Tag Archives: Winemaker’s Selection

Balance wines are ‘hip, hop, and happening’!

Balance Banner Whale Cottage PortfolioThe Bay Hotel in Camps Bay was a perfect venue for the tasting of the newest Overhex Wines International’s Balance wines on Tuesday, the venue being as light and crisp as the Balance wines.

The function moved to different venues inside the hotel, a welcome glass of Balance Boldly Brut being served with a canapé of samoosa filled with crocodile (luckily we were not told what was inside when it was served!), bacon, and green apple on an Asian spoon,Balance Canapes Whale Cottage Portfolio in Sandy B, the downstairs bar.

The tasting was held in the downstairs Bistro, with an introduction of Overhex Wines International by co-owner and MD Gerhard van der Wath.  The company was established seven years ago, and he got Swiss winemaker JC Martin, co-owner of Creation and son-in-law of highly respected winemaker Walter Finlayson, on board as winemaker.  JC and Gerhard recently bought out the other partners, and JC makes his own Creation wines as well as blending the Balance wines.  The company is one of the top 20 exporters of South African wines.  Their strategy is to be different, Gerhard said, which shows in their fun label of an elephant balancing on the letter ‘l’!   They develop different styles of wines for different markets.   All the grapes are bought in for their wine production, a total of 10000 tons.  He shared that they have won the largest number of wine tenders in Finland in the past Continue reading →

Nothing run of the mill at Lourensford’s The Millhouse Kitchen!

We had been eagerly awaiting the opening of The Millhouse Kitchen by Chef Bjorn Dingemans at Lourensford Estate, having been impressed with his country fresh cuisine at The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz. The menu has some old-time favourites, the portions are huge, and the prices are very reasonable, making it excellent value for money.

As my parents live in Somerset West, it was a good opportunity to pay them a visit and invite them to eat at The Millhouse Kitchen, as we had not been to Lourensford in years.   Signage on the estate to the restaurant is not good, so one should follow that to the tasting centre, as it is located close to the restaurant. The restaurant was previously The River Garden, and prior to that the home of the mill master, the estate having had a flour and a saw mill.  Walking from the parking to the restaurant, the neat landscaped garden and water feature, with garden sculptures as is so popular, was evident.  The restaurant building has been cleverly divided into sections, with an outside front deck, two inside separated sections, and an outside back deck, each section with different tables and chairs, and difference in style, Chef Bjorn explained.  The front wooden deck has smart white tables and white moulded chairs, branded umbrellas, is surrounded by old oak trees, the beautiful garden, and some peacocks wandering by.  Inside the two sections have wood top tables and silver Bistro chairs, with glass windows to show off the garden, and sporting lots of wood, all support beams clad with wood from branded Lourensford and Lanzerac fruit crates (Lanzerac is a previous sister property, having belonged to Christo Wiese too until earlier this year), a design theme carried through to the kitchen counter too.  The back outside terrace opens onto another garden, with play equipment for the children, a perfect and safe family section, where guests mainly order the pizzas prepared in Chef Bjorn’s new wood-fired oven, in which he is also preparing many of his meat dishes. In total about 120 guests can be accommodated, and we were surprised (and impressed) to see a Fully Booked sign as we entered, beautifully styled with vegetables, even though many tables inside were still available. Our charming waitress Gercia said that Chef Bjorn controls the number of guests he allows, relative to the pressure on his kitchen, so that service is not compromised, a commendable policy one would welcome at other restaurants too. The variable weather is another factor, so that all outside guests could move inside, if required.

Chef Bjorn is not only the chef but also operates the restaurant, with the assistance of his partner Rachel Davis.  Chef Bjorn was unable to leave his station, cooking in his open plan kitchen for a busy restaurant, and we missed him coming to chat at the table, as he did at the previous restaurant.  The staff wear white shirts and black pants, with black aprons, and the black tie makes the uniform look smart and professional.

There are no tablecloths for lunch, but they are used for dinner.  Material serviettes, still-shiny Wilkinson cutlery, and already-ground pink salt and black pepper are on the table.  The ciabatta is brought to the table on a branded wooden board, the butter being served in an espresso cup, but Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table too.  The water with slices of strawberry and mint leaves was an unusual mix, and very refreshing.  The menu is a double-sided laminated A4 sheet, with twelve starters, eight main courses, and five desserts. Each item on the menu has a suggestion for a Lourensford wine with tasting notes, all served by the glass and all reasonably priced.  Chef Bjorn is very focused on reducing the carbon footprint, and almost all produce is sourced less than 50 km from Lourensford.  Chef Bjorn is blessed to have a bountiful supply of plums, peaches, trout, honey, chickens, eggs, pears, grapes, and more on the estate. Urban farmer Matt Allison is consulting to the restaurant, to build a vegetable and herb garden.

The Chicken Liver Parfait starter was topped with rock salt and is served with pear chutney (R52), Chef Bjorn’s parfait has a new sophistication, served with Melba Toast.  The pairing suggestion is Winemakers Selection Viognier 2010 (R40/R120). My father loves calf’s liver, so had his ‘fix’ as a starter, topped with a strawberry salsa and drizzled with aged balsamic (R52), paired with Lourensford Selection Merlot 2010 (R47/R140).  My mother enjoyed three oysters (R60), the recommended pairing being the Lourensford Cap Classique 2008 (R44/R225).  Other starters are grilled squid; mussels served with cider and cream; a Caprese salad;  sardines served with an unusual combination of breadcrumbs, pinenuts, raisins, chilli and lemon; a delicious sounding mushroom risotto with black truffle, slow roasted tomatoes, and rocket; and grilled green asparagus.  None of the starters cost more than R60.

Three salads are available, a chicken, beetroot and goats’ cheese, and a Lourensford trout salad, costing between R60 – R68.  Pizzas are available with a wheat and gluten free base, at an additional R12.  Prices start at R55 for a Mozzarella, basil and tomato pizza; with wild mushroom, proscuitto, and salami, avocado, and chilli all costing R75.  Even though the main course portions are huge, one can order additional sides of Bearnaise or pepper sauce, vegetables, Parmesan sweet potato chips, a salad, or plain chips.  My dad loves duck, so he ordered the seared duck breast, potato rosti, grapefruit, blueberries, and sweet potato ribbons (R120), for which no wine pairing was suggested. My mother and I both had the pork belly, a huge delicious portion served with buttered mash, braised red cabbage, and an unusual apple and bacon sauce (R90), the pairing suggestion being Lourensford Estate Shiraz 2010 (R47/R140).  Other main courses include a Seafood platter at R360, which includes grilled prawns, crayfish, squid, mussels, fish, lemon butter, and aioli; lamb burger; rolled lamb shoulder; the Millhouse prawn risotto; and fillet and sirloin steak.

Chef Bjorn is a mean cheesecake maker, and his vanilla cheesecake with a kumquat preserve topping was no exception (R45), the pairing suggestion being Lourensford Noble Late Harvest 2009 (R27/R188).  I enjoyed the superb Summer berry stack, which was layers of crispy biscuit, vanilla mascarpone, and berry mousse (R42), the pairing suggestion being the Lourensford MCC 2008 (R44/R225). Other desserts are Crème Brulee, and Naked Chocolate Torte. The Millhouse Kitchen has just switched to Terbodore Coffee, and Chef Bjorn has created his own blend.

Breakfast is served from 8h30 – 11h00, the Full House of eggs, bacon, pork sausage, grilled field mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and toast costing R55, and a more simple Mini House costing R35. One can also order Omelettes, French Toast, Muesli, filled croissants, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Eggs Royale, and muffins and scones.

Corkage is charged at R35 for wines, and at R50 for MCC and sparkling wines.  The winelist is an A4 page, unlaminated, providing a short description of the 312 year old wine estate.  Its MCC costs R44/R225, and the three wine brands of the estate The River Garden, The Lourensford Estate Selection, and The Winemakers Selection range from R20 – R40 for Sauvignon Blanc, for example.

Chef Bjorn is onto a very good thing at The Millhouse Kitchen, and he proudly shared that he has already cooked for 21000 visitors since opening two months ago.  He has the right mix of decor, service, menu, Lourensford wines, and excellent fresh and locally sourced foods to make it one of the best in Somerset West, a town which has a shortage of good restaurants. He explained that the restaurant is a juxtaposition, a unique mix of rustic and fine dining.  When asking our waitress for the bill, she said that Chef Bjorn did not want me to pay, a most generous gesture.

The Millhouse Kitchen, Lourensford Estate, Somerset West. Tel (021)   www.lourensford.co.za Twitter:@TheMillhouseSA Tuesday – Saturday 8h30 – late, Sunday 8h30 – afternoon.

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

Overhex Balance wines are good balance between quality and price!

On Friday I was fortunate to experience a tasting of some of the wines in the Overhex Wines International range, and specifically their new additions to the two year old Balance range, which was held at one of the most popular restaurants in Cape Town, namely Luke Dale-Roberts’  The Test Kitchen.

The Test Kitchen in the Old Biscuit Mill premises in Woodstock is a small space, and we must have been about thirty journalists and bloggers who were lucky enough to be invited by charming PR consultant Nicolette Waterford.  The stature of the event was reflected by the attendance of Sunday Times wine writer Neil Pendock, Cape Wine Master Christine Rudman, Cape Times wine writer Cathy Marston, Christian Eedes, Wade Bales, Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler, Joanne Gibson, Greg Landman, and more, and the restaurant venue must have been an important attendance drawcard.   Spread over the two tables were staff of Overhex, including the co-owner Gerhard van der Wath, who manages the company, in close co-operation with JC (for Jean Claude) Martin, who is the Production Director, and is responsible for the wine styles and blends, assisted by Jandre Human, the cellar master.  Being private-owned means that Gerhard and JC can make quick decisions.   They are not restricted to only the grapes of their region, but can buy in the best grapes to suit their requirements, including from the Swartland, West Coast, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch, allowing them to make wines at different price points.  The Overhex farm in the Breede River Valley outside Worcester produces about 10 000 tons of grapes, and about 5 million litres are bought in, JC told us.

JC (on the right, chatting to Greg Landman) has a Swiss German lilt when he speaks, and arrived in South Africa six years ago, having met his wife Carolyn (daughter of Walter Finlayson) on the wine estate in Switzerland on which he worked at the time, where she came to present label designs on behalf of the London design agency she worked for.  His association with Overhex started in 2005.  Alongside the Overhex wine involvement, JC makes his own Creation wines in the Hemel en Aarde valley outside Hermanus.   While this was not a Creation function at all, we did discuss the wines and the marketing of them, which JC does on the side when he represents Overhex wines overseas.  His wife does the marketing of Creation wines locally, and they had an average of 300 visitors per day in their tasting room over the festive season, he said.  They are very excited about the fact that the Western Cape province has placed the Caledon – Hermanus gravel road going through their valley as number one priority on the list of roads to be tarred in the province, and they see this as being of huge future benefit to themselves and their colleagues on the recently created Hemel en Aarde Valley wine route.   I sat opposite JC, and asked him questions abouit Creation – he did not talk about Creation when he addressed the guests.  JC told me he studied winemaking in the French part of Switzerland. Switzerland is not generally known as a wine producer, but JC told me that the Swiss drink all the wine produced in the total area of 25000 ha, and therefore it is not exported.  Whalepod is a new Creation brand, and we have started stocking it in our Whale Cottages.  JC told me that they are launching a new Syrah/Malbec Whalepod blend. Tasting rooms on wine farms are unique to South Africa, in that one can visit most wine farms without making an appointment, making this wine tourism valuable to wine farms selling their wines from the cellar door – for Creation it represents 30 % of their sales. 

In 2003 Overhex was started as a co-operative, and was bought by Gerhard and a partner in 2005.  Initially their focus was on the international market, and they now export to 25 countries.  JC told us that they export to supermarket and liquor groups such as Marks & Spencer, CO-OP UK, and Fosters, making own label wines for them.   Most of the wine is made to the specific requirements of each of these chains, and exported in bulk, and bottled in the UK and in Germany.     Ten Overhex brands are exported, being 3,5 million bottles in total. 

The reason for the launch function was to introduce the new additions to the Balance range, being the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz 2010 and Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2010.  They complement the existing Balance range of Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (won a gold medal at Michelangelo 2010),  Shiraz Merlot 2010, Pinotage Shiraz 2009, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010, Chenin Blanc Colombar, Reserve Unwooded Chardonnay, Sparkling Vin Sec, Sparkling Vin Doux, Shiraz Rosé and a sweet Rosé, aiming them at the domestic market for the first time.  Balance has been shaped for local wine drinkers, and the range is designed to be easy drinking wines with a shorter life span.   We were asked to evaluate the wines relative to their price point, the Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc costing R40 and the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz costing R45, representing incredible value, as none of the white and red Balance wines are more expensive than these two prices.  JC said that the Balance wines should not be judged on price alone, in that a cheaper wine does not mean that it is a bad wine.   Overhex operates ethically and cares about its supplier farmers, in that they offer them a price for their grapes that allows the farmers to survive.  The Balance wines are available at ULTRA intitally, and they are working on expanding the distribution at local outlets.   I asked about the elephant on the label, and the designer was at the function, but she could not explain it, other than that it was on the first Balance labels.  The Balance pay-off line is “for life’s lighter moments”.  The Overhex cellar now has a tasting room and Bistro, and locals are invited to visit the wine estate.  “Our goal with Balance is to get the wine lover to celebrate everyday wine culture, making it easy to enjoy delicious wines from a varied range at an affordable price point”, said Gerhard.

The Test Kitchen food was outstanding, and deep fried sushi was served before we started.  I chose a Trout tartar starter, which was light and perfect for the hot summer’s day.  As I had the kingklip when I had dinner at the restaurant in December, I ordered the beef fillet, and it is the softest I remember ever having, simply presented with green beans.   For dessert the choice was a cheese platter and lemon tart. 

The launch and tasting of the Overhex Wines International Balance range of wines, ‘paired’ with the wonderful food by Chef Luke-Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, and the gift pack of Balance wines, was the start to an exceptional day, which ended with the attendance at the U2 360° concert at the Cape Town Stadium for many attending the function.

Overhex Wines International, 71 Stockenström Street, Worcester. Tel (023) 347-6838.  www.overhex.com  Tuesday – Thursday 10h00 – 17h00, Friday and Saturday 10h00 – 16h00.

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