Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →
The winner of the Flagstone SwitchBitch promotion is a family, Georgia Eccles Schoeman, her mother Patricia Eccles, and husband Robert Baerveldt, for their clever word play in motivating why they should win the Flagstone hamper of wines with cooler bag, and a copy of SwitchBitch. Continue reading →
Yesterday we were invited by Ken Forrester Vineyards to attend a tasting of twelve of its Rhône blends, produced in the last twenty years of its journey in making Rhône varietals and blends. One could not help associate owner Ken Forrester with the character of these wines, having interesting names of Renegade, Three Halves, and Gypsy. The tasting was followed by lunch at 96 Winery Road, a restaurant co-owned by Ken with his brother.
We met at the Ken Forrester Tasting Room, on a gorgeous sunny autumn day, dressed with a Gypsy theme, in table cloths, carpets, staff outfits, bunting in the vineyard, a banner at the entrance, and ribbons on our media packs, all reflecting the Gypsy theme. Continue reading →
Last week a number of writers was invited to a ten-year vertical tasting of Saronsberg Full Circle, the wine estate’s flagship brand, followed by lunch at the Cape Grace. While the reason for the choice of name is not known, the wine is likely to not come full circle, getting better and better with every vintage.
Winemaker Dewaldt Heyns has a wonderful ability to explain his wines, speaking with passion but without technicalities, remembering the peculiarities of each of the ten vintages which we tasted, without a note to refer to. The tasting was held in the recently refurbished Leeward Room, adjacent to the Signal restaurant and facing the refurbished pool area. During the tasting the glass sliding doors were closed when the pool chlorine could be smelt inside the venue. We were spread over four round tables, with chairs with unusual modern upholstery in black, grey, white and burgundy, in contrast to the green velvety drapes. I Continue reading →
Last night I tried the dinner at The Kitchen at boutique winery Maison outside Franschhoek, which now is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. I was privileged to try the new Maison Methodé Cap Classique Blanc de Blanc 2009, which was released last week, and which has been added to its portfolio of Chardonnay 2011, Viognier 2011, Blanc de Noir 2012, Chenin Blanc 2011, Shiraz 2010, Cape Ruby, and Straw Wine 2011.
Winemaker Antwan Bondesio patiently waited for the first sparkling wine to be made by Maison to be on the lees for 36 months, to bring out the best in the MCC, while owner Chris Weylandt would have loved to have released it sooner than that. Only 1100 bottles have been released, each hand numbered (I had a glass of bottle number 123!), and each is hand labelled and branded. The design of the label is minimalistic, being typographical only. The back label informed that there has been zero dosage, and therefore the sparkling wine is ‘clean, pure, and naked‘! It contains 12% alcohol, and sulphites, the label informs. The winelist prices the MCC at R265, and is only available by the bottle. Antwan has worked in California and Marlborough (New Zealand), as well as at Kaapzicht and at Spier.
It was a picture perfect evening for an outside dinner, both on the terrace, and on the long tables on the lawns, and a large group of Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests had been booked to have dinner there. The families had brought their children, and they enjoyed the safety of the property, the lit fires, the lanterns all over the property, the cocoon hanging chair, and the roosters, giving the children more than enough to do while their parents enjoyed their dinner. I have been to The Kitchen on numerous occasion for lunch, but last night the lit candles and lanterns gave the restaurant a magical and romantic atmosphere, from the time one enters the building.
On Friday and Saturday evenings the normal à la carte menu is available, which is used for lunches as well. On the first Friday of every month Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg improvises, and offers his unique three-course menu for R250. I jokingly said to Manager Julian Smith that they should do a braai, having big containers with fire, and he said that Chef Arno is considering doing a speciality braai on some of the first Friday of the month dinners. I enjoyed the kingklip, beautifully prepared, firm, and not spoilt by any sauces or toppings as had been my last piece of kingklip at Nederburg’s The Red Table! It was served with carrot mustard purée, chive croquettes, marrow, beans, and sake jus. The kingklip was on a specials board, which has a number of starter and main course items for every meal, and changes regularly, while the menu stays the same for about a quarter. Currently the menu includes baby squid, tempura prawn, and smoked bone marrow starters in the range of R 65 – R85, while the main course options include forest mushroom tagliatelle, confit duck leg, Karoo rack of lamb, linefish of the day, and Shanghai pork belly, costing between R120 – R135.
For dessert the Valrhona Nyangbo (from Ghana) chocolate, peanut butter, and meringue rum cheesecake, served with anglaise ice cream and espresso gelée, was a treat, being quite a formal and serious dessert for a restaurant which is more inclined to informal cuisine. Other dessert options are a green tea parfait, and a tonka bean créme with gooseberry sorbet, costing between R55 – R65, and a local cheese platter at R95. I finished off the evening with an iced coffee made with a special Terbodore blend, the best I have ever had.
I had a fantastic evening, enjoying the ambiance, knowing half the guests, and meeting interesting table neighbours, one couple attending a wedding in Franschhoek, and the other couple being Canadian/Germans, who have fallen in love with Franschhoek during their holiday. The food was superb, as was the new MCC. Julian refused to accept payment, laughingly saying it was my ‘commission’ for bringing so much business to the restaurant.
The Kitchen, Maison, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2116. www.maisonestate.co.za Twitter: @MaisonEstate Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
If there was one good thing about Vindaba, the wine tourism exhibition which ran alongside CapeWine 2012, it was the discovery of the innovative new KWV Sensorium at its Head Office in Paarl, which pairs highlights of the KWV Art Collection with KWV wines, and which has brought the art collection under one roof for the first time.
The creative idea came from a group think tank, curator Elsa Hoogenhout said, and has given the historic KWV Head Office interior a new and modern feel as one enters the building. The Sensorium is believed to be the first wine and art pairing in the world. The creativity is evident before one even enters the Sensorium, with a Reception bench made from wooden staves to which old office furniture has been affixed, being functional seating as well as expressing the differentness of the rejuvenated KWV, one of the leading and oldest (94 years) wine producers of the country, having been one of the top performers, with Nederburg, at the Veritas Awards on Saturday evening. Using the services of two architecture firms, Albertyn Viljoen from Paarl, and Mashabane Rose from Johannesburg, the rectangular space has a central glass-encased KWV wine display and food preparation centre, with special lamps made from KWV branded crystal decanters.
Each of the 28 featured artworks out of the approximately hundred in the KWV Art Collection, which has been built up over the past sixty years, has been uniquely paired with a KWV wine, based on what the artwork represents or its colouring, a team effort between Elsa and her wine colleagues. At any given time, four of the paired artworks can be experienced by tasting the matching wines, and the four paintings and pairings will be rotated, so that one can study new paintings and taste new KWV wines each time one visits the Sensorium. I was lucky to have Elsa telling me about each painting, and each is well described where it hangs, with five words that are uniquely descriptive of the artwork as well as of the KWV wine, not using traditional wine-speak. The catalogue for the exhibition is informative, and contains each artwork, the wine pairing, as well as the QR code so that one can obtain more information about the wine from the KWV Sensorium website. The paintings are hung in sections in the Sensorium, depending on their wine pairings, being white wines, red wines, and dessert wines.
The first artwork is entitled ‘The Funeral’ (of poet DJ Opperman), and is by Marjorie Wallace, showing his family in one group and his friends in another. His family did not approve of his friends. Interesting is the seemingly contradictory pairing of the sad theme of the painting with the KWV Cathedral Cellar Cap Classique, and Elsa explained it as representing the rebellious and effervescent character of the poet. The words associated with the wine and the artwork are: rebellion, reminiscent, icy rain, wet grass, effervescence.
This was followed by ‘Boland Bride‘ by Christo Coetzee, one of his last works, which is paired with the KWV The Mentors Viognier. Viewers of the artwork either love or hate it, Elsa said, and the reaction to Viognier is similar, she said. Yet both the artwork and the wine are complex, being layered. The five descriptive words for the wine and the artwork are: bittersweet, complex, floral, masculine, and Miss Havisham ( a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’).
A work which was commissioned by the KWV is by Piet van Heerden and entitled ‘Boland Valley‘, painted from Paarl Mountain, and is an iconic painting of Paarl, and was therefore paired with the iconic KWV Roodeberg. The words used to describe the painting and the wine are the following: legendary, rockface, vista, sunset, Kodak moment!
The pièce de résistance is the massive Irma Stern ‘Harvest’ painting, probably the largest surviving Stern artwork in South Africa, which was paired with KWV Red Muscadel, its colour matching the different shades of red and orange fruits in the painting. The words describing the two masterpieces are the following: joyful, abundant, Garden of Eden, exotic, parable.
Other artists in the KWV Art Collection are JH Pierneef, David Botha, Gregoire Boonzaier, Carl Buchner, Frans Claerhout, Herbert Coetzee, Tinus de Jongh, Llewellyn Davies, Pranas Domsaitis, Elly Holm, Amos Langdown, Francois Krige, Erik Laubscher, Hugo Naudé, Alexander Rose-Innes, Edward Roworth, and Maurice van Essche.
At Laborie, a KWV property a little further down, off Main Road, wine is made, with Harvest Restaurant and guest accommodation too, a collection of works by Cecil Skotnes can be viewed. The KWV commissioned Skotness to produce a number of works, his ‘Epic of Gilgamesh‘ being the best known of these, consisting of 18 hand-carved wood panels in a stinkwood and yellowwood frame, depicting the origin of wine.
The KWV Sensorium is a unique showcase of South African wine history, with old bottles of KWV wines, brandy, and even Eau-de-Cologne it once produced, uniquely paired with works of art by some of South Africa’s finest artists.
KWV Sensorium, 57 Main Street, Paarl. R40 per person. Tel (021) 807-3147 www.kwvsensorium.com Twitter: @KWVSensorium Monday – Friday, 9h00 – 16h30, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I have previously written about the new Babel Tea House and also about Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren. On each of these visits I did not fully comprehend the wealth of work that has gone into planning, developing and maintaining the extensive 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 edible fruit and vegetable varieties.
Wishing to spoil my parents, I invited them for a visit to the wine estate, and we were taken around by head gardener Liesel van der Walt, a charming and passionate ambassador for the garden, providing lots of information, and picking edible flowers (Day lilies) and berries for us to eat, and vegetable flowers (carrot and onion) for us to keep. Liesel was at Kirstenbosch for 20 years, and originally did some contract gardening on the estate before joining Babylonstoren a year ago, managing a team of 15 gardeners. She showed us the Babylonstoren, a hill after which the estate has been named, and laughingly said that soon they too can have the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’! There are three ponds closest to the shop, and we started the garden tour here. A dam each contains waterblommetjies, tilapia fish, and rainbow trout. Continue reading →
Franschhoek’s newest restaurant The Kitchen opens on Wednesday 16 November on Maison wine estate, in an elegantly renovated 1920’s cottage, decorated with Weylandts’ furniture, not surprising given that the farm belongs to Chris Weylandt and his partner Kim Smith. The Tasting Room has been incorporated into the restaurant building, and Maison has become a relaxed home away from home of friendly people, good wines, and good food.
Yesterday I attended the opening of the new The Kitchen (could cause some confusion with the Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz) and The Tasting Room (could cause some confusion with its generic namesake at Le Quartier Français) at Maison, Nina Timm and I being the only bloggers, with magazine food writers. The function also celebrated the launch of the new Maison Chardonnay 2011 (only 2300 bottles produced, 7 months in barrel, and costs R120) and Maison Viognier 2011 (only 1000 bottles, R140). The function also saw the introduction of new Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg and new Manager Julian Smith. The opening is the culmination of an eight year investment, planting Chenin Blanc and Shiraz vines from scratch, with a small amount of Viognier and Chardonnay too, and for the Weylandts to build their dream home opening onto the vineyard. The wine estate was closed for the past few months, while renovations took place.
We were taken through to the spacious Weylandts’ home, and offered a refreshing branded The Kitchen lemonade, in a reusable glass bottle. I chatted to Chris Weylandt about his latest venture, opening a Weylandts’ store in Sydney, there being a different way of doing business in Australia, he said. He would not commit to future expansion plans in Australia, stating that they would like to do Sydney well first before considering Melbourne or other locations. Weylandts’ philosophy is one of Good Living, appreciating the good things of life every day, and living as nature intended, and this he has embodied on his property, having moved to Franschhoek from Camps Bay. The Kitchen restaurant brand was launched at Weylandts in Durbanville in May, and there is one at their Kramerville branch too.
