Entries tagged with “Helshoogte Pass”.


imageI received an invitation from Chef Couple Sidwell Yarrow and Angelique Dreyer to attend the launch of their Café Pavé at Camberley Wine Estate in Banhoek in Stellenbosch ten days ago. It was my first visit to the low-key wine estate neighboring Michael and Rose Jordaan’s Bartinney, and I was impressed with the quality of the food that was served. (more…)

Tokara Leandri, Chef Richard Carstens, Seline Whale CottageLast night I attended a collaboration dinner between Tokara Chef Richard Carstens and Leandri and Seline van der Wat, the two sisters who made it to number two and three, respectively, in Season 2 of MasterChef SA last year. The dinner was entitled ‘Beyond the Chocolate Handkerchief’, and was a huge success, being sold out, and will be repeated tonight.

I had the pleasure of spending a day with bubbly Seline van der Wat earlier this year, showing her all the foodie hotspots in Cape Town.  More recently she and younger sister Leandri visited Cape Town, and we had lunch together at Chef’s Warehouse.  A subsequent Facebook post announced the dinner, and I booked immediately, not having seen the two sisters in cooking action except for the MasterChef Season 2 episodes, in which they both won the hearts of viewers who enjoyed the (more…)

WOSA Michael Jordaan (LR)After appointing new CEO Siobhan Thompson, who took over the reigns from Su Birch in November last year, the Board of Wines of South Africa (WOSA) has elected dynamic Dr Michael Jordaan as its Chairman. Both appointments are likely to be a breath of fresh air for the international wine marketing body.

Jordaan had a high profile job as CEO of FNB, turning the bank around in the ten year period he spent there, the bank receiving an accolade as the world’s most innovative bank at the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards in Washington two years ago.  He left the bank late last year, to spend more time with his family on their farm Bartinney on the Helshoogte Pass in Stellenbosch, having commuted between Johannesburg and Stellenbosch for many years.  He remains an Executive Committee Member of FirstRand Banking Group. Jordaan is also Chairman of Social Media platform Mxit.  He has been named CNBC Africa Business Leader of the Year for Southern Africa. He and his wife Rose also own Bartinney wine and champagne bar on trendy Church (more…)

Argus Cycle Tour Suikerbossie Whale CottageCape Town and the Winelands region is rolling in cyclists visiting to participate in one or more of a host of cycling events from today onwards.   As more and more cyclists are taking to the road, often selfishly to the detriment of motorists, anger is building up from motorists against cyclists.

Today the Bestmed Tour de Boland commences, and will be ridden in four stages of 121 – 145 km per day over the next four days.  The race begins in Franschhoek and stage one ends at Helshoogte Pass; stage 2 is from Stellenbosch to Tulbagh; stage 3 covers Tulbagh to Riebeek Kasteel; and the last stage of the race is ridden from Riebeek Kasteel to the Franschhoek Pass.   The organisers want to offer the road riders a good challenge on a European cycle race standard combined with the best of beautiful Boland views.

On Sunday the 37th Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour takes place, with 35000 cyclists participating in what has become the world’s largest timed cycle race.  Most of the Cape Town city centre will be closed to traffic on Sunday morning, and all of Victoria Road from Hout Bay through Camps Bay to Bantry Bay and Beach Road in Sea Point is closed to traffic for the whole day, the race starting in the city centre and ending at the Cape Town Stadium.  The event generates R450 million for the economy of the Western Cape, says provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde.

The ABSA Cape Epic takes place from 23 – 30 March, a tough endurance race covering picturesque areas in the Cape Winelands, and generates about R218 million for the province.

Most cyclists have left their getting fit to the last minute, and are taking to the city streets to get ready for Sunday.  Many (more…)

Bastille 2013 Hein KoegelenbergThe Bastille Festival was a festive weekend of tasting Franschhoek wines, connecting with friends, and trying some of the village food treats.  By all accounts it was a great success, and DnA Events must be congratulated in attracting such large numbers of visitors to Franschhoek, irrespective of the winter weather!  Almost every accommodation establishment was fully booked on Saturday evening, and the restaurants and shops did a roaring trade.  Franschhoek looked festive, almost every business being decorated in the French tricolore, and many of the locals and visitors wearing a beret and French colours.  For our French-speaking intern from Reunion, it was a surprise to experience all the Frenchness of Franschhoek this weekend.

It seemed more crowded on Saturday compared with previous years, yet there seemed to be less on offer outside of the Festival marquee than in the past.  We saw the queue outside the marquee just after the midday opening time, and it stretched a few blocks down Dirkie Uys Street.  We heard from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests that many tried to get tickets to get into the marquee on Saturday but were unable to do so, not even in the closing hour. Those that did have tickets could barely move inside the marquee as it was so full, despite a limit on the numbers, mainly caused by the afternoon rain, which meant that the ticket holders sitting outside moved into the marquee.  For many it was too crowded, and they left the marquee after visiting one stand, taking a bottle of wine outside to enjoy it in less crowded conditions.  Col’Cacchio had a band performing, and appeared to be one of the most popular meeting places after the marquee closed at 17h00, there being no cover charge.  Last minute rooms were sold to visitors who had heard about breathalyser tests on Helshoogte Pass.  The traffic on the main road was unbelievable, at times backed up to the Huguenot Monument.

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On Friday I attended the Summer Soiree gourmet evening as a guest of Raymond Noppe, Oldenburg Vineyards Regional Sales Manager: Sub-Sahara, as part of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival program.  The gourmet delights were prepared by three talented graduates (in March) of the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA), which is based just down the road in the Banhoek valley.  Guests attending paid R450 per head.

The tables were beautifully set, with glass bowls of proteas, which are grown in the valley, and dry ice, which came to effect when we sat down for the dinner, creating steam when the hostesses from the Alheit Academy poured water over it.  Oldenburg Wines does not have a restaurant, so the dinner was even more special as it was a one of a kind.  On arrival we were offered a glass of Simonsig MCC, sparkling wines not forming part of the Oldenburg repertoire yet.

The menu leaflets provided background to the two pairing partners.  Oldenburg Vineyards is a premium boutique winery which produces small quantities of wines, its vineyards being managed to the full potential of their terroir.

The ICA was established eighteen years ago by Letitia Prinsloo, and has trained many of our country’s top chefs, including Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet, and Simone Rossouw of Babel. It is deemed to be one of the best restaurant and chef training schools in the country.  The course covers Advanced Cooking & Pâtisserie, business development, food theatre, research and marketing, product development, media communication, artistry, food science, and wine. Third year students have to prepare a business plan for a new or relaunched fine-dining restaurant.  The focus of the chef training is the ‘global trend of molecular gastronomy’. Food science is an important subject to help the students understand the growing international gourmet trend to modernist cuisine. The dishes we were served were some of the dishes prepared for the final practicals by three ICA graduates, the students’ practical work being evaluated by the likes of Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff, The Tasting Room chef Margot Janse, as well as food journalists.

The ICA works closely with the Alheit Academy, a relationship of four years seeing the ICA training front of house service staff about cooking, wines, front of house, and more, the students receiving a City & Guilds certificate after three years of study.

I missed the first canapé of ‘Olive T(h)ree’, which was served as thin layers of olive oil biscuit topped with olive tapenade, and olive oil sugar bells on olive soil, which was paired with my favourite Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009. All three the canapés were prepared by Inne-Marie Rabie, who started working at Rooi Rose after graduating at the ICA at the end of last year, working with Food Editor Vickie de Beer in doing research for a new book, I was told by Laetitia.  Inne-Marie’s dill and garlic Beef Tartare was served en croute, finished off with a deep fried quail egg, and a garlic and caper foam, which was paired with the Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  Raymond told us that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the estate, and is a ‘powerful wine’ matured for 12 months in 300 litre barrels, to reduce the oak influence.  It is a big wine, with a higher alcohol content of 14,5%, which they are increasing to 15%.  The wine has notes of cedar wood, pencil shavings, black currant, and cassis.  The third canapé was Vanilla poached pork belly, which was served with a pear purée, and finished off with a rosewater praline, paired with Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. The Chardonnay grapes will be the first to be picked at Oldenburg, the harvest commencing this week, and the wine is matured for 11 months.  The wine was described as having ‘wooden butteriness‘, creamy vanilla, white pear and peach notes, as well as citrus aromas.  It was scored by Robert Parker at 93.

The amuse bouche was a jasmine poached Scented Salmon served with pickled cucumber, crackling crumble, and pancetta shard, finished off with a cucumber foam and granadilla sauce. This dish was prepared by Monché Muller, who already has a column in Taste magazine, and now works at The Test Kitchen.

Inne-Marie prepared the Exotic Mushrooms dish, tagliatelle served on a mushroom cream and sautéed wild mushrooms, with potato soil and garlic roasted walnuts.  The dish was also paired with the Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011.   Monché returned to present her ‘Homebrew Kudu Loin’, which had been marinated in coffee mud, and was served with cauliflower risotto, roasted lemon chutney, kale pesto, and marinated baby brinjals, which she finished off with a pine nut crust and a stout sauce.  This dish was paired with the very smooth Oldenburg Syrah 2009, which was matured in oak for 15 months, and has coffee and mocha tones. Raymond described it as being ‘plush‘, having soft tannins, and offering good drinkability.  We laughed when he said that it has won no awards yet it is their largest seller.

The Oldenburg Vineyards pricing policy is to charge at two price points only: R118 for their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and R 182 for their Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.  Later this year Oldenburg is introducing Rhodium, which Raymond summarised as follows: “Rhodium is a chemical element that is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. It has the chemical symbol Rh and atomic number 45, and is one of the “noble metals.   Our first release will be the 2010 vintage, and will consist of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The blend proportions and varietals used for the 2011 vintage was substantially different, although Cabernet Franc will always be the backbone and biggest contributor.  We plan to release it within the next 2 months, and it should sell for around R330/bottle. Each bottle will be individually wrapped and packed in its own specially printed box.  We are hoping that this new premium offering will live up to its name of being noble in all respects and help to establish us further as one of the top premium producers in South Africa.”

Dorothy, the maternal grandmother of Oldenburg Vineyards’ owner Adrian van der Spuy came to South Africa in the ‘Fifties, and met Helmut Hohmann, the owner of the Ivy Knowe farm, over the neighbouring fence, so to speak.  He bought the neighbouring Rondekop farm on auction in 1955, consolidated it with his existing farm, and changed the name of the two farms to Oldenburg, after his hometown in Germany. They planted deciduous fruit originally in the ‘Sixties, and then added grapes, with were sold to SFW and to the KWV initially.  The farm was placed in a trust by Van der Spuy’s grandmother when Hohmann died, which Van der Spuy bought out of the trust in 2003.  Simon Thompson is the viticulturist at Oldenburg, and also its winemaker.  The first wines were made in 2007.  The Oldenburg wines are made at Glenelly presently, but an Oldenburg cellar is on the cards in the next five years.  (Van der Spuy’s paternal grandmother is the late Una van der Spuy, who was a well-known landscaper, and lived at Old Nectar in Stellenbosch).

The highlight dish of the evening was Nico Meyer’s Southern Reef, a marine-inspired dessert, with a coral made from ginger and chocolate, which was served in an oyster shaped chocolate shell in which a chai tea sphere was placed, for one to sip off the shell as one would an oyster, releasing a burst of flavour once in one’s mouth. The dessert creation was placed on flavoured soil, with foam, to complete the marine theme. Each guest had the choice of pairing the dessert with Oldenburg’s Chenin Blanc 2011 or Merlot 2010.  The Merlot 2010 maiden vintage has just been launched by Oldenburg.  Nico now works at Apprentice, the ICA restaurant in Stellenbosch, and is their head chef. The dessert was followed by friandise of chocolate fondant, baklava, and melon coated in mint jelly, served with coffee.

All three the ICA graduates were very creative, and had taken a lot of trouble to create the perfect dishes to bring out the best in the Oldenburg wines.  One certainly will get to hear more about these fledgeling chefs as they develop in their careers.   Oldenburg Vineyards and the ICA demonstrated true neighbourliness in their food and wine pairing Summer Soiree gourmet evening.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter: @OldenburgWines  Monday – Friday.

