Tag Archives: Cathedral Cellar

KWV Sensorium a unique pairing of KWV wines and top SA art!

If there was one good thing about Vindaba, the wine tourism exhibition which ran alongside CapeWine 2012, it was the discovery of the innovative new KWV Sensorium at its Head Office in Paarl, which pairs highlights of the KWV Art Collection with KWV wines, and which has brought the art collection under one roof for the first time.

The creative idea came from a group think tank, curator Elsa Hoogenhout said, and has given the historic KWV Head Office interior a new and modern feel as one enters the building.  The Sensorium is believed to be the first wine and art pairing in the world.  The creativity is evident before one even enters the Sensorium, with a Reception bench made from wooden staves to which old office furniture has been affixed, being functional seating as well as expressing the differentness of the rejuvenated KWV, one of the leading and oldest (94 years) wine producers of the country, having been one of the top performers, with Nederburg, at the Veritas Awards on Saturday evening.  Using the services of two architecture firms, Albertyn Viljoen from Paarl, and Mashabane Rose from Johannesburg, the rectangular space has a central glass-encased KWV wine display and food preparation centre, with special lamps made from KWV branded crystal decanters.

Each of the 28 featured artworks out of the approximately hundred in the KWV Art Collection, which has been built up over the past sixty years, has been uniquely paired with a KWV wine, based on what the artwork represents or its colouring, a team effort between Elsa and her wine colleagues. At any given time, four of the paired artworks can be experienced by tasting the matching wines, and the four paintings and pairings will be rotated, so that one can study new paintings and taste new KWV wines each time one visits the Sensorium.  I was lucky to have Elsa telling me about each painting, and each is well described where it hangs, with five words that are uniquely descriptive of the artwork as well as of the KWV wine, not using traditional wine-speak.  The catalogue for the exhibition is informative, and contains each artwork, the wine pairing, as well as the QR code so that one can obtain more information about the wine from the KWV Sensorium website.  The paintings are hung in sections in the Sensorium, depending on their wine pairings, being white wines, red wines, and dessert wines.

The first artwork is entitled ‘The Funeral’ (of poet DJ Opperman), and is by Marjorie Wallace, showing his family in one group and his friends in another.  His family did not approve of his friends. Interesting is the seemingly contradictory pairing of the sad theme of the painting with the KWV Cathedral Cellar Cap Classique, and Elsa explained it as representing the rebellious and effervescent character of the poet.  The words associated with the wine and the artwork are: rebellion, reminiscent, icy rain, wet grass, effervescence.

This was followed by ‘Boland Bride‘ by Christo Coetzee, one of his last works, which is paired with the KWV The Mentors Viognier. Viewers of the artwork either love or hate it, Elsa said, and the reaction to Viognier is similar, she said. Yet both the artwork and the wine are complex, being layered. The five descriptive words for the wine and the artwork are: bittersweet, complex, floral, masculine, and Miss Havisham ( a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’).

A work which was commissioned by the KWV is by Piet van Heerden and entitled ‘Boland Valley‘, painted from Paarl Mountain, and is an iconic painting of Paarl, and was therefore paired with the iconic KWV Roodeberg.  The words used to describe the painting and the wine are the following: legendary, rockface, vista, sunset, Kodak moment!

The pièce de résistance is the massive Irma Stern ‘Harvest’ painting, probably the largest surviving Stern artwork in South Africa, which was paired with KWV Red Muscadel, its colour matching the different shades of red and orange fruits in the painting.  The words describing the two masterpieces are the following: joyful, abundant, Garden of Eden, exotic, parable.

Other artists in the KWV Art Collection are JH Pierneef, David Botha, Gregoire Boonzaier, Carl Buchner, Frans Claerhout, Herbert Coetzee, Tinus de Jongh, Llewellyn Davies, Pranas Domsaitis, Elly Holm, Amos Langdown, Francois Krige, Erik Laubscher, Hugo Naudé, Alexander Rose-Innes, Edward Roworth, and Maurice van Essche.

Elsa wants visitors to pop in and enjoy their Nespresso coffee, cake of the day, and charcuterie platters, and taste the KWV wines. She is considering opening for longer one day a week.

At Laborie, a KWV property a little further down, off Main Road, wine is made, with Harvest Restaurant and guest accommodation too, a collection of works by Cecil Skotnes can be viewed.  The KWV commissioned Skotness to produce a number of works, his ‘Epic of Gilgamesh‘ being the best known of these, consisting of 18 hand-carved wood panels in a stinkwood and yellowwood frame, depicting the origin of wine.

The KWV Sensorium is a unique showcase of South African wine history, with old bottles of KWV wines, brandy, and even Eau-de-Cologne it once produced, uniquely paired with works of art by some of South Africa’s finest artists.

