Stanford Hills Estate has become the de facto community hub of Stanford. It’s child-friendly… and has one of the best kids’ playgrounds anywhere. It’s also pet-friendly and dog walkers from the village take to its hills every day. If you don’t have a dog to walk, one or both of Peter & Jami Kastner’s Ridgebacks will happily take you for a walk. And you might come across the weekly art classes, the weddings and other functions… and the music events. It’s a friendly, unpretentious and… to use a word Peter and Jami use often… rustic place to relax, stay, play and and enjoy good wine and food. Peter and Jami really do enjoy people enjoying the place and they make an effort to make sure that locals feel part of it.
Stanford Hills has grown organically. Unlike many wine estates, there was no corporate budget to support the farm. It grew as and when finance became available.
Peter and Jami never set out to be farmers. Peter had a restaurant in Hermanus and Jami a flower exporting business when they bought portion of the old Weltevrede Farm, which they bought for its flowers.
Then one self-catering cottage became two, AfriCamps was added with five luxury “tents”, and the Manor House was converted to cater for larger groups.
The partnership with AfriCamps worked very well, with similar philosophies but also AfriCamps marketing reach — which sees international tourists keeping international occupancies high during the week.
The Tasting Room — the farm’s restaurant — initially opened to help sell more wine but has become a popular breakfast, lunch and function venue in its own right. It is unusual in that it still only sells the estate’s wines.
When they bought the farm, there was only one grape variety on 4 hectares of vineyards. Today there are four varieties covering 12 hectares, with seven or eight labels. New labels will be launched next year, including a white pinotage.
While wine-making is a capital-intensive business, the flowers are the cash crops. Wine and flowers each contribute about 30% to the estate’s turnover with accommodation and the restaurant making up the other 40%.
Peter makes the point that one has to keep on adding to the offering, and the Stanford Hills experience will keep on growing.
Proteas and Pincushions
Some 620,000 stems — proteas, pincushions and Leucadendron — a year are sent to 12 exporting agents. They are picked, trimmed, stored overnight in a cold room, and exported within a day mainly to Europe and the East. Each plant gives 20 to 45 stems per season, which lasts from May to December.
The Veldfire Pincushion is endemic to Weltevrede Farm and features on the label of some of the estate’s wines.
Sustainable harvesting — stems picked from the wild flowers on the mountain — accounts for 50% of all harvesting.
The flower operation employs six full time staff and an extra five during the long harvesting season.
“I want to learn to read the vines”
Mark Stephens, Stanford Hills new winemaker, studied viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch, but his interest in biodynamic or biological farming with natural processes started even before that, during a job in California during his gap year after school. But that had to wait, because during his practical year and the six years after that, he spent time in cellars making wine — working on two harvests a year in both hemispheres.
When he started making his own wine last year, he realised that he needed to know more about growing grapes. At Stanford Hills, this has become his passion. The Estate has a range of soil types — including koffieklip (laterite), limestone and shale — and the vineyards reflect these differences.
New and exciting wine labels are part of the growing offering that Peter Kastner has on the cards for next year!
The Butterfly Centre
One can’t write about Jami and Peter Kastner without mentioning the Butterfly Centre. It is a registered Non-profit and Public Benefit Organisation started in 2013 by Jami and Peter Kastner, in honour of their youngest son Sam whom they tragically lost that year. The school opened it’s doors in rented premises in Stanford on 20 July 2014, on what would have been young Sam’s third birthday. A permanent home for the Centre is under construction on Stanford Hills Estate and the first phase should open at the beginning of 2020.
The Butterfly Centre is an early learning intervention centre and its main goal is to help young girls and boys who are not coping in the mainstream environment due to a number of reasons, delays and barriers to learning.
The full-time students who range between the ages six and thirteen, receive classes at the level and speed to suit their specific abilities. Classes include reading, writing, mathematics, art and basic sports coaching. The children of The Butterfly Centre have shown tremendous growth in their reading ability, writing skills and social interactivity as a direct result of the one-on-one educational approach.
The new location on the Estate will introduce nature-based skills, allowing the children to lead purposeful lives. Vegetable gardening, vineyard pruning, bee keeping and baking will be among the practical skills that will be taught.
Most of the current students cannot afford to pay full fees, and the Centre relies on donations. Follow The Butterfly Centre on Facebook