The Lanzerac Hotel and Spa has long been an integral part of the Stellenbosch landscape and no self-respecting resident can really claim to call Stellenbosch home without having whiled away a few afternoons under its leafy oaks or indulging in sundowners on the Taphuis terrace. It is very much a local favourite, while simultaneously enjoying iconic status on the South African wine and tourism industry, somehow managing to combine both these roles without compromising either.
While very much a feature of modern Stellenbosch, the farm has a long and distinguished history. The tract of land that the farm occupies today was granted by Governor Simon van der Stel to Isaac Schrijver and three slaves back in 1692. The farm was originally established under the name Schoongezicht and the first vines planted shortly afterwards. It has changed hands many times over its long history, with notable owners being Coenraad Fick who developed the beautiful Cape Dutch homestead and outbuildings. Mrs Elizabeth English purchased the estate in 1918. English was a pioneer female wine farmer and is believed to be the first person to bottle wine from the estate’s grapes.
The cellar was established in 1936 under the ownership of Johannes Tribbelhorn and it was under the stewardship of Angus Buchanan that the farm’s wines started earning accolades. George and Graham Rawdon bought the farm in 1958 and converted the homestead and outbuildings into a luxury hotel. Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery purchased the Lanzerac trademark and took over the management of the vineyards in 1958, and would go on to produce South Africa’s first commercially produced Pinotage with grapes grown on the estate.
More recently, Dr Christo Wiese acquired the estate in 1991, extending the hotel and facilities and replanting the vineyards. Last year it was sold again to a British consortium, which is launching an ambitious series of extensions and renovations, with the rejuvenated wine-tasting venue scheduled to open for business within the next week.
The reason for the quick trot through the Lanzerac history is that they are the brand new sponsors of the CTS Ready To Run Sale and Stakes and launched themselves very firmly into the spotlight with a sumptuous luncheon at the estate last Monday.
Despite a rather unsettled, blustery weekend, the elements conspired in their favour and we were treated to the most perfect early summer’s day. There is something about driving up the lane of oak trees that never fails to work its magic on me – one feels you are entering a different world and it has to be said that the wonderful staff make sure that the feeling lasts for the duration of your stay. Guests were treated to refreshing fruit cocktails on arrival and bright young things from Cape Town’s fashion and social scenes mingled seamlessly with heavyweights from the racing and breeding fraternity. It was elegant, it was stylish and it was a thorough spoil for all the guests, but most of all, it had a serious message – ‘buy a CTS racehorse’.
The bright and bubbly Liesl van der Westhuizen skilfully steered us through the afternoon’s formalities setting just the right tone of anticipation for the forthcoming sale and race day – “dim the lights, cue the music !” Lanzerac GM Hans Steyn filled us in on a little of the estate’s history and current offerings and if his words weren’t enough to convince you, the culinary delights efficiently produced from their five star kitchen certainly were. The afternoon’s formalities were rounded off by a brief address from the head of CTS and Kenilworth Racing, Mr Chris van Niekerk.
Chris is perhaps one of the most charismatic and charming public personas on our racing scene. His warm and personable approach makes any event feel like an intimate gathering of old friends and he does his job of selling his concept so deftly that you never feel you’ve been given a hard sell. A past master at PR, Chris can always be relied on to produce some media-friendly sound bytes and as usual, he did not disappoint. His opening address assured the assembly that “if you do not own a racehorse, you are poorer for it. People say you should not spend money on things that eat while you sleep, but you can safely invest in a racehorse and this I can tell you for sure, because I have been to racing yards and the last feed happens at 16:30!”
He explained the concept of buying a horse from their Ready to Run sale – “On the Thursday you can see it run, on the Friday you buy it, on the Saturday you watch the previous year’s graduates go to the post for the R2million stake. And if you wake up on Sunday morning with buyer’s remorse, we even give you 6 months to get over it !” (although he was quick to assure the breeding fraternity that vendors would still be paid within 30 days as per the standard CTS practice).
For the benefit of those who aren’t yet intimately acquainted with the industry, Chris explained that CTS were still a relatively new company and therefore aim to be innovative and dynamic. The company offers three headline sales, starting with the Ready To Run at the beginning of the season, their Premier Sale held in the centre of the Mother City during January to suit foreign buyers and visiting holiday makers and the second Yearling Sale held a little later in the season in March.
This year’s Ready To Run gallops take place at Durbanville racecourse on Thursday, 21 November starting at 9am. The sale starts at 2pm on Friday, 22 November and this year’s inaugural Lanzerac Ready To Run Stakes presented by CTS is happening on Saturday 23rd November, with doors opening at 11am. The Premier Sale is scheduled for 23-24 January 2014 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and then the Book II Yearling Sale will be held at Durbanville Racecourse on 22-23 March 2014.
Chris reminded us all that racing is the Sport of Kings and has a rich and colourful history and was thus very excited to be partnering the Ready To Run Stakes with one of South Africa’s oldest and most historic wine estates.
In keeping with the tradition and prestige of their brand, the Lanzerac is putting their stamp very firmly on the day, starting with the dress code which is strictly formal for this year.
The website requests that “Gentlemen and Ladies dress in a fashion suitable for an upmarket and smart event.” Gentlemen are requested to wear a suit or jacket and ladies are strongly encouraged to consider a hat or fascinator. Admission is also restricted to over 18’s only. With an eye on establishing this event on the social and fashion calendar, Monday’s guests included the charming and very stylish Dominik Marszalek and Kerry Hillier from The Little Hattery, Cape Town (if not South Africa’s) hottest millinery boutique, fashion blogger Jasna Zellerhoff from Fashion Jazz and a host of personalities from the local fashion and social scenes.
With Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms already buzzing with news, it is hoped that the Ready To Run Stakes will become a firm diary entry on the social calendar.
The Maccaroon Queen and artisans from the Ice Cream Ninjas satisfied all the sweet-tooths as guests lingered for a few extra minutes and chatted under the marquee.
On the way out, guests were presented with an elegant Lanzerac gift box, including copies of the latest International Racehorse Magazine, a Lanzerac brochure, a generous gift of the Lanzerac Pinotage and most importantly, a copy of the Ready To Run catalogue. We left with Chris’s parting words ringing in our ears “Winston Churchill once said ‘there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man’ and it is true. But to get that feeling you need to put up your hand and bid, so we look forward to seeing you all on 22 November”.
– Robyn Louw