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EXPLORE MONT ROCHELLE
The grounds at Mont Rochelle cover 39 hectares (about 100 acres) and you are welcome to go exploring. A favourite activity for many of our guests is picnicking on the estate – our kitchen can arrange a well-stocked picnic basket with a chilled bottle of wine (or two!). There are two restaurants, a cosy bar, a spa, a gym and an outdoor pool. That’s not forgetting a 37 hectare vineyard and wine cellar of course.
The area around Franschhoek, which in the Afrikaans language means ‘French corner ’, was as the name suggests once a French enclave when over 300 years ago a group of Huguenot settlers arrived fleeing religious persecution. That influence, nestled right alongside the larger Dutch-speaking community, is what gives the region such a rich and varied history, and unsurprisingly, a taste for fine food and wine!
In the beginning…
Title deeds to the estate were first granted to the de Villiers family in 1688 and building commenced in 1700. The cairn of stones on the property marks the position of a beacon which was lit to advise local residents that the local preacher had arrived so they could all gather for prayer. It was also used to welcome VIPs to the district. Apart from the fact that wine has been consistently produced on the land since that time, not much is known about the ownership until the early part of the 20th century when the Roux family held title to the estate.
In 1940, Abraham Michelson purchased the land which at the time consisted of a cellar with 20 large oak vats with the majority of vines having been planted around the time of the last Boer War (1899- 1902). Descendants of the Michelson family still live in the area and own part of the land from that original holding. Michelson started Franschhoek Winery after the 2nd World War and the farmers in the district used to send their bulk wine to them for bottling. During this period Italian prisoners-of-war were used to work in the district’s vineyards and at the war’s end Mr Michelson employed one of them, a Mr AG Augustini, to manage their winery. In 1955 Abraham died and his three children inherited the farm. One son ran the farm while a daughter moved away to France, and Siggy Michelson moved with his wife and four children into a small residence where our present reception area stands.
Over the past 20 years the building has been extended on numerous occasions and has also changed hands several times. The most recent owner prior to Sir Richard Branson was Erwin Schnitzler, a German hotelier and Miko Rwayitare, who took possession of the hotel and winery which at the time was called ‘La Couronne’.
La Couronne Hotel and Restaurant was severely damaged by a fire in February 2006. After a period of repair and renovation, Messieurs Rwayitare and Schnitzler used the opportunity to merge the hotel and the neighbouring Mont Rochelle Mountain Vineyards to create ‘Mont Rochelle Hotel and Mountain Vineyards’. Mr Rwayitare was the first black owner of a vineyard in South Africa and the vineyard’s premium wine was named after him – as well as the current main restaurant.
Mont Rochelle was purchased by Sir Richard Branson in 2014 and joined the exclusive Virgin Limited Edition collection which includes Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, Kasbah Tamadot in Morcocco, Mahali Mzuri in Kenya, The Lodge in Verbier, Son Bunyola in Mallorca and Ulusaba Private Game Reserve in South Africa. After an extensive period of refurbishment the hotel began welcoming guests in September 2014.
James joined the team at Mont Rochelle as General Manager, overseeing the entire property and team. Prior to his move, James worked at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat (part of the Red Carnation group) for eight and a half years, four of those as General Manager. He has a real passion for the hotel business, team development and great guest experience, so you are likely to find him walking around the property making sure everything is perfect for our guests!
Peter is a born and bred Kenyan and has been part of the Mont Rochelle family for more than 10 years. Legend has it that Peter was chased by a lion all the way to South Africa, but it was in the Franschhoek valley where his heart feels most at home. He joined us as a Restaurant Manager, but if you’ve ever met Peter you know his magic lies with guests which is why he moved across to become Guest Liaison Manager. Where Peter goes, his notorious little black book goes (after 10 years he has quite a collection) and in his top pocket lies the secret to every spectacular guest experience.
Annette is our Operations Manager and has the enviable job of managing our beautiful rooms and suites while also overseeing our Front Office team and our gift shop at Mont Rochelle. With a passion for creating magical experiences for our guests, this is the perfect job for Annette, plus she also gets the opportunity to indulge her other passions for wine and meeting new people.
Bronwyn loves coming to work each day and has a real passion for spa therapy! As Head of the Mont Rochelle Spa team, she loves offering her clients pure relaxation and total wellbeing and particularly enjoys seeing the difference from when clients walk into the spa to when they leave following their treatments.
Blom is our resident cat here at Mont Rochelle. She is one of the longest-serving members of the team, having been born on the property over ten years ago. Her name means ‘flower’ in Afrikaans and, true to her name, she can often be found exploring the extensive grounds and gardens of the estate.
Don’t forget South Africa’s position in the southern hemisphere means the warmest months are from November to March, however the average daytime high rarely drops below 15°C/60°F.
Many visitors to South Africa choose to combine a trip to the Cape Region with a safari experience in the country’s north east. We recommend Ulusaba, our Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve. You will find that the weather in Ulusaba is often complementary to the weather in Cape Town, meaning that you will get the best of both worlds. You can wake up for a morning game drive at Ulusaba and be at Mont Rochelle in time for pre-dinner drinks!
The atmosphere at Mont Rochelle is casual and informal, but that doesn’t stop you dressing up for dinner at MIKO, if you wish. The ambience at the restaurant next to our wine cellar, The Country Kitchen, is relaxed, jackets and ties are never necessary, but it’s totally up to you!
When you’re not dining you might well be soaking up the sun around the pool, so we’ve provided some sunscreen however you may wish to bring your own. If you plan on getting active in the gym then don’t forget to bring a pair of sneakers/ trainers which could also be handy if you plan on venturing further afield.
We know just how important it is to take care of the environment, and we are extremely sensitive to the impact our properties may have on the local communities within which we operate. We believe in environmentally sustainable tourism and remain committed to making a difference wherever we can.
What does this mean in practice?
Our approach includes a commitment to responsible supply chain management, fair trade policies, ethical dealings with our employees as well as the local community, and of course the environment. We know that some changes can be made immediately however others may take a little more time. Virgin Limited Edition is proud to have taken steps at all our properties to reduce any negative environmental impact, and Mont Rochelle is no exception.
Mont Rochelle is very conscious about ensuring that our supply chains are ethical in regards to the raw materials and labour used. We strive to ensure that as much of our food as possible is locally sourced in South Africa to ensure maximum economic benefit to the people and minimal transport and ‘food miles’.
Ditching the plastic
Some of the properties in our collection are in parts of the world where the local water supply doesn’t always inspire confidence, so we previously made bottled water available to our guests. As the result was a lot of discarded plastic bottles we worked with a supplier to source branded glass water bottles which are washable and can be reused again and again. A filter machine sits on site and the team is trained in how to operate it hygienically. The result is a complete elimination of plastic bottles used on the Mont Rochelle estate with similar results elsewhere.
We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travellers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase and bring supplies for area schools or medical clinics in need, you'll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families.
Here at Mont Rochelle, we are currently supporting FRANCO with the aim of improving collaboration between social programmes and organisations within the Franschhoek Valley. The projects that FRANCO have funded include, ex-offender community reintegration, soup kitchens, life skills training in schools, music outreach, school holiday programmes and early childhood development centres. FRANCO are also involved with various sports programmes as well as support groups for the elderly and people with disabilities.
If you’d like to get involved and purchase items to help this worthy cause we’ll be happy to provide a list of supplies. Whether it’s clothing, school supplies or non-perishable food items your donations will make a priceless impact to the lives of local children and families.
Please click here to see what supplies are needed for our project/projects.