KWV Sensorium, 57 Main Street, Paarl.  R40 per person.  Tel (021) 807-3147  www.kwvsensorium.com Twitter: @KWVSensorium  Monday – Friday, 9h00 – 16h30, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Restaurant Review: Harvest Restaurant at Laborie Chef Matthew Gordon’s best!

Yesterday I revisited Laborie wine estate in Paarl, to try their new Harvest restaurant which opened almost a month ago, and which has now been taken back by property owner the KWV.  I found it vastly improved, and to be the best of all the restaurants in which Chef Matthew Gordon is or has been involved.

Chef Matthew has been synonymous with restaurants in Franschhoek, and attracted attention when he had three restaurants in the village, when other chefs (e.g. Reuben Riffel, Camil Haas) went outside the village boundary when they expanded their restaurant portfolio.  It was a shock to hear earlier this year that he had not renewed his lease at Haute Cabriere, a restaurant he started 16 years ago.  He also had a joint ownership in The Grillroom (but not anymore), the French Connection, and Cotage Fromage (also withdrawn).  In Cape Town he consulted to Vanilla in the Cape Quarter.   One did not expect him to pop up in Paarl, but his mother Penny told me a month earlier that he would be opening the restaurant at Laborie.   The lease of the previous Laborie restaurant operator had expired and the KWV had chosen to not renew it.  Whilst the food was good, its service was not, I found on my visit earlier this year.

The unfriendly service at the security boom unfortunately has not changed, and I laughed when the new Manager Yolanda Prinsloo told me that it is the same company that Grande Roche uses for its security, the security staff providing the worst and rudest security service I have ever experienced. They were true to form yesterday, being pedantic about why they were asking where I was going on the property, and then justifying at length why they had to ask, rather than opening the boom!  One parks at the back of the building, and I immediately noticed that the terrace has been built up and extended out, with its beautiful view onto the Drakenstein mountain.  I also walked past the very newly planted herb garden, and saw the vegetable garden behind the parking area after it had been pointed out to me.  Being a lovely Cape summer day, I chose to sit outside, as did all other patrons.

The restaurant interior looks lighter and whiter, and Yolanda told me that it was the work of restaurant decorater Francois du Plessis (who also did Dash and Dear Me Foodworld).  It was a surprise, given the less-is-more and low key decor, mixing most of the old and adding little new, retaining the (rearranged) brown leather furniture inside, the flow of the long room divided by serving tables, with new white curtains with a hessian ribbon.  White-painted branches of a fruit tree were the wall decor, with little vases attached holding fresh white rose buds and rosemary.  More and more Winelands restaurants are using interestingly shaped vine pieces on their walls (Johans@Longridge doing it best, but also at Creation), but I thought the Laborie ones odd, white against white not working very well.  The walls are filled with rather heavy-looking Cecil Skotness paintings and while valuable and belonging to the KWV, they did not match the name of the restaurant or its interior at all. The Skotness exhibition has been spread across to all the Laborie buildings. Most odd was the decor touch in the bathroom, with three white clipboards to which had been clipped cut-out pictures of women from magazines!  On the terrace modern white LED-lit pots have been added to the terrace edge, planted with white roses.  The outside tables are less attractive with wooden tops and heavy metal bases, with an uncomfortable bar midway.  The chairs are light aluminium frames with black cane.  Grey couches and a table divide the outside seating area.  I sat next to an old oak tree, in which someone had put their cigarette ‘stompie’, which had not been picked up by staff.  My waitress seem quite disinterested when I passed on this feedback to her. Disappointing by contrast to the decor is the lack of a table cloth on the outside tables, and the unbranded little perspex salt and pepper grinders. Cutlery and crockery is by Fortis, and a material serviette is supplied.  The restaurant seats 80 patrons inside and 100 on the terrace.

Yolanda told me that she had started her career as a waitress at the Grande Roche, working her way up to Deputy GM in the twelve years that she worked there.  She then moved to the Three Cities Group, and worked at The Rex and Plettenberg Park on the Garden Route.  She came to check that everything was in order regularly, and I admired her patience when a pushy German supplier came to peddle his wares during lunch service.   All the staff of the previous restaurant operator have left, which is an improvement for the restaurant, now falling under the estate manager Cobus van Graan, who was dining at a table next to me. Geraldine White is the Head Chef, previously having worked at The Grillroom. Chef Matthew acts as Consultant Chef, and came to say hello, a nice touch.  He told me that they were expecting 700 people for the Carols by Candlelight last night, and that they were preparing picnics for it. Laborie branding comes through on the black aprons worn by the waiters, and umbrellas on the terrace.

Yolanda introduced the menu to me as being ‘South African contemporary cuisine’, serving ‘organic and free range produce’. It is presented on A3 board, and the waitress showed me all the headings on the menu which I could order from, which I told her I could read. She told me that the mussels had ‘sold out’ (at 12h45), that creamy spinach is served with all main courses, and that the specials of the day were a free-range chicken burger and marinated porcini mushroom salad, both at just over R60.   The problem with French menu names (such as potato dauphinoise) is that the staff cannot pronounce them, and my waitress really struggled with this word.  Disappointingly ordinary Ciabatta slices were brought to the table with old-fashioned butter balls, and little milk jugs of olive oil and balsamic. I ordered Kingklip when I was told that it was the linefish, and Chef Matthew served it with mash as they do not serve rice, as well as with a tomato, onion and bean salad which covered the fish, giving the dish a nice colour touch, and fennel adding to the enjoyment.  It was one of the best kingklip dishes I have tasted. Disappointing was that it was not served with a fish knife.  Other main course options include a Karoo lamb burger (R68), and a selection of steaks ranging from R90 for 180g fillet to R118 for 250g fillet.  With these can be ordered sauces and butters (e.g. Café de Paris) at R18 each.  The menu specifies that the sirloin, rump and prime rib are free-range and come from the Weltevrede farm in the Free State ‘when available’. One worries about the carbon footprint of getting the steak to the Cape, when there are other very good sources of meat closer by. Steaks are vacuum-packed and aged for at least two weeks, the menu states.

For dessert I chose fresh summer berries served with a Sabayon sauce made from Laborie Chardonnay the waitress said, although the menu describes it as a Late Harvest.  It was served in a beautiful glass dish.  Most desserts cost around R40, and other options are an Apple and boerejonggens tart served with a Marula anglaise and homemade gingerbread ice cream, a chocolate tart with a hazelnut and chocolate spring roll and homemade Kit kat ice cream, crème brûlée, and cling peach cheesecake with pistachio anglaise and balsamic syrup.  I liked the touch of the coffee bean on top of the well-made cappuccino.

The menu introduction sounded a little corny and is partly misleading: “What makes us stand out from the crowd… is it,(sic) the catch of the day delivered fresh this morning, our genuine Karoo lamb and beef (the beef comes from the Free State the menu says lower down), fresh produce from our veggie patch (but I saw the truck delivering many pockets of potatoes), herbs from our garden or the fact that we use free-range and organic where possible?   The answer… all of the above, plus fun and fresh in everything we do. Harvest, a haven for good times, friends and fun for the whole family. Are you ready to experience the difference?” .  The media release states that ‘Matthew sources produce locally from the Paarl region’.

The lunch and dinner menus differ in that sandwiches and salads feature strongly on the Lunch menu. The Dinner menu has interesting starters and main courses, including a duck parfait (R48) starter, and mains of ‘Tooinjies River’ quail risotto (R110), springbok fillet (R135), rack of Karoo lamb (R125), and duck served with Van der Hum sauce (R125). The winelist has predominantly KWV and Laborie wines, but a few other wines are listed too.  Wines by the glass cost only R20 for Laborie Cap Classique Brut 2008 (R90 per bottle), Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chardonnay 2010, and KWV Classic Pinotage Rosé.  Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut costs R80 per glass and R750 per bottle. Laborie Shiraz 2010 costs R120, and other brands offered are Landskroon, the KWV Cathedral Cellar, Laborie Jean Taillefert 2009, and KWV Mentors 2009 (at R310).

I refused the offer to have the meal comped, as I had not been invited and had chosen to come for lunch, but appreciated the offer.  Harvest staff needs waiter training, but the improved standard of the new restaurant and its quality food makes it a viable alternative to Bosman’s at Grande Roche, the only other restaurant worth considering in Paarl.

Harvest Restaurant, Laborie, Paarl.  Tel (021) 807-3095. www.laboriewines.com.  Monday – Sunday lunch, Saturday breakfast, Wednesday – Saturday dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

KWV Wine Emporium: creative food and wine pairing tasting!

The KWV is one of the oldest wine tasting venues, having done cellar tours for a good fifty years.   It has shaken off its old-fashioned image in its tasting venue called the KWV Wine Emporium, selling an extensive range of wines, liqueurs, ports, and related products such as chocolates, Platter wine guides, the food and wine pairing guide by Katinka van Niekerk, and much more. Impressive is its creativity in a number of options for food and KWV wine pairings.

I read about the tastings in the Bolander freesheet, and it sounded interesting enough to add to an outing to Paarl yesterday.  I got lost trying to find the building, turning down alongside the KWV Head Office on Main Road, and one should get exact instructions and not use the head office building as a guideline to find the Emporium building, as it is on the other side of the railway line, near the back entrance of Paarl Mall.  A call guided me to the right street.  The exterior of the building shows its history, but one steps inside a buzzing and busy windowless large tasting and KWV product display room.  At the entrance the prices of the different tasting options are specified, but a printed version of this list was not immediately available, and was not up to date, the new winter-only Port and Cake tasting not listed on it.  The staff was very helpful in setting up the Port and Cake tasting for a photograph, as I intended to do one tasting only, after having already had a glass of dessert wine with lunch at Bosman’s.

