The Retiefs – the family behind the Van Loveren wine estate – are bound by love and strong family ties.
Robertson is firmly rooted in vines and heritage, brought alive by the heart and harmony of the friendly wine valley’s locals. As you leave one winery, another will be recommended to you, or you’ll hear about the coffee roastery, the cheese shop or the gift shop… all of them more than likely owned by a relative or an old school friend, demonstrating the buddy system at its best. When a Robertson winery wins a medal, the whole town takes delight.
Products from one farm are used and marketed on other farms, and restaurants utilise the produce grown on their doorsteps. Friendly and attentive service resonates in all retail outlets and restaurants, and simplicity and authenticity prevail. Everyone seems to care that visitors experience the real warmth of Robertson all year round, not just during tourist season. Circles of friendships that started at school are perpetuated in business, many farms are ‘married’ and some are being run by third generations.
Robertson locals market their region before they market themselves and there is a strong sense of community as residents work towards the same goal.
Van Loveren Winery takes the lead in the valley and the wives of the four Retief cousins who own and run the estate operate in the same way. The following quote appears in each of their homes: “In this house we do real, we do mistakes, we do I’m sorry, we do second chances, we do fun, we do hugs, we do forgiveness, we do really loud, we do family, we do love.”
Anne-Marie is married to winemaker Bussell and Chrislene is married to his brother Hennie. Stefanie is married to Neil and Charl-Mari to Phillip, his brother. Their fathers, Wynand and Nico, handed over the running of the farm to the four cousins a decade ago. In addition to being supportive of their husbands, these vibrant women entertain visitors, provide a sounding board, and take turns every Saturday to open the cellar. More importantly, they keep old family traditions alive with their own individuality and flair, mostly passed down from their husbands’ late Ouma Jean. The wives’ talents and teamwork are evident in the beautiful gardens and in the kitchen, and they are all accomplished cooks and hostesses. In Anne-Marie’s kitchen hang four aprons, donned regularly as the wives congregate to prepare a family meal. This gourmet quartet works in cheerful four-part harmony: Chrislene cooks the quail, Charl-Mari prepares vegetables, and Stefanie pours the sparkling wine as Anne-Marie comes out of her art studio to add finishing touches to a winter lunch.
The Van Loveren estate has been in the Retief family since 1937, when Hennie Retief senior’s father bought part of a farm called Goudmyn. He married Jean van Zyl in 1939 and she persuaded him to rename their portion of the land after Christina van Loveren, who had married the first Van Zyl to come to South Africa. Special occasions are marked with the families coming together around a table and by planting trees. Hennie and Jean planted a traveller’s palm for each grandson’s 21st, with the wish that they would travel the world. As each of them graduated, prior to joining their fathers Nico and Wynand in the running of Van Loveren, Ouma Jean planted a ‘Reach for the Sky’ tree (Brazilian tree fern) for each of her grandsons. When she ordered a hardy Rhus lancea (karee) sapling from a nursery in KwaZulu-Natal, Hennie collected it from the station and promptly denounced it “just another kareeboom”.
He then went down to the river to fetch a branch from a karee tree and planted it next to his wife’s new purchase. Over time, both karee trees grew intertwined, a symbol of their love. The Tangled Tree wine range has emerged from this story, and many visitors to the farm enjoy hearing about it in the shade of the tree. Ouma Jean, renowned for her potato rice dish in addition to the planting of trees, spoke her mind in the days when women were relegated to the kitchen.
She also bequeathed the women of the younger generation her special recipe for sweetcorn fritters, which she made in her kitchen every Saturday for 30 years (where the bistro is now). In the early 1980s wine tastings were held outside and Ouma Jean’s icebreaker for engaging with guests was to offer her signature snack. Now the fritters are served, with a modern twist, at the recently opened bistro, Christina’s, run by sisters Esti and Christi Strydom. After savouring the Van Loveren wines, visitors flock to the bistro for unpretentious food, many of them choosing the ‘Man Salad’, a light and delicious take on steak and chips.
Whatever they choose, visitors leave with the taste of tradition and heritage that is served up in dollops on this landmark farm.
While Ouma Jean may no longer preside over the farm’s hospitality, her legend and warmth linger on. After a morning of lively camaraderie in the kitchen, the wives join the men, coming together to savour another family meal paired with wines bearing the Van Loveren label, one of which is the popular Four Cousins range.
Van Loveren Winery, call 023-615-1505 or visit www.vanloveren.co.za.