The Sweet Service Award goes to CapeWine 2018, its organizer WOSA (Wines of South Africa), and the wine industry, for the smooth organisation and professionalism of the largest wine trade show in the Southern Hemisphere, and for putting the quality and diversity of our wine industry on show. The media registration on arrival was easy, we received a handy bag for all the brochures and booklets, and were offered a wine glass on arrival. My only gripe is that there was so little media information generally upfront, and that we were not sent any information specifically. Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to Melissa’s in the V&A Waterfront, and its new Manager Natasha, for assisting me in having a table near their till set up, so that I could charg and work on my laptop while waiting for my iPhone screen to be replaced at iFix. Sadly the MWeb V&A Waterfront internet service did not work, even though it showed the wifi symbol and reflected connectivity. No e-mails downloaded and web pages did not open, apparently due to the V&A Waterfront wifi service not working throughout the whole shopping mall!
The Sweet Service Award goes to Rocksole Shoes & Repairs in Wale Street in Bo-Kaap, for their make-good in repairing the zip of my handbag. I had handed the bag in just before they closed for a Christmas/New Year break, and was promised the bag back on their last working day. They were clearly under pressure, and the bag’s zip broke immediately when I used it. The owner apologised for the shoddy work of his staff, and invited me to bring back the handbag, for the zip to be repaired again. He did the repair in a speedy two days, and did not charge for it. Ironically and sadly the handbag was stolen at Nap coffee shop in the Cape Quarter two days later! Continue reading →
Today ends one of the less nice years, and the number 13 in it should have been a warning of how bad it could become. While it has many negative associations, it also was a year of highlights, from our perspective.
For me personally the year was overshadowed by the passing of my father, and while I was lucky to have him in my life for such a long time, reaching the ripe old age of 97, it still was a shock when he went in April. He brought our family to South Africa, and specifically to the Cape, for which I will be eternally grateful. He helped shape my interest in the business world, and took a keen interest in my Market Research, Public Relations, and hospitality careers. Added to this was the further loss of our beloved Madiba, who passed away on 5 December, a shock when it happened, despite one knowing that it was just a matter of time. It felt like a double whammy loss year. Heaven has gained two truly great gentlemen.
2013 has had some positive aspects: we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our Blog, well established and with more than 30000 unique readers per month. We thank our loyal readers and commenters, as well as the Public Relations companies which feed us with up to date information and invite us to launches, particularly in the wine industry. We particularly commend Waterford Communications for its professionalism in dealing with us as friends as well as writers, never taking any coverage for granted, always being willing to assist with more information, having a knack for choosing excellent weather days for client functions, and saying ‘thank you‘ for coverage received, a rare treat! The PR company leads an industry plagued by poor writers, who bombard one with media releases (often being irrelevant), repeating information already written about, and demanding proof of coverage granted to the client brand! Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to Liberty’s Restaurant at DoubleTree by Hilton Cape Town Upper Eastside in Woodstock, for their invitation via their PR company to taste elements of their new summer menu as canapés, prepared by Chef Simon Kemp and his team, and paired with wines supplied by Siris Vintners. Dishes we tasted included Tuna Tataki (photograph); hot smoked duck breast; pulled Moroccan spiced lamb pita pockets; pan-fried gnocchi with sage, pine kernels, wild mushrooms, Parmesan and wild truffle cream; warm fig salad; and death by brownie with Caffe Latte ice cream. The hotel has a herb garden growing in boxes on the terraces, which Chef Simon and the kitchen staff take responsibility for, and pick fresh herbs from daily for their dishes. Continue reading →
Even though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was a most impressive visit to the new wine tasting center at Babylonstoren, not only offering a tasting of its own four wines, but also offering for sale two wines from each of the wine estates surrounding the Simonsberg, as well as gorgeous produce in its cheesery, bakery, and charcuterie, which opened two months ago.
One enters the tasting centre, housed in the original smithery and stable on the farm, which has been beautifully restored by owner Karen Roos and her GM Terry de Waal, to keep the building as authentic as possible. Flooring which looks weathered and as if it has been there for ever, comes from the old Dietman piano factory in Wellington. The walls are part raw brick and part plastered and painted. As Ms Roos has shown on the estate, she is a ‘less is more’ decorator, giving the tasting room a spacious feel, with only a central table displaying the Babylonstoren wines and one other Simonsberg wine, as well as a cheese of the day to taste. A small wooden table with a bench on one side is the only seating in the room, beautifully ‘decorated’ with a box of just picked and washed vegetables, including carrots and purple potatoes. From the central room the cheesery and charcuterie are on the right, behind modern glass doors, and the bakery is to the left.
