Tag Archives: Methode Cap Classique

Sage Restaurant sauces sparkle at Chabivin Champagne and MCC House!

I would not have known about Sage restaurant at Chabivin Champagne and MCC House on the Blaauwklippen Road in Stellenbosch had I not received an e-mail from its Chef Jan Kruger, alerting me to their move to their new home.  The restaurant also manages the tasting of the Chabivin Methode Cap Classique (MCC) wines, and its imported French champagne Guy Charbaut range, a sparkling pairing.

I arrived on a chilly and grey autumn day, but chose to sit outside to enjoy the peaceful garden with a view onto the Helderberg mountains.  The garden is surrounded by bluegums, and has as its centrepiece a most unusual wire ‘tree’ which has bottles attached to it.  Bistro style chairs at wooden tables reinforce the Bistro nature of this eatery, being a small restaurant with a MCC and champagne bar, its modest prices, and its French style cuisine.  The restaurant is named after sage, one of the oldest culinary and medicinal herbs.

I met the owner Alison Cronje and Chef Jan in the lounge section inside the restaurant, with three comfy couches and a massive fireplace for the cold winter to come.  They moved Sage to Chabivin a month ago, having experienced some problems from the authorities with their previous venue at Sweetwell Farm, which belongs to Alison’s husband Hendrik, who has been running a piggery at the R44 smallholding for 27 years, and supplies Sage with pork and beef. The predecessor to Sage at Sweetwell Farm was Nice, which was run by the very nice Anne and her late husband Chef Chris de Jager.  To accommodate Sage, the Chabivin tasting room was transformed into a restaurant, and sommelier Justin does the Chabivin MCC and Guy Charbaut champagne tasting at the tables of their Sage guests, to bring out the pairing between the Sage dishes and the sparkling wines and champagnes.  Justin was once a construction worker, became a barrista at the previous Sage, and completed his sommelier course at the Cape Wine Academy last year.  Chef Jan started his cooking career at a kibbutz after school, returning to Johannesburg to work at Ile de France with Chef Marc Guebert (he now owns Le Souffle), who taught Jan to cook in the French style, and the importance of sauces. In the Cape he worked at 96 Winery Road and Eatwell in Stellenbosch, before joining Sage three years ago.  I liked Chef Jan’s explanation of the restaurant operating seven days a week, saying that he did not want to confuse his diners in having to remember on which days they are open, a problem diners face with most restaurants!  His policy is to offer ‘quality finer dining‘.  He will be starting a vegetable and herb garden at Chabivin. Currently he sources from Wild Peacock, Nouvelle Mushrooms, and Steve the Magic Man.  While the menu is changed regularly, some standards are never removed, so that the diners referred by others will get to try the favourite dishes.

The restaurant interior is painted purple, perhaps a colour symbolising sage.  A parrot in a cage and dried flowers in the lounge section jarred in what could become a popular restaurant, given its excellent cuisine, and MCCs and champagnes.  The restaurant seats 45 inside and 30 outside. Tables are laid with table cloths and material serviettes inside, while there are no tablecloths outside.

Bread is brought to the table in a woven basket, both unexciting.  The menus and the winelist are typed on cream paper, and laminated.  The Breakfast menu sounds delicious, with dishes costing R60 – R70, and including rosti, egg and bacon; a poached Frankfurter and eggs; Eggs Benedict; and Français Pain Grillé, with smoked bacon, avocado and honey. The A3 lunch menu is sectioned as ‘start…’, ‘inspired’, and ‘end…‘.   Starters cost R45 – R55, and include ostrich carpaccio, Tunisian pork on bruschetta, Cape Malay curried yellowtail, and crumbed calamari. None of the main courses cost more than R120, and a mix of fish, meat, and vegetarian dishes are offered.  Two pork dishes are available, the meat coming from Sweetwell Farm. The tender pale pink pork fillet I ordered was delicious, made so by the unusual brandy, cream and raisin sauce in which it was poached, topped with pea shoots, and I requested a spoon to finish every last drop.  The shoestring fries were not fully cooked and were too strongly drizzled with truffle oil for my taste.  Pork belly is served with a sundried tomato cream served with basil pesto couscous, which sounds delicious too. Other main courses are seared tuna, lamb burger on brioche, kingklip, chicken, duck, and rib eye steak.  The apple flan dessert was made with the lightest pastry and sliced apples, dusted with castor sugar and sprinkled with almond flakes, was served with an unusual basil ice cream.  Being a cold day, the ice cream could have been replaced with cream, to make the flan the hero, as the basil was fighting with it.  Crème brûlée, chocolate fondant, meringue, and a cheese board are other dessert options, costing R50.

The Chabivin vines were planted two years ago. The estate currently buys in grapes locally, and its sister Guy Charbaut champagnes are made from grapes from three farms in France.  Guy Charbaut’s sister Brigitte and her husband Jean-Pierre Abiven are the local owners, and the name of the wine estate came from an amalgamation of the two surnames.  The prices of the Chabivin MCC and Guy Charbaut champagnes are the same in the restaurant as they are for sales via the Tasting room, a commendable pricing policy.  Most of the wines are available per glass too.  The Chabivin bubbles ‘linger for longer’, Chef Jan said.  There are three Chabivin MCCs: The Mademoiselle Megane NV is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, is bottle fermented, matured for 48 months, has a light sweet taste, and costs R30/R120.  The Jean-Michel 2008 costs R35/R150, and is made from equal quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, on the lees for 48 months. The Acléméé Semillon 2005 is unusual in being made from Semillon grapes only, and is bottle fermented and matured before degorgement for 72 months (R45/R210).  There are five Guy Charbaut champagnes: Selection Brut NV is made from Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, lying on the lees for 36 months (R60/R380); Rose Premier Cru NV is 100% Pinot Noir lying on the lees for 36 months (R70/R410); Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV is 100% Chardonnay, and is aged on yeast for 48 months (R70/R440); Millesime 2000 Premier Cru, with 67% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay, is left on the yeast for 48 months (R80/R500); and Memory 1998 Premier Cru is made from 100% hand selected Chardonnay grapes (R1000).  The Blanc de Blancs and Millesime are available in a 375 ml bottle too, costing about R200, and as magnums. Commendable is that ‘Chabivin friendly‘ wines from the neighbourhood are also offered on the wine list, including Meinert, Guardian Peak, Ernie Els, Peter Falke, and Waterford Estate.  Winemaker Hendrik Snyman came to say hello.  He has worked for the family business since 2007, first in France, and now locally.

Sage is well hidden, creating peaceful country bliss with heavenly French-influenced cuisine and a good MCC and champagne range at affordable prices.  I will go back to Sage, as Chef Jan is clearly a talented saucier!

POSTSCRIPT 25/4: We received this refreshing e-mail from Chef Jan in response to our blogpost about sage: ‘I just want to say A HUGE THANK YOU for the wonderful article you wrote & posted on Whale Cottage Blog.  I saw it Tuesday morning and I was blown away by the in-depth writing and analysis. It was a true pleasure to have met you and I hope we cross paths in the continuous future.  Thank you for honest comments; both the critical and the complimentary. Kind Regards. Jan Kruger.  Sage Restaurant’

Disclosure: Chef Jan refused to accept payment for my meal and the MCC tasting.

Sage Restaurant, Chabivin Champagne and MCC House, Blaauwklippen Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 880-1643.   Sage Facebook page www.chabivin.co.za Twitter:@Chabivin  No Twitter page for Sage.  Breakfast and Lunch Mondays – Sundays, dinner by appointment.

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

Maison launches its first MCC Blanc de Blanc 2009: ‘clean, pure, and naked’!

Last night I tried the dinner at The Kitchen at boutique winery Maison outside Franschhoek, which now is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings.  I was privileged to try the new Maison Methodé Cap Classique Blanc de Blanc 2009, which was released last week, and which has been added to its portfolio of Chardonnay 2011, Viognier 2011, Blanc de Noir 2012, Chenin Blanc 2011, Shiraz 2010, Cape Ruby, and Straw Wine 2011.

Winemaker Antwan Bondesio patiently waited for the first sparkling wine to be made by Maison to be on the lees for 36 months, to bring out the best in the MCC, while owner Chris Weylandt would have loved to have released it sooner than that.  Only 1100 bottles have been released, each hand numbered (I had a glass of bottle number 123!), and each is hand labelled and branded.  The design of the label is minimalistic, being typographical only.  The back label informed that there has been zero dosage, and therefore the sparkling wine is ‘clean, pure, and naked‘!  It contains 12% alcohol, and sulphites, the label informs.  The winelist prices the MCC at R265, and is only available by the bottle.  Antwan has worked in California and Marlborough (New Zealand), as well as at Kaapzicht and at Spier.

It was a picture perfect evening for an outside dinner, both on the terrace, and on the long tables on the lawns, and a large group of Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests had been booked to have dinner there.  The families had brought their children, and they enjoyed the safety of the property, the lit fires, the lanterns all over the property, the cocoon hanging chair, and the roosters, giving the children more than enough to do while their parents enjoyed their dinner.   I have been to The Kitchen on numerous occasion for lunch, but last night the lit candles and lanterns gave the restaurant a magical and romantic atmosphere, from the time one enters the building.

