Entries tagged with “Pierneef”.


Last Monday I attended The Sommeliers Selection 2018 tasting of the top-scoring wines at Tokara Delicatessen, driving through from Cape Town on a rainy day. My two favorites I tasted were Arra Shiraz 2015, as well as Trizanne Reserve Syrah 2017.  The top wines in the tasting were selected by top Sommelier members of the South African SOmmeliers Association, and the Black Cellar Club.  (more…)

Franschhoek Summer WineFranschhoek Vignerons is hosting Franschhoek Summer Wines today, from 12h00 – 17h00, at Leopard’s Leap.

The following wine estates will present white, Rosé, and MCC wines to taste: Anthonij Rupert Wines – L’Ormarins Brut Classique & Cape of Good Hope Altima Sauvignon Blanc 2014; Bellingham Wines – Bellingham Old Orchard Chenin Blanc 2013; Boschendal wines – Sauvignon Blanc 1685. Four Paws Wines – Four Paws Sauvignon Blanc (more…)

Equus Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioI had eagerly awaited the opening of the Cavalli Estate on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West,  its majestic entrance having been completed about two years ago, and having heard a number of times that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar would be heading up the kitchen in the Equus restaurant.  Its Equus Tasting Room, Gallery, Boutique, and Restaurant opened a month ago, its 54 thoroughbred saddlebred horses, and olive and vine plantation make up the Cavalli Estate.  It must be the largest Winelands tourism offering in terms of size and facilities offered.

Horses dominate everything at Cavalli, the Italian name for the animal, and the racehorse stud was developed while the Equus centre was being built.  The stud is the main reason for the estate’s existence, and one passes the large stable building as one drives to Equus, with fynbos evident in the gardens landscaped by Keith Kirsten, who also did the Delaire Graff gardens.   I had been invited to be shown around by mother and daughter Gundel and Annette Sogor from Gordon’s Bay, who had been to the tasting room before, but had not yet eaten at Equus. Arriving separately, we each shared how unprofessional the welcome at the security entrance as well as at the parking had been, and Lauren Smith, owner’s daughter, architect, and Operations Manager of the estate, made quick work in having the problem addressed and the outsourced security men replaced.

The Equus building is vast, and consists of a massive art gallery, a boutique, (more…)

masterchef-sa-all-finalists1MasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another 7 weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 12 on  17 July, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine. (more…)

On the eve of the Plaisirs de France festival, which kicks off in Franschhoek today, Pierneef à La Motte joined forces with the Institut Paul Bocuse, in serving a 6-course dinner conceptualised by its Chef Florent Boivin on Friday.  When I saw the Pierneef à La Motte dinner on the Plaisirs de France programme, it jumped out as the highlight of the month-long French-inspired food and wine festival in Franschhoek, and I booked immediately.  The dinner combined the fresh herbs and vegetables grown on La Motte, South African produce such as springbok, and French gourmet delights such as foie gras, well paired with La Motte wines.

The six-course dinner, costing R690 for the dinner paired with a La Motte wine for each course, was prepared by Chef Florent with Pierneef à La Motte Chef Chris Erasmus. Chef Florent has cooked at a number of Michelin-star restaurants, including Maison Troisgros, Le Jardin des Sens, and Maison Decoret. He has also opened new restaurants at D’Sens in Bangkok, Raffles Hotel Restaurant in Singapore, and Héritage Hotel Restaurant in Mauritius.  Chef Chris has just returned from a three week stage at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant, based in Copenhagen.  Students from The Culinary Academy, located at Backsberg, assisted the La Motte restaurant team for the evening, and were excited by the chance in a lifetime to rub shoulders with a Michelin-star chef.

We received a taste of what was to come when we enjoyed a glass of the La Motte MCC outside under the oak trees, after entering the restaurant area on a VIP red carpet, when Chef Florent sent out sweet potato croquettes containing black truffle and white truffle oil, coated in charcoal crumbs, canapés not tasting of charcoal at all!  I sat with the delightful Jan Laubscher and Anel Grobler of Spit or Swallow, and we had a fun evening, sharing the latest blogger and industry news.  Hein Koegelenberg welcomed the French Consul, and the Institut Paul Bocuse representative Eleanor Visl, and explained that ‘Plaisirs de France’ forms part of ‘Seasons of France’, a co-operation programme between France and South Africa, for the two countries to get to know each other better, which runs in our country until November.  From May – November next year South Africa will receive exposure in France. Hein reminded the guests of the French Huguenot roots of Franschhoek, La Motte itself having been created at the time of arrival of the settlers. He said that the Plaisirs de France festival is well-suited to La Motte, as wine and cuisine are their passion.  Hein intends visiting the Institut Paul Bocuse branch in Shanghai shortly, and wants to bring all twelve the Institut Paul Bocuse branch chefs to Franschhoek. Hein impressed as the perfect host, regularly visiting our table, to check on us and our wellbeing, and requesting feedback.

A bread platter was sent to our table, with a variety of breads, served within an edible bread basket. This was accompanied by a very colourful amuse bouche of smoked salmon trout, which had been lightly steamed with beetroot jelly and sherry vinegar, and was paired with the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2012.  The Entrée was an amazing foie gras flan, served with grapefruit segments, a most unusual combination, as well as fava beans, and a duck consommé.  This was the highlight for most diners, especially as the dish looked like a soup, but we were not served a soup spoon.  This course was paired with the La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc 2012, an organic wine.

Our Poisson dish was a Confit of Cob in olive oil, with which a baby vegetable skewer was served.  This dish was my favourite, for its outstanding saffron and Sauvignon Blanc nage (an aromatic broth in which crustaceans are cooked). This dish was paired with La Motte Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2010.  Canon of Springbok was served for our Viande (meat) dish, Springbok fillet being wrapped in caul fat (thin membrane of fat from the intestines of a pig, cow or sheep). It was served with celeriac ravioli, a strong-tasting Wasabi-like square of spinach and mustard butter, and an unusually textured quenelle of carrot, which is described as a dumpling usually made from meat, and the word originates from the German ‘Knödel’, but tasted from its texture as if it contained couscous.  It was paired with La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.

