Tag Archives: Big Five safari

Restaurant News: Warwick launches new improved summer picnics

Yesterday Warwick wine estate launched its new Summer picnics, with a number of changes relative to last year.  Earlier this week I was invited to a sneak preview of the changes, and was one of a panel of volunteer blogger tasters (with Nikki Dumas, Lesley Cox, Anel Grobler, Polly Howard, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee) to give feedback about the new picnic.   I was critical of the picnic  on a first visit last year, and was happy to see a number of improvements on my latest visit.

So what has changed?:

1.   There is a new chef in the house!   Mark Springhorn has left Vergelegen in Somerset West, to join Mike Ratcliffe and the Warwick team.  Given that Chef Bruce Robertson, who designed the original gourmet picnic for Warwick, is on tour so frequently, he no longer is the consultant chef.  Chef Mark has built on Bruce’s quirkiness, and added more of a “Spring-feeling” to the picnic.

The quirky picnic “basket”, consisting of a cutting board, a table cloth, a box with the food items, a baguette and the Warwick newspaper, cleverly held together with a handle so that one can carry everything, remains as is.  The packaging containing the food is recyclable.  The bread is certainly better than I remember it, and comes from Sweet in Stellenbosch.  Inside the box is the following:

   *      Duo of cheeses: Simonsberg camembert and 12 month matured cheddar

   *      Charcuterie selection, including salami and coppa ham

   *      Chickpea fritters served with home-made tzatziki – this was the only dish that did not excite me

   *      Home-made rooibos and oak smoked Chilean salmon served with a buttermilk-dill dressing – oh boy, I have never seen such good looking deep-orange salmon cubes (looking like pumpkin), and with the most wonderful smoked taste – the absolute highlight of the picnic.

*        Biltong, mushroom and brandy pate – more brandy and mushroom can now be tasted in this foundation element of the picnic

*        Homemade apple, pear and pecan chutney

*        Tricolour tower of basil pesto, sun dried tomato puree and hummus

*        Honey cashew chicken salad with herb mayonnaise and orange slices – the oranges were a nice colour and taste touch

*        Decadent chocolate brownies topped with white chocolate ganache and onto which was sprinkled cranberries and pistachios, incredibly rich, and looking like an early mini-Christmas cake.

*        A box of Maynards wine gums.

The tasting panel ummmed and ahhhhed, enjoying all the elements.  Chef Mark plans to change an item on the picnic menu every week, testing the customer response and reacting to it as the season goes along.  When one books, special dietary requests will be ascertained.  Vegetarian and kiddies picnic baskets are available too.

2.  The price has stayed the same, costing R 299 for a basket enough for 2 persons.   (One can order an extra baguette)

3.    To address the congestion in collecting the picnic baskets inside the wine tasting building, a new outdoor picnic collection area has been created, which will also be where Jack Black beer can be bought on tap.

4.   To address the issue of staff not checking on guests’ drinks’ requirements well enough in the past, a trolley with “flat tackies” and a bell will be wheeled around the vast Warwick picnic area, containing ice cream, Jack Black beer and Warwick wines. 

5.  “Picnic pods” have been built around the dam, shielded from the South Easter, with tables that have built-in ice buckets to keep the Warwick wines chilled.   They differ in size, and can be booked to accommodate groups of picnickers.

6.   The Warwick vineyards are hidden from the picnic area, but can be seen on a Big Five Safari (showing the five vine types grown on the wine estate).  Grapes have now been planted close to the picnic area, and also at the entrance to Warwick.

7.  A suggestion for Warwick to have a presence on Twitter, in addition to that of Mike Ratcliffe, was implemented the following day (@Warwickchef), demonstrating how responsive Mike and his team are in accepting feedback.

A picnic at Warwick on a gorgeous Winelands summer’s day is an enjoyable family outing, with good food and wine, and lots of safe space for the kids to play on the jungle gym, in the little shallow stream, and to just run around.

POSTSCRIPT 20/5: For winter Warwick has introduced a good value Tapas menu, and I popped in for lunch to try it on my way to Franschhoek today.  There was very little happening there, and therefore it was a surprise to not see anyone in the Tasting Room nor in the next door restaurant/shop/picnic counter.  I called, but no one responded.  Luckily the waitress Vanessa came back inside, and showed me to a table outside – it was such a lovely warm day.  A material serviette and excellent quality St James cutlery is brought to the table, and the lack of a tablecloth is a disappointment therefore.  She brought a blackboard with the Tapas menu to my table, and the handwriting on it did not reflect the stature of this wine estate.  Chef Mark Springhorn was on leave and owner Mike Ratcliffe is travelling overseas, so it was disappointing for me.  I chose the Mixed cold plate (R35), which was only ‘mixed’ because it contained two slices each of cold meat (coppa and salami), two blocks of cheese and a sundried tomato relish.  It was served with a basket of ciabatta bread, which was wonderful.  Other Tapas options are:  cheese soufflé, smoked camembert and chef’s soup, each costing R25; sole paupiettes, and chef’s salad, all costing R35; Venison samoosas and denningvleis each cost R 45.  Sweet treats cost R25, for Persian love cake, and Brownies.  Children are also catered for, with salami pizza, a cupcake that the children can make themselves, and ice cream, at R25 each.  I enjoyed the LavAzza cappuccino.   One can still enjoy picnics at Warwick, but must pre-book them in winter.

Warwick wine estate, R44, between Klapmuts and Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 884-3144 Twitter: @WarwickChef   www.warwickwine.co.za  On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

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

Google Street View drives SA wine marketing!

Google Street View and Google Maps are two products that will change the world of marketing, wine estate owners and marketers were told at a presentation at the Protea Fire & Ice Hotel on Thursday.  South Africa is the first African country in which Google has introduced the technology, and the South African wine estates are the first in the world to have been included on Google Street View. 

Google Street View is the largest photographic project in the world.  Google Maps has already covered 100 countries in 350000 maps, in 40 languages.  Google Street View was launched in South Africa just before the World Cup (with some errors, in that the Metropolitan Golf Club is shown to be inside the Cape Town Stadium!).   Google Maps provides summary information about a wine estate, for example, and then shows the reviews about the estate on Tripadvisor, SafariNow and on other websites, providing a potential visitor with different sources of information which they can use to prepare for their visit.   At the presentation wine estates were encouraged to club together, and to design custom-packaged wine tours – e.g. a Pinotage tour in a specific area can be prepared via Google Maps, as the “pinotage” word would be Google-searched by the visitor from the reviews that contain that word, for example.  Wine estates can also apply Google Maps into the management of their businesses, in controlling their security, crops etc, they were told.

Google Street View cars (or even bicycles), with a massive camera on them, take photographs as they drive down roads, which are then processed to put them onto Google Maps.  To protect the privacy of the public, Google blurs car registration numbers and faces of persons who may have been walking while the photographs were taken.   The imagery is not real-time once it is accessed on Google Maps, given the time that is needed to process the photographs.     Google states that it respects the laws and norms re privacy on Google Maps, an issue that is being hotly debated in Germany at the moment.  If a resident finds his/her visual on Google Maps, even if the image is blurred, they can request it to be removed completely.   Even one’s house can be deleted, on request.

Google Street View allows users to virtually explore and navigate a localised area through panoramic street-level photographs.   A Street View button needs to be clicked on the Google Maps, one clicks onto a camera icon above a city, and then zooms in.  One can see a 360 degree panorama of that specific area, so good and real that one almost does not have to go there as one has seen it on Google Street View already!   Not only can one find the exact location of where one is going for a meeting, for example, but one can also see which coffee shops and parking garages are close by.   One can check out the real environment of a hotel one has booked at, which might be hidden in the photographs provided by the hotel in its Image Gallery, possibly due to its location close to a noisy or ugly part of town.

Visitors to a wine estate or to a town/city can upload photographs of one’s property, as well as provide information about one’s property, on Wikipedia.   Wine estates and tourism businesses were encouraged to add Google Maps and Google Street View onto their websites.   One can customise these applications, which are free of charge, in changing the photographs, or in enlarging or reducing the size of the maps.

Wine estates that are on Google Street View are Warwick Wine Estate, Vilafonte, De Wetshof, Fairview, Paul Cluver, Rustenberg, Meerlust, Morgenster, Bouchard Finlayson, Jordan Winery, Klein Constantia, Journey’s End, and Groote Post.

Google Maps can be added to one’s website (www.maps.google.co.za), so that one can create one’s own map.   One can also add one’s content to Mapplets, which are map layers or applications available on Google Maps.  One can use these to display information to Google Map users, giving content to Google Maps (www.google.co.za/apis/maps/documentation/mapplets/).  Google Places (www.maps.google.co.za/places) allows one to put a business on Google Maps, searchable by Google on its Google Maps, Earth, Search, and Maps for Mobiles applications.   One can personalise this business information with contact details, opening hours, photographs and more.

Leading Johannesburg wine consultant Juliet Cullinan endorsed the Google Street View application for wine estates, saying that this is the first opportunity South Africa has to launch top wine estates, icon wines, and the best wine cellars, and is the closest one can bring the consumer to a winemaker, and ‘almost’ get them to taste the wine on-line.  

Mike Ratcliffe from Warwick and Vilafonte wines, one of the most tech-savvy wine marketers in South Africa, has embraced Google Street View, and even got Google to include the Big Five safari trip they offer Warwick visitors.  Ratcliffe reiterated the growth of social media marketing, and quoted international advertising agency WPP in stating that 26 % of the agency’s business now is on-line communications.  The fastest growth has been magazine readership, which readers subscribe to on-line.   He hinted at the launch of “Google Me’, Google’s answer to Facebook.  HD also is coming, giving even higher screen resolution.  Ratcliffe encouraged his wine colleagues to embrace Google Street View, as it gives the South African wine industry an edge, before it is adopted by wine regions in other countries. 

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