Koos Bekker, husband of Ms Roos, has a passion for the terroir of the Simonsberg, and came up with the idea of a ‘home’ on his wine estate for the wines produced at the wine estates on the ‘inner circle’ surrounding the mountain. When Babel restaurant opened on the wine estate over a year ago, it served wines from the neighbouring wine farms when it had not yet made its own wine, a commendable service. A ‘map’ showing the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is painted onto a tile collage on the wall, showing where each of the 27 wine estates, being Vuurberg, Zorgvliet, Thelema, Tokara, Neil Ellis, Rustenburg, Glenelly, Morgenhof, Remhoogte, Quion Rock, Knorhoek, Muratie, Delheim, Uitkyk, Kanonkop, Natte Valleij, Marianne, Mt Vernon, Anura, Glen Carlou, Neil Joubert, Backsberg, Noble Hill, Rupert & Rothschild, Vrede & Lust, Plaisir de Merle, and Babylonstoren, is located. A shelving unit stores the wines of the other Simonsberg estates, and as they are lying, it is difficult to see the estate names. Each is price marked, and sold at the cellar door price of each wine estate. Because the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is not a formal one, there are no maps, no price list, nor information about any of the wines, including the Babylonstoren ones, a surprise, given the marketing and advertising background of Mr Bekker (Y&R, M-Net/Multichoice/MWeb, Naspers). None of the four Babylonstoren wines have their 2011 vintage indicated on their bottles, and the staff could not explain this unusual strategy. They called winemaker Charl Coetzee to come over for a chat, and he seemed to think it odd that I was asking questions about this, only mentioning that they were matured in tanks (with the exception of 20% of the Viognier, which was matured in barrel). He was generally cagey about providing information about the Shiraz, Viognier, Mourvèdre Rosé, and Chenin Blanc. He explained that there is no price list, as the two wines sold per Simonsberg wine estate will change over time, depending on their customers’ interest in them. He referred to the launch of their flagship Chardonnay and Shiraz in September, and these will have the vintages on them, having been matured in barrels. He was previously at Clos Malverne and Kaapzicht, and has been at Babylonstoren for about eighteen months. He said that he personally loves Pinotage, but this grape variety is not grown on the estate. Grapes were on the farm when it was bought by the Bekkers, and the vines are 14 years old. This is the first winemaking on the farm. The wine side is so new to the wine estate that it is not even on their website yet, he said. In the upstairs section there is a private winetasting and wine storage area, with minimal decor.
Having got stuck on the wine information, Karen ‘Bread’ Pretorius came to my rescue before the winemaker could be found, and she was extremely friendly and informative. She is in charge of the tasting centre, and also doubles up as the baker, having previously worked in the Babel kitchen. The breads baked vary every day, cost R25 each, and include baguettes; a 50% Rye, with Rooibos and raisins; and a tomato relish on a white loaf. All are baked with Eureka stoneground flour in their wood-fired oven, which looks like it has been there for ever. Karen is not formally trained in breadmaking, she said honestly, learning through ‘trial and error’, and ‘stealing with my eyes’, describing herself as a passionate breadmaker. She was the Head Chef at Umami in Stellenbosch previously, and praised Maranda Engelbrecht for what she has learnt at Babel. The Charcuterie is a large room, and its painting of a duck, bull’s head, and a pig onto the white brick wall, which is visible from the tasting room, reminds one of the bull painted on the Babel restaurant wall. The meats are supplied by Jason Lucas’ Jamon from Prince Albert, who also was the thatcher of the building roof. They sell pre-packed portions of Black Forest, Parma ham, Pancetta, and Coppa hams, salami, Kalbsleberwurst, and biltong. The cheeses come from nearby Dalewood predominantly, but also from Kleinrivier and Nuwehoogte. The cheeses are displayed in fridges, and also in the airconditioned cheese room, which opens into the charcuterie. Karen told me that they have a close relationship with their suppliers, all having passion for their products in common with Babylonstoren, being chemical-free, MSG-free, and healthier.
Babylonstoren is bound to come up with further surprises in future. A Loyalty Card is in the pipeline. A visit to see their extensive vegetable and fruit garden, to eat at Babel restaurant or at the Babel Tea House, to try their wines in the winetasting centre, and shopping at their bakery, charcuterie, and cheesery is highly recommended. As the tasting centre is only two months old, there were some information deficiencies amongst the staff, which Karen will fix through training. A coffee machine may be in the pipeline for the tasting centre too, as Babel does not serve coffees only, and the Babel Tea House is a long walk away.
Babylonstoren Tasting Centre, Bakery, Charcuterie, and Cheesery, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren. Cellar Tour 12h00 Wednesday – Sunday, must be booked ahead as they only take 12 – 15 persons, R100. 10h00 – 16h00 for tasting centre. R10 per person entry fee to the wine estate.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage