Entries tagged with “Wolfgang Leyrer”.

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Virginie Taittinger is following in her famous Champagne family’s footsteps by launching her own label Virginie T, a non-vintage Brut, 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay.  She has made 100000 bottles.  She has also made a Rosé, a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.  She sells her champagnes directly from her website at £25,90, which includes delivery.

*   Bouchard Finlayson is pairing its wines with a 4-course meal prepared by new Executive Chef Christo Pretorius at Azure at the Twelve Apostles hotel on 29 November, at R545. (via newsletter from Bouchard Finlayson)

*   Waterkloof is hosting a ‘Six Senses Evening’ at the 2013 Helderberg (more…)

Beerhouse Bottled Beers Whale Cottage PortfolioDespite one of  the worst winters ever experienced by the Cape hospitality industry, few restaurants have closed down recently.   A surprise however is the movement of staff between restaurants. This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Beerhouse has opened on Long Street, with 16 beers on tap and 99 bottled beers from around the world.

*    The House of Machines has opened on Shortmarket Street, building motorcycles, offering good Evil Twin coffee, and serving very healthy food.

*   Pure Good has opened downstairs in the Associated Magazines building opposite Parliament, and is owned by Shannon Smuts, the first MasterChef SA Finalist to have been eliminated.

*   The Harbour House group has opened La Parada Spanish Tapas restaurant on (more…)

Four & 20 Cafe via The Pretty BlogNo significant events have been planned to attract visitors to Cape Town and the Winelands this winter, and it appears to be the worst winter ever experienced by the hospitality industry in the Cape.  A surprise is the number of restaurant changes, as well as the the movement of staff  between restaurants.   Given the poor winter business, many restaurants have taken/are taking generous winter breaks. This list of restaurant openings and closings is updated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*    Four & Twenty Café and Pantry has opened in Wynberg

*   The Crypt Jazz Restaurant has opened below St George’s Cathedral.

*   Orphanage Cocktail Emporium is opening Orphanage Club upstairs, with 1920’s style music by live performers, later this year.

*   Cavalli restaurant on the stud farm on the R44 must be opening shortly, as Carl Habel has left the Mount Nelson Hotel as Restaurant Manager and Sommelier to join the restaurant.

*   Shake your Honey is to open in the original Madame Zingara building on Loop Street next year, after renovations commence later this year, according to an iolTravel report.  The ‘vibrant spirit of India’ is to be reflected in the 5-storey building, with a theatre, markets, restaurants, and shops.

*   Burger King has opened its (second) Tygervalley branch. Branches at Cavendish and at Grandwest are to open soon. (more…)

The first taste of the Cape winter this weekend is likely to be felt by the restaurant industry, which will see hard times in the next two months, if close to zero accommodation bookings in the Cape are anything to go by.  Other than Hermanus FynArts and the Wacky Wine Weekend kicking off next week, ‘Cook Franschhoek‘ running over the Youth Day long weekend, and the Bastille Festival weekend on 13 – 14 July, no significant events are planned to attract visitors to Cape Town and the Winelands.  A number of restaurants are closing for an annual break in the next two months.

This list of restaurant openings and closings isupdated continuously, as we receive new information:

Restaurant Openings

*   The Crypt Jazz Restaurant has opened below St George’s Cathedral.

*   Frères Bistro has opened next door to Col’Cacchio on Hans Strydom (more…)

Gorry Bowes-Taylor does a great job for Wordsworth in ‘pairing’ authors of recently published books with good wines and meals at restaurants around Cape Town and the Winelands.  However, the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Granger Bay let her down badly on Saturday, with the most over-promised and under-delivered lunch ever experienced, for the launch of Melanie Verwoerd’s book‘The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied‘.

