Tag Archives: black diamonds

Cape Town International Jazz Festival hits a high note!

The 14th Cape Town International Jazz Festival is ready to blow up a storm this weekend, with forty top local and international jazz musicians entertaining 40000 music fans, and adding R457 million to the economy of the Western Cape.  Top performers include the Buena Vista Social Club, Mi Casa, Jimmy Dludlu, Jill Scott, and Gregory Porter.

Over its history the Cape Town International Jazz Festival has grown in stature to be ranked 4th in the top international jazz festivals, to such an extent that it has overtaken well-known international jazz festivals such as the Montreaux Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

In a media statement, Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde welcomed the jazz lovers attending the Festival, which kicks off tomorrow. ‘The Western Cape is proud to host this prestigious event’, said Minister Winde.  He added that the Jazz Festival is one of the most important events on the Cape tourism calendar.

The Jazz Festival attracts a large number of visitors to Cape Town, largely Black Diamonds from Johannesburg, but also from overseas, with more than 60% of the attendees having been international jazz lovers in 2012. Nationally the Jazz Festival added R 860 million to the country’s GDP, and created more than 2700 jobs over the Festival period last year.

The contribution of the Jazz Festival is so important to Cape Town and the Western Cape that the plans to expand the size of the Cape Town International Convention Centre will enable the Festival to grow bigger too. Construction on the expansion of the Convention Centre is expected to start next year.

The 14th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, 5 and 6 April 2013.  Tickets sold out!  www.capetownjazzfest.com Twitter: @CTJazzFest

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

Expect the Unexpected at Brenaissance and its Café Blanc de Noir!

It was Tweets by Delaire Graff Chef Christiaan Campbell about Café Blanc de Noir at new Brenaissance wine estate that attracted attention to the new eatery in the Devon Valley in Stellenbosch, which opened just over a month ago, and it had been on my list of restaurants to visit when I received an invitation to visit last Thursday from Nicolette Waterford, the new Public Relations consultant for the wine and stud estate. Brenaissance is like no other wine estate. lt does not have any historical buildings, it is not owned by a known winemaker, it has no heritage nor history,and it does not follow the industry way of doing things, and therefore the owners say: ‘Expect the Unexpected’‘ at Brenaissance.

Owners Hayley and Tom Breytenbach have worked in the finance and property development fields, and initially met at a gym, their paths crossing a year later again. Tom moved down to the Cape, and wanted to realise his dream of owning a wine farm.  Shown a property in a reasonably more affordable Devon Valley three years ago, the agent showed him a very run down 116 ha Highmead, which was a bulk producer of grapes sold to wine estates on 35 ha, with 14 varieties of plums produced on another 35 ha, and sold to Tesco.  At that time its owner had been caught in a pyramid scheme, and was close to sequestration. Although originally interested in a property across the road, Tom was moved by the owner’s plight, and made him an offer to pay his creditors within 24 hours, then bought the property, and made the original owner his farm manager.

Tom and Hayley did their homework, tasting wines at the majority of wine estates in the broader Stellenbosch area, observing the inconsistency in the quality of the wines made on the wine estates, and noted that the passion a winemaker has for a varietal comes through in the quality of the wine. They also observed the speed at which many wine tastings are conducted, five wines offered for tasting in about ten minutes. They initially appointed a respected consultant viticulturist, but differing opinions led them to part ways, and Tom has done as much studying as he can, doing a Cape Wine Academy course, studying via You Tube, has been a garagiste, and asks questions of experts on the internet, being surprised at how generous winemakers from around the world have been in answering his questions, but found his local colleagues to be less sharing. Tom is a Pisces, and said proudly that he does not take ‘no’ for an answer from anyone! This led Tom to focus on growing the best quality grapes on his estate – he does not buy in any – and then finding the best available winemaker for each of his varietals, entrusting four different winemakers to make his wines at their respective wine estates.  Another unusual aspect of the Brenaissance wines is that the varietal is not indicated on the front of the bottle, but is indicated at the back, the Breytenbachs wanting to build stand-alone sub brands, modelling their thinking on Boekenhoutskloof’s The Chocolate Block.  The varietals grown on Brenaissance are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.  Adding the plums to the farming mix has allowed the staff to be employed full-time throughout the year.  From 14h00 to 18h00 the temperature drops by 4 to 9° C on their farm, bringing structure to the fruit, Tom said.   Most vines are 7 – 12 years old, but the Merlot vines are 22 years old already.  Each wine price ends with an ‘8’, signalling luck for the Chinese.  Brenaissance offers an open phone advisory service, whereby one can call Tom for a wine and food pairing suggestion.  The customer club is called the ‘Blacklist’, and offers a discount on purchases, with free delivery throughout South Africa, and regular information.  They will focus their marketing on connecting with wine clubs, to build on their members’ enthusiasm and infectious sharing of wine information and experiences.

Tom and Hayley love black and white and this has driven the interior design, the name of their restaurant, their own dress and that of the staff, the colours of their cars, and everything that they do, including the labels for their wines.   In the range of seven Brenaissance wines, two are estate wines (Lady H and Lord T) with white labels, only available for purchase at Brenaissance, while the rest are wines that are to be distributed throughout the country, these bottles carrying the Brenaissance brand name, with the pay-off line ‘New Beginnings’, reflecting their reinvention of the wine estate that they bought.  Hayley is a doodler when on the phone, and she has designed all the wine labels, and written all the clever back label copy.  Tom is a planner and thinker, and does all his strategizing with spider diagrams.  They wanted to create a different and interactive winetasting experience for their customers, and represented their seven wines in such a spidergram, which they encourage their customers to take home, and to share with others.  Tom and Hayley are in the tasting room and restaurant most of the time, and help explain the wines to their customers.  In a succinct way, they have summarised the key aspects of each of their wines, describing the taste of each, suggesting ideal food pairings, and highlighting the character and personality of each:

*   Lady H is named in honour of Hayley, and is one of the two estate wines, with a white label.  It is their Sauvignon Blanc 2011, made by Jasper Raats at Longridge. It is complex and fruity, appealing to all around a table. It is cost-effective for functions. Cost R68.

*   Knight of White is the name selected for the ‘Liquid Gold’ Chadonnay 2010, this varietal doing well in the Devon Valley, being 90 meters above sea level, planted North – South on the wine estate, giving the vines consistent cooling in the afternoon.  It is wooded, having spent ten months in oak, giving it balance, with some acidity and some minerality. It has notes of butterscotch, with a salty aftertaste.  It pairs well with curry.  It is also made by Longridge’s Jasper Raats. Cost is R 128.

*   Lord T is a red blend non-vintage, but the exact ‘composition’ is a secret, containing four varietals and five vintages, Tom having done the final blend. Only 6700 bottles have been made, and only is sold at Brenaissance.   The price is R78.

*   Jack of Diamonds is the name of the Shiraz 2009, and this was offered with a small dish of biltong.  It is deep, dark, and bold, with tannin structure, a good mouthfeel, and is smooth.  Ladies like this wine in particular, Tom said.   It costs R158.   It is made by Suzaan Coetzee of nearby Clos Malverne.  The back label describes the wine as ‘ Our medallion stallion’.

*   Queen of Hearts is the name of the Merlot 2010, which is paired with Valrhona chocolate, which Tom referred to as ‘she‘.  The wine costs R138.  The back label refers to the wine as having had a ‘mid-vine crisis’, having been ‘nipped & tucked, nurtured & pampered to produce a re-born lady bursting with energy, style and wisdom…’.

*   King of Clubs is the name of the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, which Neil Pendock described as being head and shoulders above the rest of the industry, Tom shared. It costs R228, and is made by Nico Grobler of Eikendal.  It has notes of eucalyptus and mint, and is big and bold, the ‘Deep Heat of wine’, Tom quipped. Only 2500 bottles produced.

*   Full House is a Red Blend 2010, and is popular amongst the ‘Black Diamonds’ of Johannesburg, Tom said.   It is a Bordeaux blend, with balance, offering notes of crushed figs, mint, chocolate, with a violet rose finish, and consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a splash of Petit Verdot.  It is their most complex wine, and costs R168.  It won a silver at the Michelangelo awards. All the components of this wine have been assembled by Tom.

In just five months Tom and Hayley finished building Café Blanc de Noir, the wedding chapel, the wedding/events venue hosting up to 250 guests, with a boardroom added, a bridal suite as well as eight guest rooms, and a parking area.  The couple was hands on, Hayley doing the architectural drawings, and both overseeing the contractors. They created three dams, with a filtration system, reeding up the river, and transformed from marshland.  A water canal runs along the property, which one crosses via a bridge from the parking area to get to the restaurant and winetasting room, which is a long rectangular flat-roof building in black stained wood, with white umbrellas outside, and white light fittings inside.  Outside one is greeted by a sculpture called ‘Renaissance’ (made by the same artist Toby Megaw that made the lady at the entrance to La Motte as well).  Tom and Hayley are planning to build an art collection, and have already commissioned Greg Lourens to create a ‘Tribes’ series, to represent our country’s diversity.  Hayley has used mirrors extensively, and the whole kitchen wall is mirrored, making the space look twice as big.  Over the festive season they were contacted by a bride who had been let down in the last minute by her venue, and with two hours notice they took on her wedding with a party of 70.  Hayley planted a ‘Feature Vineyard’ near the wedding venue, representing all the wine estate’s varietals.  There is a bell hung in an arch, an innovative use of an umbrella stand.