In French style, we had a Fromage course before dessert, and they were three French cheeses: Brie de Meaux, a goat’s milk cheese Buchette de Sainte-Maure; and a sheep’s milk Ossav Iraty, which were served with a more-ish strawberry and tomato jam.  The wine pairing was La Motte Shiraz 2009. This was followed by the Dessert of delicate and fresh petit pineapple and mint canneloni served with strawberries, and paired with La Motte Noble Late Harvest 1989.  Coffee was served with a macaroon.

A lovely evening came to an end far too quickly. Sous Chef Michelle Theron told me that it had been a most exciting experience, working with Chef Florent, who was most generous in sharing his knowledge, calling the Pierneef à La Motte kitchen team together whenever he did something, true to his role as lecturer at the Institut Paul Bocuse.  It was noticeable that Chef Florent’s cuisine creativity lay less in the plating (no flowers as is vogue at the moment) and more in the complex dishes he created, yet which (deceivingly) came across as simplicity!  His food is light, focused on a combination of flavours. Two dishes had sauces poured by a chef at the table, something one no longer sees locally. Chef Florent will be involved at some of the other Plaisirs de France events, but this is not specified on the Franschhoek Wine Valley website.  It was lovely getting to know La Motte Marketing Manager Wanda Vlok-Keuler better, who had very generously comped the dinner I had booked for, when I asked for the bill.

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000.  www.la-motte.com Twitter: @PierneefLaMotte

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

The fifth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting was a lively one, held at the Salt Vodka Bar, with a most entertaining Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax blog, and a most informative Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, writing the Hein on Wine blog, sharing their views on the importance of social media marketing.   In talking about blog content, Hein advised bloggers to not write about themselves, but to focus on their blog topics instead. 

Hein introduced the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz Viognier from the Pierneef Collection, and his role at La Motte over the past eleven years.  In winemaking, he said distribution and the intellectual property of the brand are key.  The goal of La Motte is to focus on making excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines, and wants the brand to be one of the Top 10 South African wine brands.   The estate created a vision to meet this goal, called La Motte Redefined, which consisted of a number of elements, all working in unison to create a WOW La Motte experience: a new Tasting Room, which has a combination of wood, brickwork and glass to make it more welcoming and less intimidating; a restaurant striving to be of a top 50 international restaurant standard, focusing on traditional South African food, with a demonstration kitchen and TV cooking; to offer a “plaaswinkel”, which sells items no other farm shop does, including five styles of breads, one of them even including 2 % shiraz;  to establish a gallery to present the collection of 44 Pierneef artworks which they bought from Pierneef’s daughter and brought back to South Africa from the UK; a museum in honour of Dr Anton Rupert; and to honour his wife Hanli’s musical career in a second gallery. 

Hein recognises that social media marketing is the new marketing platform, and he started blogging just over a year ago.  He realised that the world faces information overload, with no one having the time to go beyond the first page of Google when doing a search.  This is why one must use blogs and Twitter to package one’s information in a way that meets the target market’s need.  In the past the wine industry was at the mercy of the evaluation by Parker and Platter – now winemakers can talk to their market, explain the making of the wines and proactively provide information which empowers wine drinkers to drink their wines with greater knowledge about the brand and the particular variety.  Hein says that we are still not using blogging to its fullest extent, and over time many blogs will fall away, and new ones will commence.   He sees the decline of You Tube and videos, due to the time it takes to download them, and the increase in the use of Twitter.  La Motte publishes a new blog post every 2 -3 days, and tweets 2 -3 times per day.  Hein says that if one sets a frequency of communication, one must stick to this, as one’s readers expect it as one does a newspaper, because it becomes a habit for the reader.   This was mentioned by Dax too.   The Cape Winelands Cuisine, which is the focus of Pierneef Ã  La Motte, will be brought into the blog in future.  

Hein follows the late Dr Rupert’s communication mantra: simple, sincere and repetitive.   This applies to social media too.   Hein recognises the power of the Chinese market, and La Motte has made R 8 million in sales in its first year.  Hein is now learning Mandarin, commendable for a very busy wine businessperson.   La Motte wines sold 2800 cases 11 years ago – this has grown to 100 000 cases sold in 40 countries, whilst the economy brand Leopard’s Leap sells 600 000 cases annually.   The distribution company Meridian Wines, founded by Hein too, delivers wines from 28 cellars to restaurants in temperature-controlled vehicles.    The fellow Twitterers smiled in understanding when Hein said that he ends his day and starts the next with his iPhone, to read what has happened in the world.  It is the most time-efficient way for him to stay in touch, he said.

Hein’s talk was followed by a presentation and tasting of the first South African vodka, called Primitiv, made in Wellington by Jorgensen’s Distillery.    It is handcrafted, using artisanal methods, from barley and spelt, giving the vodka its unusual taste of peppery spice, floral and anise touches over a creamy grain base, with a masculine finish.

Dax impressed with his natural talent of speaking about a topic that is clearly close to his heart, and included tap dancing and being really funny, a side to him that he does not often reveal.  Dax said that the frequency of blogging will influence the quality of one’s posts, and therefore the traffic to one’s blog.   He advised that one’s blogging frequency should stay the same, to meet the readers’ need for consistency.   In terms of content, he advised that one pace oneself, and not write all one’s content on one day, to ensure that one’s audience comes back.  Writing comments on other bloggers’ blogs is important, he said, as it shows collegiality, and helps build traffic.  The timing of one’s Tweets is important too, and should be when one’s followers are on Twitter.  Little reading of Tweets is done at night, so tweeting then is wasteful.  Hootsuite, and similar scheduling tools, allows Dax to pre-schedule 4 – 5 Tweets per day, at intervals of one hour.  He advises Tweeting between 9h00 – 15h00.  

Dax writes about food and wine, events in Cape Town, green issues, artisanal beers and the Cape Town lifestyle.  He has been blogging for 7 years already, one of the pioneers.  His blog evolved from a newsletter he created, sharing with others what wonderful things he had discovered in Cape Town, after moving here from PE, via Durban.   Helping provide advice to others about where to celebrate a special event makes Dax feel good, he says.   The 2010 SA Blog Awards, and its poor organisation this year compared to 2009, was discussed.  In the main the comments, also from the bloggers present, were disparaging, and Dax concluded that the SA Blog Awards has devalued blogging due to the controversy associated with it, even though it was meant to achieve the opposite.  

The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 20 October , from 6 – 8 pm, at the Rainbow Room in Mandela Rhodes Place.  Simon Back from Backsberg will introduce his wines and the use of social media in making his family wine estate one of the most environmentally-friendly in the country, and Tom Robbins from Eat Cape Town will talk about Restaurant Reviewing and Blogger Ethics.  Contact Chris at info@whalecottage.com to book.

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

Franschhoek still officially carries the Gourmet Capital crown, even though it faces strong competition from Stellenbosch, which is seeing the opening of an increasing number of excellent restaurants, so much so that we recently suggested that the town establish the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

Franschhoek probably has sat back on its gourmet laurels for a while, but must be delighted about the opening of two new excellent restaurants, Ryan’s Kitchen and Pierneef à La Motte, which add new interest to Franschhoek as a culinary destination.  In fairness to Franschhoek, I have suggested a Franschhoek Restaurant Route:

*   Pierneef à La Motte is culinary art, and has upped the quality of Franschhoek’s restaurant choice.  Its focus is Winelands Boerekos with a contemporary twist.  Chef Chris Erasmus is a breath of fresh air, working with historic recipes and transforming them into works of art,  reflecting Pierneef’s standards.  Tel (021) 876-8000

*   Grande Provence  is quietly delivering quality cuisine, with chef Darren Roberts doing the most beautiful presentation of his food.   The restaurant is not afraid to charge  a price that reflects his standards of cooking.   Outstanding decor, and surrounded by artwork from its Gallery.  Perfection is visible from the time one drives into the wine estate.  Top 10 restaurant for the past two years. Tel (021) 876-8600.

*   The Tasting Room is loved by some, but not by all.  It is expensive.  It seems to have good nights and bad nights.  Joint 10th with Overture on Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List last year.  Tel (021) 876-2151

*   Ryan’s Kitchen has only been open for three months, set in a guest house,  with a high-tech kitchen, and quality cuisine by chef Ryan Smith.  “Contemporary South African cuisine” is the restaurant positioning, and a stronger African feel will be introduced in October, with a “Taste of Africa” menu.   Tel (021) 876-4598

*   Reuben’s has been the darling of Franschhoek, and a recent Tweet stated that it is the restaurant that tourists visit, while those that know go to Le Bon Vivant.   Opened 6 years ago, the restaurant’s service standards have dropped as Reuben’s has expanded to Robertson, and chef Reuben Riffel has taken on more projects.  Recently lost the sommelier to Bosman’s, but may not be a bad thing for the restaurant, as she was not very customer-friendly.  The biggest compliment to Reuben and his team, but also the largest challenge, in opening Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town  (A first meal at the new Reuben’s was a-maze-ing).   Tel (021) 876-3772

*   Allee Bleue has been very low key restaurant-wise, and it is uncertain exactly where the management wants to go with its dining options.  The Bistro at the entrance to the wine estate has always been friendly, and serves Bistro-style food at reasonable prices.  The departure of Chef Dane Newton is a shame, but with his replacement currently working at the Michelin-starred Schwarzer Adler, interesting things could be coming out of this kitchen soon. Tel (021) 874-1021

*   Cafe Bon Bon is one of the most relaxed and friendly breakfast and lunch-time stops in Franschhoek, on a most beautifully developed small-holding.  Tel (021) 876-3936

*   Haute Cabriere is owned by Franschhoek restaurant mogul Matthew Gordon.  While many find the ‘cave’-like interior a shame given the beautiful view outside, it remains popular, also as a wedding venue, and has a good relationship with Cabriere wines. Tel (021) 876-3688

*   La Petite Ferme is one of the best known restaurants with consistent quality and does not amend its menu much.  Visitors return, not only for the quality food but also for the wonderful view over Franschhoek, and for the relaxed atmosphere.  Tel (021) 876-3016

*   Dieu Donné also has an excellent view from its glass ‘walls’.   Its food quality was better when it first opened about two years ago. Tel (021) 876-2493

*   Le Bon Vivant is tucked away, off the main road, and is a ‘loner’, doing its own thing.  Beautiful presentation of food by chef Pierre. Tel (021) 876-2717

*   Rickety Bridge has a restaurant right at the vineyards, and offers picnics in summer.  Tel (021) 876-2129

*   French Connection is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and is a pedestrian favourite of locals and tourists.  Good main road location.  Serving breakfast as well now.  Tel (021) 876-4056

*   Dutch East was struggling when we visited it in June.  It seemed to be trying too hard.   There is no particular style of food served.   Tel (021) 876-3547

*   Chez d’Or was previously Cafe Rouge, and has expanded its size, and brought the restaurant closer to the main road.   Sandwiches and pedestrian Bistro food.   Tel 082 372 7645

*   Allora is a good quality Italian restaurant.  Despite sister-restaurants in Johannesburg, the welcome is personal and one does not get a chain-feel at all. Good value family eating.  Tel (021) 876-4375.

*   Col’Cacchio is one of a chain by the same name, and one can predict what is on offer.  Not the best service, but very popular for outside sitting.   Tel (021) 876-4222

*  Boschendal– other than going there for historical reasons, or to eat their long-standing buffet lunch, there is little to attract one to an estate that does not yet embrace excellence, a shame given its heritage.  Its Le Piqniques are well-known and very popular in summer.   Tel (021) 870-4272

*   Fyndraai at Solms-Delta wine estate is a pleasant surprise, with interesting Kaapse kos.  On good weather days, sitting on the terrace is a treat.  Tel (021) 874-3937

*   Cotage Fromage is a joint venture between Matthew Gordon, Duncan Doherty and Pierre Smith, serving breakfasts and lunches, and doing the catering for wedding and other events at Vrede & Lust.   The menu does not reflect the capabilities of the three chefs.   Tel (021) 874-3991

*   The Grillroom is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and fills a niche for patrons wanting mainly steak.  Unique restaurant in that one can buy good quality meat to take home too, as well as Franschhoek wines.   Tel (021) 876-2548

*   Cafe des Arts has taken over from Topsi’s, a Franschhoek institution.  Topsi still appears to be there regularly. (Tel (021) 876-2952

*   Salmon Bar is undergoing a renovation in part of the old Bouillabaisse building, which will enhance its visibility when it re-opens in November. Tel (021) 876- 4591

*   Bread & Wine is linked to Le Quartier Français, and only serves lunches.  Previously included in Eat Out Top 10 list, to the surprise of many. Good bread and charcuterie.  Tel (021) 876-3692.

*   Mon Plaisir is on the Chamonix estate, and is owned by a French couple offering French fare.  Little ambiance inside the restaurant.  Tel (021) 876-2393

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

After spending four hours at the La Motte wine estate, during the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival on Sunday, I had to pinch myself to check that the wonderful time I had experienced there had been real.  The pinnacle of the La Motte experience is the new Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, which opened on Saturday.  It is sure to make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in 2011/12, and gives Franschhoek a new jewel in its Gourmet Capital crown.   It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef, and to the historical roots of South African cuisine, presented with a contemporary twist.

I had booked a few days earlier, and found that one of the weaknesses of the new restaurant was the automated switchboard, which put me through to the selected option for the restaurant, but no one answered.  Eventually I got through to the main La Motte switchboard, and a most helpful lady took my booking, first requesting that it be done in writing.  This resulted in my booking having been made for a table indoors.  I asked Hetta van Deventer, the culinary consultant, if I could sit outside.  She did relent eventually, and I couldn’t have wished for a better table, on a wooden deck opening onto a lawn area shaded by mature oak trees, budding with the freshest green leaves.   The restaurant is green in many respects, and I was impressed with how theming was carried through into many different aspects of the restaurant.  The furniture outside almost looks custom-made, with a green woven-effect, giving it a nature-look.  The placemat was in the shape of a vine leaf.  The silver container had a green glass candle holder (as well as beautiful hand-blown glass bottles for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and little silver salt and pepper grinders).

The Pierneef name and theme comes from the priceless collection of 44 oils and other works by JH Pierneef (1886 – 1957), which La Motte bought from Pierneef’s 82-year old daughter Marita, who now lives in the United Kingdom.  The work is displayed in a special new building, housing the Rupert Museum, a general art gallery, and the Pierneef art gallery.   Given that Pierneef is synonymous with the pinnacle of South African art, La Motte honoured the artist by naming the restaurant after him, to demonstrate that they wish to follow his high standards.

The Pierneef name and art has also been carried over into a new range of La Motte wines, called the Pierneef Collection. Some of the collection of 1957 Pierneef lino cuts, which Hanli Rupert had received from her father Dr Anton Rupert years ago, have been used for the back labels for these wines.

The restaurant manager Simon Chennells, a charming young man, brought the menu and the winelist to the table.   They are obviously brand new, and look pristine, with bound covers, as if they are books.   Inside the menu is a photograph of Pierneef and his daughter from 1929, and the same photograph has been printed on the back of the high-back chairs standing at the kitchen counter.   The restaurant is large, divided into the kitchen section, which opens onto the outside seating deck, allowing one to see Chef Chris Erasmus (previously with Le Quartier Francais and Ginja) and his team hard at work in the super shiny stainless steel kitchen.   Pierneef’s work has been printed onto the lampshades hanging over the kitchen counter.  The interior restaurant section is separated from the kitchen, and is dominated by three chandeliers from which dangle crockery from the Dutch East India Company, which had brought Jan van Riebeeck to Cape Town.  The chandeliers are in blue and white, orange and white, and black, white and gold.  La Motte had bought the valuable crockery collection from a museum, and had the chandeliers custom-made for the restaurant.   Christo Barnard is the creative interior consultant who did the decor.

I had the incredible luck that Hein Koegelenberg, the CEO of La Motte, came to chat with me, despite it  being a busy restaurant day.  Other than having invited Hein to our next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting on 22 September, and seeing him in July at Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine,  I had not spoken to him for more than 5 minutes before.  I do not think he knew who I was, and he therefore impressed me even more by sharing his passion for the ‘new’ La Motte so extensively, and even introduced me to his wife Hanli.  No documentation is available yet for the ‘new’ La Motte, which is a pity, and the gems of information I received from Hein were therefore doubly precious.   Hein impressed upon me that it was early days for the restaurant, and requested that I give him feedback about the menu and winelist.   He will read it in this review for the first time.  Hein was such a gracious restaurant owner, that he came to check on me regularly, repeating his request for feedback.   One is impressed with Hein’s warmth and passion, and even more so that he did not mention the cost of the project at all.  This is not about the income that will be generated for La Motte – this is a project that brings pride in South African cuisine art, the return of the Pierneef collection to South Africa being the foundation of the restaurant, with the related buildings housing the Farm Shop, art galleries and museum, as well as the Tasting Centre, and creating what Hein calls a ‘tourism destination’.

The restaurant being new, word had spread about it, and eating there led to a reunion of the most wonderful people during my lunch there.  First, I saw Cyrillia of Bizerca Bistro, who hugged me as if I was a long lost friend.  Then I saw Bernard and Petro Immelman, an old PR client, who own Clouds wine and wedding estate next to Delaire Graff in the Helshoogte Pass.  Then, the biggest surprise of all, was when John Fourie approached my table, and asked if I was “Christine”, a name I was called many moons ago before I shortened it.  I recognised John’s voice, and he reminded me that he had been a Marketing student of mine at Damelin twenty years ago!   He was there with a group of Harley friends, and invited me to join their table.  The whole table tasted bits of my food (they were having sandwiches and wine), especially loving my dessert.

I never had a chance to try the Portuguese rolls and ciabatta, served with farm-style butter, which got left behind on the original table I sat at.  The menu opens onto a welcome page: “Welcome to Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant.  We have pleasure in hosting you and sharing with you our restaurant’s association with one of South Africa’s greatest masters.”  Homage is paid to both Pierneef, and to his daughter Marita, who has become a friend of the Koegelenbergs. “Pierneef’s creativity in portraying the beauty of the South African landscape and architecture has served as a model for this restaurant’s creativity in offering cuisine inspired by centuries of variations on cooking – a unique presentation known as Cape Wine-lands Cuisine”.  After extensive research into the origin of South Africa’s cuisine, or “boerekos”, from Dutch, Flemish, German and Huguenot settlers about 350 years ago, and British settlers 150 years later, about 200 recipes were developed for use in the restaurant over time. The cuisine style really is meant to be “Boland Boerekos”, and the input from Professor Hetta Claassens, author of “History of South African Food”, was sought to select the recipes. Hein says international chefs will be invited to translate these recipes into a contemporary context.  TV cooking will be introduced at the kitchen counter.

The menu is short and sweet, with a choice of 5 starters, 6 mains and 6 desserts. It is signed by Hein and Hanneli, reflecting their personal involvement. Starters are reasonably priced, Koningsbrood soup costing R35, served with braised veal knuckle ‘karmenaadjie’, roasted bone marrow and pot brood; up to R57 for the Trio of boerbok terrine served with roasted swede puree, apple and sultana chutney, and saffron yoghurt balls.  Other options are a Cape Bokkom Caesar salad, Russian fish pie, and Pumpkin, ginger and walnut cheesecake, two of these being vegetarian-friendly.  The mains peak at R 120 for a Fragrant fish curry, and other options include a roasted endive and goat’s cheese tart, Pumpkin seed and almond crusted Franschhoek salmon trout, Pomegranate glazed smoked pork belly, and Impala neck and stewed prune skilpadjie.  I had the Laquered smoked soutribbetjie, served with an interesting combination of pickled tongue, dried pear kluitjies, verjuice poached pear, wilted boerboon shoots and parsnips, and crispy lamb’s liver biltong.  I was fascinated by the biltong, and could not see it on my plate when served.  When asking the manager, he took the plate to the chef, and returned it with more of it – it was finely chopped and sprinkled over the dish, and gave it a distinctive taste, even when chopped to pieces smaller than peppercorns.  The soutribbetjie had a strong smoky braai taste, and overall it was a most unusual combination of tastes.   The menu does not describe the very South African terms, and this could be a weakness.  I also am surprised about the menu’s spelling of “Wine-lands”.  I would think that the information provided by Hein could be added to the menu, to help one appreciate the effort that he and his team have made in bringing cuisine history back to La Motte.

The dessert I chose was called “Breakfast”, a surprise dessert costing R65.  I cheated by asking a waiter to let me into the secret, so that I could choose whether I should have a starter or a dessert.  It was a most wonderful wacky selection of breakfast foods served in a dessert style – miniature banana muffin, ‘Cornflake’ brittle, yoghurt pannacotta, citrus sorbet balls, berry yoghurt sorbet and ice cream, freshly made “Fruit Loops”, all beautifully presented on muesli crumble.  Desserts seem expensive, but an incredible amount of work has gone into the creation of these.  Other dessert options are Brandy chocolate pudding, Engelen kos, Apple and cinnamon tart, as well as two cheese selections, one of them being goat’s cheese only.   My only criticism is that the ‘Breakfast’ dessert seemed very modern and did not fit the historic foundation of the menu.

Children are catered for as well, with chicken fritters and chips, and fish nuggets and chips, at R30.  One is not obliged to eat off the menu, a blackboard offering chicken and lamb sandwiches, at R35 and R45, respectively, using the lovely breads baked and sold in the new Farm Shop.

Hein told me that they grow grapes for their wines in Bot River, Elim, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Macasser, Darling, and in Franschhoek.  In making their wines, they decide which flavours they want each of their wines to have, and therefore use grapes from the terroirs of their different farms in the making of the wine.  For example, the La Motte Shiraz is made to give white pepper, blackberry and red berry flavours.  For the opening of this wonderful facility, the La Motte Hanli R was launched – a 2005 Shiraz that Hein says is in the league of the best Shirazes in the world.  Only 3000 bottles were produced, of which about a third were given away as gifts to the VIP guests who had attended dinners earlier that week, a priceless gift, given that the wine retails at $100!

The winelist runs to 13 pages, and includes the full range of The La Motte Collection and The Pierneef Collection wines, as well as the La Motte MCC Brut (at R235) and the Hanli R, at R845.  Two pages of “La Motte Vinoteque Wines” follow, and do not explain which wines these are, and only vintages and detailed flavour descriptions, for Shiraz, Millennium, and Cabernet Sauvignon, are provided.  Champagnes range from R600 for Pommery, to R965 for Billecart-Salmon Rosé.   Ten Franschhoek MCC bubblies are listed, almost all under R200.   The rest of the winelist features Meridian Wine brands (Hein founded this international distribution company, with leading wine brands such as Meerlust).  Other Rupert family brands (Rupert & Rothschild, and Anthonij Rupert) are also featured, as is the Leopard’s Leap wine range, a mass market brand that was developed by Hein, selling 600000 cases a year.   A small selection of wines from New Zealand, Argentina, Germany and France is also available. Hein is aware of some typing errors in the winelist.  In the Tasting Centre one can choose an unusual Food & Wine Pairing, with a choice of five out of eight La Motte wines, with a specific dish paired per wine, at R195.  The dishes for the pairing also carry the Winelands Cuisine theme.

The wonderful afternoon had to come to an end.  Not only had I received the greatest gift of all – the time Hein Koegelenberg devoted in chatting to me, with Chef Chris joining him later – but I was also given a bottle of the new La Motte Hanli R, something I will keep for a very special occasion.  The La Motte team is to be congratulated for their vision in bringing history back to La Motte and for making it come alive. I’ll be back!

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, outside Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000. www.lamotte.co.za.  (The website needs a page just for the restaurant, as well as an Image Gallery of its beautiful food and facilities – it does not do justice to this amazing project).   Twitter @pierneeflamotte.  The restaurant is open for Breakfast on Friday – Sunday; for lunch on Monday – Sunday; and for dinner on Thursday – Saturday.  The Tasting Center is closed on Sundays.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9:  We enjoyed another wonderful meal at Pierneef à La Motte, this time a dinner and inside the restaurant.   I had not paid enough attention on the restaurant interior on my last visit, and was in awe of the Dutch East India Company crockery chandeliers, with a modern interpretation.  Each of them has downlighters built into it, and the way in which the crockery is hung in the chandeliers makes them chime when the airconditioning is on, a most soothing ‘music’ in conjunction with the soft classical background music.    There is a large fireplace, and a lounge seating area, at which one can have coffee.   I saw the Chef’s Table, a separate room close to the kitchen, seating 8, for which Chef Chris will cook his choice menu, at R1000 per head.   In addition to the “Boerekos” menu (which now has definitions of the traditional “Boerekos” items), there were three specials – sweetbreads, an excellent steak served with mushrooms and shiraz chips, and wonderful chicken with sorrel sauce.

POSTSCRIPT 6/3: I met Dutch friends for lunch, and was blown away by a chilled butternut soup, which I had as a starter, both in its presentation, and also by its refreshing antidote to the hot Franschhoek day.   I was however disappointed that I could not taste the advertised crayfish.  Hein Koegelenberg was at the restaurant too, and came to greet my guests.  They were very impressed with his friendliness.   For the main course we all had the pork, a dish which did not blow me away.

POSTSCRIPT 8/3: I took a colleague to La Motte, to show her around, and we had a sandwich as we arrived just on 15h00.  I remember the lamb sandwich prices being R 25 when the restaurant opened about 6 months ago, so was rather shocked when the sirloin and mozzarella sandwich cost R 75, and the salmon and avocado paste one cost R70, served with a small green and parmesan shaving salad.   It did not match what the restaurant stands for in its presentation or its content.  I also was rudely dealt with by the security person Inge when we signed in at the boom – rudeness is not something I associate with La Motte at all.   I was disappointed about the reaction to the feedback I gave Chef Chris about the lack of the crayfish taste in the butternut soup, and he gave me an unsatisfactory reply, saying that European palates are more sensitive to an over-strong fish taste, and therefore he had to tone down the crayfish content!

POSTSCRIPT 26/1/12:  Our dinner tonight was disappointing – tiny table for two, waitress who did not know her desserts, and she sounded a little like a tape recorder.  Grateful to Manager Anne for organising a table, even though they were full.  I am disappointed that the Cape Winelands Cuisine recipe basis of the menu appears to have almost all gone, with only the Bokkom salad and trio of Cape desserts reflecting the origin of the Cape Winelands cuisine.  Enjoyed the steak (a taste of my son’s) and wild mushroom ragout. Very disappointed with ‘Sweetie Pie’ dessert, with hard sugar crystallised crust around soft meringue, on summer fruit and guava cream, the sugar crust being very hard to eat.

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

I had not visited Franschhoek for a while, and decided to enjoy a full weekend of the Franschhoek Uncorked Festival,  to get to as many of the 20 wine estates as possible.  My feedback follows, focusing more on the marketing of the estate, its customer care demonstrated, and the food served (I would never have survived full days of wine tasting!):

        Starting at Plaisir de Merle, it was a big disappointment overall.  Given that the Festival was on, one wonders why the boom had to be closed and then opened for each individual car arriving and leaving.  Commendably all other wine estates kept their booms open for the occasion.  The drive up to the wine-tasting buildings is unattractive, with ditches on either side – there is no lane of trees to soften the entrance.  Plaisir de Merle is a Distell-owned wine farm, and supplies most of its grapes for the making of Nederburg, I read over the weekend.  The farm is one of the largest in the Cape, just under 1000 hectares.  We parked and approached the tables at which the tasting was being done and the food was prepared.  Seeing other guests queue, we did too, but the procedure was meant to be that we should have sat down at a table, and waited for a “waiter’ to come to us.  We gave our waiter the order, but he did not understand the word ‘crêpe’, even though it is one of the items on the menu – he asked if I meant a pancake!   We decided to place the order with the food preparers directly, and chose an apple and an orange crêpe.   They were so disappointing compared to the crêpes I have enjoyed here in previous years.   We had to ask for the bill three times, and in the end we could not be bothered, and left the money on the table.  A violinist and flautist provided a lively touch, and the hired staff wore white shirts and black pants, with a branded black beret.  The French theme of Franschhoek came through with three serviettes in red, white and blue on the kitsch silver underplates, which seemed out of place, given the history of the estate.  Bread was for sale, but nothing told one that it was baked with special flour ground in a recently renovated historic water mill.  We left having no knowledge about the wines, but did receive a summary of the wines on request, which had to be printed for us especially, with tasting notes for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Allee Bleue focused its Uncorked activities in its Le Grand Hall, which I had not seen since its completion in March.  It is a modern structure, with an attractive entrance, and glass stacking doors.  It can seat 300 guests, mainly for weddings and product launches, with space for a band stand and dance floor.   The security guard had the boom open, and looked very smart with his Allee Bleue blue bow tie, but spoilt the friendly impression when he answered every question I asked with “yup”!   On seeing us, the Food & Beverage Manager Desmond Spangenberg, one of the friendliest persons in the hospitality industry, walked up to us and welcomed us – you cannot beat such a personal touch!  Immediately he gave us complimentary Uncorked “passports” (Plaisir de Merle did not offer to sell us any!), a glass of the wonderful newly launched Allee Bleue Brut Rose, and their very tasty Flammkuchen, an Austrian speciality much like a thin based pizza covered with ham, cream cheese and onions.  It was far too much to have it all. I was sad to hear that the likeable chef Dane Newton had left.   The friendliness, professionalism and generosity of Allee Bleue was exceptional.

        I was looking forward to the Tasting Masterclass conducted by Graham Beck wine maker Pieter Ferreira, an expert on sparkling wine production.   This estate was by far the busiest and buzziest.  The Masterclass was held in an exclusive tasting room on the first floor, with a boardroom table set up with a Graham Beck branded sheet, which allowed for 8 tasting glasses, and a pairing plate with a slice of ham, smoked Franschhoek trout, camembert and a lovely piece of thick chocolate.   Pieter sharpened our sense of smell by making us sniff at least 20 different wine glasses, with a wide variety of flavours, e.g. vanilla, cloves, fresh strawberries, pepper, and asparagus.  These would be typical elements we should have picked up on the nose of the wines we were to taste.  We tasted 12 Graham Beck wines, and Pieter was a most patient, informative and passionate tasting leader.   He threw in many interesting bits of information:  the size of the glass does not really matter in tasting wines, as long as it is not tulip-shaped; white wine glasses do not have to be smaller than red wine ones; Riedel make 27 different types of glasses, some varietal-specific (Pieter helped them select a design for Pinotage-tasting); one does not have to drink white/red wine with white/red meat; wines should be served as cold as possible, even red wines, 15 – 18 C being ideal for reds; chocolate is a good way to clear the palate; ‘beer pour’ style is the best way to pour sparkling wine, and not into an upright glass, to retain as much of the bubble.  A lovely touch was when I received a bottle of the wonderful Graham Beck Brut Rose as a gift.  The Masterclass cost R75.

 

         I stopped at the new Maison wine estate, the newest Franschhoek wine farm, and expected a Weylandt’s interior, as it belongs to Chris Weylandt.  I was surprised to see a cute cottage, bales of hay on the lawn at which sunseekers were sitting, and a very laid-back atmosphere – even the jazz band had taken some time off.   There were two food choices – a salmon or pork belly sandwich served on a nice wooden board, quite expensive at R 50 each, but the staff assured me that they were fabulous, and the pork belly one was.   It had a lovely “fish sauce” spread on it, with rocket, served on the most wonderful rye bread from Bread & Wine.  Whilst I was catching up on Twitter, Chris Weylandt came over to have a chat, and told me that the Weylandt’s interior will be introduced in the new cellar and restaurant they are opening in the first quarter of 2011.  It will serve ‘real food’, he said.  He is very proud of the great interest shown in his estate, having only opened officially two weeks ago (and is now on Twitter @Maisonestate). Wines offered for sale are Shiraz and Chenin Blanc, as well as a limited edition Viognier.  Chris is proud of the wines made from the estate’s grapes, and that they do not buy in any grapes.  Anton Bondesia is the young winemaker, having worked in Italy, New Zealand, California, and also at Spier.  The Shiraz won the 2009 SA Young Wine Trophy.   Chris Weylandt has lived in the estate for the last six years, in the oldest barn in Franschhoek with “contemporary additions”, he said, built in 1796.  It has been featured in VISI, Elle, and international design magazines.

 

        Grande Provence was quite a contrast, not having pulled in the crowds, and therefore lacking in atmosphere.  A number of winelovers sat at the counter in the tasting room. I met up with the curator of the gallery, Johan du Plessis, and he showed me around the new enlarged gallery, with very interesting works of art.  Donovan Dreyer is another lovely Franschhoek Food & Beverage Manager, and he brought me a dessert creation from Chef Darren Roberts.  The Grande Provence Pinot Noir 2009 was launched for the Uncorked Festival.   Five tasting stations were set up on the estate, with a wine matched to a restaurant speciality (e.g. chicken liver parfait, duck with green olive and date tagine, and gravidlax with apple compote and tapenade), at R 100.  A four course meal was also on offer over the weekend, at R 375, for a Gateaux of duck and rabbit rillettes, hot and sour seafood broth, osso bucco and chocolate calzone, each course paired with a Grande Provence wine.

 

        Boekenhoutskloof  was very quiet at midday on Sunday.  I was interested in going there to enjoy Reuben’s Barbeque Extravaganza, and to catch up with Reuben Riffel before he launches his third Reuben’s restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town in just more than three weeks. He probably committed to the Festival BS (before Sol). Reuben was nowhere to be seen, but his branding was on the braai.  Some of his staff was doing steak sandwiches, the prices of his dishes written on a blackboard looking rather unprofessional – the food preparation section was untidy and did not inspire one to order food.  Empty containers left by departed visitors were left on the table. The band stand was set up, without a band.  Inside, the tasting room was busy, and I had to smile when the sweet tasting lady suggested that I rather buy the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc at Pick ‘n Pay, as it would be cheaper there than on the estate.  Boekenhoutskloof has been one of Franschhoek most  successful wine estates as far as Platter performance goes, for its Boekenhoutskloof Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Chocolate Block, Porcupine Ridge and The Wolftrap are secondary brands.  The massive plastic The Chocolate Block bottle outside the tasting area was the most commercialised I have ever seen the estate, which seems to pride itself on selling its wines in a low key manner, selling itself, so to speak.

       

        My final stop was at La Motte, and I was excited about my visit there, as the new Pierneef Ã  la Motte restaurant, the new tasting room, the new Rupert family museum, art gallery, Pierneef art gallery and the Farm Shop had all opened in the past few days.  I started my visit at the Farm Shop, and saw the loveliest breads (including a shiraz-based one, and some potbrood), as well as shiraz-filled chocolates in the shop. Then it was off to the galleries and museum, a building that leads one from one room to another, with less space dedicated to the Rupert family and its patriarch, the late Anton Rupert, and more to the art.  Quiet corners have been set up dedicated to the music of Hanli Rupert, who is an acclaimed opera singer, and one can choose which of her music one wants to listen to whilst sitting in comfortable chairs.  The art gallery appeared to have more modern art, but the highlight was the section displaying 18 oils and 26 other works by JH Pierneef. La Motte had recently bought the priceless Pierneef art collection from his daughter Marita, who lives in the United Kingdom.  Dr Rupert had bought 3 sets of 120 Pierneef woodcut prints each for his three children, and some of these have been used as an inspiration on the Pierneef wine labels.  They can be seen in the Tasting Room, and in various buildings on the estate.  Hein Koegelenberg, husband of Hanli Rupert, and driver of La Motte, sat with me for half an hour of his precious time, and told me about the dedication of the estate to bring this priceless art treasure back to South Africa.  The Pierneef Collection was not available for tasting over the Uncorked weekend, but will be in future.   The new wine tasting room has allowed La Motte to have two separate wine production sections in its cellar, one for whites (under winemaker Michael Langenhoven, a passionate Sauvignon Blanc lover) and one for red wines (under winemaker Edmund Terblanche, a passionate Shiraz lover).  The tasting room is managed by Werner Briedenhann, and he is passionate about his job – a confident welcome, and a firm handshake.  He explained that one could taste five wines, and these were served with some chocolate and ciabatta to clear the palate.  Long tasting tables show the fun a group of friends can have in enjoying a tasting jointly.   Everything was handled with the greatest professionalism, with only one weakness – the lady at the entrance desk told me that the new La Motte Pierneef Hanli R was made from two blends, which I promptly Tweeted, and was immediately corrected by Hein Koegelenberg on Twitter, in stating that it is made from Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon. La Motte dominated the Franschhoek Uncorked Experience by far this past weekend, with its beautiful new buildings, oak trees, lawns and water features.   This is now a serious wine estate, supported by serious money, but Hanlie and Hein Koegelenberg are very humble, generous and friendly. Our review of Pierneef Ã  La Motte restaurant will be published later this week.

Overall Franschhoek Uncorked is a clever way of attracting visitors to the wine estates of Franschhoek, something the Stellenbosch Wine Festival tried for the first time this year.  However, given the captive audience they have on their estates, it is disappointing that not one of the seven estates I visited made sure that the visitors left with information about their wines, and with a restaurant menu, if applicable, or with a program of events in Franschhoek for the next few months.  The Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism Association had been more active in sending our Tweets about Franschhoek Uncorked, but stopped doing so late on Friday, with no Tweets at all over the weekend, when it was needed most!  It is so easy to pre-schedule Tweets via Hootsuite.  The clashing of the first day of Franschhoek Uncorked with the second day of the Nederburg Auction was unfortunate, and one wonders how Franschhoek could have chosen this weekend to schedule the event.

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

For the third year running, twenty of Franschhoek’s wine farmers are inviting wine and food lovers to visit their wine estates this coming Saturday and Sunday (4 and 5 September), to taste their new vintages, to eat specialities from the Gourmet capital of South Africa, and to enjoy French-style activities over a weekend of food, fun and wine.

Tickets for Franschhoek Uncorked cost R80 each, and can be bought at Computicket, or at any participating wine estate.  The full programme offered by the 20 wine estates is as follows:

*   Vrede & Lust will have a cigar lounge, Aston Martins will be on display, chocolate can be tasted and diamonds will sparkle

*   Plaisir de Merle will serve more of their lovely pancakes, offer live music, and for the first time offer bread made from flour ground in a historic water mill on the wine estate.

*   Allee Bleue will offer live jazz, and a tasting of their new Brut Rose’.  Smoked salmon croissants, Flammkuchen, Chicken Tandoori wraps, and Shrimp Guacamole wraps will be available for sale.

*   Solms-Delta will offer “Kaapse” music, food, and wine.

*   L’Ormarins has the Franschhoek Motor Museum on its property, will make its Antonij Rupert Protea and Terra del Capo wines available for tasting, boules can be played, and gourmet sandwiches can be bought

*   Graham Beck will offer its Methode Cap Classique bubblies as well as wines to taste, and oysters, cheese and charcuterie platters will be available to eat.  Winemakers Pieter Ferreira and Erika Obermeyer will host masterclasses at R 75 a head, on Saturday and Sunday, at 10h00 and 14h00

*   Lynx Wines will have a Spanish Fiesta theme again, and live Spanish music will be played.  Tapas served include serrano ham and calamari

*   Topiary Wines will release their Rose 2009 and their Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. Visitors can blend their own wines. Live music is offered.

*   La Chataigne offers boules and live entertainment

*   Moreson offers live music, and a food market

*   Maison is the newest Franschhoek wine estate, and belongs to Chris Weylandt of Weylandt’s, and is now also a winemaker.   Food, jazz and wines will be offered.

*   La Motte’s new and Franschhoek’s latest restaurant Pierneef a La Motte offers Cape Winelands cuisine, a Farm Shop sells wines, gifts and farm-baked bread.   The new La Motte Art Gallery, one of the rooms dedicated to the priceless paintings by Pierneef, has opened, and a classical guitar recital will be hosted on Saturday evening.

*   Glenwood will host a Boules Trophy, and is pairing its wines with gourmet food prepared by Camil and Ingrid Haas, previously of Bouillabaisse and Camil’s, serving Bouillabaisse, Chicken Curry and Crepe Suzette.

*   Rickety Bridge offers tapas too, and its Top 10 Shirazes.  Live music, boules, as well as farm rides in their Dodge truck are also available.

*   Grande Provence offers live music, five vintages will be paired with five dishes, a Chef’s Table is offered, and the Grande Provence Pinot Noir will be launched.  Cheese and charcuterie boards will be available.

*   Franschhoek Cellars offer cheese and wine tastings, as well as cheese lunches

*   Dieu Donne offers live music, Vineyard platters, “wine-infused casual food”, and micro-beer on tap

*   Cabriere offers a wine tour and tasting, with a Sabrage, at 11h00 on Saturday and Sunday

*  La Petite Ferme offers wine tours, and salmon and wine pairing at R120.

*   Boekenhoutskloof will launch The Chocolate Block 2009, a band will provide the “gees” and Reuben Riffel will offer his famous Reuben’s Barbeque Experience.

Further details can be obtained from the Franschhoek Tourism Bureau, Tel (021) 876-3603.

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