History, wine and golf make for a heady mix of pleasures writes Marcus Prior

Special places breathe the spirit of special people. You can almost feel their presence. Unique characters lend their homes a unique charm. Steenberg Estate has only changed hands five times since it was established in 1682, but no owner possessed more magnetism, charm and charisma than the first, Catherina Ustings Ras.

Catherina arrived by ship in Cape Town in 1662, a naïve but ambitious 22-year-old from northern Germany. Her life was a fairytale, punctuated by the occasional horror story. She saw one husband eaten by a lion, another trampled by an elephant, but through it all maintained a steely stoicism and appreciation of life’s small luxuries.

Catherina was a free spirit with enormous powers of persuasion, convincing the governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel to grant her a small piece of land in the Constantia valley. Rumours that she was his mistress may have helped her hand, but what Catherina wanted, Catherina got. If Simon van der Stel required some boudoir persuasion to make up his mind, the modern visitor will have far less trouble concluding what Catherina knew – Steenberg is a slice of
heaven, the very definition of luxurious, elite living. All within the Cape Town city limits. What you want, you get.
So impressed were the judges of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) that in 1998 Steenberg Estate was recognized with their Prix d’Excellence in the Rural category.

Steenberg’s modern ‘package’ is unique. The Manor House of circa 1740 remains the centerpiece, today a boutique hotel of exquisite character, while the original winery is home to Catherina’s restaurant, a five-star dining experience.
Since 1996 the Estate has been a working wine farm where the emphasis is quality rather than quantity and as a result the vintages have grown in prestige year by year. If you enjoy a crisply cold glass of sauvignon blanc, look no further.
All this and a championship golf course, too. Designed by premier architect Peter Matkovich, the Steenberg layout is a study in contrasts, offering anything from a links, to a desert, to a marshland feel.

One of the great qualities of the course is that it demands a clear head rather than bludgeoning power. It is not exceptionally long, but bares its teeth with strategically placed bunkers and water hazards. You really will have to use every club in the bag.
And your home? Some 210 plots are thoughtfully and spaciously laid out around the golf course, all the homes designed strictly in keeping with the Cape vernacular architectural style. A further 15 you might struggle to spot, but up amongst the trees is High Steenberg, where the homes possess more of a Canadian mountain lodge feel.

Catherina Ustings Ras would have loved to show you around your new home herself.