The pool near the courtyard. Pictures: Elsa Young.
One of the oldest farms in South Africa, with a recorded history dating to 1692, Spier
in Stellenbosch not only has a rich heritage but is creating a present-day legacy with many practices and social initiatives that are not immediately visible to the casual visitor.

Peel back the layers and you’ll find multiple projects which create employment and empowerment for artists and artisans, sustainable farming practices, from organic wine to free-range eggs, a plant which recycles 100% of waste water, the Tree-preneur project, which encourages impoverished communities to grow trees in exchange for essential goods, and the creation of micro-enterprises linked to Spier to support entrepreneurs.

All this is wrapped up in a renowned approach to responsible tourism and has been recognised by various agencies such as Fair Trade in Tourism SA (FTTSA) and the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (Wieta). Spier Hotel was awarded a gold at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 in the category of Best for Accommodation for Responsible Employment.

At the hotel's check-in, you’re greeted by friendly staff and a glass of wine. The hotel accommodation is in the form of a small village of villas. Although I’ve stayed there several times, I’ve yet to become fully acquainted with the layout.

The inviting garden courtyard.

On this occasion, I stayed in a garden room, one of a group which all opened out on to a shared garden with its own private pool.

The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. Even though all that water is being recycled, guests are encouraged to be mindful of their usage and to employ the bucket in the shower. This is just how we roll in Cape Town nowadays.

There are so many things to do at Spier, so let me begin with the wine. The tasting room offers a few options across its 21 Gables, Creative Block and Signature ranges, with or without pairings with cheese, Charcuterie and chocolate (which are a culinary holy trinity). Technically these are served separately but I see no reason why you can’t have them all.

The wine tasting shop at Spier.

Then the food. You can eat at Eight, the Hoghouse or forage for picnic basket treats at the Farm Kitchen. This is also where to stock up on some yummy goodies for home, such as Farmer Angus’s famous eggs or spreadable salami. 

Eight is light and airy inside, or you can sit outside under the trees with a glass of chilled wine and a salad. At the Hoghouse it’s all about the fabulous meat, which you can order in portion sizes to suit your appetite with amazing side dishes. The bakery turns out exquisite breads and pastries; I simply had to nab a couple of pastéis de nata - they make a lime one too - for a sneaky early-morning coffee indulgence in my room.

The Hoghouse offers great meat dishes.
The tempting Charcuterie platter.

There are bird experiences of another kind at Eagle Encounters, which Spier supports by donating land, electricity and water for its facilities on the farm. It is a bird-of-prey rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism project.

The centre receives birds that have been injured, poisoned or illegally removed from their nests, and works towards re-releasing healthy, fit, successfully hunting and able-breeding raptors into the wild. Guests can “hold” tame birds (they sit on your gloved hand), as well as participate in the daily flying display.

Somehow, in among all this, I also visited the Artisan Studio which creates opportunities for artists to collaborate with trained master artisans in the media of ceramics and mosaic. There, I learnt more about their work and the Spier Arts Academy and apprenticeship programme.

There is much art to admire around the property, including The Dying Slave, which is imagination and visual realisation on an incredible scale, as well as lovely meandering strolls along the river or VoiceMap audio guide walks, and a spa for indulgent pampering. The final outdoor movie night of this season is on the werf outside the Farm Kitchen on April 28. The film is Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and booking is through Webtickets.

Certainly, even with all this, you can still find time to lie under a tree with a glass of wine and a book. Whatever you choose, you will never be bored.