I have never seen the red carpet rolled out at La Motte’s entrance, but yesterday the wine estate proudly welcomed fellow wine estates for the 2012 Best of Wine Awards of the South African leg of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network Best of Wine competition, and received the award as the overall South African winner for 2012.
Cape Winelands District Municipality Executive Mayor Neels de Bruyn said that our country’s membership of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network has raised the profile of our Winelands, and allows wine estates to benchmark themselves against the world’s top wine tourism players. He added that for our country to achieve its national goal of becoming a top 20 destination by 2020, wine tourism would play an important role. To this end Vindaba is planned to be held in September next year.
The winners in each category were as follows:
Sustainable Wine Tourism Service: Waverley Hills Organic Wine and Olive Farm in Tulbagh, with La Motte highly commended. Waverley wines ‘are produced in the most sustainable way’ in the total production process, and this leads to the making of organically certified wines. They also have a hiking trail in their fynbos garden, have a fynbos nursery, have implemented a waste recycling programme, they manage invasive alien plants, conserve water, educate children at schools in the area, and help to restore river systems in the upper Breede area. This category was judged by Joan Isham, BWI extension officer.
Wine Tourism Services: Waterford in Stellenbosch, with Steenberg Vineyards highly commended. At Waterford, wine tasting is enjoyed in a relaxed space, and the families that help to make the wines are introduced to tasters. Staff are passionate, knowledgeable about their wine, farm and region, and customer-focused. This category was judged by tour operator Margi Biggs.
Wine Tourism Experiences: Solms-Delta in Franschhoek, with Spier highly commended. Solms-Delta was recognised for its archaeological and historic tour, interactive museum, a garden with culinary and medicinal ingredients used by the early inhabitants of the valley, a menu at Fyndraai restaurant which incorporates the ingredients, its passionate and enthusiastic staff, and its innovative programme of social upliftment, empowerment and profit-sharing. This category was judged by wine and food journalist Myrna Robinson.
Wine Tourism Restaurants: Tokara Restaurant, with Rust en Vrede highly commended. Tokara was praised for its beautiful setting, good modern food, professional service, wine appreciation, and opening hours. This particular award is named in honour of Lannice Snyman, and was judged by restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw.
Accommodation: Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa, with Grande Provence highly commended. The accommodation has excellent views, state-of-the-art equipment, 600-threadcount Egyptian cotton, welcoming perfection, outstanding service, and encouragement by the staff for visitors to visit other wine farms too, ‘epitomising what Wine Tourism is all about’. This category was judged by wine writer Joanne Gibson.
Architecture & Landscapes: Waterkloof in Somerset West, with La Motte highly commended. Waterkloof was praised for its unpretentious modern winery perched on a hill, ‘perfectly proportioned columns’ inside, which are filled with natural light and offer framed views, its Scandinavian restaurant furniture, ‘mysterious oversized paintings‘, its warm and welcoming tasting area around a fireplace, its open kitchen, and its biodynamic farming based on minimising its environmental impact. ‘A dramatic interplay of architecture, agriculture and the natural landscape can be experienced by visitors‘. This category was judged by architects Johan van Papendorp and Alex Robertson.
Art and Culture: La Motte, with Delaire Graff highly commended. Art and culture are the foundation of La Motte, especially with the presence of JH Pierneef, embodied in the name of its restaurant and for bringing the collection of one of our most famed artists back to the country, and creating a special gallery for it. This category was judged by Marilyn Martin, Director of Art Collections for Iziko Museums.
The Great Wine Capitals Global Network consists of Mainz-Rheinhessen in Germany, Bilboa-Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Florence in Italy, Mendoza in Argentina, Porto in Portugal, San Franciso-Napa in the USA, Christchurch in New Zealand, and our Cape Winelands.
I sat at the table with representatives of Tokara and Solms-Delta, and the biggest surprise of all was sitting next to JP Rossouw, our first meeting. JP is not ever seen at industry functions, but he attended as judge in the Restaurant category. He told me and Tokara Chef Richard Carstens that the judging for his 3-star restaurants had closed in March, to get his annual restaurant guide printed in Singapore. At that time Pierneef à La Motte and Tokara had only been operating with their new chefs for six months, and therefore he did not award them 3-stars for 2012, explaining the contradiction of his Great Wine Capitals best restaurant selection. The other restaurants that were of a high standard were Waterkloof, Rust en Vrede, and Pierneef à La Motte, JP said, and their quality was almost equally high. JP was very gracious about our meeting, and is looking forward to the birth of his twins in January. Chef Richard seemed happy with the recognition he received yesterday, after the shock exclusion (not just to him but also to many chefs and restaurant lovers) from the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list on Sunday.
We had an enjoyable lunch at Pierneef à La Motte, with Chef Chris Erasmus in attendance, and my choice of Franschhoek Trout, sorrel and asparagus velouté, poached baby potatoes and braised fennel was perfect. The alternative choice was grilled venison. A Cape cheese plate followed, with healthy rye and wholewheat breads, berries and a fruit chutney. Coffee and dessert treats were served under the oak trees, and included mini Cape fruit tarts, chocolate truffles, macaroons, fynbos blancmange with guava and granadilla jus, warm malva pudding honey cakes, ginger and rooibos syrup.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage