Switching off: the bliss of a digital detox in the Winelands

Posted by David Henning on 10 September 2021

When was the last time you switched off? Chances are that you are reading this on your phone right now. You should put it away, but only after you’ve read this article and booked yourself a stay at Spier for a digital detox.

What is a digital detox? Imagine sitting at a dinner table and the conversation gets boring. You feel your cell phone vibrate and you start to get antsy, and you are compelled to check your phone. Now take that compulsion away.

Do we need a digital detox?

There is no doubt that digital media can enrich our lives, but there is also cause for concern that it invades our lives, alienates us and steals our time. A digital detox is defined as a periodic disconnection from social or online media.

Many of us will fondly recall a more analogue existence and there is evidence to suggest that the constant bombardment of images and notifications are having an adverse effect on our lives, with correlations between screen time and depression. So the question of switching off, and getting away from our screens has never been more pertinent.

By switching off my phone, something did tune in. I had checked into a digital detox on my own and without the aid of electronics, I was personally responsible for my own entertainment. It took a while for my brain to figure out something to keep me busy as I paced up and down the room.

Your digital detox survival kit

As much as pacing up and down helps me think, Spier has plenty of options to keep you entertained. When checking in for a digital detox, you will find your ‘switch off kit’ in your room.

In this box, you will find a bottle of wine, pencil, notebook and a disposable film camera to document your stay. So armed with my novel, notebook and film camera, I set off to explore what life is like when you look up from the screen.

Credit: Spier

It was a rainy evening in Stellenbosch, so I couldn’t go explore the estate’s idyllic gardens. Fortunately, the restaurant is indoors, and I huddled into a corner seat that gave me a view of rain outside and a perspective of the restaurant that allowed me to people-watch.

Without my phone, I was suddenly attuned to others scrolling through their feed. It would be fair to say that everyone else seated for dinner scrolled through their phone at least once for dinner.

Fortunately, I had Spier’s range of wines and my book to delve into as I waited for my first course. Ironically, the image of me sitting alone in the corner of the restaurant on a rainy evening reading a book would have looked good on Instagram.

A few glasses of wine later, three courses down and scrolling the pages of my book as if it was an iPhone, I can honestly say that I had a great night out.

When stepping out of the restaurant, it was still raining and there was clear evidence that it had hailed, not ideal for an evening walk.

After my encounter with the cold that would bring snow to the mountain peaks surrounding Stellenbosch that weekend, I quickly got the fire going in the hotel room, poured myself a glass of wine from the survival kit and plonked myself down in front of the fire.

The room is tastefully decorated to make it an opportune space to relax. Credit: Spier

Spier Art trust

The rain had cleared in the morning and the farm was coming to life. Grateful, I took the film camera and decided to document my walk in search of the sculptures placed on the farm.

The Spier Art Collection is one of the largest contemporary collections of South African art in the country. The purpose of their arts trust is to facilitate successful art careers by enabling freedom of creative expression with the potential for social transformation.

The estate then also serves as a sort of sculpture garden, with exhibits placed throughout the farm. The stillness of the farm in the morning made for a stroll as you venture out with your disposable camera.

It was a chilly morning, evident by the snow-capped peaks of Stellebosch’s surrounding mountains and dew on the grass. The generous rainfall meant the Eerste River came roaring through the farm, providing the natural soundtrack and a welcomed break from my normal playlist.

Content with my walk and a curiosity to explore their wine range, I ventured towards the tasting room.

Wine Tasting and a Smoke House

I had no conception of time and worried that it was too early to start drinking, so I was relieved to find the tasting room open and that I wasn’t the first one there. Spier has a wide range of wines with a good conscience thanks to their sustainable farming practices.

An organically certified farm, Spier has free-roaming livestock and chickens reared in pastures, and where fruit and vegetables are grown without artificial fertiliser or pesticides. Spier’s commitment to sustainability saw them recognised as one of the WWF Conservation Champions.

And the wine speaks for its self, with their Signature Collection producing quality value wines, with the range extending to their more exclusive Frank K Smit range. I specifically enjoyed the Creative Block range, named and inspired after the Spier Creative Arts Academy.

Credit: Spier

With wine tasting done and still unable to decipher if I was tipsy in the morning or afternoon, I decided to go with my gut, which told me it was time for lunch and headed over to Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery.

Founded by award-winning chef, PJ Vadas, their menu offers a rich variety of delicious and sustainably sourced. Their menu also blends in with the seasons of the Cape, such as unique local ingredients like Fynbos vinegar.

With all these specialty products, Vadas still stays true to being a traditional smokehouse.  Their smoked beef briskets or pork with a bourbon BBQ sauce along with specialty vegetarian dishes, there’s something for everyone.

Vadas is the perfect spot to lunch over at in the Winelands and its location alongside wide lawns, means you can bring your kids along to run freely away from those pestilent phones.

After getting my fill of a decadent smoked brisket and smoked butternut with sage butter and mozzarella, I took a final leisurely stroll around and enjoyed the final moments away from my phone.

After an initial struggle without my phone, I became so comfortable away from it that I was dreading going back and staring at the screen once more. When I got back home, I have never felt more switched on and tuned in. My phone was yet to be unpacked.

Things to do at Spier

There are plenty of options to keep you entertained during your digital detox.

Have dinner at the restaurant

The dinner at the hotel restaurant was superb. There is a selection of three-course dinner options as well as single dining options. The restaurant also incorporates the sustainable philosophy into their practice, with most of the fresh ingredients coming from Spier’s own organic farm. There is also a plant-based menu, providing ample choice for vegans.

Read: Take part in Spier’s Food Garden Winter Workshops

Vineyard Segway Tours

Spier offers three different Segway tours and a sure way of getting the most out of the farm. There is a standard hour-long tour, a wine farm and vineyard glide and a sunset tour. Prices for the Segway tour starts at R375 pp, for more information, click here

Eagle Encounters

Established in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a bird sanctuary on the farm rehabilitating and releasing birds, promoting conservation and education. Staying true to their environmental stewardship, Spier takes note of how birds of prey keep the farm’s ecosystem in balance by controlling pests. R85 for adults and R65 for children, click here to read more.

The digital detox is running until 30 September and prices start at R1660. For more information about the digital detox and for booking information, visit Spier here.

For information on Spier’s other hotel packages, click here.

Visit Spier this heritage day

In honour of Heritage Day, Spier is proud to present a limited-edition Wine & Food Tasting Experience. The tasting platter was inspired by traditional South African culinary dishes that bring comfort and delight to so many.

There are nine delicious nibbles to indulge in, starting with light, fluffy pumpkin fritters served with a sweet amazi gel and raisin chutney and followed by a vibrant thyme & honey beetroot salad tossed in a fynbos vinaigrette. Next up, you’ll be treated to traditional chakalaka and pap served with cabbage, chili and curry accompaniments and Cape Malay inspired bunny chow.

Of course, no South African tasting would be complete without a flavourful boerewors roll or samp and bean salad. The platter rounds off with a tasty biltong happie, spiced milk tart and crunchy koeksister.

The platter is served alongside our four award-winning wines from the 21 Gables Range. To complete the experience, each wine is served in a beautiful Riedel glass to bring out the best flavours of both the wine and food.

We invite you to celebrate the cultural wealth of our nation and join us on the farm to savour our Heritage Wine & Food Tasting, served in true South African hospitality.


Pictures: David Henning


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