Tag Archives: Willowcreek

Absa 2021 Top 10 Olive Oil Awards winners announced!


SA Olive and  its sponsor Absa announced the Absa Top 10 Olive Oil Awards last week. Absa’s participation in and support of the Awards reflects that it is committed to South African agriculture and promotes the development of South African Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).

In accordance with the rules of the annual Awards, which have been awarded for the 8th time this year,  ten different olive oils must be recognised,  ‘to support the development of the South African olive oil industry by maximising exposure and opportunities for local EVOO producers.’ Continue reading →

Anthonij Rupert Wines has largest wine range in Franschhoek, introduces High Tea!

Anthonij Rupert entrance Whale Cottage PortfolioYesterday we visited the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room, one of two tasting rooms at Anthonij Rupert Wines, which previously belonged to Graham Beck Wines, and was bought by Johan Rupert from L’Ormarins next door, to enhance his access to water.  Anthonij Rupert Wines has five wine brands, and 25 sub-brands, the largest range in Franschhoek, to our knowledge.   Our invitation via PR consultancy Smart Communications & Events was to see the new tasting room and to try their new High Tea.

It was a grey wintry day, and the lit fire in the lounge was welcome and made the room cosy.  Hospitality Manager Gidi Caetano, whom we know from her days as Manager of Salt Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and then as GM of  the previous French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, explained the tasting room and company structure to us while we enjoyed the treats from the three tier High Tea stand, Anthonij Rupert High Tea close up Whale Cottage Portfoliowhich consisted of scones, cream and jam, chocolate cupcakes, and candied orange and gooseberry tarts, prepared by Chef HW Pieterse  and his team, beautifully decorated with rose buds, lavender, and pansies. We were served The Wellness Group teas,  with its tea leaves in muslin bags.  A range of flavours is available.   One can book the High Tea with 24 hour notice, and organise a tea party to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary, stork tea, or just a special spoiling. Anthonij Rupert Cutlery Whale Cottage Portfolio The High Tea will usually include smoked salmon blinis, and cucumber, dill and horseradish sandwiches too.  The treats offered change regularly, and could also include orange infused koeksisters, mini chocolate and hazelnut mousse pots, chocolate salami, and red berry tarts.  Gidi told us about the herb garden growing alongside the manor house, with 32 medicinal (for educational use) and cooking herbs, the latter used in the food preparation on the estate.  It was started from scratch a year ago.

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Antonij Rupert Wines opens new Tasting Room and Antipasto Bar!

It was a surprise to see that Antonij Rupert Wines (correctly speaking Antonij Rupert Wyne, as per the gates, there not being an English translation) has started operating from its new tasting room in the previous Graham Beck Wines premises outside Franschhoek, and an even bigger surprise was to discover the Antipasto Bar, which opened five days ago.

More than a year ago Johan Rupert, owner of the neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wines, bought the Franschhoek Graham Beck property, and moved into the property mid-year.  On the surface little has changed, but the tasting room has been moved upstairs to the light and spacious landing, and the Antipasto Bar has been created downstairs where the tasting room was. The security guard at the boom is much stricter than the Graham Beck Wines one used to be, and initially did not want to allow me to enter at 16h35, because they close at 17h00!  I promised to not do a tasting, and on that basis I was allowed in. It was a surprise to meet Gidi Caetano there, as the Hospitality Manager, having left French Toast about six months ago, to help set things up.  She was previously the manager of Salt Restaurant.

The Antipasto Bar seats about 35, and faces the tanks through a glass window.  It looks cosy with neutral decor greys and browns making the space look sophisticated. The Chef is HW Pieterse, who moved across when Café Dijon closed its restaurants in Stellenbosch, and was at Delaire Graff and the Grande Roche before.  The menu has a small selection of dishes, but this list will grow, Gidi assured me.  Three different olives, in three different marinades, cost R30; Artichokes marinated in thyme, lemon and olive oil cost R48; Caprese salad costs R60; Parma ham and melon costs R50; a selection of Italian cured meats costs R55; a platter with four Italian cheeses and fig preserve costs R75; artisanal bread is R20; a mixed antipasto platter R50/R85; and Biscotti costs R25.   I ordered the Franschhoek smoked salmon trout bruschetta, which was served with crème fraiche. lemon, and pink peppercorns (R60).   The restaurant will be sourcing supplies from the new L’Omarins (belongs to Johan Rupert too) organic herb and vegetable garden, and in future they will serve carpaccio from their own Wagyu cattle.  Marinated white anchovies will be added to the menu in future.  All dishes are offered with the L’Omarins olive oil, which won Silver in the recent Olive Oil awards, and the Terra del Capo olive oil range, which is still made for them by Willowcreek.  They bake their own breads, and marinade their own olives.  A new dessert special which is not yet on the menu, is Burrata, honey and strawberry, drizzled with balsamic, costing R35.

With one’s meal one can enjoy a glass or bottle of wine, very reasonably priced at mainly cellar door prices, at R13 – R21 per glass/R41 – R80 per bottle for the Protea range, R17 – 28/R59 – R115 for the Terra del Capo range, R17 – R43/R85 – R190 for the Cape of Good Hope range; and R30/R125 for the Antonij Rupert Optima.

The Tasting room opened three weeks ago, and the staff manning it looked professional, with white shirts, black pants and black aprons.  The 2013 Platter’s Guide is on the tasting counter.  The tasting offering is unusual, one tasting a choice of flights: Protea whites (Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chenin Blanc 2011, and Chardonnay 2010) for R10; Protea reds (Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Merlot 2011, Shiraz 2011, and Reserve 2011) for R15; The ‘TDC’, which is the Terra del Capo range (Pinot Grigio 2011, Sangiovese 2009, Arne 2008) for R15; ‘The Blends’ are Protea Reserve 2011, Terra del Capo Arne 2008, and Antonij Rupert Optima 2008 at R20; ‘The Unusual’ is a collection of Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio 2011, Sangiovese 2009, Cape of Good Hope Semillon 2010, and Pinotage 2008, at R30; The Cape of Good Hope whites (Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chenin Blanc 2010, Semillon 2010, and Chardonnay 2010 at R30; ‘Merry Merlot’ comes from the Protea 2011, Cape of Good Hope 2008, and Antonij Rupert 2007 ranges, at R40; and the Antonij Rupert range, being Optima 2008, Merlot 2007, and Shiraz 2007, at R60.  Some typos are unforgivable on this list.

Gidi shared that they are keeping the opening low key until they have completed setting up the late Mr Beck’s manor house, in which tastings of the Antonij Rupert and Cape of Good Hope wines will be done from the end of January onwards, ‘paired’ with High Tea.  The idea is to offer a ‘whole day package’ to visitors, Gidi said.

Antipasto Bar, Antonij Rupert Wines, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 874-9004.  www.rupertwines.com (Restaurant website under construction).  No Social Media. Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 17h00.

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

Catharina’s Restaurant: Marriage of Graham Beck and Steenberg wines, and Steenberg chefs too!

I haven’t been to Catharina’s restaurant on Steenberg estate for a number of years, and an e-mail notification of a food and wine evening at the restaurant, pairing a 5-course meal with three Graham Beck and two Steenberg wines, and presenting a meal prepared by the two chefs of the Steenberg estate, attracted my attention.  It was an interesting evening, and reflected a number of marriages.

In speaking to Steenberg winemaker JD Pretorius on arrival, he shared a number of interesting changes with me.  The most significant is that the two wine-producing wine estates Graham Beck Wines and Steenberg Vineyards, both of which were owned by the late Mr Graham Beck, merged on 1 July, to become Graham Beck Enterprises (Pty) Limited, with its hospitality portfolio of the Steenberg Hotel, the two restaurants Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina’s, two stud farms in Robertson, and two wine farms in Stellenbosch, all incorporated into the new company.  JD also told me that Gary Baumgarten, who had headed up the overall wine production of both estates, will be leaving at the end of October, and that John Loubser will be taking over the leadership. Graham Beck winemaker Erika Obermeyer, based at the Franschhoek estate currently, will move to Steenberg Vineyards, where she will be making Graham Beck wines, given the sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck property to neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wines, which becomes effective mid-2012.  Even more exciting is that Graham Beck will create the ‘Gorgeous’ Bubbly Bar at what is currently a separate function room just outside the main restaurant at Catharina’s, with its own menu, along similar lines to the Raw Bar of Bistro Sixteen82, and paired with a flight of the five Graham Beck MCC’s, Steenberg Hospitality GM Gabi Gramm told me from the table next door.  The Gorgeous Bubbly Bar is expected to open in December.

To get back to the food and wine pairing evening at Catharina’s:  I asked consultant sommelier Higgo Jacobs why the Top 100 SA Wines 2100 logo was so prominent on the menu.  He explained that all five the wines selected for the evening had appeared on the prestigious list of 100 finest South African wines, a competition that wine estates with better wines had voluntary chosen to enter.   Higgo is involved in the organisation of the competition, having previously been the full-time sommelier at Catharina’s.  He is now involved as a Sommelier consultant to the restaurant, assisting with the compilation of the winelist, and the training of its staff. He also serves on the Board of the recently formed Sommelier Association of South Africa.  He trained as a sommelier in the United Kingdom, having left South Africa to broaden his experience, having worked in wine retail, as well as in wine sales and marketing, and having made his own wine .  Higgo introduced the evening, and requested each of the two wine estates’ winemakers to introduce each individual wine per course, talking to the pairing with the food as well.   JD has worked at Steenberg for three years, while Erika has been at Graham Beck Wines for six years.