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

The Sweet Service Award goes to Oldenburg boutique wine estate in the Banghoek valley off the Helshoogte Pass in Stellenbosch, for their kind gift of two bottles of their delectable Cabernet Franc, which I had experienced on a previous visit to the wine estate.  I had wanted to visit their Tasting Room, and was halfway up their gravel farm road but had to turn around due to it being very muddy after extremely heavy winter rains.  Tweeting my having to turn around, for fear of getting stuck, the kind Marketing staff at Oldenburg had the wine hand-delivered to my home in Cape Town.

The Sour Service Award goes to SA Tourism, which was publicly embarrassed by memeburn when they reported that the SA Tourism website was down a number of times in July, due to the non-payment to its server provider of its hosting fees!  For it being the country’s leading tourism body, this is unacceptable, as taxpayers’ monies are paying for the marketing of the tourism industry, sorely needed in the current winter tourism crisis. While SA Tourism blamed internal administrative inefficiencies for the payment error, the report states that SA Tourism has a history of not paying its bills! Shame on you SA Tourism!

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTalesnewsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

A return visit yesterday to Delaire Graff Restaurant, on the invitation of its Marketing & PR Manager Tanja Mackay-Davidson, revealed a number of surprises, the three year old restaurant having re-opened from a month-long break ten days ago.

The first prominent new addition is a large portrait of Laurence Graff, the owner of Delaire Graff Estate, by artist Lionel Smit, who has a number of portraits in the main Delaire Graff Restaurant, and in its Boutique Hotel.   It is hung in the impressive entrance hall, and one cannot miss it as one makes one’s way to the restaurant. Delaire Graff Estate is committed to art, and has an impressive collection of artwork by artists which include Anton Smit, Deborah Bell, William Kentridge, Dylan Lewis, and many more.

When stepping into the restaurant entrance one notices the new content in the glass display case, being a collection of herbs and vegetables (kale, celery, spring onion, broad beans, red peppers, mint, and more), which are displayed in such a way that they look like they are in a hothouse, with a pair of garden gloves, little clay pots, and rolls of string.  The display reinforces what its Chef Christiaan Campbell has become known for, being a passionate advocate for healthy eating generally, and for sustainable and ethical sourcing of the organic (where possible) ingredients used in the two restaurants (Indochine is the second restaurant) on the estate. So, for example, Delaire Graff has a Biodynamic greenhouse on the estate, growing its own vegetables. It sources its beef from Greenfields in Natal, and Farmer Angus at Spier supplies beef too, as well as chicken and eggs. Only line-caught fish is served, and therefore there is no kingklip on the menu.  No European fish is sourced, cutting out prawns and scallops, and fish is caught locally, or sourced from Mocambique and Namibia.  Duck is barn-reared, and have not been fed antibiotics or growth hormones. Chef Christiaan is quiet-spoken, enjoying being in the kitchen, which now sports a brand new French-made industrial stove, which helps him in the preparation of the food for a restaurant which has become busier, giving him twice the heat he had from the previous stove, and is easy to clean. He also has a new Josper, one of only two in the country, being an oven fired by charcoal, getting up to a temperature of 300°C, which he uses to prepare fish, meat, sealing off braised lamb neck, and to prepare root vegetables.  I was impressed with his beautiful Gregor Jenkin table, on which the plating is done.

Sommelier Mortimer suggested we try the Delaire Botmaskop, a Bordeaux Blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 % Cabernet Franc, 8 % Petit Verdot, 7 % Shiraz, 3 % Merlot, and 3 % Malbec, the 2009 vintage having achieved a 4½ star Platter rating for winemaker Morné Vrey.  The wine is named after the mountain peak behind the wine estate, the timber suppliers to the boating industry in the Cape Town harbour scaling the Botmaskop regularly in olden days to check if new ships had arrived at the Cape Town port.

The winter menu is almost brand new, Chef Christiaan only retaining the Linefish, and Mr Graff’s favourite Fish and Chips, being hake for which the batter is made from three types of flour, and served with chips made from Van der Plank potatoes, which are fried four times to make the perfect chip.  The menu cover is made from the same tan leather as is used in the striking seating, which in turn picks up the colour from a William Kentridge painting over the fireplace.  I chose the Golden crab, avocado and Fromage Blanc wafer, served with bitter lemon, pea shoots, and octopus, a fresh crisp and crunchy starter.  Twitter follower Christian Smit commented, on seeing the photograph: “That is looking so fresh and good I can almost hear the crunching. Beautifully plated”.  Other starters are poached oyster, confit duck with duck ham, ceviche of kob, trout, and malt glazed shortrib, costing R85 – R90.  Fresh garden salads range in price from R55 – R80.