Winemaker (or ‘process facilitator’, as he calls himself) Antwan Bondesio, who studied viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, and who has worked at Spier, Kaapzicht, Uva Mira and at Limerick Lane in California, took us into his 4,6 hectare vineyard. They make wines from their own grapes, and don’t buy any of it in. Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Viognier proved to be the grape varieties suited to the terroir and soil on the farm. Maison has made its first 100% Chardonnay MCC, on the lees for three years already, with another two years to go, Chris said. They have also made their first port, as well as a Straw wine. The total wine production of 30000 bottles will be sold via The Kitchen and The Tasting Room, the Weylandts’ stores, and at La Cotte Inn in Franschhoek. Viognier is a difficult grape variety to grow, and susceptible to downy mildew, Antwan said, especially in this cold and wet summer weather. The 2009 Shiraz has sold out already, and we tasted the young 2010 vintage. The production of the Chardonnay and Viognier is so small that Antwan has personally finger-printed each bottle.
In the Tasting Room the Weylandt’s decor touch is immediately evident, with unusual ‘chandeliers’ made from wine bottles. Outside, the garden space has been reduced, to create organised parking. I chatted to M&C Saatchi Abel’s Weylandts’ account manager and Twitter ‘friend’ Wouter Lombard, and the ad agency’s involvement showed in its professionalism of the function organisation and communication presented. The agency is responsible for the Weylandt’s communication programme too, and I loved its simple logo for The Kitchen. Looking out of the window where we chatted, I noticed herbs being grown, for use in The Kitchen. The Kitchen eating area flows from The Tasting Room, with a wonderful view onto the lawn and vineyards. The restaurant interior can seat 30, and a good 20 more outside.
The menu consists of ‘simplified food’, we were told, with tapas dishes, pizza, steak and more. Only Maison wines will be offered, with Topiary Blanc de Blanc and Morena Rose Brut MCC’s, and Darling beer. We sampled a number of the menu’s four tapas-style dishes and eight starters, some individually served and others shared on bigger wooden platters. Chef Arno studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, and worked at Die Ou Pastorie, Terroir, Ginja, Shoga, and Myoga alongside chefs Mike Basset and Richard Carstens. I shared a table with Eat Out and TASTE editor Abigail Donnelly, You/Huisgenoot food writer Carmen Niehaus, Hannah Lewry from TASTE, and Peta Oshry from Fair Lady, and we teased Abigail about the highly sought-after information she has about the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list. The wooden tables were matched with wooden boxes in which the bread baked by Chef Arno is served. The Wilkinson cutlery was folded into a material serviette, and hessian string tied them together. The attractive white side plate was from a crockery range sold in Weylandts’ stores, and imported from Portugal.
The first tapas dish was pink salt and pepper squid (R35), attractively served with a wooden spoon with the salt on the side. Other tapas options are smoked bone marrow (R35), Huguenot cheese served with grape pickle (R40), and Jamon and roasted olives (R65). This was followed by two salads, the first being a shared cured salmon trout served with asparagus, watercress, lime dressing and plums (R75); and the second a colourful shared kudu bresaola, nectarine, rocket, cucumber, and lemon dressing salad (R75). Lamb rack (R95), prawn tempura (R75), and gnocchi (R65) are some of the other starter options. Prime rib on the bone costs R140.
The wood-fired pizza had a welcome thin base, and was topped with Buffalo mozzarella, artichokes, and wild mushrooms (R85). Working with Chef Arno at the lunch was Charlene Pretorius, who runs The Kitchen at the Durbanville Weylandts, having a most gorgeous smile. The meal was finished off with the highlight for most of us, being a pecan and malt tart, gooseberries, and grape sorbet (R45), its verjuice content giving it a ‘Fanta grape’ taste, according to most palates at our table. Other dessert options are a most interesting sounding tomato sorbet with almonds and basil meringues and goat cheese mousse; vanilla panna cotta with strawberry ice cream; and chocolate torte with fresh berries and berry frozen yoghurt. The staff were professional, their first opportunity to work as a team under the guidance of The Tasting Room Manager Julian, who has worked at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, Grande Provence, Waterkloof, with a short stint at Pierneef à La Motte.
