Ellerman House uncorks unique world class Wine Gallery!

Ellerman House Corkscrew Whale Cottage PortfolioEllerman House is one of Cape Town’s leading boutique hotels, and has one of the largest private art collections.  Now it has inaugurated a world class Wine Gallery in the basement of its newly opened Villa Two, with a record number of 7500 bottles of wine. Architect Michael Dennett of DV8 Architects created the unique space, which aims to reflect the more than 350 year history of winemaking in South Africa, and to create an environment of learning more about and tasting our wines.   It presents the Ellerman House wine collection as a work of art in itself.

Earlier this week I visited Ellerman House, and friendly guide Heike Gerntholz showed a group of us around the new Villa Two and its Wine Gallery. The 3 bedroom villa costs R50000 per night to rent, with its own butler and chef.  The Wine Gallery can be accessed by the guests in the villa, as well as by the guests in Villa One, and in the main building, via a separate entrance.  Villa Two guests are isolated from any noise made by the users of the Wine Gallery, we were told.

My focus was the Wine Gallery, and a hand-crafted stainless steel spiral staircase takes one down to it.   It is a vast temperature-controlled space, and a number of elements attract one’s attention.   The design of the very large  lights above the tasting table was inspired by wine glasses.  Behind the tasting table is a Ellerman House Terroir Wall Whale Cottage PortfolioTerroir Wall designed by Angus Taylor,  in shades of brown, orange, yellow, and beige, representing the soils of 100 local wine farms, including La Motte and Chamonix, each framed and named.   There is a massive bar counter made from a solid block of granite, with a hematite wall behind it, and a centrally located mirror, hiding a TV set, Heike told us.   I recognised a number of Gregor Jenkin tables, at which Stitch chairs by John Vogel have been placed, recently highlighted as the latest design trend.   In a corner is a solid rock, which weighed 1,5 tons, and it was felt that it rounded off the Wine Gallery perfectly, so they hollowed out its content due to the weight, and built it into the corner window.  A smaller ‘rock’ contains a fireplace for winter use, not visible when closed.  A team of artists Angus Taylor and Conrad Hicks, industrial designer Brian Steinhobel, and interior designers Trevyn and Julian McGowan of Southern Guild and Source, was responsible for the design of the Wine Gallery.

The bathroom linked to the Wine Gallery has a brass wall on which its owner Paul Harris, passionate wine and art collector, has had the timeline of wine production of a number of countries recorded on it, and it shows that South Africa is far less ‘New World‘ than its Australian and New Zealand counterparts, a pet topic for him.  The bathroom has a solid granite basin, no doubt a challenge for the builders Ellerman House Brandy Wall Whale Cottage Portfolio

The piéce de rèsistance is the wine storage section, which is a glass encased area. The brief by Mr Harris was that he wanted the wine storage design to be completely unique, not seen anywhere else in the world.  The architect’s design response was a giant black corkscrew made from carbon fibre, in which 1500 bottles are stored in its large circular ‘wheels’.   Heike explained that carbon is one of the oldest materials, while fibre is one of the most modern materials.

From this storage area there are steps down into the subterranean Champagne Cellar, the only location in South Africa in which  Dom Pérignon has created aEllerman House Dom Perignon Whale Cottage Portfolio Rare Vintage cellar of 1000 of its precious stock.  A central table, designed to look like a rock from the caves of Épernay, where Dom Pérignon is stored, has a bronze top which has rounded protrusions to hold the bottles for tasting.  A wall with limestone is a further link to the caves.  From this cellar there is a door to another room, in which the remaining 6000 Ellerman House wines are stored.  To complete the Wine Gallery offering, the hotel has developed a wine app, recording information, tasting notes, and videos about South African wines.

Despite not having seen the Wine Gallery, Neil ‘Sour Grapes‘ Pendock has lashed out at Ellerman House for copying his idea of the Wine Gallery, a joke given that his petite (we note that he likes our descriptor of it so much that he uses it too) Pendock Wine Gallery only displays 6 wine bottles per month in a 2 x 4 m space at The Taj hotel.   The story goes that Pendock approached Mr Harris, and requested that he set up his Wine Gallery in their hotel, but that his generous offer was (wisely) refused!  Mr Harris is more than happy with the execution of his new project, saying: ‘The wine gallery is a work of art, rather than just a functional space. I am truly delighted with the way the brief was interpreted‘.

The Wine Gallery War has commenced, with Pendock shooting at Ellerman House, which wisely has not retaliated at all, other than with a publicity blitz which Pendock is unable to match!

Wine Gallery, Ellerman House, 180 Kloof Road, Bantry Bay. Tel (021) 430-3200 www.ellerman.co.za  Twitter: @EllermanHotel

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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