The medley of mushrooms, with the clever title of ‘Wild and tame mushrooms’ served with artichoke, a crepe, courgette, and thyme beurre noisette, was a perfect filling winter’s dish as a main course for a still grey day after the very wet Cape weekend.  Tanja insisted that Ray bring a portion of the Fish and Chips too, which we had a bite of each.  It remains the most popular main course on the menu. Other main courses are slow cooked lamb neck, farmed kob, Greenfields sirloin, springbok loin, and pork shoulder, costing from R138 – R185.

The desserts all sounded marvellous, so we asked Chef Christiaan to choose one. Ray brought the Caramelised apple Napoleon, with frangipani, a scoop of malt ice cream which had been rolled in honeycomb, and apple pudding, with rich golden colours, the crispy pastry and crunchy honeycomb adding texture. Desserts cost between R60 – R85, and one can also order hot chocolate pudding, tastes of caramel, and a hot lemon pillow.  With the cappuccino came a plate of friandises, being Turkish delight and pistachio macaroons.

We were well looked after by waitrons Ray and Megan, Tanja explaining that they have a principal and a back-up waiter, forming a team per table, to ensure perfect service, with Manager Werner Wentzel keeping an eye over the smooth operation of the restaurant.

Eating at Delaire Graff Restaurant is more expensive than at many other restaurants, but the restaurant has a magnificent view over the Helshoogte valley and the Simonsberg, a quality interior with impressive artwork, excellent quality food, not only in its creative plating but also in its dedicated commitment to sourcing ethical and sustainable ingredients, and very good and attentive service, all these elements making a meal there an occasion and a special experience.

Disclosure: The media pack contained a bottle of the Delaire Graff Cold Pressed Extra Virgin premium olive oil.  My son works at Indochine.

Delaire Graff Restaurant, Delaire Graff Estate, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160. www.delaire.co.za

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

Chef Christoph Dehosse had recommended a visit to the Postcard Café at Stark-Condé wine estate when it first opened just over a year ago, and I only managed to get to it last Friday.   Its picturesque setting in the fertile and higher rainfall Jonkershoek Valley must be one of the most exceptional in the Winelands, at the edge of a dam, with the mountains in the background.

My son and I did a tasting of the Stark-Condé wines first, in the Bali-inspired tasting venue which opened in 2010 on an island in the middle of the dam, on the Oude Nektar farm, next door to the well-known Old Nektar, belonging to 99-year old Una van der Spuy, well-known for her garden and the books she has written about it.  One can sit inside or out, and sitting outside to enjoy the spectacular view, despite the cooler and cloudy day, was a natural choice.  Rick was the winetasting host, and would not allow us to pay for the tasting, despite the board at the entrance indicating that they charge R30 for five wines tasted.  He explained that the name of the wines comes from a combination of the maiden name of the mother of owner Hans Schröder (Stark) and the husband of Schröder’s daughter Marie (Jose Condé from Kansas City), who is the winemaker.  The Stark-Condé price list introduces the wine estate as follows: “We are a small family-owned winery dedicated to making hand-crafted wines. We use traditional techniques: hand-picking, meticulous sorting of the grapes, open fermentation, hand-punchdowns, basket pressing and maturation in French oak barrels. The Stark-Condé wines are from our own estate vineyards and the Pepin Condé wines are from select vineyards outside the valley”.