I have found Maison a most welcome and friendly stop in and out of Franschhoek when the tasting room was managed by affable Guy Kedian. With the opening of The Kitchen, and its easy relaxed atmosphere and good food, it will become a stop again on my regular visits to Franschhoek, when it re-opens next week.
Disclosure: We were given a straw basket (a very practical ‘goodie bag’) with a bag of lemons, a mini baguette, and a bottle of Maison Chenin Blanc 2009 on our departure, with a thank you note from Chris Weylandt, writing that his approach is one that ‘values simplicity, authenticity, and provenance’. ‘The good life’ for him is farm breads, fresh vegetables, and great wine.
POSTSCRIPT 4/12: Maison will be open on Tuesdays from 6 December onwards, until mid-January. I had a wonderful squid tapas dish today, and two days ago, at R35. The cappuccino is excellent at Maison too, the coffee coming from the nearby Terbodore Coffee Roasters based on the Goederust farm outside Franschhoek.
POSTSCRIPT 22/1: I tried the kingklip, langoustines (although I would have preferred it with the crayfish tail as advertised the day before) with coconut sorbet as a main course special, a very eventful lunch with blogger Clare ‘Mack’ McLoughlin making a spectacle of herself in harassing this regular patron. Manager Julian did not allow me to pay, because of the disturbance she caused.
POSTSCRIPT 26/1: The prices have increased at The Kitchen, the pink salt and pepper squid by 33% to R45, and the foie gras parfait by 15% to R75.
POSTSCRIPT 5/2: The Kitchen at Maison seems to have become a local Franschhoek meeting place, or so it seemed today, a nicer alternative to meeting in the local Pick ‘n Pay! At a temperature of close to 40°C a vanilla panna cotta and strawberry ice cream was very refreshing.
The Kitchen and The Tasting Room, Maison, Main Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2116. www.maisonestate.co.za Twitter: @MaisonEstate. Wednesday – Sunday 10h00 – 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Earlier this week I attended a winetasting of Sequillo wines, led by well-known and highly respected maverick Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie, at French Toast. It was the most enjoyable wine function I have ever attended, largely due to the refreshing down-to-earth three-hour tasting done by Sadie, and excellent value at R100.
The name of the winemaker leading the tasting was clearly a big drawcard, with 45 winelovers having booked. I was introduced to Eben by Karen Visser, co-owner of French Toast, and Eben struck me as a really nice and friendly person, without any airs and graces, not what I expected at all, for a winemaker who has achieved a number of career highs, including having his winery selected as Winery of the Year, and his Sadie Family Wines Palladius selected as South Africa’s top white wine in the 2010 Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
It took some time for the tasting to get going, due to some late-comers, but we were served a Mystery wine, which we were asked to identify. It was a Riesling, only 60 bottles made (unwooded) by Eben from grapes coming from Elgin, and not one of the attendees could identify it. Throughout the evening, Sadie told us stories, and for him the most important role that his wines play is that they too tell stories. He loves to play with wine, to experiment, and his greatest goal is to get locals to enjoy wine, without any fancy references to the aroma wheel (which should be burnt, he says), as it puts people off wine-tasting. He said ‘my guava is not your guava’, explaining his controversial winetasting views. Eben came across as the most down-to-earth, hands-on winemaker. Awards generally do not mean much to him, and he would not answer my question as to how he views the Platter’s guide. In the introduction, French Toast co-owner John Harrison said that Eben is recognised as a ‘renegade’, who has broken all the rules of conventional winemaking. This ‘enfant terrible’ is South Africa’s first certified celebrity winemaker’, Wikipedia writes about him.
Eben’s big passion is surfing, he studied at Elsenburg, and he started his winemaking career at Romansrivier Winery in Wolseley, moving to Charles Back and making his Spice Route wines for him. Sadie Family Wines is a joint venture between two Sadie brothers Eben and Niko, and their older sister Delana, starting with R9000 in 1999. They grew up on a vegetable and pig farm on the West Coast, and it was grape farming, and winemaking with it, that attracted Eben to this sector of agriculture, telling me that winemaking ‘can carry a century’. They have three wine operations, making Sadie Family Wines (a wine for weekends and special occasions) and Sequillo (a wine for weekday drinking) in the Swartland, and make wine in Priorat in Spain (Terroir Al Limit label) too. Studying winemaking in Germany, Austria, Italy, the USA, and Burgundy, Eben liked the lifestyle of the Spanish the most, choosing this country, but clearly declaring his love for the Cape. Taking a swipe at ‘molecular gastronomy’, Eben said he believes that winemaking has been ‘intellectualised’, in that wine drinkers are encouraged to sniff and spit the wine. He said one should not bother with drinking one glass of wine only, as it was as good as drinking a glass of water! Wine drinking must be done in volume, so that one can enjoy it, he said.
All the Sadie wines are blends, and they do not make any single varietal wines to sell. Eben said that winemakers could make wines to the ‘100 point formula’, to tick all the judges’ boxes, but this would be an ‘intellectual wine’, made without regard for soil and climate. It would have ‘blueberries, cigarbox, cream, and fennel on the nose, would be opaque, and have tannin’. He mentioned this dig at the ‘aroma wheel’ a number of times during the evening. Rather, wines should be an ‘ambassador’ of the place and the climate, and that is why Eben does not irrigate his grapes anymore, to be a true representation of the climate of that vintage. To counter climate, Eben will reduce his crop by half, depending on whether there is late rain or not. His wines have no added yeast, and only about a third of the allowed quantity of sulphur is added two days before bottling. Very old barrels are used, adding little or no wood to the taste. Eben said it was hard to move from conventional farming to ‘natural farming’. He told us how they have built up the resistance of their grapes in Spain, and plough with mules there. Mules were not suitable for the Swartland, he found, so they use horses. We laughed when Eben said that one can read how to get onto the moon, but the internet does not guide him as to how to use horses to plough his land!
Eben became very fiery about Law 70 of 1970, which does not allow the sub-division of agricultural land. This means that Eben leases 53 blocks of land in different areas, which he tends to with his staff, driving from one piece of land to another.
Sequillo is a second label, and the name comes from the Latin, meaning ‘dry arid place of great purity’. To introduce the Sequillo Red and White blends to us, Eben ‘deconstructed’ the wines for us, and we drank most of the individual varietals that made up each of these two blends. The Sequillo White blend 2010 consisted of:
* Grenache Blanc: Eben said this wine is like someone you know who is in jail, being someone you love but you cannot mention it. This variety came from the south of France. It is used in the blend to ‘build volume of wine’.
* Palomino: the origin of this grape is Jerez, from which sherry is made in Spain. It has acidity, firmness, coming from a 65 year old block in Piketberg. It has minerality, and white peach and other stone fruit, with a lingering after-taste. There is some saltiness.
* Verdelho: This wine is made from grapes originating from Portugal, planted in its northern areas. Eben said that his wine comes from 8 year old vines, the youngest vines he has. He tested this variety’s suitability in different soil types, and it does well across a variety of these. It does not have the prettiest bunch nor leaf, not having been to ‘finishing school’, he says in Sadie-speak, but is a great grape that is conducive to good natural farming. Their grapes are planted in Wellington, Perdeberg, and Stellenbosch. It has spiciness, potpourri, great nose and taste, easy to grow but hard to make in the cellar. Presenting it to Portuguese winemakers, they were very complimentary about his wine, Eben said.
* Viognier: This variety comes from Croatia originally. Eben said that it was grown too ripe originally in South Africa, giving too much alcohol.
* Grenache Noir: This is the most planted grape in the world, about tenfold of the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a Mediterranean grape, which can go to 17% alcohol, but Eben keeps his at 13.5 % by picking the grapes earlier.
* Semillon and Roussanne are also part of this blend, but we did not taste them.