It was commendable that Verwoerd came to the lunch, having flu, but she was witty for most of the talk about her book, until it came to the sad part about her losing her partner Gerry Ryan (she had divorced her Verwoerd husband Wilhelm some years before).  The ‘talk’ was in the form of a question and answer session, with a witty and sharp summary of key phases in Verwoerd’s life by actress and writer Marianne Thamm (currently writing Helen Zille’s biography, and author of ‘I have Life’ about attack victim Alison, which sold 85000 copies), who clearly was very well prepared and knew the book well.

The book was launched in Ireland and the UK as ‘When we Dance‘ last year, and was subject to an interdict in Ireland for a while, brought by Ryan’s friend David Kavanagh, her South African book containing a statement at the back of the book confirming the state of the relationship between the two friends.  She had been warned against speaking out, but always a rebel, she felt she had the ‘right to write’ her book, and was surprised that despite the court action it became a best seller in Ireland. Verwoerd traces her history, from growing up in Fochville as a Van Niekerk, and then in Stellenbosch, after she was adopted as a Fourie in her late teens.  She met Wilhelm Verwoerd at the University of Stellenbosch, and got married to him at the age of 20, giving up her studies in Theology to join him at Oxford, where he was studying on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, to the shock of his parents, given that he is the grandson of the late Prime Minister HF Verwoerd, said to be the architect of apartheid. She did however graduate with Honours and Masters degrees. His parents feared that he would be ‘corrupted’ by England’s liberal values, and did not want him to be linked to Cecil John Rhodes either!  In London they met many ANC officials living there in exile, hearing about a South Africa they had never experienced. Returning to South Africa, they met President Mandela, and Wilhelm wanted to apologise to him for what his family had done to him, but Mandela told him that his surname could be a burden or a blessing – it would be Wilhelm’s choice as to how he would use it, in true Madiba style, Verwoerd said.  They became ANC members, under the radar initially, but eventually the news leaked, and it caused mayhem when his family found out, his father banning him from the house and disinheriting his son. Verwoerd ensured that her children stayed in touch with their grandparents.  She spoke fondly about ‘Ouma Betsie’, Wilhelm’s late grandmother, who lived in the all-White enclave of Orania, where she was visited by Mandela, described by her as a visit resembling that of a ‘foreign head of state‘.

Her book reminds one about the country’s conservative past, and we laughed when she related that she could not open a bank account in her own name, earning more than her husband as an ANC Member of Parliament (the youngest ANC MP ever), as it could endanger their marriage, the bank argued!  She did ultimately get her way with the bank.  Having achieved what she wanted as MP, she requested then-President Mbeki if she could head the South African embassy in Dublin, which he agreed to.  She laughed when she said that she was not ‘a born diplomat’ (much too direct, much like her ‘colleague’ Tony Leon, who headed the embassy in Buenos Aires). She fell in love with Ireland from the first day. She saw her challenge as ambassador to give the government a return on its investment in the embassy, and focused on tourism (130% increase) and wine promotion in the period 2001 – 2005, to great success in part due to the rise of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, she said, the demise of which she experienced too.  She then became UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Ireland Executive Director, travelling in Africa on a number of occasions, working with Sir Roger Moore, Bono, Vanessa Redgrave, and Liam Neeson.  She was voted the Irish Tatler International Woman of the Year in 2007.  It was in this time that she met renowned radio presenter Gerry Ryan (with 500000 listeners, and a daily three hour show which ran for 25 years), and fell in love with him within half an hour of her first date with him, despite initially resisting his advances.  He was separated, but could not divorce before four years of separation had passed, as per the Irish divorce law.  They were a couple for two years, when he suddenly died alone in his apartment three years ago, and she became the shunned ‘other’ woman, who was told that she was lucky to be able to attend his funeral!  She and her children were hounded by the media, and Verwoerd ultimately lost her job at UNICEF due to the controversy surrounding Ryan’s death, and her relationship with him, her dismissal settled out of court.  All the VIP supporters other than Bono resigned from UNICEF Ireland to protest her dismissal! She denied that Ryan was a cocaine and drug user, but is open about his financial problems, in that he relied on Verwoerd for his living expenses, despite his big salary, which appeared to have been spent on his five children and an extravagant lifestyle.  Despite being divorced from Wilhelm, she retains his surname, she told me, quite contrary to her self-proclaimed feminist nature.  She still lives in Dublin, having dual citizenship now, and she loves the ‘softness of the country’, and how ordinary people will stop her in the street and give her a hug. Her two children are students at Trinity College.  She visits ‘home’ regularly though!  She is looking forward to the next 45 years of her life, which will include her coming back to live here, she said to conclude her talk.  In reading her book, it is clear why Ireland is so important to her, the memorial bench which she had erected for Ryan in a park in Dublin being an important link to him, despite the terrible treatment she received in Ireland as a result of her relationship with him.  Her children studying in Dublin must be another important reason.