Rick explained that ‘Pepin’ means short, Condé’s nickname in Spanish, coming from Columbia. The Pepin Condé range consists of a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Elgin, Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, ranging from R75 – R95, and Pinot Noir from Rowey Vineyards in Elgin (R185).  The Stellenbosch range consists of a Cabernet Sauvignon (Platter 4,5 star rating for 2008 vintage) and Syrah (Platter 4 star rating for 2008), both costing R130. The Three Pines range has a Cabernet Sauvignon (the 2009 vintage was awarded 5 stars in the latest Platter, and the 2008 vintage which we enjoyed even more was awarded 4,5 stars), and Syrah (Platter 4,5 star for the 2008), all costing R260.  The Stellenbosch and Three Pines ranges spent 22 months in French oak barrels and a further year in the bottle. Lingen is a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Syrah (40%), and Petit Verdot (20%), and costs R145.  Rick said the terroir of granite gives the wines spiciness and complexity, while the clay adds a soft roundedness to the wines.

As Rick did not know all the details of the family connections, he referred us to Marié Condé, who owns the Postcard Café, but she unfortunately was not at the restaurant over lunch.  We were delighted that wine estate owner Hans Schröder was around, and he came to sit down for a chat. He told us that he grew up in Namibia, but moved to South Africa.  He was in the Navy, and then in shipping for a number of years before he went to Japan to study business administration, regarding Japan as the leader on this topic at the time. He had to learn Japanese to be able to study.  He started a consultancy, guiding companies in doing business in Japan.  He could only bring his Japanese wife on holiday to South Africa, but could not live here with her in the pre-1994 apartheid era. In 1998 he returned to South Africa, and bought the farm in the Jonkershoek valley.  He enjoyed wines, but wasn’t a winemaker, and appointed my school classmate Neil Ellis to make the Neil Ellis branded wines.  The Neil Ellis tasting room and cellar was set up at their Helshoogte Pass property a year ago, but some of his wine will still be made at Oude Nektar for a year or two, Neil told me, by chance having a table next to ours on Friday, at which he was entertaining Irish clients.  Mr Schröder does the marketing of both sets of wines, going on separate Stark-Condé and Neil Ellis marketing trips to Japan, China, Korea, and Hong Kong, as well as Germany, while Neil markets his wines in the UK and Ireland.  They produce about 1,2 million Neil Ellis and 70000 Stark-Condé bottles of wine per year.

The Postcard Café is set alongside the edge of the dam, and its water lilies remind one of Renoir paintings and Japan.  Wooden tables and chairs are set up on the terrace of the restaurant, and a few steps down alongside the poplar tree forest.  A small shop sells wine cooler bags, aprons and Rozendal fynbos vinegar. There is no hostess or manager on duty, and Bella was the first waitress we asked about the table.  She was very abrupt and uncommunicative.  Having booked, our table was in the lower section. A piece of paper with the guest name is on each booked table.  There are no table cloths or placemats, cutlery is ordinary, serviettes are of paper, and a holder contained an unbranded olive oil, salt and pepper grinders, and Il Torrione balsamic vinegar.  The menu is printed on the same yellow paper as the wine price list, and contains only ten options, ranging from R54 – R 82.  There is no distinction between starters and mains. The menu options are ordinary: roasted pepper and baby marrow quiche, bacon and cheddar omelet, and a ham and cheddar toasted sandwich.  I chose the smoked trout salad with cucumber, boiled potato and a most delicious dill cream sauce, served with sourdough rye from De Oude Bank Bakkerij (owner Fritz Schoon was also enjoying lunch there on Friday). My son ordered  a cheese and preserves plate, with Brie, gruyere, blue cheese, and a chevin and dill cream cheese served with fig preserve, gooseberry jam, and sourdough rye, heavily covered with rocket.  One can also order a cold meat plate, with pork terrine, salami and ham, which come from Joostenberg Deli, served with olives and pickles, or a combination cheese and cold meat plate.  The cheeses are supplied by Get Stuffed.  In winter the lamb curry dish must be a winner.  Each of the menu items has wine recommendations.  Wines cost R27 – R35 per glass, commendable low prices, and most of the bottle prices are on a par or even cheaper than those on the tasting room price list, the first time I have seen this at a wine estate restaurant.  Water is served in a wine bottle. Our waitress Zelda looked after us well at the table, but was tardy when it came to preparing the bill.

