Hotel Of The Week: Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek

Sir Richard Branson bought the Mont Rochelle hotel and vineyard in May 2014, making it the newest addition to his Virgin Limited Edition line of luxury retreats. The first guests started arriving in September, after an extensive refurbishment.

Photo by Dana Sanchez

Photo by Dana Sanchez

Guests have since reported seeing Branson dining there, although that didn’t happen when I was there. One of Franschhoek’s smallest vineyards, Mont Rochelle is a 24-hectare farm with 17 hectares in production. The hotel has a new spa, heated pool, 22 renovated rooms and two revamped restaurants, including Miko for fine dining and Country Kitchen for alfresco and wine tasting.

Miko was named for Rwandan-born billionaire Miko Rwayitare, the previous owner of Mont Rochelle and the first black African to own a South African winery. A South African resident since 1996, Rwayitare died in 2006 and his family sold Mont Rochelle to Branson. Karen Cloete, the assistant manager at Country Kitchen, told me a little Mont Rochelle history when I went there for a wine tasting.

The long driveway to the hotel winds past vineyards lined with roses and pear trees in bloom, and ends at the thatched-roof hotel overlooking mountains.

Hotel rooms at Mont Rochelle are named after wines. Mine was one of the Cabernet rooms, a luxury upgrade graciously given to me by management. It had a porch that opened onto a lawn overlooking a magnificent mountain view that I enjoyed from a cushion-lined swinging porch chair — incredibly relaxing.

Photo by Dana Sanchez

Photo by Dana Sanchez

Other rooms at the hotel included the romantic Merlot Room overlooking a herb garden and the upstairs Pinotage Suite with open thatch ceiling, great art and wonderful views. The hotel’s No. 1  suite, the Cap Classique, is named after champagne and had two bathrooms and its own splash pool. In peak season, the Cap costs 11,430 rand ($979 USD) per night. By comparison, Mont Rochelle’s least expensive room costs 2920 rand ($250 USD) off season.

Mini bars are complimentary in all Mont Rochelle rooms, and include white and red wine, soft drinks, beer and water. In the fabulous bathrooms, the hotel provided the addictively fragrant line of Africology products and when I say addictive, I mean I had had to buy some before I left. Luckily, they sell it in the hotel spa. It was a small way I could take a piece of Mont Rochelle home with me. Unfortunately, one of the bottles broke in my luggage on the way home. It was a bit messy but everything smelled really really good and to this day my suitcase still smells of Mont Rochelle, which is fine with me.

Different areas of Mont Rochelle can be converted into romantic private dining spots such as the Miko Cellar, or the hotel rose garden. Imagine popping the question in a rose garden strewn with rose petals? It just doesn’t get more luxurious than this.

mont rochelle

Courtesy of Mont Rochelle

Mont Rochelle is a newcomer in the region’s wineries. Established in 1970, it started out as a fruit farm for pears, plums and apples. Tractors were once stored where the wine tasting rooms and restaurant are, and the wine cellar was once a fruit store. Vines were planted in 1996, and now Mont Rochelle grows mainly syrahs and chardonnays. The cabernet sauvignon is Mont Rochelle’s bestselling wine, Cloete told me.

Sentimental tunes such as Greensleaves played in the background as I sipped on Artemis Mont Rochelle 2008, then a Mont Rochelle cabernet sauvignon 2007 (goes well with springbok); then a Mont Rochelle syrah 2007 (spicy, minty, goes well with oxtail).

Franschhoek, (English translation: French corner) is known for its food. Breakfast at Mont Rochelle included a buffet and made-to-order eggs that were not the usual suspects. So how do you make a breakfast memorable? You offer guests creamed spinach. I had twice-baked cheese souffle with mushroom sauce, bacon and creamed spinach for breakfast at Mont Rochelle, and it was awesome.

To see more Franschhoek hotels, visit our Hotels Search Page.

Want to discover the finer side of Africa? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Comment