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Asara: a 5-star wine estate

So far I’ve counted 126 wine estates in the Cape Winelands but there are probably many more than this. Each one is unique in its own way and you would probably need a month, visiting around four a day to do them all properly.

The stunning view from Asara's main restaurant

We’re staying at the five-star Asara in Stellenbosch. The name Asara is inspired by the African gods of Earth, Sun and Sky (Astar, Asis and Asase) and the focus here is on balance and harmony with nature.

Which we feel immediately as we enter the long tree-lined driveway, passing the mirror-like dams packed with birdlife. Behind the water lie green vine-covered slopes. It’s a small intimate hotel that is elegant but not stiff and with breathtaking views over the Stellenbosch wine region, which we just can’t get enough of.

Asara is one of the bigger wine estates in the area – not in terms of its 120 or so hectares of grapes – but because it also offers 36 rooms, a restaurant, ballroom, bar and visitor center including a kitchen shop. The shop makes me laugh – if you are looking for a European pot or pan, or a kitchen gadget, you’ll find it here; they also have their own handmade chocolate truffles for sale. Service is also good, and fast, maybe the credit is due here to Asara’s Austrian owner Markus Rahmann, an avid wine collector who bought the 320-year-old Asara estate in 1999 and opened the hotel in 2008.

The perfect end to 2010 - a bottle of Asara's sparkling wine

We sample seven of Asara’s red and white wines (65% of Asara’s wines are red; 35% white) at the seven-course New Years’ Eve dinner. The food is delicious, especially the “trilogy of foie gras” (which is a unique combination of goose liver and chocolate pralines) and the cold melon and crayfish soup. For the main course there’s quail filled with prawns or a fillet of beef if you don’t feel like tasting the local birdlife. Their dessert and sparkling wines are particularly good.

Having dinner at a wine farm, served with wines produced from the grapes you are looking at and celebrating New Years’ Eve in the Cape Winelands is definitely an experience to remember. Unfortunately, there aren’t any fireworks, but on the distant horizon a bushfire is burning just outside Stellenbosch; luckily it doesn’t seem to be spreading in our direction.

I fell in love with the Asara the minute we checked in, enjoyed every minute spent there … and was sad to go down the driveway for the last time. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic weekend getaway with your partner, a few quiet days with friends or family or as a base to explore the magnificent winelands. You can put your feet up and chill out, but for people with itchy feet like me, there’s enough in the surrounding area to stop you getting bored – the sea is just 30 minutes away, Cape Town is less than an hour away, the stunning wine routes are on your doorstep and pretty Stellenbosch is just around the corner.

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