The bookings for the Literary Lunch were taken by the hotel’s event co-ordinator Carmen Jansen, who followed up despite the paperwork having been faxed.  She was abrupt on arrival, and chased the payment after the first course, usually done at the end of the meal.  I discovered afterwards that she had left to go home, hence her eagerness to receive the payment!  The menu sounded fantastic on paper, but what was presented differed vastly from the description.  We had to Google most of the descriptions, to know what to expect on our plates!  Baguette and rye bread was served, with what looked like butter curls but was margarine. I asked the waitress for some real butter, and she brought branded Floro.  Another request led to branded butter arriving at the table!  The same waitress filled the water jug with so much ice that she poured most of it over the table, wetting my notebook.  Service had to be requested, nothing being done proactively, such as refilling the water jug.  Each table had a central display of a hand with flexible fingers holding an exercise book, to tie in with the literary theme, one assumes, but the naughty men at the table had fun in changing them to rude signs!  The venue was most unsuitable, a long rectangular room that had more than a hundred guests squeezed in, meaning that guests had to get up to let others get through.

The starter was ‘Baby Chicken 2ways‘, described as ‘confit leg cannon, grilled maize sage beurre (which must have been the wheel of pap), courgette roulade (which must have been the loosely wrapped vegetable strips), supreme pan seared (the other chicken style, we assumed) with napage (sic) of port wine spuma‘ (no foam was visible).  The pink mayonnaise was not included in the menu description!  For the main course ‘Crisp Salmon Scaloppini’ (thin slices of scallop with the salmon) was served with ‘crumbed aromatic fresh gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, parsley, olive oil), salsa di burro bruciato (appears to be burnt butter salsa), caper berries, gentle braised fondant potatoes and carcisfo frito (sic – the closest wording we found on Google was ‘carciofo fritto’ – fried artichoke!). We could not see the caper berries, but we found olives!  An elderly gentleman at our table asked the waitress if she could put the leftover salmon in a ‘doggie bag’, to spoil his cat, but she refused. I called the Deputy GM (they do not have a F&B Manager in this hotel), and I got the company policy talk (mainly for health purposes, and thus legal reasons, should the customer get ill if he ate it at home). Very kindly, after some persuasion, he relented!  The vegetarian eaters at our table had a rough time, their risotto being burnt.  For dessert we were promised a ‘Decadent Tasting Plate’, being anything but decadent, consisting of ‘Dark chocolate no bake cheese cake (tick) with angel hair (none to be seen), coconut crème brûlée with caramel crackling (curdled, no caramel topping!), coco rico (coconut soda?) jelly (tick), pistachio ice cream (tick) on coffee shortbread soil’ (tick).  No feedback was sought about the meal during the function. We were shocked to hear that Chef Grant Kennedy had not been on duty, and unfortunately it showed!

Allée Bleue sponsored the wines for the lunch, its MCC Brut Rose being a welcome drink if one did not want to start the lunch with a glass of decadent Hendrick’s Gin, served by dapper young men at a table with an interesting table display with cups.  Ansgar Flaatten, brother of Wesgro CEO Nils, heads up the wine division at the wine estate, and will be taking over as MD from Wolfgang Leyrer shortly.  He reminded the audience about the herb production, and their newly introduced herb tours and lunches on Friday mornings. The Starlette range was offered with the different courses, including a Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Rouge, and Shiraz Rosé, all sold for around R40 a bottle.

The Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront has such a wonderful location at the water’s edge near the V&A Waterfront, and one wonders why they would have handled the book launch Literary Lunch so badly, with poor and over-promised food, and poor service!  We requested Gorry to not use this venue for her lunches again.  Verwoerd’s story ends sadly, yet bravely, in that she wrote the book, thereby fulfilling her promise to Ryan to tell his story, warts and all, and corrects many of the terrible things that were said about him after his death. she explained, Ryan appearing to be more controversial after his death, yet having had such a large following for so many years.  The book combines her love story with Ryan with her (and her ex-husband’s) story, using a local title that does not do this brave lady justice, with an odd typeface, and may not encourage book sales as much as the original title may have done.

POSTCRIPT 28/5: We posted our feedback about the lunch at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront on Saturday on this blog and on Twitter only.  Today we received the following reply from the hotel’s Executive Assistant Manager Marcel Eichenberger:  ‘Dear Cherissie (sic), I would like to thank you for the feedback regarding your lunch experience in Harbor View, this is a vital aspect of our business and without feedback such as yours we would not find a platform to grow and improve our quality of product and standards. I would like to apologize for your experience as this is certainly not our standard of food quality, presentation and service. We pride ourselves on what we serve and the personal service which our team provide.  By your feedback this was not the case and I am disheartened by our actions. I have and will address these issues with my team both service and kitchen to ensure we up our game to make sure this does not happen again. I have spoken to chef regarding the execution of the menu as per the menu and he too is very apologetic with regards to the outcome of his menu.  Our team is well trained and we invest a lot of resources to ensuring we serve the highest quality produce so that each guest has a great experience, our lack of execution is with great regret and I do apologize for this.  I have spoken to Mark our banqueting manager and he too will ensure that service delivery is executed on every function according to our standards.  With regards to the “doggy bag”, I do apologize that it was so difficult to arrange but it is to safeguard us as a global brand to ensure food safety is adhered too and I know at times exceptions can be made and we will look into this going forward.  The venue is a fantastic venue for functions and weddings up to 120 guests but we did go over our capacity and therefore making the venue very full, we are however are looking to make some changes to the venue and we hope to see this happen in the following year.  I am confident that this will make functions such as the lunch a more comfortable venue.  We get allot of our business via word of mouth so I would like the opportunity to make this up to you and if you would consider coming for a lunch or dinner to our Tobago’s restaurant I can assure you we will meet and exceed your expectation in both food quality and service. To my understanding you will also be joining us for the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner and we hope to change your perception of our abilities.  Should you wish to take me up on my offer please contact me directly.  Once again my sincere apologies‘.

Melanie Verwoerd: The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied’, Tafelberg Publishers.

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

The Paulaner Bräuhaus closed its doors suddenly last night, after operating for more than ten years in the Clocktower section of the V&A Waterfront.  It was the largest restaurant in Cape Town, this country, and the southern hemisphere, with 1100 seats.  The restaurant and micro-brewery were closed down by its new owners Hospitality Property Fund Limited (HPF) due to an inability to reach consensus with the V&A Waterfront on an acceptable market value rental for the renewal of the five year lease.

The Paulaner Bräuhaus lease runs out at the end of March.  I was told that the rental, currently at about R250000 per month, would increase to double that of the most expensive Johannesburg rentals per square meterage, and would be double the current rental.  No amount of negotiation with the management of the V&A Waterfront could result in a reduced rental.  The owners of HPF decided to not prolong the running of the restaurant until the end of March, and informed the Paulaner management a week ago that the whole restaurant and micro-brewery operation would close down last night.  Staff were told on Wednesday, and customers were informed via Facebook as follows on Friday:

Dear Paulaner Patrons, Please take note that as a result of our lease at the V&A Waterfront having come to an end, the week of 13 February will be the last week of trading by the Paulaner Bräuhaus. Our doors will be closing indefinitely on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 22h00. We invite you to make use of this opportunity to visit us for a last taste of our renowned and award-winning beers and popular food menu. It is with great sadness that we, the management and staff of the Paulaner Bräuhaus have to bid you farewell. We would like to thank all our loyal supporters over the years – it has been a pleasure serving you! PROST! Paulaner Bräuhaus Management and Staff”.

I went to Paulaner yesterday afternoon, and given the hot weather and the last date of operation, the restaurant was jam-packed, many coming to pay their last ‘respects’ to a restaurant that was the epitome of Bavarian beer and food.  There was a lovely atmosphere, and there must have been many tears at 22h00 when they closed the Paulaner doors for the last time.  On Twitter one could read how many Twitterers had gone to Paulaner, and how sad they were about the closure.   Mayor Patricia de Lille had come as well, and told a waitress that she was prepared to toi-toi to keep the restaurant open.  Initially a manageress told me that there was no comment about the closure, and that the GM Jan-Karl Schiebe could not speak to me about it either.  He did however come over to me, being very hesitant about sharing any information with me, until he worked out who I am from Twitter.  Then everything changed.

HPF Limited did not entertain a management buy-out, nor extending the closing date by a week at least, so that a Farewell Beer Festival could be held next week, at the request of the Paulaner management.  HPF Limited bought Paulaner Bräuhaus Restaurant and the Micro-Brewery, the Westin Grand at the Convention Centre (now Westin Cape Town), and Arabella Hotel & Spa in Kleinmond last year.   The hotel and leisure property company is involved in 26 properties to the value of R 3,9 billion, says its website, including a number of Protea Hotels, and the Mount Grace Country Hotel.  There is no mention of Paulaner on the HPF website.

Today the Paulaner branding will be removed, the furniture will be removed, the windows will be covered in newspaper, and the interior will be restored to how it was handed over to Paulaner in 2001, when Paulaner started off under the guidance of brewmaster Wolfgang Ködel, who has been involved in the business throughout this period.  Clients of Paulaner beer will fetch what beer is left over today. I spoke to Allée Bleue GM Wolfgang Leyrer yesterday morning about the effect the demise of Paulaner will have on his business, being a stockist, and he was shocked to hear the news, not having received any notification about it.  Given the outpouring of support, both on Facebook and Twitter, and also at the restaurant, one can only hope that the management will obtain a franchise from Paulaner in Munich, to set up a restaurant and a brewery with more reasonable rentals elsewhere in Cape Town.

The closure of the Paulaner Bräuhaus Restaurant and Micro-Brewery is a sad day for Cape Town – it was an attraction for German tourists who know the brand from Munich, where it was established in 1634.  They loved its genuine German beer and food, with Bavarian music to match, and the female staff wearing the traditional Bavarian Dirndl.  It helped the V&A Waterfront to attract visitors to a part of the Waterfront that was an effort to get to, being across the Swing Bridge, and not visible from the shopping centre, and is only visited by those tourists going to Robben Island.  It will leave a gaping hole in an area of the V&A Waterfront that already does not attract locals.

Attempts to receive a comment from the V&A Waterfront company have not been successful to date.

POSTSCRIPT 21/2: The Cape Argus has written about the Paulaner closure today, and quotes from our blogpost.  The journalist Murray Williams was luckier in receiving a comment from the V&A Waterfront: “The V&A Waterfront’s leasing department was advised by HPF in April last year that they would not be exercising their option to renew the lease agreement for the Paulaner Bräuhaus property. The HPF did not negotiate the lease agreement for the Paulaner Bräuhaus. The V&A Waterfront is negotiable on its property rentals”. HPF spokesperson Andrew Rogers tells a different story: “The V&A did not want to consider alternative leasing options and whilst the rentals were unsustainable for any business of this nature based on the historic escalations, the period was always expiring in March 2012.  The closure process has been under way for the past six months, always with the hope that the V&A would reverse their thinking in terms of the lease and operations, and that they would entertain offers for a similar type of operation.  However, it was not the case and it was finally decided to comply with the terms of the lease and vacate the premises”.

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

On Sundays Franschhoek wine estate Allée Bleue pays tribute to its owners’ German roots, by hosting a Bavarian Food Festival.  Last Sunday I was invited by Allée Bleue GM Wolfgang Leyrer and PR consultants Ian and Lise Manley to taste the Bavarian delicacies with other bloggers and journalists, an Oktoberfest come early!

One drives towards the bottom end of the estate, past vineyards, oak trees, and the summer picnic area, to where the lunch buffet was set up in the Shiraz Room, which leads to two courtyards.  We were lucky to have excellent weather, and could enjoy the winter sun outside.  On a central table a selection of German cold meats (Aufschnitt) served as a starter,  served on a Bavarian blue and white check tablecloth, with Bierschinken, Cervelatwurst, tomato salad, coleslaw, a radish salad, a potato salad (Kartoffelsalat), gherkins, pickled onions, German sweet mustard, and French Dijon mustard.  A separate table with beautiful breads included Brezel, ryebread, Laugenstangen, Pumpernickel, and dark rolls.   

For the main course, the German staple food sausages, supplied by Raith Gourmet in Cape Town, are served: Weisswurst, Frankfurter, and Nürnberger Bratwurst.  In addition, there was Leberkäse (cooked in a bread pan, with a mix of beef, pork, bacon and onions), Wiener Schnitzel, pork neck roast, rösti and  Sauerkraut.   Not only are Allée Bleue wines for sale by the glass or bottle, but they also offer Paulaner Weissbier and Lager.   For dessert there was fruit salad and fresh cream, Apfelstrudel, pancakes with a rum and raisin sauce, as well as a board with South African cheeses, and an interesting looking Obatzda, a regional speciality I had not eaten previously, a mix of camembert, butter, cream cheese, onions, chives and beer!

German Stimmung was created by accordianist Stanislav Anguelov, and some recorded music.  The new hostess Christiane ensured that all guests were well looked after, and Food & Beverage Manager Desmond Spangenberg, the recipient of three Sweet Service Awards, and his team kept the tables filled with food.  For the children a jumping castle is great fun, and the grounds are safe for children to explore. 

Mr Leyrer showed us the impressive recently renovated Manor House.  An historic house dating back to 1689, it was painstakingly repaired and renovated by Gundel and Emile Sogor with guidance from the South African Heritage Resources Agency.  The interior was designed by the Sogors too, adding a unique mix of modern and historic Cape furniture, with massive armoires in the downstairs rooms.  The Manor House has two suites, a bar, reception rooms and a hi-tech kitchen, and can be used for wedding groups, or for corporate meetings and conferences. Each room and the passages have paintings as well as paint effects done by the Sogors. 

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!  That’s what we experienced at a lovely relaxed and friendly Bavarian Sunday lunch, taking me back to my Heimatland! 

Allée Bleue, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 874-1886. www.alleebleue.com (The website only has a short description of the Bavarian Food Festival).  Sunday lunch.  At Shiraz Room until September, and outside Kendal Cottage from October.  R145 per person.

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

About a year ago I wrote an e-mail to Franschhoek Wine Valley, as the tourism association is now called, and fed back my experiences about the off-putting security practices of wine estates in Franschhoek as far as their booms are concerned.   Yesterday I went for a drive to some of Franschhoek’s leading wine estates with my colleague, and this is what we experienced :

*   Allee Bleue – having had a history of tight security and rude boom operators, new GM Wolfgang Leyrer turned the security staff at the boom into his ‘welcome committee’, dressing them into smart blue shirts, black pants and blue bow-tie, even if they work for outsourced Centurion security company.  The boom is usually open, or is opened immediately, and it wins the top boom award for professionalism and friendliness.