The tasting options at the KWV Wine Emporium of KWV wines, brandies, ports, liqueurs, and more are the following:

*   Cellar Tour, including an audio-visual of the company and its brands, tour of the barrel maturation cellar, the ‘world-renowned’ Cathedral Cellar, the Big Five Vats, and a tasting of six KWV wines.  Tours are done at 10h00, 10h30 and 14h15 in English and at 10h15 in German on Monday – Saturday, and at 11h00 in English on Sunday.  One can pre-book tours in French, Spanish and Swedish.  Duration is 90 minutes and costs R30.

*   Winetasting of five KWV products costs R15

*   Wine growing tour, includes the Cellar Tour, but also the tour of the modern fermentation cellar, the crushing facility, a talk with a winemaker, and a tasting of eight KWV products. Tour done by reservation only, and a ‘very good knowledge of wine is recommended’.  Duration 2 hours.  Cost R50

*   Introduction to Food and Wine Pairing, tasting five wines and ‘selected food bits representing the five taste sensataions’.  In hindsight, I wished I had reserved this tasting.  Reservation required. R35.

*   Biltong, Nuts and Wine Experience, a tasting of five KWV wines (Sparkling Cuvée Brut, Sparkling Semi-Sweet, Chardonnay 2010, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Cape Full Cream) with biltong, droë wors, and cashew nuts, no reservation required, R 35.

*   KWV Mentors Tasting, tasting five wines in the ‘ultra premium’ KWV The Mentors range (Semillon 2009, Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend 2009, Grenache Blanc 2010, Chardonnay 2010, Chenin Blanc 2008, and Viognier 2009), no reservation required, R 30.

*   Chocolate and Brandy Tasting, tasting four KWV brandies (5 and 10 year old, as well as 15 and 20 year old potstill) and four Huguenot Fine Chocolate chocolates (hazelnut praline, milk chocolate, 70 % cocoa chocolate and white chocolate), no reservation required, R 35.

  Liqueur and Chocolate Tasting, tasting four KWV liqueurs and four Lindt chocolates.  The tasting of the liqueurs is done first, and then the pairing and tasting with the chocolates is done.  An espresso is served, to clear the palate. The first liqueur tasted was a 2005 White Muscadel, and it has a soft, smooth, honey, citrus taste.  The Van der Hum is an old classic, and is made by putting mandarin skins in brandy spirit for three months. Then eight herbs and spices, including cloves and cinnamon, are added to neutral spirit, and added to the mandarin-flavoured brandy spirit, becoming a refreshing liqueur.  Suzanne recommended the Van Der Hum for baking and cooking, and especially for the sauce for Duck L’Orange. Van der Hum Cream Liqueur has cream added with butterscotch notes, and the Wild Africa has flavours of caramel, fresh cream, toffee and coconut, and is the most ‘commercial’ looking product in terms of its pack design, making it popular among tourists, with a taste similarity to Baileys.  The two non-cream sweeter liqueurs were paired with the bitter 70% and 85% mini-slabs of Lindt chocolate.  Whilst the Lindt Orange Intense was meant to be paired with the Van der Hum Cream Liqueur, it was even better paired with the Van der Hum Liqueur.  The Lindt Mint Intense pairing with the Wild Africa made it taste of After Eight.  No reservation required, R35.

*   Port and Cake Tasting, during winter only, pairing four KWV ports with four home-made cakes (fruit cake, orange and almond cake, Saint-Nicholas cake – with dates, walnuts, rum, and almonds – and a Coffee, hazelnut and chocolate cake, for which I was given a recipe sheet!), no reservation required, R 35.

*   Cellar Tour with Chocolate and Brandy Tasting/Biltong, Nut and Wine Tasting/Liqueur and Chocolate Tasting, must be pre-booked, costs R50, and is a combination of tours.

Suzanne did the tasting with me, being flexible in slowing down when I was taking notes.  Brigitte came to say hello, and we connected via our German roots, and our parents knowing each other from the local Lutheran Church. Maya is Swiss, and in total there are seven staff.  Brigitte says that staff brainstorms led to the selection of tasting options, and that they are constantly looking at new pairing options.  The Chocolate and Brandy and Liqueur and Chocolate Tastings are the most popular.

KWV Wine Emporium, Kohler Street, Paarl.  Tel (021) 807-3007.  www.kwvwineemporium.co.za . Monday – Saturday 9h00 – 16h30, Sunday 11h00 – 16h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage