Entries tagged with “Cathy Marston”.


A record 111 South African wines received a coveted 2018 Platter’s Guide five-star rating at the Awards ceremony held at the Table Bay Hotel tonight. Raats Family Wines was named as the 2018 Winery of the Year. (more…)

platters_wine_guide_2017A number of records were broken last night when 94 wines and one brandy were awarded 5 star status at the launch of  the Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide 2017 at the Table Bay Hotel, a new venue, the event having been held at the Mount Nelson for years. The colour of the 2017 Platter’s Guide is Harvest Green.  (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Western Cape government, represented by Premier Helen Zille and Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde, visited Angola earlier this week with Wesgro, the Western Cape trade, investment, and tourism agency.  The focus of the visit was Tourism, Oil and Gas, and Agri-processing.  The province export value to Angola was R2 billion in 2013, which has grown by 30% in 2014. Improving air access between the two countries, by doubling the number of flights, and offering a link into Africa, was also on the agenda. (received via media release from Minister Winde’s office)

*   The international WSET wine and spirit training program, represented in our country by Cathy Marston, has (more…)

Burrata 'Pick me Up'  dessert Whale CottageLast year New Media Publishing changed its annual Eat Out magazine, having featured 1100 restaurants in earlier years.  Last year the Eat Out Top 500 restaurant guide was based on applications sent by restaurants themselves, and the top 500 selected by 50 food and restaurant writers and lovers.  This year the Eat Out 500 top restaurants could be nominated by anyone, mainly the public, and chosen and reviewed by a panel of 30, mainly food writers.

Earlier this week Eat Out announced the Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, which will guarantee those restaurants a space in the 2015 Eat Out Top 500 Restaurant Guide.

The selection and evaluation of the Eat Out Top 500 is sketchy: ‘...a list of candidates was selected (how, on which criteria?), rated (on which scale, on which criteria?), and reviewed by the panel‘ (the criteria for reviewing are mentioned as food – defined as menu composition, seasonality, and presentation – and ambiance, service, and wine/beverage selection).  Surely they mean that a particular member of the panel reviewed a particular restaurant?  The end result is described by Eat Out (twice in its media release) as a ‘power list of great restaurants‘! Someone alerted me to the hard sell to new restaurants by Eat Out to be listed on (more…)

FedEx logoThe Sweet Service Award goes to FedEx and its manager Peter, who assisted in getting the Kokkedoor cookbook delivered, after various attempts to receive it failed.  Despite an instruction to call and make a delivery appointment, the delivery staff just arrived, when we were not at the delivery address.  We were then sent an sms, detailing how many times they had attempted the delivery, requesting that we call FedEx!  I did call them, although I felt that they should have called me. The duty manager could not divulge what was in the parcel – 2 weeks prior the same delivery company had put me through (more…)

Platter's South African Wine Guide 2014 'Aquamarine' EditionIt was a boisterous Diners Club Platter’s South African Wines 2014 ‘prize-giving’ last night, with a record 80 wines receiving the much-desired 5 star accolade, selected blind-tasted from double the number of 5-star finalists.  It was an evening that honoured publisher Andrew McDowall, and saw new publisher JP Rossouw in action for the first time.

A number of records were set last night, with the largest number of wines evaluated ever, at 7434, there being 49 new entries, and close to 900 producers of wine in the Guide.  After an absence, brandy and sherry-style wines were awarded again.

On arrival, sipping Klein Constantia MCC, a number of well-known winemakers and estate owners were visible, giving one a taste of some of the 5 star winners, including last year’s Winery of the Year winner Gottfried Mocke of Cape Chamonix, Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick, Razvan Macici of Nederburg, Anthony Hamilton Russell, Johann Laubser of Delaire Graff, and Ginny Povall of Botanica.    We commented that it was wonderful to see so many women winemakers amongst the top 5 star recipients!  Once we were allowed to enter the venue at the Vineyard Hotel, the wines were displayed in groups, for one to taste and to see the 5 star winners by their presence.

David Hughes sang the praises of Andrew, and his direct involvement with 29 of the 34 Platter’s Wine Guides.  He described Andrew as a man ‘massive in character’, who has a nickname ‘Grunter‘, who got himself smuggled into a Nederburg Wine Auction via the boot of a car when he did not receive an invitation, who fell onto a cannon at the bottom of the steps of the Mount Nelson when he slid down the bannister at his 40th birthday party, a man one can trust when he gives you his word, ‘and a hell of a good guy‘, warning JP that he has big boots to fill in taking over from Andrew.  There was roaring applause for Andrew.

Andrew looked well, and his dry humour was on full form, saying thatPlatter's Andrew McDowall Whale Cottage Portfolio the romance with Diners Club last year had led to marriage during the year.  He was full of praise for his ‘young, strong and virile’ successor JP.  He was proud that the edition was printed locally and not in Singapore.  He revealed the ‘Walker Bay blue’ cover, saying that they had considered calling it ‘Pendock sea sick’, which brought the house down!  He praised editor Philip van Zyl as the ‘most ethical man’, which led to applause from the floor. The 80 5 star winners include 7 brandies, up from 62 last year.  I asked Andrew what he would be doing with his time, and he said he wasn’t sure, but getting better at bridge is one of his goals. (more…)

Burrata Pick me Up dessert Whale Cottage PortfolioOne of the changes New Media Publishing has introduced for Eat Out‘s 2014 edition is that its printed Restaurant Guide will only list 500 restaurants, as opposed to 1100 last year.  The method of selecting the included restaurants has changed too.

The process commenced with Eat Out announcing that it was looking for applications from restaurants to be included in the 2014 Eat Out Guide, such applications closing on 30 June.  It described the application process as follows: ‘This call to action turns up the heat and shifts the onus onto the restaurant to put themselves forward in a simple process‘.  The restaurants that wanted to be considered for inclusion had to complete a (more…)

On Friday I was fortunate to experience a tasting of some of the wines in the Overhex Wines International range, and specifically their new additions to the two year old Balance range, which was held at one of the most popular restaurants in Cape Town, namely Luke Dale-Roberts’  The Test Kitchen.

The Test Kitchen in the Old Biscuit Mill premises in Woodstock is a small space, and we must have been about thirty journalists and bloggers who were lucky enough to be invited by charming PR consultant Nicolette Waterford.  The stature of the event was reflected by the attendance of Sunday Times wine writer Neil Pendock, Cape Wine Master Christine Rudman, Cape Times wine writer Cathy Marston, Christian Eedes, Wade Bales, Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler, Joanne Gibson, Greg Landman, and more, and the restaurant venue must have been an important attendance drawcard.   Spread over the two tables were staff of Overhex, including the co-owner Gerhard van der Wath, who manages the company, in close co-operation with JC (for Jean Claude) Martin, who is the Production Director, and is responsible for the wine styles and blends, assisted by Jandre Human, the cellar master.  Being private-owned means that Gerhard and JC can make quick decisions.   They are not restricted to only the grapes of their region, but can buy in the best grapes to suit their requirements, including from the Swartland, West Coast, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch, allowing them to make wines at different price points.  The Overhex farm in the Breede River Valley outside Worcester produces about 10 000 tons of grapes, and about 5 million litres are bought in, JC told us.

JC (on the right, chatting to Greg Landman) has a Swiss German lilt when he speaks, and arrived in South Africa six years ago, having met his wife Carolyn (daughter of Walter Finlayson) on the wine estate in Switzerland on which he worked at the time, where she came to present label designs on behalf of the London design agency she worked for.  His association with Overhex started in 2005.  Alongside the Overhex wine involvement, JC makes his own Creation wines in the Hemel en Aarde valley outside Hermanus.   While this was not a Creation function at all, we did discuss the wines and the marketing of them, which JC does on the side when he represents Overhex wines overseas.  His wife does the marketing of Creation wines locally, and they had an average of 300 visitors per day in their tasting room over the festive season, he said.  They are very excited about the fact that the Western Cape province has placed the Caledon – Hermanus gravel road going through their valley as number one priority on the list of roads to be tarred in the province, and they see this as being of huge future benefit to themselves and their colleagues on the recently created Hemel en Aarde Valley wine route.   I sat opposite JC, and asked him questions abouit Creation – he did not talk about Creation when he addressed the guests.  JC told me he studied winemaking in the French part of Switzerland. Switzerland is not generally known as a wine producer, but JC told me that the Swiss drink all the wine produced in the total area of 25000 ha, and therefore it is not exported.  Whalepod is a new Creation brand, and we have started stocking it in our Whale Cottages.  JC told me that they are launching a new Syrah/Malbec Whalepod blend. Tasting rooms on wine farms are unique to South Africa, in that one can visit most wine farms without making an appointment, making this wine tourism valuable to wine farms selling their wines from the cellar door – for Creation it represents 30 % of their sales. 

