Yesterday we visited the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room, one of two tasting rooms at Anthonij Rupert Wines, which previously belonged to Graham Beck Wines, and was bought by Johan Rupert from L’Ormarins next door, to enhance his access to water. Anthonij Rupert Wines has five wine brands, and 25 sub-brands, the largest range in Franschhoek, to our knowledge. Our invitation via PR consultancy Smart Communications & Events was to see the new tasting room and to try their new High Tea.
It was a grey wintry day, and the lit fire in the lounge was welcome and made the room cosy. Hospitality Manager Gidi Caetano, whom we know from her days as Manager of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and then as GM of the previous French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, explained the tasting room and company structure to us while we enjoyed the treats from the three tier High Tea stand, which consisted of scones, cream and jam, chocolate cupcakes, and candied orange and gooseberry tarts, prepared by Chef HW Pieterse and his team, beautifully decorated with rose buds, lavender, and pansies. We were served The Wellness Group teas, with its tea leaves in muslin bags. A range of flavours is available. One can book the High Tea with 24 hour notice, and organise a tea party to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary, stork tea, or just a special spoiling. The High Tea will usually include smoked salmon blinis, and cucumber, dill and horseradish sandwiches too. The treats offered change regularly, and could also include orange infused koeksisters, mini chocolate and hazelnut mousse pots, chocolate salami, and red berry tarts. Gidi told us about the herb garden growing alongside the manor house, with 32 medicinal (for educational use) and cooking herbs, the latter used in the food preparation on the estate. It was started from scratch a year ago.
Gidi showed us a window in the Tasting Room, on which the date 1833 was scratched into the pane of one of the windows, the exact building date of the original manor house not being clear. As the house had been used by the Becks when visiting the Cape, but stood unused for long periods of time, all furniture was removed after the sale, and Graham Viney Designs was instructed to redecorate the building to return it to its mid-19th century glory, including adding some modern touches of underfloor heating and airconditioning, redoing the yellowwood floors, having special out-of-print wallpaper reprinted for one of the bathrooms, all done with the guidance of the Heritage Council. A beautiful hundred year or older armoire from the Rupert family collection has pride of place in the lounge, and many paintings come from the Rupert collection too. One more modern painting dominates the entrance hall in size and theme, being of General Koos de la Rey, and was painted by John Meyer. This Tasting Room was opened in February.
Anthonij Rupert Wines has a heritage dating back to 1694 when L’Ormarins was established, and it was this wine estate which the late Anthonij Rupert inherited from his father Dr Anton Rupert, and is now managed by his brother Johan. The new company was established a year ago, coinciding with the taking over of the Graham Beck Wines property, and has five brands, of which the Anthonij Rupert flagship and Cape of Good Hope wines are offered for tasting at the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room. At the Terra Del Capo Tasting Room near the entrance, previously the Graham Beck Wines Tasting Room, the entry level Protea range, Terra Del Capo range, and the L’Ormarins MCC, which was launched in December, are available to taste. The Terra Del Capo wines are made from Italian grape varietals, so the music is Italian themed, as is the food in the Antipasto Bar. Dawie Botha is the winemaker, working with two assistant winemakers, given the large number of sub-brands. The Rupert & Rothschild Tasting Room is being renovated currently, and its staff are assisting Gidi at the moment, and its wines are temporarily available for tasting at the Antonij Rupert Tasting Room too.
Gary Baumgarten, former MD of Graham Beck Wines, is now the MD of Anthonij Rupert Wines, and Gidi shared that more L’Ormarins MCCs are to be launched, a Rosé and Blanc de Blancs to be introduced later this year. The Brut Classique has been such a sales success at the good value of R110 that they have to limit the allocation to customers to one or two bottles each. A MCC cellar is to be built on the property, and Mr Baumgarten’s experience of MCC production from his Graham Beck Wines past will be used for the L’Omarins MCC range. All the wines are made on the L’Ormarins property, and bottled on the Antonij Rupert Wines one. The Anthonij Rupert and L’Ormarins wine farms are producing olives, have beehives, and therefore they sell olives, honey, protea printed napkins, porcelain jars with birds and butterfly motives, TWG teas, and L’Ormarins, Anthonij Rupert, as well as Terra Del Capo olive oils, the latter made by Willowcreek, each made with different olive varieties and each being different blends. Olive oil tastings are done at both the tasting rooms on the property.
In the Tasting Room a maxi type of iPad, the size of a table, is set on the Anthonij Rupert website, and is an impactful, paperless, and high tech way of sharing information with visitors. It shows that the company owns four farms from which grapes are sourced, being L’Ormarins, Altimo in Villiersdorp, Riebeeksrivier in Riebeek West (most Rhone-like soils), and Rooderust in Darling. Some grapes are bought in from elsewhere too. Most of the vines on the Graham Beck property had leafroll virus, and had to be taken out. It will take some time for new vines to be planted. To link the two Franschhoek farms, a tram is being made, and will transport visitors on a hop-on hop-off basis between the two tasting rooms and to the Motor Museum on the L’Ormarins property. On Saturday 17 August all the Franschhoek vignerons will host Franschhoek Winter Wines for the afternoon (from 12h00 – 17h00) at the Motor Museum, the R180 entrance ticket including entrance to the Motor Museum as well. The Antipasto Bar will be selling winter warmer foods at the event.
The wines in the Anthonij Rupert Wines range are as follows, and are tasted in flights of three or four at a time, at a cost ranging from R10 for the Protea wines to R 60 for the Anthonij Rupert wines:
* Anthonij Rupert is the flagship, and the grapes for this range are bunch sorted with grapes coming from the best vineyard blocks, then berry sorted, then individually fermented in stainless steel, and cement tanks and in barrels, separately oaked for 18 months, then again for another 6 months once blended, and then bottle aged for another 12 months. The Optima 2009 achieved a score of 90 from Wine Spectator, and is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The Merlot 2007 and Syrah 2007 were made in limited quantities, twenty 225 litre barrels of each. The Red Blend 2007 has achieved a score of 95 from Wine Spectator, and the other two wines in the red wine only range are Cabernet Franc 2008 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.
* Cape of Good Hope : This range was developed in recognition of the 350 heritage of winemaking in our country, and awakened the once stamp collector in me, with its depiction of the rare Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps on its labels. The range is terroir-specific. We tasted a Van Lill & Visser Chenin Blanc 2012, its name reflecting the names of the farmers in Darling from whom the grapes are sourced, gently oaked for 10 months; a Semillon Laing 2010, grapes sourced from Henk Laing in Darling, also gently oaked; and the Serruria Chardonnay 2012 made with their own Altima grapes, and the name being that of the Blushing Bride, which grows in abundance on that farm. The other wines in the range are Parel Vallei Merlot 2009, Basson Pinotage 2009, and Altima Sauvignon Blanc 2012.
* L’Ormarins Brut Classique and L’Omarins Port (blend made of 10 vintages), both non-vintage.
* Terra Del Capo: The wines in this range are made from Italian style grapes only, a dream of the late Anthonij Rupert, and the range consists of Arné 2008, Sangiovese 2010, and Pinot Grigio 2012.
* Protea: This is the entry level value brand, consisting of Reserve 1,5 l 2009, Reserve 2011, Shiraz 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Merlot 2012, Chardonnay 2010, Chenin Blanc 2012, and Sauvignon Blanc 2013, and depicts our national flower.
Johan Rupert has launched a project to find and preserve old (mainly) bush vines, and contracted viticulturist Rosa Kruger to compile an Old Vines register of vines 55 years and older, which is displayed in the entrance hall of the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room. The red vines are mainly Cinsaut and Pinotage, and the white vines Semillon and Chenin Blanc. The farmers with the old bush vines are to be incentivised to retain these, as they make quality and complex wines, and reflect the heritage of our country’s winemaking.
It is well worth a visit to Anthonij Rupert Wines to experience the diversity of wines made by the company as well as to experience the stately Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room and to try its new High Tea, as well as visit the modern Terra Del Capo Tasting Room with its Antipasto Bar.
Disclosure: We were presented with a most generous gift box of L’Ormarins MCC, Anthonij Rupert Optima 2009, a jar of spaghetti spice, L’Omarins olive oil,and L’Omarins honey on our departure.
Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-9041 www.rupertwines.com Monday – Saturday.
Terra del Capo Tasting Room, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-9041 www.rupertwines.com Tuesday – Sunday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www. whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage