Tag Archives: winetasting

Hop on Hop off Franschhoek Wine Tram will get tourism on a roll, to become Winelands icon!

The Franschhoek Wine Tram has been built and is in Franschhoek, ready to roll in October, being the first Hop on Hop off winetasting tram service in the Winelands.  It will be a valuable tourism boost to a village that has been badly affected by the recession.

This is the second attempt at establishing this service.  Two years ago already it was announced that a steam train would be running on the existing but now unused railway line through the Franschhoek wine estates.  The steam train proved to be environmentally unfriendly, while an imported train from Australia proved to be too expensive.  The owners, father and son team David and Sean Blyth, the financiers and train and tram fanatics, were fortunate to find a local company to build a tram transporting 33 persons.

The ticket office will be at the first stop, behind the Station Pub, once the railway station building in Franschhoek.  Stops along the way are the Franschhoek Cellar, Grande Provence, and Rickety Bridge. Tickets will cost R98, for an Hop on Hop off service, but exclude the tasting fees.  Currently crossing three roads, each crossing will be manned with uniformed staff to warn drivers of the oncoming tram, safety being of utmost concern.  The tram service will be expanded to cross the R45, their biggest challenge in terms of road safety, and warning lights and a bell will warm drivers of the tram crossing.

Wine estates that have expressed interest for the extension of the tram service are Allée Bleue, Gooding Grove, and Solms Delta, and ultimately it is planned to extend the service all the way to Paarl. Exciting too for the restaurants on the tram line is that the chefs of restaurants on the participating wine estates will offer Gourmet Tours on the tram, it running in the evenings as well.  Each wine estate is planning its own special events for the tram visitors, and each will have a platform at the tram line, offering winetastings.  The trip would take about an hour if one does not get out at the wine estates at which the tram stops.

One must salute the Blyths for investing in an innovative wine tourism service, which will be of benefit to all tourism players in Franschhoek, not just the wine estates through which the tram will roll.  It will also position Franschhoek as an innovative and exciting wine destination.

POSTSCRIPT 17/11: The Franschhoek Wine Tram starts rolling today, with only two initial stops, at Grande Provence, and at Rickety Bridge, at the introductory price of R60.

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

Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant breath of fresh air, exciting new chef

The Haute Cabrière wine cellar and restaurant are an institution in Franschhoek, having opened sixteen years ago, with a location on the slopes of the Franschhoek Pass that has one of the best views of the village.  Chef Matthew Gordon’s departure earlier this year allowed the Von Arnim family to take over the management of the restaurant, creating an opportunity for the restaurant interior to be redone, and for new chef Ryan Shell to be appointed, re-opening on 1 September.

The best part of the refurbishment is that the restaurant has received permission from the powers-that-be to serve guests outside, to capitalise on the beautiful view over the Franschhoek valley, which one does not see much of when sitting inside.  Winetasting too can now be done outside at special tables and chairs, outside the next-door cellar, home to the Saturday morning 11h00 cellar tour which ends with the Sabrage highlight.  Christiane von Armin, daughter-in-law of flamboyant legend owner Achim von Arnim, took on the restaurant project, and her first step was the furnishing.  She has added the most comfortable white leather chairs, and two white couches with a coffee table with a vase of deep red roses are a friendly homely welcome as one enters through the massive glass doors.  Achim is a painter too, and his works are hung in the restaurant and the wine cellar.  New chandeliers have been added, the glass crystals having an almost identical shape to the chair backs.  The winetasting room and restaurant are now visibly connected, in that a new window allows each side to see the other, and creates a display space for all the Haute Cabrière wines, best known for the Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines. Tables have white table cloths, and the abundance of white in the restaurant makes it look fresh.  French-style café music plays in the background.

Having tried to eat at the restaurant on Thursday evening (they only open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday in September), I returned yesterday for lunch and arrived just as Achim’s wife Hildegard, son Tamo, Christiane,  Jos Baker, and Ian and Lise Manley arrived, and I was privileged to be spontaneously invited by Christiane to join their table.   The Manleys have been appointed to handle the publicity for Haute Cabrière. Jos Baker was the first shareholder of the wine estate, and was a good friend of ‘Omi’ Theodora von Arnim, Achim’s mother, and Tamo regaled us with stories about what sounded like a wonderful colourful character. Jos still judges the San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants, and is off to Europe shortly to do her judging. I got to know Jos as a member of Cape Town Slow Food, and she was the most creative planner of exciting events for the club.  Sadly she is no longer involved.

Exciting is the young chef Ryan Shell, who will position the Haute Cabrière restaurant as one of Franschhoek’s best again. Chef Ryan left the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy as a lecturer, and has worked in Franschhoek before, with Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français, with Chef Chris Erasmus (now at Pierneef à La Motte) when at Ginja, and with Mike Bassett at Myoga. He has also worked at the Michelin-starred Longueville Manor on the Isle of Jersey.   His inspiration to cook came for his aunt, who encouraged him to go to chef’s school. Ryan says he is part of a team of eight making the cuisine magic happen, and that it is easy to do so in the beautiful cave-design building, to which guests come because they want to be there, making them easy to please.  His menu will evolve, much like the wines in the cellar next door, he says, and he has made three changes to the menu in the past ten days already, ensuring that it remains fresh.  Zelda Oelofse-Cornthwaite is the manager, and she has retained most of the previous Haute Cabriére restaurant staff, and has added Desiree, the previous manager of Bouillabaisse.  Staff wear white shirts and black pants, with a strongly branded red Haute Cabriére apron.  Their service is friendly and efficient.

The menu and wine list are presented in a black leather holder.  The menu introduction refers to the changes that have taken place in the restaurant, but that it is still committed to established traditions and the ‘true marriage between food and wine, setting the scene for our food to dance with our wines for your enjoyment’. What was started by Chef Matthew Gordon has been carried on by Chef Ryan, in that almost all dishes, even the desserts, are available in full and half portions, allowing one to taste a larger number of dishes, and making eating at the restaurant cost-effective.  Most of the Haute Cabrière wines are available by the glass too.  The table setting has a glass of sparkling wine on each table, and probably would make one order a glass of bubbly as a start.  We were offered a glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose.  The menu has a wine pairing recommendation for each dish, and dishes containing nuts are marked.

Chef Ryan impressed by coming to the table, to introduce his amuse bouche of a trio of roast tomato soup, prawn beignet, and buffalo mozzarella, tomato and onion salad.  His lovely freshly-baked bread was quickly finished.  The starter choices are Malay curried butternut soup with a lime prawn mousse and coconut (R30/60), very yummy duck liver parfait (left) served on blueberry toast, and a celery and orange salad (R45/65), confit lamb terrine filled with apricot (R40/60), and pickled beetroot salad (R35/55).   The six main courses offer a variety of choices, including meat, fish and vegetarian: braised pork belly is served with peach pommes puree, roasted porcini and a peanut froth (R60/R100), Beef Wellington (R76/R125), a beautiful light and healthy lasagna of Franschhoek salmon trout (right) with orange-buttered baby vegetables (R65/110), tomato and buffalo mozzarella tart (R50/90), crown roasted chicken breast with sweet corn couscous (R65/110), and porcini-crusted wildebeest loin served with a bitter chocolate jus (R75/145).

It is on the dessert side that Chef Ryan’s creativity really comes to the fore, in the elements the desserts are composed of.  I chose lemon thyme panna cotta, for its unusual addition of butternut anglaise, and was served with a blueberry tuille and grilled vanilla chiffon (R40/55).  Other options are bitter chocolate crème brûlee served with banana and rosemary beignets, mint syrup and sour cherry sorbet (R40/60); Pierre Jourdan poached pears served with molasses pudding and vanilla and rooibos ice cream (R30/55); and strawberry and champagne jelly served with spicy walnut ice cream (R40/60).  Coffee is by LavAzza.

The Pierre Jourdan Cap Classiques Brut, Cuvée Belle Rose, Brut Savage, and Blanc de Blanc range in price from R32/R129 to R42/R169.  The Cuvée Reserve is only available by the bottle, at R264.  Pierre Jourdan is honoured in the brand name, having been the first owner of the Cabriére wine estate.  Haute Cabriére Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2010 (R27/109), Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 (R30/119), Pinot Noir 2011 (R47/189); Pierre Jourdan Tranquille lower alcohol wine (R21/82); Pierre Jourdan Ratafia (R16/129) and Fine de Jourdan potstill brandy (R27/R219) are also offered, all at very reasonable prices.

Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant is an exciting reinvented rediscovery, and Chef Ryan is a breath of fresh air in this well-established restaurant.  It offers a good variety of creatively prepared dishes as well as wines at affordable prices.

POSTSCRIPT 30/10: Lovely lunch at Haute Cabriere today, and well looked after by Desiree and her staff. Spoilt with glass of Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rose.  Excellent tender fillet in Beef Wellington (starter portion), and interesting sour cherry sorbet, with cherry and cinnamon soup for dessert.

Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, Franschhoek Pass, Monday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner (in September, from October lunch and dinners daily).  Tel (021) 876-3688. www.cabriere.co.za

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

Restaurant Review: Johan’s at Longridge blends vines and vegetables!

What a refreshing surprise it was to have lunch at Johan’s at Longridge last week, which opened six months ago on the Longridge wine estate owned by Aldo van der Laan, and located off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West.  While there is no Johan at Johan’s, Restaurant Manager Chris Olivier is a passionate champion for the restaurant and its vegetable garden, sharing his love for his plants as one arrives and walks through the vegetable garden to get to the front door.  One cannot miss that one is on a  wine estate, with the clever decor touches of restaurant co-owner Johan’s daughter Maryke.

We arrived, with Chris standing in the parking area, waiting for us.  He is a bubbling mine of information, and impressed with how knowledgeable he is about vegetable gardening, and it appears that he is driving the gardening.  I liked how the restaurant’s policy of using the freshest produce is visible, as there are no other plants to be seen, and the flowers used to decorate the food come from the vegetable garden as well, e.g. beautiful blue borage and minute yellow rocket flowers.  In the entrance hall is a framed ceramic collection of hearts made by Michelle of Love and Lace, and she has made the restaurant’s ceramic olive oil holders, vases, side plates and small serving bowls, all sporting heart and lace effects.   The dining room is open-plan to the kitchen, and Chef Marissa and her team were waiting to get cooking.   The room is large, but cleverly divided into sections, with a fireplace in a lounge section near the entrance, a bar counter in the middle, a seating section containing ‘love chairs’, being two tub chairs that are connected but facing opposite directions.   Closest to the windows with a beautiful view over the Stellenbosch countryside and even onto Table Mountain on a clear day, is the most amazing 20-seater yellowood top table, at a fireplace too.  The red brocade-covered chairs create splashes of colour, with the white-tableclothed tables.  However, what makes the interior so special is the creativity of bringing the vineyard (which one does not see at all from the restaurant) into the restaurant, Maryke having found inspiration in ‘wingerdstok’ to hang on the wall, and also making designs from the little curly ‘tentacles’ from a vine, which led to their logo, created to look like the silhouette of a figure.  The restaurant has a homely feel, and one cupboard had a collection of historic stone implements found on the farm, a vase of flowers, and candied kumquats, Chris calling it the ‘altar’, which reminded me of Neil Stemmet’s approach to restaurant curation and food sharing.  The tablecloths are excellent quality, and were imported from Belgium.  It was a beautiful winter’s day, so we sat outside, alongside the far larger vegetable garden on the other side of the restaurant.   The restaurant serves as the winetasting area too, clever in blending the two arms of the business.  We sat next to a very boisterous group of American wine tasters, and were happy when they left. 

Longridge was bought from Winecorp by Mr van der Laan about five years ago  He is a Dutch butchery company owner, importing meat to Holland from New Zealand, Australia and the USA.  He met Johan Neppelenbroek in Holland, and told him about his new Stellenbosch farm, and invited the two-star Michelin De Hoefslag restaurant chef to become a partner in the restaurant.  The rest is history, and the restaurant has been named after him.  However, Johan is back in Holland, and the chef is Marissa Chandansing, who is also from Holland, and worked at De Kas and the Amstel Hotel.  Chris worked at Au Jardin at the Vineyard Hotel, Paul Cluver, and it was while he was working at Delaire Graff that he met Mr van der Laan.  He shared a philosophy of staff upliftment, and the use of fresh and natural vegetables with his guest, and this led him to leave his job and help to open Johan’s, and setting up the extensive vegetable garden and sourcing unusual vegetables, and varieties. Some of the vegetables planted include beetroot (red, Chioggia and golden), nine types of beans (including Bizana, edemame, black beans, adzuki beans, purple beans), broad beans, carrots (purple dragon and orange), three types of onions, Turkish winter wheat, flax, three types of peas, three types of chillies, white currant, five types of brassicas, and four types of lettuce.   It is clearly his pride and joy, and it was sweet to see him go the garden to bring the kitchen something they needed.  

Chris said they are not chasing Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant, or World 50 Best Restaurant awards, but want to operate the restaurant in a sustainable and responsible manner.   The restaurant is supporting the Medical Knowledge Institute’s work in the townships, a charity that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is also involved in, and they want to start a ‘Streetsmart’-type donation request from their diners for that charity.  On the Winelist Chef Johan has written his philosophy and a welcome to the guests: “A kitchen surrounded by fertile soil where vegetables, vines, fruits and herbs thrive.  Where daylight shines in from all sides and where the chefs are free to express their creativity daily using the best the season has to offer.  It seems an obvious concept, but I spent thirty years in the hospitality industry and travelled ten thousand kilometers to find a place like this“, he writes.

The menu was printed on good yellow paper, and contains four starter, five main courses and four dessert options.  Two courses cost R195 and 3 courses R 240, served with a glass of wine.  The Tasting Menu of six smaller portions costs R400, paired with a glass of Longridge wine for each course, and is included in the price.  Home-baked bread was brought to the table with aubergine puree, while we decided what to order.   Chris emphasised their flexibility, and one can even order one course only, or request special vegetables from the garden.  A special 2-course winter tasting lunch, with a glass of wine, costs R150.  An amuse bouche of Butternut Bitterballen served on a red pepper coulis was beautifully presented, using fine blue borage flowers. 

The Longridge HPG (handpicked grapes) wines made by winemaker Clinton Le Sueur are extremely well priced at R17/R63 for the White, Red and Rosé.  The MCC cost R29/R145; Chenin Blanc R29/R118; Sauvignon Blanc R25/R112; Chardonnay R33/R135; Cabernet Sauvignon R38/R150; the most wonderful smoky Cabernet Franc that I fell in love with and bought three bottles of R42/R177; Shiraz R45/R181; Merlot R36/R145; and Pinotage R37/R155.  Most red wines on the winelist were 2007 vintages.  The tap water was served with a dash of lime, which spoilt the taste of the fresh farm water for me.  

I chose the two course menu and my son the Tasting Menu, so that I could get a taste of his dishes too.  His Tasting Menu started with a garden salad, served with tiger prawns and tarragon sabayon. This was paired with the Longridge White blend.  It is the best garden salad I have seen, carefully made from the gems from the garden, and to which had been added finely chopped olives, celery, croutons, red pepper and pickled onions.  The Celeriac and apple soup was a novel combination, and was sprinkled with chorizo, absolutely delicious.  It was paired with the Longridge Sauvignon Blanc.  My first course, and the third course on the Tasting menu, was Pork Belly, served with a salad of black beans prepared Asian style, which was paired with Longridge Chardonnay. The Pork belly had wonderful crispy crackling.  My son’s Ravioli contained aubergine and a pinenut filling, and was served with a most beautiful beetroot crisp, adding strong colour to his dish, and to this was paired the Longridge Pinotage.  Both of us had a perfectly prepared medium rare Kudu, served with sauteed mushrooms and Chinese cabbage, to which Chef Marissa had added her special gingerbread sauce (called ‘ontbytkoek’ in Holland).  This course was paired with the Longridge Cabernet Franc. 

With the dessert a 2008 Radford Dale dessert wine was served from a most beautiful and elegantly designed bottle, Johan’s at Longridge being the only restaurant to serve it.  We chose the Chocolate Fondant with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb compote, the fondant opening to thick chocolate inside.   The cappuccino was served with a meringue on the side.

I was the guest of my son for the lunch, and only heard from him in the car that Chris had comped the lunch – he and my son had been colleagues at Delaire Graff.   Johan’s at Longridge is refreshingly different, with its visible focus on its vegetables, the impressive interior decor, the great view, the great talent of Chef Marissa and her team, the excellent service from Chris, and the wonderful Longridge wines, which were a revelation, the Cabernet Franc being the highlight of the wines I tried.  Johan’s at Longridge is another exciting addition to the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, and an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant contender for 2012.

Johan’s at Longridge Restaurant and Wine Bar, Longridge Winery, Eikendal Road, off R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West.  Tel (021) 855-2004.  www.johansatlongridge.co.za (The website looks professional, with the current menu, a winelist, beautiful photographs, and even a blog).  Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays, and on Sunday evenings.  Open for lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and for Sunday lunch. 

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

Guest House Review: Manley’s Wine Lodge in Tulbagh is ‘a little special’!

Choosing to leave the Rijk’s Country House  in Tulbagh after our first night’s stay last weekend, we looked at two options, and chose the next door 4-star Manley’s Wine Lodge instead of the Tulbagh Hotel.  It was a good choice, and we slept well with absolute peace and quiet, and Manley’s Wine Lodge probably is the best quality and value accommodation in Tulbagh, earning its pay-off line of ‘a little special’ in more ways than one!

The Manley Private Cellar  belongs to David Ovendale from London.  The first vines were planted in 1999. His property is managed by wine-maker Stefan Hartman.  A most charming and helpful Alicea Brits manages the Lodge, and was very accommodating in assisting us with the last-minute booking.  The Lodge has 13 rooms, offered at R 550 per person sharing, and two self-catering cottages.  Alicea made us an excellent offer, allowing my son and I to each have our own room.  

The Lodge is about 400 meters from the winetasting room and the Man’Lee’s Country Kitchen, and there is a little “consecrated chapel” midway, seating just over 100 guests, weddings clearly being popular in Tulbagh.  While the building exterior looked rather ‘Fifties, and the garden terribly dry due to the dry summer, the rooms looked surprisingly good, in tones of brown and beige.   Given our experience at Rijk’s, I was impressed to see the good quality curtains, with blockout, guaranteeing a good night’s sleep.   The desk was comfortable to use, with a brown mock-leather chair.  The headboard was brown mock-croc.  The bed linen was good quality cotton, but the staff had put the open end of the duvet cover at the top, and not at the bottom of the bed.  Given our Rijk’s experience, it was nice to see a Lindt chocolate as a turn-down treat.

The bathroom looked less modern, offering both a shower and bath, needing one to close the bathroom door so that one can open the shower door.   In the shower itself, I saw something I have never seen before – a mirror connected to a product holder, allowing men to shave there.  The only problem was that the mirror had started rusting, and horrid brown streaks were visible on the tiles underneath it.  I was impressed with a neat box of bathroom amenities, containing about six different products, as well as a sewing kit, cotton wool, etc, none of which we had seen at the 5-star Rijk’s next door.   The cupboard space was neatly used for a bar fridge, which was switched on and had bottled water in it, for which we were not charged, and a tea and coffee facility.  The TV had numerous channels, and I was impressed with the bouquet they were offering, each room appearing to have its own decoder.  In addition to the airconditioner, an heater was also available, which I switched on for the chilly night.  There was a fireplace too, but no matches to light the fire with.

Breakfast at Man’Lee’s Country Kitchen is included in the rate, but is independently owned by Lee Roberts-Walsh.  It has a rustic cottagey feel about it, with seating inside and outside.  Wooden tables are covered with red-and-white-check table cloths, with benches outside and chairs inside.  While music was being beamed from the speakers, a TV was off-puttingly broadcasting the end of the Cape Epic cycle race in a room at the entrance to the restaurant.  By the time we came for breakfast, they had run out of croissants.  The breakfast buffet had what was required, but nothing was presented with any style, and nor did the fruit look very fresh.  Surprisingly, the oranges were served in quarters with the skin, last seen at hockey matches at school!  Our waiter was a temperamental character.  He clearly was having a bad day, and muttered loudly after he had brought us the menus. I placed an order of egg and toast, but it took forever to come.  When I saw the waiter standing outside, catching a breath of fresh air, I asked him about my order.  He seemed to not know about it at all, even though I placed it with him, and him having written it down on a little pad. The toasted whole-wheat bread was delicious, and Lee told me that she buys the seed-covered bread at Pick ‘n Pay in Ceres.   Commendable is the free wireless internet, and that is about all that I can praise about Man’Lee’s.  Man’Lee’s is closed on Tuesdays, so it is uncertain how they handle breakfasts for the Lodge’s guests on this day.

Alicea trusted us to do the payment after breakfast, and seemed defensive when I raised the poor quality breakfast and service with her, saying that Man’Lee’s is independent of Manley’s Wine Lodge.  As the breakfast is part of the accommodation package, I advised her to pass on the feedback to Lee, as the bad service experienced at Man’Lee’s affects the image of the Lodge.  This must have happened, as I received the following apology from Lee the following day: ” Good Day, As a guest of ManLee’s Country Kitchen this morning, I wish to apologise for the behaviour of my staff member that seemed to upset you with his attitude. I must point out that I pride myself in having a professional approach to all my customers and am rather upset that he was not up to my usual high standard of service. I would like to extend an invitation to you and your son, when you are next in the Tulbagh area to enjoy and meal with impeccable service, courtesy of ManLee’s Country Kitchen. With kind Regards, Lee Roberts-Walsh, Chef/Proprietor, Man’lee’s Country Kitchen”.

The marketing is overstated, in my opinion, with the brochure promising ‘The ultimate wine lodge’, ‘a venue created in the French provincial style’, ‘relax with specially selected wines from around the world’, ‘delicious country cuisine’, ‘Manley is truly a place of luxury …’, and refers to a ‘Boutique Hotel’.  It is a good 4-star, good value accommodation establishment, but is lacking in not offering wireless internet in the bedrooms, in its un-modern bathrooms, and the poor breakfast quality and service at Man’Lee’s Country Kitchen. 

Manley’s Wine Lodge, Main Winterhoek Road, Tulbagh.  Tel (023) 230-0582.  www.manleywinelodge.co.za  (Interestingly, the Lodge website is also that for Manley’s wines, a wine marketing weakness).  Man’Lee’s Country Kitchen, Tel (023) 230-1807.

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

First Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club “pairing” a ‘wine-derful’ success

The first Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town yesterday evening, was sold out, and a great success, judging by the positive feedback received from the aspirant as well as regular food and wine bloggers that attended.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club “pairs” a wine blogger and a food blogger per Club meeting, which are held monthly, and each speaker outlines his/her blog and provides blogging tips and guidelines. The Wine Blogger brings some wine for the bloggers to taste, while Chef Liam Tomlin prepares snacks to showcase his Cookery School, and reputation as a star chef in Sydney, prior to coming to Cape Town and setting up his Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School.  Liam prepared Tartar of Tuna with avocado and ponzu sauce, as well as Potato Raclette and pickled vegetables.

Anel Grobler from SpitorSwallow Blog was the first speaker, and impressed with her statistics relating to trends about blogging.  She quoted a recent survey in PR Week, which found that 20 % of bloggers do so to earn money out of it, and that 52 % of bloggers see themselves as “journalists” (surprisingly the Public Relations industry has not yet discovered the power of bloggers in promoting their clients’ brands!).   Anel and her partner Jan Laubscher are on Twitter continuously, saying it is an “easy way to get the word out”.  On Twitter @SpitorSwallow has 3900 followers and on Facebook they have 1 900 fans, a phenomenal achievement.   She indicated that from a total of 6 South African wine estates being on Twitter in 2009, there are now 209!   Anel has played an important role in encouraging wine estates to embrace social media marketing.    She indicated that they see immediate click through once they put a Tweet on Twitter.   She recommended that new bloggers focus on a niche.   A provocative name like SpitorSwallow attracts interest, and through word-of-mouth their Facebook and Twitter pages have received a huge following.   Almost 700 “wineflies” have evaluated the close to 600 wine estates they have listed.  Anel recommended that companies blog and twitter themselves, and not leave this to a PR company, as the client is passionate about his/her brand.   With a blog it is important that the bounce rate be low (i.e. readers leaving the page).  The length of time spent on a page is also important, to ensure that readers read what one has written for as long as possible.  A quick survey around the room indicated that WordPress is the most popular blog template used.

Michael Olivier is an icon in both food and wine circles, and many of the Bloggers’ Club attendees came to meet him, having his recipe or wine books (‘Michael Olivier – a Restaurateur Remembers’, ‘Crush! 100 Wines to drink now’ , and ‘The People’s Guide – navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley’, the latter with Neil Pendock).   His all-round experience in receiving his training at the Cordon Bleue Cookery School in London, working at the Lanzerac Hotel and Boschendal, having owned three restaurants (Paddagang in Tulbagh, The Burgundy in Hermanus and Parks in Constantia), having consulted on the wine side to Pick ‘n Pay, and presenting a weekly wine programme on Classic FM in Gauteng and a daily informal winetasting on Fine Music Radio in Cape Town makes him very well-connected and extremely knowledgeable.  Sending out a regular newsletter, which became a website, Michael has reinvented himself and will be launching ‘Crush’, South Africa’s first digital online food and wine magazine, he announced at the meeting.   It will go to a database of 1,7 million on 3 June.

The feedback received from the Food and Wine Bloggers that attended the meeting last night was that they enjoyed the relaxed and informal opportunity to network, to meet their mentors, seeing old friends and making new ones, the quality of the speakers, the snacks, the wine, the positive energy in the room, and the ability to learn from everyone that attended.

The next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will be held on Thursday 1 July, from 6 – 8 pm, and Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods restaurant and Kitchen Cowboys Blog will be “paired” with Pieter Ferriera of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog.   Pieter will bring Graham Beck wines and bubblies to taste, and these will be paired with Liam Tomlin’s food.   The cost to attend is R 150 per person, and bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting dates and speakers are as follows:

Thursday 1 July:                  Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods and Kitchen Cowboys Blog, and Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog

Wednesday 28 July:             The Foodie of The Foodie Blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte Wines Blog

Wednesday 18 August:       Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

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

Unique Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School opens in Cape Town

The new Chefs’ Warehouse and Cookery School has opened in a renovated Victorian building in New Church Street, off Buitensingel Street in Cape Town.

Chef Liam Tomlim, previously operating in Sydney where he ran the highly rated Banc restaurant (see our previous story on Liam Tomlin here), has opened a Cookery School, where he and local chefs will present cooking courses in a small intimate studio not holding more than 20 persons.  It has a hi-tech look, with lots of stainless steel.   But the little touches make the venue special – against a wall different coloured glass tiles form an interesting pattern, with glass bottles of spices on a shelf in front of each tile.

In the Cookery School Tomlin is planning to host a 20-lecture “The Basic Techniques and Methods of Cookery” course, with the start date now 8 May.   The course, with four hour lectures every second Saturday, has not yet been fully subscribed, and it may be the R10 500 price tag, the start of the quieter and tighter winter season, or the World Cup that falls in the period, that may be causing the slow booking commitment.   Tomlin is passionate about food, being the author of two cookery books, and he is likely to make an interesting cookery lecturer, with his Irish sense of humour.

Guest Chef classes can also be booked, with Neil Jewell of Bread and Wine in Franschhoek talking about “The Pig” on 5 May; Peter Tempelhoff, Executive Chef of the McGrath Hotels, will do a course on 11 May (title not yet confirmed); Alexander Mueller of Pure at Hout Bay Manor will talk about “Pure Food” on 24 May; and Carl Penn of Carne will talk about “Basic Lamb Butchery” on 27 May.  Classes cost R 575 each, and are held from 6.30 – 9.30 pm in the evenings.

A 12-part winetasting course will be presented by Caroline Rillema of Caroline’s wine shops in the city center and in the V&A Waterfront.   Sommelier Mia Mortensson, now with the Winery of Good Hope in Stellenbosch, and Paul Cluver Jnr will also be presenters.  The course starts on 8 June, and costs R 7000 for all 12 lectures, but can be booked in sections as well.

A 6-part Artisan Baking course “Knead to know” will be presented by Tim Faull of the Professional Vision Group consultancy, from 2 June – 14 July, and costs R 3 000.  

Tomlin’s wife Jan rules the roost in the front section, which is the Chef’s Warehouse, which contains a treasure trove of beautiful kitchen and dining items such as glassware, crockery, cutlery, serving dishes, aprons, carving knives, utensils, massive wooden stirring spoons (must get one!), Le Creuset pots, copper pots, cookery books, coffee machines, wine racks and many more products.  The Chef’s Warehouse will give Core Catering and Banks a good challenge, stocking far more beautiful and many imported products, offering better service, and being located in a far more desirable area.   It would be the perfect place to buy a gift for a food or a wine lover.

While the name of the shop implies that it is a massive shop, it is not at all, but the available space has been cleverly used.    Two smaller rooms lead off the Warehouse, the one being a cold room with interesting products which need to remain chilled, and the other being a food shop, which sells Willow Creek and Hamilton Russell olive oil, 100% pure cocoa powder, Spanish and Iranian saffron threads, Calleebaut & Valrhona chocolate, flavoured oils (white and black truffle, pistachio, hazelnut, porcini, walnut), vinegars (12 year Italian balsamic, Willow Creek Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, Neil Jewell’s smoked red wine vinegar), Nfuse spices, Lavazza coffee, Von Gesau chocolates, Tea Emporium teas (organic Rooibos, Moroccan mint, Kyoto cherry rose, lemon caipirinha, even a chocolate flavoured one!), Khoisan salts (fleur de sel, salt caviar, sea pearls, smoked salt, truffle salt), and products of the Verjuice company (verjuice, vino cotto, preserved ginger in verjuice).  Vanilla syrup, sugar, husks, pods, paste and seeds are also sold, as are vanilla, coffee, rose water, peppermint, almond and orange blossom pure essences.

A beautifully made unit displays 50 fresh spices and dried herbs (including Iranian dried limes, Brazilian pink peppercorns, Indian and Romanian coriander) in small quantities, which will be restocked as they run out, to keep them fresh.   Another display unit contains a wide range of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.  An eye-catching design element is a photograph of Tomlin’s recipe book collection, which he photographed in his home, and had made as a poster for the shop.

What I missed was a brochure of the Cookery courses to be offered, to take home, and the smell of food.  A coffee machine, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, would signify what the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School is all about.  Its little veranda would make an ideal spot for some tables for customers to sit at, as The Warehouse does not allow much space for customers to move around in.

The Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School is an exciting new addition to Cape Town, and enhances the city’s reputation as the food capital of South Africa. 

Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School, 50 New Church Street, Cape Town. Tel 021 422 0128. www.chefswarehouse.co.za

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

Winetasting in Franschhoek on a roll!

A novel means of allowing tourists and winelovers to taste the wines of Franschhoek and sections of the Paarl wine region, as well as the renowned restaurants of Franschhoek, is being developed by Franschhoek entrepreneur Dave Blyth and his son Sean.  They are planning to operate two historic trams on an unused railway track running between Franschhoek and Paarl, reports the Cape Argus.

The project costs R 10 million to become operational, and the 1930’s trams, costing R 2,5 million each, will be imported from Australia. They are expected to start operating from the end of the year.   The Blyths have signed a lease with Transnet for the use of the train track.

The novel tourism service is to offer an hop-on hop-off service, with 10 – 12 stops planned, giving its users a safe way to drink-and-drive their way to Franschhoek’s wine estates, to eat at some of the best restaurants in the country, to visit a lavender farm, to try their hand at trout fly-fishing, and maybe even do some shopping at a craft market.   The tram will travel at 45 km per hour, and will halt at every stop every hour.   The trams can transport 50 passengers at a time, who can enjoy an audio commentary on the highlights they are passing.

“Our aim is to create a tourism icon here in Franschhoek on a par with the Table Mountain Cableway or the Cape Point funicular.  We want the train to become synonymous with Franschhoek and winetasting” said Blyth.

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

Wine marketing will be hit by Liquor Act

Wine marketing will not be the same again if the planned provisions in the proposed amendment to the Western Cape Liquor Act and Regulations are introduced.   However, some changes are positive.

Wine.co.za reported about the implications the “stern regulations” for wine estates in South Africa, as well as for persons selling wine, or just collecting it.

The proposed regulations give municipalities a greater say in wine marketing, with wine licence applications costing R 1 000 for the application alone, R 2 000 for the granting of a wine licence, and R 4 000 per annum for the renewal fee.

The new Act, according to Danie Cronje, of Cluver Markotter Incorporated, and a speaker at the recent South African Wine Tourism Conference, demands that wine estates must have a licence to produce wine – previously they needed it to sell wines.    The new Act only exempts garagistes who make wine for themselves and do not plan to resell it, from the licence.   Producers who use other producers’ wine cellars will also have to apply for a licence, as will wine estates who sell their stock to existing licence holders, such as hotels, restaurants and liquor stores, currently being exempt from a licence requirement.  

The article refers to the Act allowing wine estates to now charge for winetastings, but this has been done for some time now.   The winetasting times are subject to the  municipal regulations.  So, for example, it is proposed that liquor stores, wine shops and supermarkets be allowed to open from 9h00 – 18h00, while restaurants, hotels, clubs and pubs can trade from 11h00 – 2h00, if they are not in a residential area, where the trading time is reduced until 21h00.   

Licence applications will also have to be advertised in local newspapers, displayed on the premises, and submitted to the municipalities and ward councillors, the Act proposes. 

Wine estates may not sell more than 30 litres of wine, 10 litres of spirits, or 100 litres of beer per day to a person who does not have a liquor licence.   It would also be an offence to have more than this quantity of liquor in one’s possession, even in one’s home, a major knock for wine collectors, who would be forced to get a liquor licence as well.  

One good aspect of the proposed legislation change is that supermarkets may sell wine up to 16,5 % alcohol content, compared to 14 %, once the legislation is passed.   Also, wine sales on Sundays in supermarkets could also be allowed, subject to municipal approval thereof as to the trading days and hours. 

Another positive aspect of the Act is that open bottles of wine may not be transported, and one may not drink alcohol and drive, with heavy fines to be implemented.

Cronje has recommended to the wine industry that liquor licence applications should be done before the new Liquor Act is legislated, because it will become a more cumbersome and expensive process once the Act is legislated.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Paul Cluver top local Riesling

The 2008 Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest from Elgin has been selected as the top South African Riesling at a recent Just Riesling winetasting, with local and German judges on the panel.

Just Riesling has been established to increase the profile of Riesling, and to communicate how suited it is for “the South African way of life, climate and cuisine”, reports the Hermanus Times.