The Sequillo label design is done in-house, and is refreshingly different, changing every year. The ‘Dorper skaap’ on the Sequillo White symbolises the hardiness of this sheep variety, like his wine, and is politically correct in being white and black, he laughed! The Sequillo Red has a locust on it. The Sadie wines are sold in 35 countries. When asked how they market internationally, Eben said that he answers his e-mails! They do not have a website for the Sadie Family Wines, and have only just created a website for Sequillo. They will never get into Social Media, Eben said, and he probably will throw away his cellphone when the contract expires, he said. He has no TV nor radio, and does not follow rugby. He makes all his own wine, and does not buy any of it in. While Eben had to keep reminding himself to ‘focus’ on the tasting, to great laughter, he explained that he is ‘semi-German’, and has ‘structure and order’, answers his e-mails, and is organised about his wine-making.
Asked which wine estates and their winemakers he admires, Eben mentioned Mullineux, Hamilton Russell, Newton Johnson, Adi Badenhorst, Neil Ellis, Boekenhoutskloof, Paul Benade, and Chamonix, and described them as mavericks too. He told us that he used to make full-bodied heavy wines, but now he makes lighter ‘roadblock’ wines, that will get one through a traffic control! He said that the wine industry has come a long way, and that the country’s political transformation in 1994 caught the industry by surprise, not being ready to compete on an international platform initially. Eben deplored that rarer and interesting wine varieties do not sell locally. He is focused purely on making wine, and is not there to set up pretty gardens with fountains on his wine estate!
The Sequillo Red blend 2009 is made from the following varietals:
* Syrah is Eben’s favourite varietal, and he told us that its origin is said to be Persia or Greece. The Australians could not pronounce its Old World ‘Syrah’ name, and called it ‘Shiraz‘. While other winemakers pick their Syrah grapes in March, Eben picks his in January, to prevent it being ‘jammy’, sweet and pruny, because of its thin skin, and the intensity of our sun, giving him 13,8% alcohol compared to 16 % for others picked later. He says it is a lunchtime wine, is well suited to the Cape, although it may be too hot, needing altitude to do well. He would not reveal where the special Syrah is grown, but hinted that the block is 60 km from the city, just above that of a very well-known wine brand. Platter’s Guide says 65% of the blend is Shiraz.
* Mouvèdre is the most difficult wine to make, Eben said. It is great to farm, a beautiful grape and a vertical grower, but difficult to make in the cellar. It has ‘nervous aromas’, ‘energy and electricity’, ‘is alive’ and great to use in blends, as it raises the fruit in these. This grape variety makes the world’s greatest Rosé in Bandol in France, Eben said. He added that Rosés are cool wines now, not a ‘chick wine’ any more!
* Cinsault is like one’s brother that is in jail and about whom cannot talk (Eben likes to use the analogy of wines and jailbirds!), being one of the greatest varietals but that has ‘suffered from human ambition’, he said, extending the analogy to say that it has been ‘framed for a murder he did not commit’, referring to its poor appeal as a variety. He says it is one of the most drinkable red wines in the world, it is seductive, and a wine he thinks about every day.
* Grenache and Carignan are two further varietals used, but not offered for the tasting.
As if we had not had enough to taste, Eben opened a 5 litre bottle of his newly 5-star rated 2012 Platter’s (for its 2009 vintage) Columella 2007, a Rhone blend of 80 % Shiraz and 20% Mouvèdre, according to Platter’s.
Eben Sadie and his wine brands will continue to make waves, given his passion and charisma, his dedicated focus on what he loves doing best, in making wines, and his fresh anti-bureaucracy and anti-convention views. Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof said of Sadie that he makes wines as an ‘artisan’, and not as a chemist or a technician!
Sequillo Cellars, Malmesbury. Tel (022) 482-3138. www.sequillo.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com, Twitter: @WhaleCottage
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 â€“ 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 ‘crÃªpe’, even though it is one of the items on the menu â€“ 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 crÃªpe. They were so disappointing compared to the crÃªpes 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 18 C being ideal for reds; chocolate is a good way to clear the palate; â€˜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 â€“ even the jazz band had taken some time off. There were two food choices â€“ 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 â€˜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 â€“ 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 â€˜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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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