Catharina’s is a large T-shaped restaurant, that can be closed off into smaller sections with thick wooden doors.  Wood is the decor theme, with wooden tables, logs stacked on each side of the large fireplace playing a decorative as well as a functional role, and a wooden lino cut by Cecil Skotness fitting in with this theme. The historic origin of the building comes through in the windows, but glass doors leading outside are modern.  The marriage of old and new is visible on the table too, with a wooden holder on which a glass candle holder, a vase with beautiful red roses, and two small beautifully designed modern stainless steel salt holders, one each containing Himalayan rock salt and the other Maldon organic salt.  The tables have overlays in a grey colour, which match the colour of the comfortable upholstered chairs.  The ceramic Willowcreek olive oil and balsamic vinegar containers did not match the table décor.  Good quality serviettes are folded whenever one leaves the table, and cutlery is attractive German WMF Hotel.  The very modern bathroom, with lost of stainless steel too, has mirror frames made from oval-shaped vats, adding the same decor marriage.  The ceiling has reeds, with discreet downlighters.  Music was a lot of Michael Bublé.  Staff wear black pants, white shirts, and grey aprons.

It was interesting to hear that the two chefs on the estate had never collaborated or worked in the same kitchen before, and after the dinner they said that they had enjoyed the experience.  Chef Brad Ball has been at Bistro Sixteen82 since it opened two years ago, while Chef Garth Almazan of Catharina’s has worked at the hotel for the past twelve years, clearly loving his job.  The first course was prepared by Chef Brad, being a Leek velouté served with a Franschhoek trout brandade (a purée of salt cod, olive oil, and milk) and a tomato crisp.

To this starter JD had paired his Steenberg Vineyards HMS Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which was made with grapes from Darling, Durbanville and Steenberg, and named in honour of the ship used in the Battle of Muizenberg in False Bay close by. Chef Gareth prepared an Asparagus and goat’s feta risotto served with ciabatta crumbs and shemeji mushrooms. Erika had paired the Graham Beck ‘Pheasants Run’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010 with the second starter, and it was interesting how different the two Sauvignon Blancs were.  The grapes come from the Durbanville Fisantekraal wine estate as well as from Darling, picking up the closeness to the ocean, and hence the name given to the wine.

Chef Brad prepared the Roast Cape Whiting, served with a crab beignet, sweetcorn purèe, pommes Duchesse, and harisssa (made from chillies, garlic and coriander) oil, and I was impressed that this dish came with a fish knife, not being common in restaurants serving fish.  To this dish JD had paired his Steenberg Vineyards Semillon 2010, and he explained how this grape variety had been the most prominent variety planted originally, but that it only makes up a small proportion of grapes in South Africa.  Herman Hanekom, ex-GM of Steenberg VIneyards, had ‘smuggled’ some Semillon from Bordeaux into the country, and it was planted at Steenberg, Boschendal and Vergelegen, all initially properties that were owned by Rhodes Fruit Farms.   It is a niche wine for Steenberg, and is also used in the making of its Sauvignon Blanc. The Semillon is matured for nine months, and is a good wine to pair with food.

I was impressed that all food came out of the kitchen on piping-hot plates, the photography and Tweeting time not cooling down the food greatly. Chef Garth prepared an excellent rare Chalmar Beef fillet on cauliflower purée, served with crumbed veal sweetbread, pomme Maxim, and a red wine jus, which came with an excellent steak knife.

Erika paired the steak with Graham Beck ‘The Ridge’ Syrah 2006, and asked Mr Baumgarten to talk about the challenge he set himself to make an excellent Syrah wine from Robertson grapes, when sceptics said it could not be done.  Mr Baumgarten and Graham Beck cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira visited Australia, to study their red wine-making. They have not made The Ridge every year since the first bottling in 2006, having skipped 2009 and 2010, due to climatic conditions.

It was interesting to change back to a white wine for dessert, being the Graham Beck ‘Bowed Head’ Chenin Blanc 2009, made from a block of 45 year old vines, that can withstand the heat well.  It comes from Agter-Paarl, the grapes having had a little botrytis, is matured in barrel for nine months, and has honeysuckle and citrus notes.  The Spring Berry and Mascarpone Soufflé, served with a chenin and berry jelly, was the highlight of the evening, Chef Garth not making it easy for himself in his choice of dessert in baking sixty soufflés.  The LavAzza cappuccino, which I ordered with the dessert, was a surprise charge of R15, and was not mentioned by the waiter when ordered, something one would have expected to be part of the R390 price tag.

I will certainly be back to try Gorgeous when it opens in December.  The Steenberg Estate is beautiful, an interesting marriage of history and modernity, and decorated with excellent local art.  The marriage of Graham Beck Wines and Steenberg Vineyards is one of two outstanding wine brands.

Catharina’s, Steenberg Hotel, Constantia.  Tel (021) 713-2222. www.steenberghotel.com.  Monday – Sunday, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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