VISI: Stellenbosch tasting room: Kunjani! Wines
When an entrepreneurial couple decided to build a tasting room on their Stellenbosch property Kunjani!, they didn’t anticipate that Haldane Martin would turn it into a landmark. But now there it is.
Words: Ami Kapilevich
You can’t miss Kunjani! Wines’ tasting room. Coming round a bend in Blumberg Drive, Devonvale – itself one of the most scenic roads in the Cape Winelands – the building greets you like a vivacious host at a Christmas lunch who knows that you will just love her absolutely favourite Shiraz.
The lipstick red of the sliding screens and Kunjani! Wines signage enlivens the building’s black paintwork and dark-grey Table Mountain slate, and contrasts intelligently with the green of the surrounding vineyards. Framed by the pine trees that line the road, Kunjani! is a smiling South African howzit. A warm and welcoming woza in the Winelands.
Those familiar with designer Haldane Martin’s recent work at Urbanologi restaurant in Johannesburg or his 2016 design of Healey’s Cheesery in Somerset West would not be completely surprised by the liberal doses of red. I, for one, thought that the colour was becoming something of a signature style or trademark flourish. But I was wrong.
“Oh no, it’s not like red is my favourite colour or anything,” Haldane says. “It just so happened that red has been the right colour for the projects and clients’ brands that I have been involved in recently. And it was the right colour for Kunjani! Wines, which is a bold, unpretentious brand. Pia [ Watermeyer] and Paul [Barth] are passionate people, so the red symbolises them.”
In fact, the building as it exists today would not have been possible without co-owner Pia’s passion. At first, the architects insisted that the building should be white, in line with the more traditional Cape Dutch aesthetic of the Winelands. “Haldane and I sat there being bullied by about 15 architects,” Pia says, “but in the end I put my foot down.” Then Pia had to negotiate her husband’s aversion to black. “It’s not a colour as far as Paul is concerned,” she says. But Pia has an impish determination, which acted as a vanguard for Haldane’s vision.
Haldane relished getting more extensively involved in the architectural details on this project than usual. Out went the conventional wooden rafters, and in came slatted wooden ceiling and red steel tie beams, a reference to the traditional reed ceilings of old farmhouses. Haldane invoked a pantheon of local designers and artists to complement his own creations: Doktor and Misses, La Grange Interiors, Pedersen + Lennard, James Mudge, Laurie Wiid van Heerden, Goet Furniture and Design, Sarah Ord Interiors, LIM, Robin Sprong Wall papers, Peter Pharoah, Krisjan Rossouw…
In your rearview mirror, the red sliding screens take Kunjani! Wines from an arty shrine to a significant landmark. A monument, even, to the time when a feisty owner and a progressive designer made sure that contemporary African flavour triumphed over traditional tastes.