Wine and horses. Anyone who knows me knows that combo would be like catnip. And it was.
I stumbled across Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm by accident while planning the Cape Town portion of my trip to South Africa. Just reading their name I knew I would pay any amount (ok, almost) to spend time in that barn with those horses. I was not disappointed.
First, to call it a barn seems almost silly. It is an architectural marvel designed by Lauren Smith in partnership with Bouwer Architects. Lauren’s family owns the estate and she is the Managing Director and responsible for the horses being an essential part of the Cavalli equation. If a horse could design a facility, this would be it. It is a sublime combo of locally sourced materials of the finest quality – wood, metal, glass merged with light and air. All in service to the horses, who reign supreme.
You know the saying, dogs have masters and cats have servants? Well here all are servants to the equine.
I took the stable tour with Elaine, the stable manager, a young woman who landed this dream job a short time ago. She obviously loves her job and her charges. Elaine took me around and introduced me to all her 4 legged friends, boys on the left and girls on the right, telling me a little about each one. Including the new baby and the almost-there baby next door who was due to drop within days. Sadly not while I was there.
Natural light and ventilation were capitalized on through use of high-level windows, a central skylight and strategically positioned louvers to create a space that stays comfortable and practical to maintain year round. Dust levels are kept at a minimum with an innovative wax-fibre arena floor footing material whilst providing an unparalleled surface for training stability and equine joint support.
Stables have dual frontage, with front stable doors designed to be full-frontage custom stainless steel bar sliding doors; and rear stable doors opening onto 10m long “run-out” pens. The back doors have a PVC curtain and this keep weather elements and dust out. The horses had to be trained to walk through, but now walk through freely. Automatic watering allow a fresh water supply. Seamless poured-rubber flooring keeps stable floors warm and offset the need for extra dust-generating bedding material. In summer there are mist sprayed in the stables to keep the horses cool and we also use the system to disperse a natural fly repellent.
The horses were stunning in their good health and breeding. These are animals who are not only well taken care of but loved as well. Interestingly they were all bred, trained and acquired as American Saddle Horses and yet Lauren decided a short while ago to re-train them in dressage. Odd, that. It is proving challenging since a Saddlebred is trained to be the opposite to what is demanded in dressage. But based on how far Lauren has brought Cavalli in 5 short years, if anyone can do it, she can.
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In an effort to get as much horse time as I could I had booked a carriage ride for after the tour. It was fine but being alone in the back of the carriage with a bottle of wine left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t long before I wormed my way up with the driver which improved the experience. Tango and Cash trotted us around the 110 hectare estate, passing the vineyards and indigenous gardens. The Cavalli Farm is a holistic project committed to the environment through everything they do. The restaurant is the first Green Star-rated restaurant in South Africa. They are also leading the way for wineries to move away from monoculture by rehabilitating their land as much as possible. To that end 400 planted mature trees were planted. The gardens are made up of a generous dose of Fynbos, a protected and extremely vulnerable species that is only found South Africa’s Western Cape in a 100km- to 200km-wide coastal belt stretching from the West Coast to the south-east coast.
The sun was shining, the company genial and the horse and wine exemplary. Yeah, it was a bit of alright.
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After the carriage ride I got to groom High and Mighty, what a treat! He was such a gentleman and the time passed way too quickly. Soon Elaine got a call from security that my driver had arrived and I had to go.
Apparently I wasn’t fast enough and the bugger left without coming to the barn. That caused not a small bit of anxiety since I was cutting it close to catch my plane to Johannesburg, which was the last one of the day! Yikes. Here I was in the middle of Stellenbosch, 40 minutes from the airport. What’s a girl to do?! Why call Uber, of course!
I arrived in the morning with some time to spare so I explored the main building that houses the restaurant, conference centre, gift shop, wine tasting room and art gallery. Damn but they were all so fine.
The art gallery houses the family’s art collection (!) as well as showcases local emerging artists.
The tasting room was a gorgeous modern take on the gentleman’s club. A separate room linked to the tasting room is owner Jerome Smith’s whisky room, housing the largest private collection of 450 brands in the Southern hemisphere.
While I waited for my car I raced downstairs in the main building to the tasting room and bought 3 bottles of wine and stuffed them in my luggage. It was cruel to make me leave so quickly without tasting anything!
Wellington was there in 10 minutes and was a rock star, getting me to the airport in plenty of time.
There was so much of Cavalli I didn’t get to experience… I think I should move into a wee corner of the stable for a few years to get to know it properly.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience what can happen when people use their wealth for good and see the beauty it can create when combined with passion.
This video was created by Mr. Ben Brown when him and his friends went to visit. The photos and the video of the horses are stunning once you get through the beginning bits. He is young but talented dude!
This is another stunning CNN Winning Post done by presenter, Aly Vance
See gorgeous photos of the horses at http://cavallistud.com/equine/horses
Their main page so you can explore what the estate has to offer. No surprise that they are in extreme demand for weddings! http://cavallistud.com/index.php