It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. To say that I’m impressed with the farm’s conference facilities would be an under statement, writes Des Langkilde.
Due to travel commitments at the time, I missed the 2014 Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) conference, which was held at the Fair Trade certified Spier Wine Farm conference venue in August. My gorgeous wife and business partner, Beverley did however attend, and by all accounts it was a resounding success, made all the more memorable by Spier’s location and facilities.
This statement is borne out by the many testimonials received by SATSA after the 2014 conference. Here’s a few samples:
“Thank for a superb conference! It was extremely well organised, in a pretty spectacular setting. The presentations and discussion sessions were extremely worthwhile and of high quality, and I found a lot of the information provided very useful as well as insightful. The networking opportunities were well-used also! I was delighted by the gifts – the wine and the sapling which was certainly an inspired choice. The food was great despite the odd glitches, and the entertainment a delight.” Karen Kohler, Research Manager, Tourism Information Services, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.
“A quick note to give you and your entire team involved with setting up the recent SATSA AGM at Spier a big thumbs up. Well done guys, I thought the entire event was excellent, well prepared, well managed with great content. I heard great feedback from amongst the delegates regarding the conference and many people commented on the discussion on small business. As an independent hospitality participant I am all too aware that the larger groups often tend to dominate proceedings. If I may suggest, an action for the future would be to do a SATSA road trip with the new Ministry dedicated to the SME business development.” Kobus Botha, Managing Director, Urban Hip Hotels.
According to a post-conference survey conducted by SATSA, 94.74% of the conference delegates were happy with Spier as a venue, while 65.71% of respondents who stayed over, were happy with the hotel. 81.08% found the food to their liking, and 91.89% were happy with service levels.
Intrigued by the survey results, I decided to visit Spier and see for myself what has changed over the ensuing years since my last visit in 2012.
I met with Tony Romer-Lee, Managing Partner of PMR Hospitality, who have been managing the Leisure experiences, including the hotel and conferencing on the Spier estate since December 2013. Over a light lunch on the hotel restaurant terrace, I commented that the pan African style restaurant Moyo had still been operational on the Spier farm when I had visited last.
“Moyo was still operating when we took over managing the estate and although it was a unique attraction at the time and brought a lot of day visitors to Spier, their service levels had dropped and the group was put into business rescue. They eventually closed in June 2014, giving us the opportunity to restore the 300 year old Werf. Our ample restaurant facilities have filled the breach and we are bringing exciting new concepts and tenants to the Werf (the historical farm yard area in which Moyo was located), which will be able to accommodate outdoor functions,” said Romer-Lee.
After lunch I was escorted on a guided tour of Spier’s expansive conference and event facilities, which are graphically depicted in the diagram below.
Starting the tour at the outdoor Spier Amphitheatre, there are three meeting rooms in an adjacent building, which can accommodate between 40 to 20 delegates depending on the seating arrangement, and are completely private (no public access) with their own facilities. These are ideal as breakaway rooms or for smaller gatherings.
Located within the main Spier Conference Centre, the auditorium has capacity for 430. The beautifully decorated public areas are furnished with antiques and contemporary South African art from the Spier Collection. In winter, delegates can relax around fireplaces, and in summer, chill on the cool, shaded terrace.
Adjacent to the auditorium are three breakaway rooms – the Simonsberg, Helderberg and Stellenberg, which can be used separately or combined to seat 250 people. The conference rooms are adjacent to the Eerste River and have views of the Helderberg mountains.
Old Wine Cellar
This historic Cape Dutch style building dates back to 1767, and is situated next to an oak-shaded courtyard. This venue is spacious at just over 200m2 and is perfect for large gatherings, whether broken up in small groups or in a theatre-style setting.
In my opinion, Manor House is the most impressive of Spier’s venues with stylish antique furnishing that includes sofas, armchairs, oriental rugs, chandeliers and priceless art.
It is comprised of three meeting rooms; the Van Lievens Lounge; the De Clerque Room with seating for 12 delegates around the boardroom table is perfect for a meeting, workshop or small seminar; and the Reynolds Room, which is an ideal venue for a stylish lunch or dinner with its exquisite table that can seat up to 22 people for a meeting or workshop.
Located within the main hotel building, the elegant boardroom is a convenient meeting space for business guests at the hotel, or groups requiring a smaller meeting facility. The boardroom can seat up to 12 delegates, and includes an outdoor lounge area.
Wine Tasting Venue
Concluding the conference and meeting venues tour at Spier, is the Wine Tasting Venue that overlooks the Spier dam and has views of the Helderberg mountains. The venue features a large reception area, lounge with comfortable seating around the fireplace and an outside area that maximizes the views. The venue is ideally situated for a wine and canapé experience, and can also be used for a seated event. The building combines contemporary décor with the heritage for which Spier is renowned. A chandelier – made by renowned artist Heath Nash from 334 recycled Spier wine bottles – hangs about the state-of-the-art tasting counter.
The Spier Art Collection
One of the unique aspects that sets Spier apart from other conference venues is its art collection, which is one of the most extensive collections of contemporary South African art in the country. Artworks are displayed throughout Spier’s meticulously restored Cape Dutch buildings, meeting rooms and spaces of the Spier Hotel. Each venue, treated as an exhibition space, is dedicated to artists of both emerging and recognised talent.
Art innovations instigated by Spier include art partnerships with The Association For Visual Arts (AVA), The Africa Centre, The Spier Public Arts Festival, The Artist Patronage Programme, The Spier Art Academy, and The Creative Block Project.
For delegates and their accompanying spouses and children, there is certainly no shortage of things to do at Spier. From picnics to Segway Tours, Eagle Encounters, Craft Markets and Guided Tours or a rejuvenating spa treatment at Camelot Spa there is something for everyone.
For more information visit www.spier.co.za