Desserts are basic rustic apple pie, which had a sugar coasted crust and was served with cream on a Postcard Café branded plate; rustic apricot pie; baked cheesecake; dark chocolate cake; pear and blackberry crumble; chocolate pecan bars; and chilled pears in red wine syrup, most costing a very reasonable R26.  Disappointing is that no cappuccinos are served – only filter coffee is available, at R14.  A ceramic Melitta coffee filter was a plant holder on a table inside, generating a feeling of nostalgia from our family home, which had one too.

Postcard Café has the most amazing location, and its Stark-Condé wines on the estate are exceptional and very affordable. The food choice is disappointingly basic and over-dominated by rocket and greens on top of all dishes, not matching the quality of the wines. Service time between order placed and serving is exceptionally fast, making one suspect that all dishes are pre-prepared.  Most ingredients are bought in, instead of being created on the fertile farm.  The lack of a manager and a hostess to seat arriving guests and to look after the guests is a weakness.

Postcard Café, Stark-Condé, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 887-3665.   www.postcardcafe.co.za.   www.stark-conde.co.za Twitter: @StarkCondeWines Tuesday – Sunday 9h30 – 16h00.

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

Last week I popped in at Oldenburg Vineyards in the Banhoek Valley, at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass, and the very friendly Sales and Marketing Manager Ina Basson told me that the bulk of their wines are sold in Germany generally, and in Oldenburg (near Bremen) specifically!

The farm previously consisted of Rondekop (after the hill with this name) and Ivy Know, and its previous German owner Helmut Hohman amalgamated the two farms and gave them the name Oldenburg,  in honour of the town in which he had a stake in a printing business.  As it is a regional name, the name cannot be registered locally.

The farm was bought in 2003 by Adrian Vanderspuy, a local lad who had been brought up in Australia, and who had initially dismissed the quality of South African wines, until he tasted Thelema’s Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which he regarded to be excellent.  Both his grandmothers had past connections to the farm (Una van der Spuy, the well-known horticulturist, is one of them). The Oldenburg property was for sale, and before he made an offer, he had extensive soil tests done to evaluate the potential of the terroir.  He had the vines completely replanted in 2004, and in 2010 their first vintage was bottled. The emphasis is purely on quality, and three times a year wine maker and viticulturist Simon Thomson (previously with Tokara and Muratie) and his staff of 18 cut out the grapes that are not needed, giving them 3 – 8 tons per hectare compared to the more usual average of about 10 tons per hectare, Ina told me.  The property’s terroir is ideal for wine growing, being 300 – 450 meters above sea level, and its cooler climate due this height gives it a later harvest time compared to the neighbouring farms. Ina told me that their ‘Bio Viticulture’ approach to wine-making is a combination of Biodiversity, organic, and sustainability.  They work with what nature gave them, and try to intervene as little as possible, she said.

The winery has won a number of international awards, including a Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2011 for the Chenin Blanc, and a Gold at the Syrah Du Monde 2011 for the Syrah 2008.

The Tasting Room only opened three months ago, and was designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, a Stellenboscher now living in the United Kingdom, and who has also designed the Glen Carlou and Rustenburg buildings. The brief to the architect was to design a building focused on the view surrounding it, and not to overshadow the view. The interior decor was designed by Kelly Hoppen, a local from Cape Town who now lives in the UK.  Minimalism rules inside, with two artworks, of rhinos and elephants, by Nic Brandt. All decor items are sourced locally, and colours are natural and neutral. Chairs are made from leather, around a large tasting table, with a tasting counter and striking back-lit shelving displaying the wines.

In addition to tasting the wines, one can order Dalewood Fromage cheese platters, at R40 for one (150 gram) or R75 for two persons (250 gram), containing a selection of five of their cheeses, including Camembert, Brie and Huguenot.  The wines are not inexpensive, at R118 for the Chenin Blanc 2011 and Chardonnay 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Cabernet Franc 2009, and Syrah 2009 cost R182.  I am a Shiraz lover, but the Oldenburg Cabernet Franc had the smokiness I love in older-style Syrahs.   There has been no marketing to date of Oldenburg’s wines, but a small sign on the Helshoogte Pass road is attracting German tasters to the farm, said Ina.  Agents are selling Oldenburg Wines in Germany, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom in the main.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Zevenrivieren Road, Banhoek, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618.  www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter:@OldenburgWines Monday – Friday, and on Saturdays and public holidays by appointment.

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