On Thursday a number of writers and I spent the day in McGregor, to enjoy a taste of the wine and food offering of the village, invited by Hot Oven Marketing owner Mira Weiner, ahead of the Wacky Wine Weekend being held in the Robertson Wine Valley until Sunday. 

How Bazaar

I preferred to self-drive, as did a number of other members of our group, and others took a shuttle from Cape Town. We met at How Bazaar on the main road, and enjoyed cappuccinos as well as cheese cake, toasted sandwiches, and chocolate cake, with the compliments of the coffee and gift shop. Owner Barbara told us that the bulk of her cakes are self-baked for the restaurant. 

Bemind Garagiste Wines

We crossed the road from How Bazaar to the premises of Bemind, where Garagiste Ilse Schutte makes a number of wines. She was previously the winemaker at Lord’s, Deetlefs, Stellenzicht, and Grande Provence, over a period of twenty years. To be defined as a Garagiste one may not make more than 9000 bottles of wine. The Bemind tasting room is a mix of cellar, with barrels maturing in the space, a small tasting table, a fridge to keep the white wine cold, and a wall on which Ilse has hung her wedding dress. She told us that she loves making wines. All winemaking is hand-operated.  Ilse only uses second-fill barrels, which she buys from Graham Beck. In 2015 Ilse produced her first vintage. She is proudly-Afrikaans, and her wine labels are only in Afrikaans. 

We tasted the following wines:

#. Sauvignon Blanc 2016: grapes are bought in from the Breedekloof Valley. The wine is flinty, with minerality, fresh, and is a good after-dinner drink. 

#   Cinsaut 2017: This cultivar excites Ilse the most, and can see it undergoing a revival just like Chenin Blanc has done. Grapes are from 30 year old bush vines from the Breedekloof. The wine is fruity, soft, and does not need much wood. It had been bottled a few days before our visit. It is a food wine. Ilse prefers to serve it cold in summer. 

#   Shiraz 2014: grapes are sourced from McGregor, and give white pepper. This wine was my favorite of those we tasted. 

#   Bemind MCC, but not tasted by us.

#   Hartelus 2016:  The first vintage was produced, originally against Ilse’s decision to produce wines from local McGregor residents’ grapes. She found an excellent block of Merlot, and agreed to make it, sharing the production of 200 bottles with the owners. All bottles are numbered, and the wine costs R480. The wine is a collector’s item, has intense cassis flavor, is soft on the palate, and is dark in colour. We could not taste this wine. 

Lord’s Wines

Despite my numerous visits to McGregor in the past seven months, I have not previously visited Lord’s, which is 10 km outside the village, on a dead-end road. We were welcomed by Jacques Oosthuizen, who told us that his father Jacie named the wine estate after the Lord’s cricket ground, being a dedicated cricket fan. I commented that I had seen the marketing by Lord’s on boards on the main road of McGregor. I had also seen the branded Lord’s wine glasses used by Karoux on my last lunch at the local restaurant. Jacques poured us each a glass of Lord’s MCC, 3000 bottles of the Brut and 6000 bottles of the Brut Rosé having been produced. He told us that they are 500 meters above sea level, and that their Pinot Noir does very well, growing in a cool climate area. We were told that Lord’s is building a new storage space, with a restaurant to be built. They are using Chef Johnny Hamman of Slippery Spoon as a consultant chef. Chef Johnny had prepared delightful canapés at the launch of Klein Sering in Noordhoek late last year, and for the Las Paletas launch:

New Klein Sering Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2016 launched in Noordhoek!

For Wacky Wine Weekend Lord’s planned a number of evening events, including the screening of the movie Lala Land on Thursday evening; Burgers and Barrels with the Jack Rabbit Food Truck last night;and a Flute soirée, with their MCC, canapés, and live jazz tonight. Lord’s wines are sold from the cellar, at Food Lovers’ Market, at 7 Eleven, and the new Ritz Hotel, amongst others.

Jacques told us that his whole family puts its heart and soul into the business, he doing PR and marketing, his sister export sales, his father the viticulture and winemaking, and his mother assisting in making platters when they have events. We were blown away by the generosity of the lunch we were served, each one of us being offered a massive platter with biltong, crackers, cheeses, charcuterie, dried olives, tomatoes, mushrooms on toast, beetroot and dill mousse, chicken roulade, and cucumber slices. Our dessert was an impressive Pinot Noir jelly with a poached strawberry.

Tanagra

Our last tasting stop in McGregor was at Tanagra Private Cellar, which produces

#   Wines: Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Carah, and Heavenly Chaos, in a price range of R80 – R130. Wines are made by Arendsig winemaker Lourens van der Westhuizen. A 2017 Colombard, slightly wooded, has just been added to their range. The oldest vines on the farm are 24 years old. All wines are single varietals, and certified as such. 

#   Spirits, including Grappa, and Eau de Vie: they offer one of the largest spirit ranges in the country, the fourteen including TanaGrappa, Marc de Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Eau de Vie de Lie, Apricot Eau de Vie, an excellent Lemon Eau de Vie, a popular Orange Liqueur, and an unusual and challenging Quince Eau de Vie, in a price range of R195 to R350. Skins supplied by Springfield are used in the making of their grappa. The alcohol content is 43%. We were advised that one could ‘pair’ wines and grappas of the same cultivar. 

Owner Robert Rosenbach showed us his distillery, and took us through a tasting of some of his wines and spirits. His wife was handling the tasting of their wines and spirits for Wacky Wine Weekend visitors. Their farm is 78ha in size, and adjoins a nature reserve. The Rosenbachs moved to McGregor from Germany in 2009. Much of their wine and spirits is sold directly from their cellar door. ‘Tanagra’ is a Khoisan word which means ‘main shade’. Khoisan rock paintings have been found in the area. 

Despite having visited McGregor on numerous occasions in the past seven months, I had never been to Lord’s or to Tanagra, so appreciated the opportunity to get to know both wine estates and their products through the tastings. I had been to Bemind before for a wine tasting, but had not met Ilse Schutte previously, it making a big difference to hear the Bemind story from her personally.

Our first day of the Wacky Wine Weekend Media Visit ended at Jan Harmsgat Country House, where we stayed over, and enjoyed an excellent food and wine pairing dinner, to be covered in a separate Blogpost. Tomorrow I will report on Day 2 of our Wacky Wine Weekend Media Visit. A huge thank you goes to Mira Weiner of Hot Oven Marketing for her organization of the visit, my first experience of the Wacky Wine Weekend. 

Disclosure: We were spoilt rotten with a jam-packed goodie bag of products from the Robertson Wine Valley: Bonnievale Wines Red Grape Juice; Marbrin Extra Virgin fennel infused olive oil; Bon Cap balsamic reduction; Exdiem Chenin Blanc 2015; Healthy Mineral Water;  Thunderchild blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon; a mug from Rialheim; a jar of Cheeki Cooki cookies; Rietvallei Red Muscadel; a wooden platter; an apron; Strictly Coffee Jackson Brown Blend; Montagu cashew nuts; biscotti; Montagu raw date and nut truffles with cinnamon; and the Good Taste magazine.

Robertson Wine Valley Wacky Wine Weekend. 2 Reitz Street, Robertson. Cell 076 411 9477 (Mira Weiner). www.robertsonwinevalley.com Twitter: @robertsonwinev @wacky_wine Instagram: @robertsonwinev @wackywineweekend

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein