About two weeks ago we received the media release announcing the South African winners of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network Best of Wine Tourism awards. On Friday the awards were officially handed over at the Tuscan-inspired Waterford Estate, which won the South African leg of the competition.
I had never been to Waterford Estate before, at the end of the Blaauwklippen Road in Stellenbosch, and it is a surprise to see the Tuscan-design buildings once one has passed the ponds, parking amongst the fruit trees. We were told that the wine estate had been in an almost derelict state when it was bought by Jeremy Ord, and built into the magnificent estate it is now over about 12 years. Sustainability of all natural resources is important to the owners and staff, and the ponds collect all waste water, which is recycled, we were told by Cellar Master Kevin Arnold.
Prior to the Awards luncheon, invited guests were able to enjoy a Wine Drive or to walk the Porcupine Trail. We enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine by KWV, found our names on a seating plan, and chatted a while until we sat down for lunch. Waterford Estate does not have a restaurant (one wonders why not), and all elements for the lunch were brought in by the caterer. Roses with lavender branches, and crisp white linen gave the setting in the courtyard a festive feel. I chatted to Jenny Prinsloo, CEO of Franschhoek Wine Valley, and told her how wonderful it was to have experienced the Stellenbosch Free Wifi service earlier that morning in Franschhoek. Jessica kindly assisted in getting a connection to their company wifi when the AlwayOn connection failed to send Tweets.
There were about 70 invited guests, with quite a few no-shows, judging by the open seats at the tables. As I sat down, Platter’s and Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide publisher Jean-Pierre (as he likes to be called now) Rossouw came up to me with a smile, and for a moment I thought this would be a Reuben peace-making moment. Anything but! He wanted me to know that he felt that I had evaluated his company and their PR company African Sky Communications too harshly in the poor service in distributing the Restaurant Guide, giving me feedback coming from the Diners Club PR company. He had not spoken to me nor had he read my blogpost about the poor Restaurant Guide distribution, not having deeming it important to return my calls or to respond to e-mails! His attack was unwarranted, and inappropriate for the function at which he was also a guest.
Andre Morgenthal, the South African representative of Great Wine Capitals Global Network, introduced Alderman de Bruyn, Executive Mayor of the Cape Winelands District and Chairman of the Cape Town/Cape Winelands Chapter of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, to hand over the Mayor’s Special Awards of Excellence, as well as the certificates to the local winners of the Best of Wine Tourism Awards. He also welcomed the Consul General of USA Teddy Taylor, and of France Xavier d’ Argoeuves.
A new set of ‘judges’ commendation awards for outstanding service’ were introduced this year, going to selected staff of the wine estates which were evaluated for the Awards, and accolades read out to them: Justin Munjanja from Cavalli (Wine Tourism Ambassador with hospitality and warmth); Kayla Mayman from Steenberg (a Wine Tourism Ambassador who is passionate about the wines made at Steenberg); Christa Olivier from KWV (a Wine Ambassador who loves what she does and does it to perfection); Prince Mbewe from Asara (makes diners feel ‘like they are the prince or princess‘); Rachel Samuel from Babylonstoren (welcome with a warm smile); Gabrieline Bailey from Babylonstoren (loves where she works in the restaurant); and Tendai Denhere from Waterkloof (‘makes you feel right at home‘).
- Accommodation : Babylonstoren
- Architecture & Landscapes: Babylonstoren
- Art & Culture: Cavalli Wine & Stud Farm
- Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences: KWV Wine Emporium
- Wine Tourism Restaurant: Waterkloof (received via Chef Gregory Czarnecki, a master in food plating)
- Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices: Waterford Estate
- Wine Tourism Service: Waterford Estate
Waterford was named the overall South African winner in the Great Wine Capitals Global Network Best of Wine Tourism Awards, and therefore had the honour of hosting the Awards lunch. The judges for the Great Wine Capitals Global Network South Africa were Marilyn Martin (Art & Culture), Joan Isahm (Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices), JP Rossouw (Restaurants), Phillip Engelen (Accommodation), Alex Robertson (Architecture and Landscape), Johan van Papendorp (Architecture and Landscape), and Margi Biggs (Wine Tourism Service and Innovative Wine Tourism practices), with Lew Rood and Barry Strict as co-judges in the categories.
Arnold addressed the guests about Sustainability, and referred to the cicadas in the background, saying that they are a sound they live for. Waterford was a 120 ha ‘run-down wine farm’, and has been developed into what it is today. Half of the land is used for agriculture, and the other half for nature. He acknowledged all South African wine estates for what they have done for the South African wine industry image. He said that we offer ‘authenticity in Africa’. The respect for nature is paramount at Waterford Estate, and the water fountain in the courtyard where we had the lunch has become their brand icon, standing for ‘natural and authentic’. The waste water travels down to the ponds by gravity, and was specially designed by Waterford Estate, after evaluating the costs of purchasing equipment to do the same job. Waterford Estate offers its guests sensory experiences, by taking them around their organic farm, and showing them how they preserve nature.
The combination starter and main course dishes added colour to our tables, having already been placed on the table as we sat down for lunch. We were served beef carpaccio with a Dijon dressing, topped with Parmesan, and wild rocket; spiced pilaf with peppers, olives, nuts, seeds, peas, and herbs; griddled lemon chicken with a fresh herb sauce and a Pomegranate and citrus dressing; baby spinach with butternut, lentils, feta, and cashew nut brittle salad, with yoghurt dressing; three tomato salad with basil, bocconcini, and mint; and foccacio topped with olives, accompanied by hummus. Wines served represented the award-winning wine estates, being Cremello 2013 by Cavalli, Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2014; The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2013 by KWV; Babylonstoren Shiraz 2013; and The Jem 2006 by Waterford Estate. Plates of finger desserts arrived, with koeksisters, eclairs, strawberries, and chocolate truffles, paired with KWV Wild Africa Cream Liqueur. The crème de la crème in presentation was the cheese board, decorated with a rose and grapes.
We were told that the South African judging process is regarded as the most rigorous of all the Great Wine Capitals, with actual visits to wine estates by our local judges. Cape Town/Cape Winelands has been a member of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network for the past 12 years. It was wonderful experiencing Waterford Estate for the first time, and it is highly recommended for its attractive Tasting Room and location, as well as friendly and helpful staff.