Living on the Atlantic Seaboard, I do not get out to Durbanville very often. Errieda du Toit, PR consultant for the Durbanville Wine Route, is determined to change that, and invited me to visit Altydgedacht, the second oldest wine estate (after De Grendel) on the Durbanville Wine Route (then called Tygerberg, having been handed over to the first owner Elsje van Suurwaarde in 1698 by the Dutch East India Company) last Thursday. The wine estate has been owned by the Parker family for the last 160 years, and its rustic Eat @ Altydgedacht restaurant was named one of the Top 10 Winelands restaurants by Wine Tourism SA last month, published in Oprah magazine.
Bubbly restaurant owner Sharon Kriel showed us the original cellar at Altydgedacht, which is used for seating for her restaurant when it is cold outside, decorated with fairy lights and the original wine vats, which are over 100 years old. She showed us the plans which have just had drawn up, to show how the cellar grew from the original 1702 building to its current shape, last added onto in 1941. Using a Bedouin canopy, Sharon has increased the size of her popular restaurant, which she started at Altydgedacht in 2009, and on good weather days one can sit outside at wooden tables and those made from wine barrels, or even on a blanket on the lawn, in picnic style. The restaurant can seat 95 guests.
The Parker family is the fifth generation to own the farm, and its matriarch Jean Parker is a character at 87 years, I was told. Her sons John and Ollo run the farm, John being the Viticulturist, and Ollo the Cellarmaster, working with their winemaker Etienne Louw. It was a stop in Cape Town of the ship carrying the Parker forbears to Australia that made 13 year old Ralph Parker stay behind, find a job as an apprentice with Mr Chiappini, after whom a city centre street is named, marry his daughter, and buy Altydgedacht a few years later. The history of the farm and of the Parker family is captured in the very rustic tasting room, which has a very old workbench, in which historical farm tools are still to be found in its drawers, and on which the Altydgedacht wines are displayed. The Tasting Room has a wall with some of the original ‘koffieklip‘ from which the walls were built still showing. The farm is 415 hectares in size, of which 180 ha is under vineyards and 30 ha is dedicated to a Fynbos and Renosterveld reserve. The farm was managed by Jean Parker when her husband died at the age of 29 after a shooting accident, with the help of their long-standing farm manager Hennie Heydenrych. John and Ollo both went to the University of Stellenbosch to study wine management and winemaking, respectively, and both worked on wine estates in California. Ollo also spent time in New Zealand and in Australia. Their initial grape production of 500 tons, from which the wine made was sold to the Castle Wine & Brandy Company and to Monis, for the production of fortified wines. When Distell set up Nederburg, incorporating Monis, in the ‘Sixties, they bought grapes from Altydgedacht, and the farm stopped making wines. In 1980 Altydgedacht was registered as a wine estate, and they started making their first red wine a year later, called Tintoretto, a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz, Barbera, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1985 they bottled the first wines, including the Tintoretto, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and Bukettraube. Their grape planting increased to 1700 tons (now reduced down to 1400 tons) of which they bottle 10% and sell the remainder of the grapes to Nederburg. The farm produces 14 grape varieties for winemaking and two table grape varieties. The current Altydgedacht wine range includes:
* Sauvignon Blanc (R60)
* Gewürztraminer (made in the French Alsace style, R60)
* The Ollo (blend of Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Viognier, R75)
* Rosé (made from Cabernet Franc, R35)
* MCC (made in 2008 for the first time, and now in 2012, R100)
* Semillon Noble Late Harvest (R65 for 375 ml)
* Merlot (R75)
* Shiraz (R75)
* Cabernet Sauvignon (R75)
* Pinotage (their flagship, having made ABSA Top 10 in 2008 and 2009, R85)
* Tintoretto (R125)
* Barbera (R95)
* Ralph Parker Cabernet Sauvignon (wine with a more pronounceable name for export).
* Dry Red (R35)
It was explained that the Durbanville area is very suitable for grape production for winemaking, as the air cools down at night, coming off the Atlantic Ocean 15 km away after the hot summer days, which prolongs the ripening process. Durbanville is the reigning Terroir Award holder for fine red wines. The eleven farms on the Durbanville wine route work well together, and ‘speak as one voice’, but are in healthy competition with each other. Etienne said that winemaking should be ‘analog from the vineyards’, in that the more one leaves the wines alone, the better the wine that is made.
Sharon has no idea when Wine Tourism SA came to evaluate the lunch, to award it the listing in the Top 10 Winelands Restaurant list (alongside Babylonstoren, Jonkershuis, Jordan Restaurant, South Hill, Creation, The Kitchen at Maison, Black Oyster Catcher, Mulderbosch, and The Stone Kitchen).
Sharon brought us the soup of the day, which was a roast red pepper cream soup with basil pesto. Sharon explained that her menu is small, focusing on quality rather than quantity. Platters are available, which one can make up by marking the elements one wishes to eat on the menu, including bread slices, cheeses, dips, olives, preserves, cold meats, and salads, or one can order prepared platters of cheese (R110), ‘Eat at the Farm Platter‘ for two persons (R175), and a Meze Platter (R60).
For the main course I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie (R85), the restaurant’s signature dish, which contains chicken, mushrooms, and carrots in a creamy sauce, topped with puff pastry, and served with delicious potatoes wedges ‘like my mom used to make‘ Sharon said, and a vegetable mix. Sharon is very good at including the Altydgedacht wines into her dishes, so her Pot Pie of the Day last Thursday was a Pinotage Steak one. Her Barbera Burger has the Italian-style wine included in the beef patty (R75). Her Bacon Quiche (R62) is the favourite of Ollo and Etienne. Salmon on Rye with dried capers and dill cream cheese (R80), and two pasta dishes (R62 and R80) are also available. For dessert three of us shared the baked cheesecake, chocolate brownie, and apple pie, all generously served with ice cream, each costing only R30. Sharon emphasised that they subscribe to the Slow Food movement, preparing all food fresh, on order, so it takes a little longer to receive one’s order.
Eat @ Altydgedacht offers extremely friendly service and good value home-cooked meals on a wine estate that marries longstanding traditions and modern methods to create wines of quality and character.
Disclosure: I received a gift pack of Altydgedacht wines.
Eat @ Altydgedacht, Altydgedacht wine estate, Durbanville. Tel (021) 975-7815. www.altydgedacht.co.za Twitter: @EatAltydgedacht Monday – Saturday Breakfast and Lunch.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage