An award-winning winery with five-star hotel located in one of the most famous wine-growing areas of South Africa, Asara Wine Estate and Hotel is the perfect base from where to explore the Cape Winelands or simply spend a culinary filled time relaxing und unwinding in a beautiful setting amidst the vineyards.
Returning ten years after my last visit, with various renovations and a significantly expanded range of exciting wine and culinary offers, it’s safe to say my expectations staying at Asara Wine Estate and Hotel in Stellenbosch were extremely high.
And I was not let down by this wonderful estate.
Asara was among the first wineries within the Stellenbosch area to open a hotel on their premises (in 2008). So it’s fairly surprising they are not more widely known, at least internationally.
Indeed the winery does not figure in most of the wine guides of the area and are not part of one of the official wine routes. On the other hand, the hotel looked like it was pretty well booked during our stay and the parking lot for day visitors was also busy throughout the day; so there might be no need for huge advertising.
Asara is located on Polkadraai Road just a few kilometres outside of famed wine town Stellenbosch and a mere 25 minutes from Cape Town International Airport.
The estate is surrounded by verdant green vineyards and most of the other Stellenbosch wineries are within 15-20 minutes range whilst you reach the wine-growing towns of Franschhoek and Paarl in under half an hour as well.
Though the estate itself offers a large range of activities which could easily keep you entertained for a few days, Asara is indeed a perfect base if you want to explore the nearby towns and many of the award-winning wineries of the Cape Winelands.
Asara takes its name from the North African gods of earth, sun and sky – Astar, Asis and Asase. They stand for the balance and harmony of nature which the winery also strives to reflect in their wines. Indeed, Asara embraces a classic approach to winemaking, adopting minimal cellar handling.
Today’s estate was formed by its current owner in 2000 out of two separate historic farms who’s origins are going back to the late 17th century. And with a total of 180 hectares, Asara is now one of the largest wine farms of the Cape.
Part of the complex is the five-star Asara Hotel which is distributed over various buildings set in a 25 acre garden, providing the feeling of a little village.
The rooms at Asara
There are a total of 41 rooms divided in six different room types. Even though the more recently added room categories including the feature, signature and executive rooms as well as the two 150 sq m huge suites looked outright gorgeous, knowing from my previous visit that Asara’s deluxe rooms located in the early part of the hotel were spacious and nicely fitted, – and since I typically do not spend much time in a room while travelling anyway – I booked one of these.
It featured a nice minimalist design in classy hues of cream, white and brown, along with a spacious bathroom.
For me, the best part though was the lovely terrace leading directly into the garden, offering stunning views over the small dam and vineyards towards the distant mountain range.
Wine tastings at Asara
Being a working wine farm in the first place, Asara produces a large range of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Chardonnay, a Pinotage Rosé, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and a Cape Blend.
The small tasting room just around the corner from the hotel, which is also open to the general public, offers a range of tasting options.
Hotel guests are treated to a complimentary tasting which includes five different wines from the Asara range.
Regrettably, since opening also a bistro offering a light menu of lunch and dinner, Asara has scaled down on food at their tasting room. Still reminiscing about a wonderful tapas menu devoured during a wine tasting during my first visit, which is no longer available, I thought this was a missing part of wine tasting.
Not included in the wine tasting list but well worth a try when heading to one of the hotel’s restaurants are the award-winning full-bodied, elegant fruit-forward flagship Bell Tower and Avalon wines.
Gin tasting at Sansibar
In recent years there’s been a true Gin boom around the Cape. Now one of the most popular drinks next to wine, you will find a large number of wineries also making gin whilst there are also several dedicated distilleries.
Though Asara is not making their own gin, the hotel is home to a gin bar that offers one of the largest selection of gins in the world! There are around 500 different local and international gins and a large selection of tonics to chose from.
I definitely recommend to book a gin tasting which will guide you through some gin essentials like different styles and flavour profiles and will then guide you through a pairing session based on a gin and tonic pairing adding appropriate flavours from a range of fruits, herbs and spices. You will definitely find some new favourites here.
Dining options at Asara
There are plenty of dining options on-site from the small daily to bistro-style food and fine dining.
All of them combine a strong dedication to seasonal regional produce, part of which is coming from the farms own herb and vegetable garden.
The small Deli, bordering a lovely tree-shaded courtyard offers freshly baked bread and pastries along with the most delicious cakes and sweets.
There is also an ice cream cart tucked in the corner next to the famous bell tower selling a range of delicious home-made ice creams you should not miss.
In the morning, a full breakfast is served at Raphael’s, coming with the most beautiful views overlooking the nearby dam and vineyards from the outdoor terrace.
The Sansibar Bistro offers a casual bistro-style experience. It’s open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and during the warmer summer months, the outdoor patio looking out over the small dam allows to capture a beautiful changing mood during sunset.
On the menu, expect the likes of flat-bread pizza prepared in the wood-fired oven, burgers and local staples like a Cape Malay lamb curry and Springbok loin.
Meanwhile I’ve been very much looking forward to having dinner at the elegant mise en place fine-dining restaurant; still having in mind the excellent food served at Asara’s previous restaurant than named Sansibar. The new one opens only on a few evenings per week during the summer season (usually from late October until March).
Food at mise en place is inspired by a Franco-Italian cuisine based on locally sourced produce.
My gin cured smoked salmon was absolutely delicious, followed by an slightly spicy Springbok loin that was hands down one of the best I had so far.
I had a wonderful stay at Asara Wine Estate & Hotel and can only recommend to spend a few days here to explore both the many activities offered by the estate and the surrounding Cape Winelands.