On Friday and Saturday evenings the normal à la carte menu is available, which is used for lunches as well.  On the first Friday of every month Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg improvises, and offers his unique three-course menu for R250.  I jokingly said to Manager Julian Smith that they should do a braai, having big containers with fire, and he said that Chef Arno is considering doing a speciality braai on some of the first Friday of the month dinners.  I enjoyed the kingklip, beautifully prepared, firm, and not spoilt by any sauces or toppings as had been my last piece of kingklip at Nederburg’s The Red Table! It was served with carrot mustard purée, chive croquettes, marrow, beans, and sake jus.   The kingklip was on a specials board, which has a number of starter and main course items for every meal, and changes regularly, while the menu stays the same for about a quarter.  Currently the menu includes baby squid, tempura prawn, and smoked bone marrow starters in the range of R 65 – R85, while the main course options include forest mushroom tagliatelle, confit duck leg, Karoo rack of lamb, linefish of the day, and Shanghai pork belly, costing between R120 – R135.

For dessert the Valrhona Nyangbo (from Ghana) chocolate, peanut butter, and meringue rum cheesecake, served with anglaise ice cream and espresso gelée, was a treat, being quite a formal and serious dessert for a restaurant which is more inclined to informal cuisine. Other dessert options are a green tea parfait, and a tonka bean créme with gooseberry sorbet, costing between R55 – R65, and a local cheese platter at R95.  I finished off the evening with an iced coffee made with a special Terbodore blend, the best I have ever had.

I had a fantastic evening, enjoying the ambiance, knowing half the guests, and meeting interesting table neighbours, one couple attending a wedding in Franschhoek, and the other couple being Canadian/Germans, who have fallen in love with Franschhoek during their holiday.  The food was superb, as was the new MCC.  Julian refused to accept payment, laughingly saying it was my ‘commission’ for bringing so much business to the restaurant.

The Kitchen, Maison, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2116.  www.maisonestate.co.za Twitter: @MaisonEstate  Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.

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

Franschhoek sparkles with Cap Classique and Champagne Festival!

The Cap Classique and Champagne Festival is one of the highlights of the Franschhoek calendar, and its contribution to tourism is in the league of the Bastille Festival and Franschhoek Literary Festival.  In the next two days 51 Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) and Champagne producers will be offering their bubblies for tasting, at marquees alongside the Huguenot Monument.  Thirteen MCC producers are from Franschhoek. The dress theme is ‘Black and White’ with an emphasis on ‘Birds and Bows’, and the Festival is open from 12h00 – 17h00.  Entrance costs R200.

The bubbly producers are as follows: Colmant, Graham Beck Wines, Krone, La Motte, Morena, Môreson, Pierre Jourdan, Simonsig, Steenberg, Allée Bleue, Avondale, Bon Courage, Boschendal, Bramon, Cederberg, Chabvin, De Wetshof, Dieu Donné, Domaine des Deux, Francois La Garde, Villiera, Genevieve, GM & Ahrens, Guinevere, Groote Post, JC le Roux, Kumkani, Laborie, L’Omarins Anthonij Rupert, My Wyn, Plaisir de Merle, Pongracz, Quion Rock, Rickety Bridge, Ross Gower, Saltare, Saronsberg, Silverthorn, Sterhuis, Stony Brook, Tanzanite, Villiera, Weltevrede, Wonderfontein Paul René, Woolworths, Billecart Salmon, Tribaut, Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon, Therry Lesne, and Veuve Clicquot.

Food and other beverages will be offered for sale by Franschhoek restaurants, including Café Bon Bon, Deluxe Coffeeworks, Chamonix, Haute Cabrière is offering salads, Huguenot Fine Chocolates, Jessie’s Ice Cream, Le Franschhoek Hotel is offering pork pies and macaroons, Le Quartier Français, Bread & Wine, Mont Rochelle, Roca Restaurant, Salmon Bar, with Wild Peacock selling oysters.

POSTSCRIPT 2/12: The Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival has just endeded, a highly successful event.  The best dressed stand, in our opinion, was Morena from Franschhoek, always looking classy. Graham Beck was the best branded stand.

Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, end of Huguenot Road at Huguenot Monument, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2861.  www.franschhoek.org.za Book via www.webtickets.co.za

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

Pongrácz Petites perfect pleasure and panache!

As guest house owners we were very disappointed when Nederburg discontinued its 250 ml Cuvee Brut size, being ideal for guest house guests. Good news is that a Pongrácz Petite range has been launched in a 375 ml size, as Pongrácz and Pongrácz Rosé, being perfect for a single drinker, or two persons just wishing to drink a glass each.

The Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) range is named after Hungarian Count Desiderius Pongrácz, who ‘revitalised viticulture in the Cape‘, and inspired the making of the special sparkling wine, the brand’s website shares.  Pongrácz is made by winemaker Elunda Basson, and has won a number of awards: a silver medal at the 2011 Effervescents du Monde in Dijon, one of only two South African winners; Veritas Gold; and Best Non-Vintage MCC in the 2010 and 2011 Wine Magazine Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenges.

Pongrácz is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40 % Chardonnay, and sells for R61 for the Pongrácz Petite, and R70 for the Pongrácz Petite Rosé at selected wine shops, trendy bars, and in restaurants.

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