Breakfasts were originally offered, but have been discontinued, as the demand for dinner is greater.  Tom and Hayley decided to focus on pizzas, as they love eating them, and to move away from the fine dining offer of most restaurants on wine estates.  They encourage their customers to eat the pizza with their left hand, leaving the right hand free to hold the wine glass.  Pizzas are served in a square, cut into rectangles, (‘we don’t cut corners’, they say), on wooden branded Cafe Blanc de Noir boards.  Herbs are still bought in daily, but they have started planting their own.  Given Tom’s high finance background, it was a surprise when he prayed to bless our meal. All the pizza bases are thin, and are rosemary-infused, as they had discovered in a pizzeria in Florence.  We shared three pizzas amongst five of us: biltong, sweet fig, Danish feta, avocado, and mixed greens, topped with a balsamic drizzle (my favourite); a cajun chicken with chorizo, red onion, mushrooms, mixed greens and chilli infused oil; and an aged Parma ham, garlic rosa tomatoes, avocado, mixed greens, Parmesan shavings, and pesto olive oil, all costing R75. There is also a caramelised onion, olive and feta option, a margherita, and a ‘hole some option’, with a centre removed and replaced with salad.   We also shared a fresh oak smoked salmon trout salad (R70).   For dessert there is a limited choice of carrot cake, meringue, and a delicious non-chocolate Florentine.  The cappuccino was excellent, made as requested.  The wines are sold at tasting room prices per bottle as well as by glass (except for the King of Clubs, which is available by bottle only), at R20 – R45 per glass.  Stellenbrau craft beer made close by is sold as well, at R20 for 340ml, and R25 for 500ml.

Brenaissance has become an impressive ‘gateway’ to the Devon Valley, and no doubt will grow in stature as Tom and Hayley Breytenbach grow their offering, with new wine varieties added (there is talk of a Blanc de Noir, to be called the ‘Ace of Spades‘, and a sparkling wine), they grow their own herbs for the restaurant, and they become a sought after wedding and event destination.  As if they do not have a big enough portfolio already, they have just brought in the first Kenyan Boran cattle, a small but hardy breed. Everything which Tom and Hayley do at Brenaissance they do with passion for their land and project, and not because they have to make money out of it!

Disclosure: The media pack included a bottle each of the Queen of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds, and Full House

Café Blanc de Noir, Brenaissance Wine and Stud Estate, Devon Valley, Stellenbosch.  Tel 0828574289  www.brennaissance.co.za Twitter: @BrennaissanceSA  Wednesday – Saturday 11h00 – 22h00, Sunday 11h00 – 17h00.

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

‘100 Women 100 Wines’: Cape Town Tourism markets non-tourism event it did not organise!

Cape Town Tourism has the mandate to market Cape Town as a tourist destination. One wonders why its Communications and PR Manager Skye Grove did the PR for the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event held at the Table Bay Hotel on Saturday, when the event was not organised by Cape Town Tourism, and was a commercial venture which received sponsorship from Ultra Liquors!

Last year the event with the same name was criticised by the wine industry for its lack of credibility, for its sighted evaluation of the wines, even though sighted wine judging critic Neil Pendock was the co-organiser then too, for being ‘frivolous, patronising, and a joke’, and for its zero tourism impact.  We asked then already why Cape Town Tourism had paid R20000 to the organisers of the event, which had no tourism benefit, having been heavily focused on attracting ‘Black Diamonds’ from Johannesburg.  Last year the event was held over two days at the V&A Hotel, Tops at Spar being the main sponsor, and the 100 ladies were spoilt with dinner, lunches, and overnight accommodation.

One wonders then why Cape Town Tourism is the only ‘sponsor’ to have supported the event again, Tops at Spar, the airline, Destiny magazine, and the V&A Hotel having withdrawn their support.  Ultra Liquors paid R120000 to sponsor the event this year, and Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold wrote that her organisation did not pay a sponsorship fee this year.  What she did not reveal was that Grove wasmanaging the communications and publicity aspects of the event’, according to Clare McKeon- McLoughlin’s blogpost on Spill blog, at no compensation to Cape Town Tourism, in what would have been Cape Town Tourism time, one would assume!  The event was not held in low season, which is what the industry was crying out for in winter. Mark Norrish, MD of Ultra Liquors, when warned about the organisers’ reputation, said that he had the McLoughlins and Pendock firmly under control, and that they had to follow his instructions.  His financial contribution must have been far reduced to that received last year, as the event was only run over half a day, with no meals, there being only one mention on Twitter of canapés served at the event.

As there was no airline sponsor for the event this year, most attendees were from Cape Town, with a handful from other areas such as Stellenbosch, Somerset West, and Elgin.  Once again one wonders why Cape Town Tourism was involved in an event which was largely attended by Capetonians, not making Marketing sense at all!  Mrs Helmbold showed that she had no idea what her organisation was sponsoring, welcoming Capetonians to Cape Town on Twitter: 100 Women 100 Wines is the world’s first wine competition judged by women for women. Welcome to ladies! “! Mrs Helmbold’s knowledge of wine terminology in the Cape Town Tourism media release is also embarrassingly poor: “100 Women 100 Wines is a welcome addition to Cape Town’s event landscape. It’s becoming a regular on the Cape Town calendar and is now an annual event that brings together women from different cultural backgrounds and demographic groups in order to celebrate the Cape’s great vine (sic) offerings at an unusual, fun-filled affair”.

While Ultra Liquors has grown its Social Media presence, it must be bitterly disappointed by the low Twitter coverage of the event, and the low Twitter following most attendees had, many having fewer than 10 Followers, with just four having more than 1000 Followers, @NatalieRoos with her close to 5000 Followers only Tweeting twice during the event.  #CapeTownTourism was only Tweeted once!  No media representatives attended the event this year, and there has been no post-event media coverage.

The publicity for the event did not indicate how the 100 wines were chosen for the event (in Tweets during the event there was regular reference to 350 wines, but this is not explained).  The 100 wines were divided into categories, including ‘The Boss is Coming’, Sunny Day Wine’, After a Long Day at Work’, ‘Long Lunch’, and ‘Best Braai Wine’!

The wine industry paid scant attention to the event on Twitter.  Calling the attendees ‘judges’ of the ‘Ultra Liquors 100 Women 100 Wines competition’, not selected on the basis of wine knowledge, is an insult to serious and professional wine competitions.

Surely Cape Town Tourism does not have a budget in time and money to support events of friends?  Surely its job is to attract tourists to Cape Town? This sets a precedent and means that, in fairness to all event organisers in Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism should do the marketing for every event that is hosted in Cape Town for free!  Cape Town Tourism received scant acknowledgement by the attendees for its role in the event, a marketing failure in itself for the tourism body.

POSTSCRIPT 16/11:  Writing a comment on the Spill blog, Michael Olivier shows how out of touch he is, by commenting as follows: So – when we having 100 wines, 100 boys? This is a good thing you are doing for the wine industry”.  The wine industry has scarcely reacted to the wine event, it having no credibility!

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

SA Tourism publishes Vegetarian, Vegan and Jain cookbook for Indian tourists!

The large increase in the number of Indian tourists holidaying in South Africa has led SA Tourism to publish a vegetarian cookery book, to guide local restaurants and hotels in the preparation of vegetarian, vegan, and Jain dining. ‘Guide to Vegetarian, Vegan & Jain Dining in South Africa’ is available free of charge to hospitality establishments, and has been prepared with input by the SA Chefs’ Association.

The latest SA Tourism newsletter reports that the Guide has 50 recipes for snacks, starters and sides, salads and soups, main courses, and desserts, and ‘lists food items that each group may (and may not) eat; gives a brief explanation of the culture that informs the dietary lifestyle of these tourists; and offers a wide selection of delicious recipes that will keep vegetarian, vegan and Jain visitors happy and well-fed as they explore and fall in love with South Africa’.  The book also explains the differences between vegetarians, vegans, Jain eaters, pescatarians, and lacto-vegetarians, and suggests the best local places to source ingredients.  Jainism is a religion in India which dictates vegetariasm, but its adherents may not eat root vegetables, says Wikipedia.

South Africa is justifiably famous globally for its cuisine and delicious fresh produce. We want to make sure that South Africa delights the palate of every single visitor – even those whose dietary preferences are strictly vegetarian,’ said Thulani Nzima, CEO of SA Tourism. ‘We also want to educate the local hospitality industry and tourism operators about how to best meet the dietary requirements of these visitors,’ continued Mr Nzima.

One of South Africa’s fastest-growing tourism markets is India, which grew more than 26% in 2011 and continues its strong growth. ‘Our research has found that the culture of visitors from India differs markedly from South African Indians, and although Indian visitors love our destination, their specific dietary needs are not taken care of in South Africa,’ added Mr Nzima.

It would be useful if SA Tourism could also prepare a guide to cultural differences within South Africa in respect of Breakfast.  We have seen expectations for Breakfast of visitors from Johannesburg to be vastly different to those of other South African guests.

‘Guide to Vegetarian, Vegan and Jain Dining in South Africa, SA Tourism, neesha@southafrica.net.

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