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Discover historic Stellenbosch in the heart of Joburg

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Heading north from downtown Joburg, Ryan Enslin finds a piece of the Cape Winelands in a most unexcepted place. One, he learns, that has been calling out to him for several years.

‘Back in the day…’ the oft-chosen point of departure for an impending tale. This word choice sneakily hints at said tale’s fond status with the storyteller. Memories, a sense of nostalgia and, in a way, a temporary return to another, slower time.

You may not believe it, but back in the day a trip to what we now know as the Indaba Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg, was a day trip. Some seventy years prior, the grand lady started life as the Little Rose Neath Hotel, then out in the countryside. She was well known for Sunday lunches served from a small restaurant on the property. At the time, the thatched hotel proudly boasted 14 rooms.

Over the years I’ve found myself returning to the Indaba Hotel from time to time, in various guises. Back when I worked with numbers for a living, we would conference there. During another time I practically lived next door to the hotel and drove past the front entrance daily. Today, I work with words and, as this mysterious thing called life would have it, recently found myself on her lush grounds once more.

A refreshing welcome 

Arriving at the Indaba Hotel, I immediately noticed that she had been given an upgrade. The thatch roof of the original building is still in evidence, only now with the addition of clean, contemporary lines throughout the public spaces, the yellow and gold pallet a subtle nod to her countryside roots.

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And her ample grounds made for great late afternoon strolls. With the never-ending urban development taking place all around, such a large tract of open land in this part of Joburg is rather unheard of.

Eat and be merry

The Courtyard Café, located beneath a myriad ancient trees, made for a great daytime spot from which to plan activities for the day. In the warmer months their leaves provide respite from the relentless African sun, while during the autumn months, such as my visit, they made for a kaleidoscope of rich, warm colours, signalling the change of seasons.

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The African-themed Chief’s Boma restaurant offers lunch and dinner, but I would recommend visiting in the evening hours. Live music fills the great boma as the mood escalates through increasing levels of festive. As part of the upgrade, the bar now also includes a cocktail lounge. In keeping with the countryside motif, ask for a Lavender Pina Colada, one of the hotel’s signature cocktails.

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Downtime

There is plenty to occupy your free time at the Indaba Hotel, including the Mowana Spa, a Gin School and a Wine Tasting Room. Or you could just while away the afternoon hours in your room – which isn’t hard to do.

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The spa, which is named for the Baobab tree, offers a wellness journey, complemented by the tranquil countryside surroundings. Treatments are designed to restore tired souls while maximising your downtime. The Gin School is a rather clever concept to enhance your experience while on the property, and you can make your own bottle of the juniper-inspired delight right there.

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But it was the Wine Tasting Room that caught my attention.

The Spier Wine Experience

Launched in October 2021, the Spier Wine Experience at the Indaba Hotel is the first of its kind space opened by the Stellenbosch-based wine farm. Voted as one of the 100 World’s Best Vineyards in 2021, I heard on checking into the hotel that they offered a tasting of the Spier Creative Block premium wine range, and knew where I would be spending my afternoon.

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The Creative Block Project sees Spier invite established and emerging artists to create works on small, blank blocks. The artworks are submitted and critiqued, with the best items bought immediately from the artists. Spier then offers these blocks for sale, with collectors purchasing several blocks to be hung as collective artworks.

Spier took it a step further, recognising the synergy between its wine blending process and the creation of the artworks, naming its blended wine range after the project. These are the award-winning Creative Block 2, 3 and 5 wines, which can be tasted at the Spier Wine Experience at the Indaba Hotel.

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A short stroll through the property and I found the tasting room below old, expansive trees. Inside, the space is decorated using warm woods and textured fabrics, accentuated by bright pops of colour, owing to the yellow-framed seating found around each tasting table. Weather permitting, you have the option of enjoying your tasting on the terrace among the dappled light from one of the old oak trees.

Bring on the chocolates

I met Katleho Maunye for my Creative Block Tasting who shared, much to my delight, that each wine would be paired with a carefully selected chocolate, crafted by a top Cape chocolatier. We started with a glass of the Spier Cap Classique Brut 2018. In an interesting twist, Katleho would use the MCC as a palate cleanser throughout the tasting, owing to its crisp acidity. This was something new to me and I found it rather effective in preparing my palate for each round of subsequent indulgence.

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Creative Block 2, a Bordeaux-style blend, featured the Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon varietals, with a small portion of the Sémillon fermented in French oak barrels. This adds a dash of complexity to a rather herbaceous blend and left me with a creamy, buttery feel on the palate. The wine was paired with a cape floral white chocolate, bursting with white peach and orange blossom, which I was advised not to chew but to rather allow to mix with the wine in my mouth. I was pleasantly surprised at how the chocolate enhanced the creamy feel experience, adding to the overall boldness of flavour.

Creative Block 3, and yes, you guessed it, a blend of three cultivars, was initially quite deceiving on the nose relative to the smooth finish I experienced. A Rhône-style blend, marrying Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier, the exotic spice notes came through in this one. What I enjoyed about this blend was its pleasant acidic balance, brought on by the addition of Viognier. The blend was paired with a coastal spice dark chocolate, brandishing notes of nutmeg and undertones of cinnamon, and was well paired to complete a rather surprising pairing for me.

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Creative Block 5 saw a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The Merlot worked well to tone down the Cabernet Sauvignon, known to be a rather full-bodied and expressive varietal, to deliver a blend I could picture myself enjoying on a mid-winter Sunday afternoon, next to a fire with a good book to hand. This blend was paired with an orchid berry dark chocolate and I found the berries became more pronounced on my palate as they mingled with the wine.

The Spier Wine Experience is open Wednesday to Sunday and booking is essential. In addition to the Creative Block Tasting, you can also enjoy one of the other two Signature Wine Tastings (21 Gables or Seaward) or the Winemaker’s Selection Tasting.

Back in the day wine tasting was limited to the Western Cape. Now, thanks to the Indaba Hotel, you can enjoy a great range of these delights, right here in Joburg.

Follow more of Ryan’s adventures in and around Joburg here.

Pictures: Ryan Enslin

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