Rob Armstrong, affectionately known as The Gentle Giant, passed away on 20 August. He was the proud custodian of Haut Espoir, a boutique biodynamic wine estate that his family developed in 1999. Rob’s unexpected passing has left the community of Franschhoek devastated. He leaves behind friends and family whose lives he deeply touched.
“The loss of Rob has had one of the most devastating blows and shocking news our little village has experienced, let alone the wine and tourism industries, both here and overseas,” says Prakash Patel, one of Rob’s closest friends. “Rob wasn’t just another resident or a larger-than-life gentleman. He was the village’s most gentle, sincere, cherished, respected, humble, spiritual and remarkably loved family man, friend, winemaker and soul to everyone who met him, and, of course ,Mother Nature! He truly was, and still is, the son of Franschhoek and the Boland.”
“I am just gutted at the loss of an incredible human being and true friend I counted on and loved,” posted chef Darren Badenhorst. “We have lost one of the greatest men I had the privilege to know and call my friend. A giant of the wine industry and the Franschhoek valley, and a Gentle Giant like no other. The most sincere, generous and kind person I knew. So many memories shared, unique conversations had, and only the finest wine shared.”
Chef Chris Erasmus counts Rob as one of his mentors and the unofficial mayor of Franschhoek saying: “I met him when I first came into town and he was my introduction into the biodynamic world. The guy had such a brilliant mind and he just loved to share his passion for nature with other people. He was my foraging buddy, he was my barbecue buddy. He was a true pillar in the community. He was just the type of guy who never ever said no to anyone – even to strangers. He always just welcomed new people into town. He was the most incredible human being I have ever met in my life. He’s going to be more than missed. But we are going to celebrate his life and continue the work that he started.”
Prakash says he is thankfully reminded of Rob’s presence everywhere around the Franschhoek village, from the mountain to the rolling clouds, the moon and the dam – where Rob did his famous moon walks and wine tastings.
“May you shine our Gentle Giant. May you smile on our valley as we try to fill a hole that cannot be filled.”