In 2003 Overhex was started as a co-operative, and was bought by Gerhard and a partner in 2005.  Initially their focus was on the international market, and they now export to 25 countries.  JC told us that they export to supermarket and liquor groups such as Marks & Spencer, CO-OP UK, and Fosters, making own label wines for them.   Most of the wine is made to the specific requirements of each of these chains, and exported in bulk, and bottled in the UK and in Germany.     Ten Overhex brands are exported, being 3,5 million bottles in total. 

The reason for the launch function was to introduce the new additions to the Balance range, being the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz 2010 and Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2010.  They complement the existing Balance range of Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (won a gold medal at Michelangelo 2010),  Shiraz Merlot 2010, Pinotage Shiraz 2009, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010, Chenin Blanc Colombar, Reserve Unwooded Chardonnay, Sparkling Vin Sec, Sparkling Vin Doux, Shiraz Rosé and a sweet Rosé, aiming them at the domestic market for the first time.  Balance has been shaped for local wine drinkers, and the range is designed to be easy drinking wines with a shorter life span.   We were asked to evaluate the wines relative to their price point, the Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc costing R40 and the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz costing R45, representing incredible value, as none of the white and red Balance wines are more expensive than these two prices.  JC said that the Balance wines should not be judged on price alone, in that a cheaper wine does not mean that it is a bad wine.   Overhex operates ethically and cares about its supplier farmers, in that they offer them a price for their grapes that allows the farmers to survive.  The Balance wines are available at ULTRA intitally, and they are working on expanding the distribution at local outlets.   I asked about the elephant on the label, and the designer was at the function, but she could not explain it, other than that it was on the first Balance labels.  The Balance pay-off line is “for life’s lighter moments”.  The Overhex cellar now has a tasting room and Bistro, and locals are invited to visit the wine estate.  “Our goal with Balance is to get the wine lover to celebrate everyday wine culture, making it easy to enjoy delicious wines from a varied range at an affordable price point”, said Gerhard.

The Test Kitchen food was outstanding, and deep fried sushi was served before we started.  I chose a Trout tartar starter, which was light and perfect for the hot summer’s day.  As I had the kingklip when I had dinner at the restaurant in December, I ordered the beef fillet, and it is the softest I remember ever having, simply presented with green beans.   For dessert the choice was a cheese platter and lemon tart. 

The launch and tasting of the Overhex Wines International Balance range of wines, ‘paired’ with the wonderful food by Chef Luke-Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, and the gift pack of Balance wines, was the start to an exceptional day, which ended with the attendance at the U2 360° concert at the Cape Town Stadium for many attending the function.

Overhex Wines International, 71 Stockenström Street, Worcester. Tel (023) 347-6838.  www.overhex.com  Tuesday – Thursday 10h00 – 17h00, Friday and Saturday 10h00 – 16h00.

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

I have not been to Buitenverwachting for so many years, that I cannot remember when last I had been there.  The wine estate has become over-shadowed by its neighbours in the Constantia valley, and seems to have become hidden as a Cape Town restaurant destination in the past few years.  By appointing Sandy Bailey as a PR consultant, this is about to change, and resulted in her extending an invitation to food and wine bloggers and to journalists (including the lovely Jos Baker, Angela Lloyd, John and Lynne Ford, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee) to join her and delightful soft-spoken winemaker Brad Paton and his wife Wendy to enjoy the newly launched Sunday lunch buffet last week.

Buitenverwachting was originally part of the Constantia wine farm, belonging to Simon van der Stel.   In 1773 it was sold to Cornelus Brink, who named it Nova Constantia, writes WINE magazine.  In 1794 Arend Brink bought the farm and called it Buitenverwachting (beyond expectation).   Buitenverwachting is now owned by German citizen Richard Müller, whose son Lars Maack has been running the estate locally for the past few years, and personally handles the international marketing of the wines, especially focused on Germany.  The drive to the wine estate makes one feel that one is leaving the busy city and escaping to the countryside, a beautiful tree-lined lane taking one to the estate, and then one has to drive slowly past vineyards and lawns with grazing sheep, to get to the restaurant. 

The chef is Austrian Edgar Osojnik, who came to Buitenverwachting from Grande Roche.   A six-month stint at Bosman’s culminated in a farewell party for Osojnik, and it was at this party that he met his future wife, and he decided to stay in South Africa.  In 2003 Osojnik was recognised as the Top Chef of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards for Buitenverwachting.  Chef Edgar offers a fine dining menu for dinners, and a lighter Courtyard menu for lunches.  He is also offering a special Asparagus menu, which costs R260 for three courses, including a glass of wine, until the end of November.

On Sundays the buffet lunch is set up inside the restaurant, and was a most generous selection of starters, mains and desserts, with a cheese plate to follow, at R240 (half price for children under 12 years).   I do not recall seeing so many starter dishes for a buffet before, most unique and special, and not just a variation of salads which one experiences so often.  The presentation of the starters and desserts attracted attention.  For example, the sushi looked like little gift parcels, as Osojnik created square sushi slices with colourful ingredients such as avocado, rice, and salmon, with a black “tie”.

The starters included Vitello Tonnato, Vegetable-goats feta tian with rucola, Cauliflower-broccoli Royale with Dukkah Chicken Breast, Prawn espuma, smoked Norwegian salmon buttermilk terrine, Bobotie in a ramekin, Duck liver parfait set on caramelized apple, smoked fish, roasted asparagus with Parma-style ham, tomato-mozzarella, Melon with smoked Kudu, Potato salad, Roast Beef filled with French salad, and Caesar salad with white anchovies.  Mains are a traditional buffet, with a selection of leg of lamb, Chalmar rib-eye steak, veal breast, roast pork belly, linefish of the day and chicken curry.  Potatoes are served roasted and Dauphinoise, there is basmati rice, a choice of five vegetables, and five sauces are served with the main course. Desserts and cakes included Sacher Torte, Schwarzwälder Torte, Gugelhupf, Kardinal Schnitte, Chocolate Mousse, Yoghurt Crème Catalan, fruit salad with Marsala Zabaglione, Vanilla Pannacotta with fresh strawberries, as well as a cheese platter.

Brad has been the winemaker at Buitenverwachting for the past six years, and his colleague, cellarmaster Hermann Kirschbaum, has been at the wine estate for the past 18 years.  Brad worked at Chamonix in Franschhoek with Gottfried Mocke before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany and worked there too, for a total of nine years, now speaking perfect German.  He is grateful for his German language skills, as they receive many German visitors at the estate.    One gets the feeling that not only is the wine estate steeped in tradition and history, but its staff are loyal, and that consistency in all respects is the success factor at Buitenverwachting.

Brad told me that the recession is hitting wine farms, and the newer small independent operators appear hardest hit, many not being able to pay for their bottles to get their wines sold.  He feels that prices of the newer wine estates are too high.  Sales to restaurants have been badly hit, he said, as BYO is seeing a growth due to excessive prices of wines in restaurants.   He also felt that Constantia restaurants should be more “Proudly-Constantia”, in stocking brands from the Constantia wine estates.  Buitenverwachting has recently appointed Meridian for its distribution.

I was surprised to hear how reasonable the Buitenverwachting wine prices are, with entry level Buiten Blanc costing R45, and the Merifort (a lovely smoky Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) costing a mere R55.   The other stalwart wines in the Buitenverwachting range are Blanc de Noir, Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Christine, and Merlot.  Brad and his colleagues are making “out of the box” wines too:

*   Intensity: 85 % Sauvignon Blanc and 15 % Semillon

*   Trinity: Riesling, a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend

*   Rough Diamond: 60 % Petit Verdot and 40 % Malbec

Going back to Buitenverwachting after so many years was a reminder of the talent of Chef Edgar and his restaurant team, as well as of the quality of the estate’s wines.  I plan to return to try the Asparagus menu.   I am a new convert of the Buitenverwachting Merifort, even though I am a dedicated Shiraz drinker.

Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, www.buitenverwachting.com. Tel (021) 794-3522.  Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday Buffet lunch. Corkage R55.

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

Yesterday Warwick wine estate launched its new Summer picnics, with a number of changes relative to last year.  Earlier this week I was invited to a sneak preview of the changes, and was one of a panel of volunteer blogger tasters (with Nikki Dumas, Lesley Cox, Anel Grobler, Polly Howard, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee) to give feedback about the new picnic.   I was critical of the picnic  on a first visit last year, and was happy to see a number of improvements on my latest visit.

So what has changed?:

1.   There is a new chef in the house!   Mark Springhorn has left Vergelegen in Somerset West, to join Mike Ratcliffe and the Warwick team.  Given that Chef Bruce Robertson, who designed the original gourmet picnic for Warwick, is on tour so frequently, he no longer is the consultant chef.  Chef Mark has built on Bruce’s quirkiness, and added more of a “Spring-feeling” to the picnic.