*   Solms Delta – the boom off the R45 was closed on our arrival, and we had to hoot for it to be opened, but mercifully there was no sign-in procedure.  Thereafter the gates are open at Solms Delta itself.  I am surprised at the variability in the security – on many days the boom is open anyway, on weekends in particular, and one wonders why their boom is not open during the opening hours of the wine estate.

*   L’Ormarins has a non-negotiable security person, and one may not pass go until something/anything is filled into the security sheet.  This is more important than anything else at this wine estate, one gets the feeling.   They are absolutely consistent in applying the rule!

*   Graham Beck uses Peaceforce Security.  I have experienced variability in its boom operations in the past, the previous time the security guard sitting in the window of his ‘hut’, but facing outgoing traffic, so that we had to hoot for him to open.  There was no signing in then.   Even when he saw us, we had to hoot, so that he could press the button to let us out.  Yesterday we had to hoot to get him to come to the car, and we had to sign in.   He was signing in someone else when we wanted to leave, and he arrogantly let us wait until he finished with the sign-in before he let us out!  Once again, the attitude of this boom operator does not reflect the amazing welcome we received inside the tasting room, and does not reflect the Graham Beck ethos.

*   La Motte has mostly had an open boom since Pierneef à La Motte opened in September, or one could tell the boom operator that one had a booking at the restaurant, and then one was allowed in immediately.  On Sunday I observed the first ever signing-in, with the resultant queue building up, not an ideal situation for guests running late, as I was, and it was just a further hold up.  I smiled sweetly at the security man from Xone, gave him my name, and asked him to fill in my details, and he obliged.  When I arrived yesterday, the security person Inge was chatting to a person in a security company vehicle quite far from the boom, and she did not acknowledge my presence at all.   I thought they were her colleagues, as they were chatting.  I hooted, and overtook this vehicle.  She ignored me completely.  When she came to my car, she gave me a mouthful, and referred to me breaking the rules on Sunday (I had not dealt with her nor seen her then), and gave me the rudest “welcome” of the day, and almost put me off driving inside.   Her interaction with me was completely the opposite to every friendly interaction I have ever experienced at La Motte.  She is an absolute liability to the La Motte brand, and does not share this wine estate’s promise of “a culture of excellence”!

*   Maison is always open and welcoming, although it was closed yesterday.  Its gate is closed when the tasting room is closed, and there is no sign-in procedure at all, and this is a reflection of the friendly welcome one receives at this wine estate.  One hopes that it stays this way.

*   Grande Provence has a security presence via ADT at its entrance, but has no boom at all, and the security staff is a token presence.

*  Boekenhoutskloof has no security at all.  When the tasting room is closed, the gate is closed.  On weekdays the gate is welcomingly open during its operating hours. 

*   Holden Manz is the newest wine estate to be boom-ing, and ADT operates the security.  I mainly visit here at night, to eat at the Franschhoek Kitchen, and they should see the car lights approaching from their ‘hut’.  I have not once had them proactively open the boom or even walk to it!   Last night I was allowed to drive in without signing in when I said that I was going to the restaurant.  On my way out the security person was at the boom already, and opened it to allow me to drive out without stopping.  I suspect that Chef Bjorn Dingemans had done the necessary to achieve this service efficiency.

One wonders why some Franschhoek wine farms feel the need for security, and others don’t.   Other than Allee Bleue and Solms Delta,  it appears that the boom-ing Franschhoek wine estates do not realise how irritating it is to have to sign in.  I scribbled my name in all instances, and no security person stopped me from entering.   Most have security cameras anyway, and will capture on film any attempted criminal activity.  In all cases, other than Solms Delta, security is outsourced, and not unsurprisingly, the outsourced security staff tend to be the rude, arrogant or inefficient ones, with the exception of Allee Bleue.

My advice to Franschhoek (and other) wine farms : let your customers enter as easily as possible.  Make your security staff your ambassadors, guiding the visitors directionally as to where they want to be, and use them as part of your PR program.  Train outsourced security staff in customer interaction, and the values you and your wine estate stand for.   Make the arrival as welcoming and efficient as possible – if you have to have a boom, get the security guys out of their ‘huts’ and let them stand at the boom, to open or close the boom before the cars stop at it and have to hoot.  Then business on your wine estate should boom! 

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

Last week Allée Bleue launched its first sparkling wine, the Brut Rosé 2009, and dressed up its lunch venue in pink, in contrast to its blue corporate colour.  Flowers on the tables were pink, pink and white balloons decorated the entrance to the venue, and GM Wolfgang Leyrer wore a pink jersey in honour of the event.

The new Brut Rosé is made from 53% chenin blanc and 47% pinotage, and has “delicate flavours of strawberries, rose petals and candy floss”, according to the tasting notes.  The wine spent 10 months on the lees.  Only 6000 bottles have been made. 

Using the colour and flavour descriptions as a cue, the food and wine journalists and bloggers invited to the celebration of the new bubbly were treated to a most wonderful lunch:

*  The starter was a Trio of Salmon, with wasabi cream, beautifully presented.

*  The main course was Chicken Supreme and prawns in a saffron sauce

*   The most beautiful of the three courses was the strawberry dessert, a strawberry pannacotta surrounded by fresh strawberry slices

For the past 18 months Allée Bleue GM Wolfgang Leyrer has been driving the development of the wine estate, now the largest venue in Franschhoek as far as weddings go, and he was proud to announce that 50 weddings have been booked for the season ahead already, held in their new Grand Hall, which was launched in March and can seat 300 guests.  The new Brut Rosé will largely be used for wedding events, and will only be sold on the estate, at R89,50.

Winemaker Van Zyl Du Toit introduced his new Chenin Blanc 2010, made from Walker Bay and Franschhoek grapes, which was also served to the guests, costing R39.  It is so new that it still has to be labelled.   A Rosé 2010 was also served with the lunch, with a distinctive deep pink colour, and a dry taste.  It costs R32. 

A new chef Glen Ferris has been appointed for the Bistro, and he is currently doing an exchange at Schwarzer Adler, a Michelin two-star restaurant in the Black Forest in Germany.

Allée Bleue is a wine estate to watch, as it is constantly moving ahead with new developments, within a culture of German excellence.  The owners of the wine estate are the Dauphin family from Germany.

Allée Bleue, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-1021 www.alleebleue.com Twitter: @AlleeBleue

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

The Sweet Service Award goes to Allee Bleue in Franschhoek, for laying on the most wonderful lunch on a perfect summer’s day 2 weeks ago.   Invited guests were hotel/guest house owners/managers as well as media representatives.  The lunch was held in the new wine tasting courtyard, which looks very chic, the many staff were immaculately dressed in the Allee Bleue branded aprons and bow ties, and live music was performed.  The lunch was prepared by lovely and ever-smiling Chef Dane Newton, and the starter was a Taste of the Sea Assiette, a seafood collection of salmon, crayfish, calamari and prawns, beautifully plated; the main course was an “Inside out sirloin burger”, with a potato galette served between a layer of sirloin steak and beef mince; and a “Strawberry Delight” pannacotta dessert was served.   The appointment of GM Wolfgang Leyrer, who joined Allee Bleue less than a year ago, has resulted in a most amazing transformation of the wine estate, has added picnics and the wine tasting lunch menu, and is expanding the wedding capacity of the estate, it being one of the most popular wedding destinations in the area.   This is the third Sweet Service Award Allee Bleue has won since the inception of the Sweet & Sour Service Awards over a year ago. 

The Sour Service Award goes to the management of Robben Island, who have not operated their ferry Sikhululekile to the iconic island for 2 weeks now, because a part has to be flown in from Germany.   This is the third time in four months that the R 26 million ferry has not operated, in periods during which Cape Town has numerous tourists visiting the city.  The Sea Princess, with a capacity half of that of the Robben Island ferry, has been chartered for the time being.


The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.