand Provence is in the heart of South African wine country and besides its vineyards boasts a first-class restaurant and an ambitious art gallery and sculpture garden of contemporary South African work. The aforementioned cottage, which is really more of a opulent house, rents for a cool $3,000 a night. If that would break the bank, you can also book an individual room there are five in total starting from just over $1,600 a night. That's hardly cheap, but generous inclusions such as breakfasts, three-course dinners, return transfers from Cape Town airport, wine tastings and cellar tours soften the blow somewhat. Interior designer Virginia Fisher who worked on another of van Heeren's getaways, the award-winning Huka Lodge in New Zealand has done an excellent job with the décor, giving subtle African and Cape Dutch accents to the cottage's mostly contemporary furnishings and muted hues. Celebrity guests seem at home there Jude Law's name is in the visitors' book, while other VIPs stare down from framed photos on the hallway wall.
Grande Provence's restaurant, known simply as the Restaurant, looks rather stylish with its high-backed white-leather seating and blue-gray walls. It's also home to the South African Sunday Times 2007 chef of the year, Peter Tempelhoff. His menus change regularly, but the approach injecting a soupĉon of big-city dining into rustic fare is consistent across dishes like medallions of springbok loin, the pressed ham hock and crispy pork belly, and the hazelnut brûlée with Calvados sorbet.
Guests at the Owner's Cottage can choose to dine at the restaurant or in the cottage itself, but chances are you won't be running into your host for too much longer. Van Heeren is overseeing the top-to-toe renovation of Grand Provence's 300-year-old Manor House, which will become his personal accommodation when the dust settles.
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