The quirky picnic “basket”, consisting of a cutting board, a table cloth, a box with the food items, a baguette and the Warwick newspaper, cleverly held together with a handle so that one can carry everything, remains as is.  The packaging containing the food is recyclable.  The bread is certainly better than I remember it, and comes from Sweet in Stellenbosch.  Inside the box is the following:

   *      Duo of cheeses: Simonsberg camembert and 12 month matured cheddar

   *      Charcuterie selection, including salami and coppa ham

   *      Chickpea fritters served with home-made tzatziki – this was the only dish that did not excite me

   *      Home-made rooibos and oak smoked Chilean salmon served with a buttermilk-dill dressing – oh boy, I have never seen such good looking deep-orange salmon cubes (looking like pumpkin), and with the most wonderful smoked taste – the absolute highlight of the picnic.

*        Biltong, mushroom and brandy pate – more brandy and mushroom can now be tasted in this foundation element of the picnic

*        Homemade apple, pear and pecan chutney

*        Tricolour tower of basil pesto, sun dried tomato puree and hummus

*        Honey cashew chicken salad with herb mayonnaise and orange slices – the oranges were a nice colour and taste touch

*        Decadent chocolate brownies topped with white chocolate ganache and onto which was sprinkled cranberries and pistachios, incredibly rich, and looking like an early mini-Christmas cake.

*        A box of Maynards wine gums.

The tasting panel ummmed and ahhhhed, enjoying all the elements.  Chef Mark plans to change an item on the picnic menu every week, testing the customer response and reacting to it as the season goes along.  When one books, special dietary requests will be ascertained.  Vegetarian and kiddies picnic baskets are available too.

2.  The price has stayed the same, costing R 299 for a basket enough for 2 persons.   (One can order an extra baguette)

3.    To address the congestion in collecting the picnic baskets inside the wine tasting building, a new outdoor picnic collection area has been created, which will also be where Jack Black beer can be bought on tap.

4.   To address the issue of staff not checking on guests’ drinks’ requirements well enough in the past, a trolley with “flat tackies” and a bell will be wheeled around the vast Warwick picnic area, containing ice cream, Jack Black beer and Warwick wines. 

5.  “Picnic pods” have been built around the dam, shielded from the South Easter, with tables that have built-in ice buckets to keep the Warwick wines chilled.   They differ in size, and can be booked to accommodate groups of picnickers.

6.   The Warwick vineyards are hidden from the picnic area, but can be seen on a Big Five Safari (showing the five vine types grown on the wine estate).  Grapes have now been planted close to the picnic area, and also at the entrance to Warwick.

7.  A suggestion for Warwick to have a presence on Twitter, in addition to that of Mike Ratcliffe, was implemented the following day (@Warwickchef), demonstrating how responsive Mike and his team are in accepting feedback.

A picnic at Warwick on a gorgeous Winelands summer’s day is an enjoyable family outing, with good food and wine, and lots of safe space for the kids to play on the jungle gym, in the little shallow stream, and to just run around.

POSTSCRIPT 20/5: For winter Warwick has introduced a good value Tapas menu, and I popped in for lunch to try it on my way to Franschhoek today.  There was very little happening there, and therefore it was a surprise to not see anyone in the Tasting Room nor in the next door restaurant/shop/picnic counter.  I called, but no one responded.  Luckily the waitress Vanessa came back inside, and showed me to a table outside – it was such a lovely warm day.  A material serviette and excellent quality St James cutlery is brought to the table, and the lack of a tablecloth is a disappointment therefore.  She brought a blackboard with the Tapas menu to my table, and the handwriting on it did not reflect the stature of this wine estate.  Chef Mark Springhorn was on leave and owner Mike Ratcliffe is travelling overseas, so it was disappointing for me.  I chose the Mixed cold plate (R35), which was only ‘mixed’ because it contained two slices each of cold meat (coppa and salami), two blocks of cheese and a sundried tomato relish.  It was served with a basket of ciabatta bread, which was wonderful.  Other Tapas options are:  cheese soufflé, smoked camembert and chef’s soup, each costing R25; sole paupiettes, and chef’s salad, all costing R35; Venison samoosas and denningvleis each cost R 45.  Sweet treats cost R25, for Persian love cake, and Brownies.  Children are also catered for, with salami pizza, a cupcake that the children can make themselves, and ice cream, at R25 each.  I enjoyed the LavAzza cappuccino.   One can still enjoy picnics at Warwick, but must pre-book them in winter.

Warwick wine estate, R44, between Klapmuts and Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 884-3144 Twitter: @WarwickChef   www.warwickwine.co.za  On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

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