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WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 12 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Google does not only have a Google Doodle in honour of the 2014 World Cup, but it also has a YouTube video in honour of the kick-off date of the soccer tournament in Brazil today.

*   Load shedding appears to be rearing its ugly head again, with freezing conditions throughout the country this week, with snowfalls spread between the Helderberg in Somerset West to the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.  Last night a sms warned of load-shedding in Hermanus, Gansbaai, and Stanford, 15 minutes before it was due to commence at 20h00, but its commencement was delayed later into the evening.   The City of Cape Town has posted possible scheduled times for load-shedding, but seems confident that it will not happen any time soon.  Camps Bay is not marked as a load-shedding area, nor is the airport understandably, and the townships and residential areas to the east of the airport also appear load-shedding-free!

*   The Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront is adding a multi-million Rand development in the previous parking area Continue reading →

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

Cape Town selected as finalist for World Design Capital 2014

Yesterday Cape Town received the fantastic news that it has been selected as one of three finalists for the World Design Capital 2014, with Bilbao and Dublin.  The city competed against 56 cities for this prestigious accolade, which was won by Seoul last year, and has been awarded to Helsinki for 2012.

A World Design Capital city is selected every two years by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, to a city that uses ‘design for social, cultural and economic development’, the Cape Town Tourism media release says.  The Council will be visiting Cape Town from 10 – 24 July, in a period in which the city will not be looking at its best in the winter weather, relative to its northern hemisphere competitors. The winning World Design Capital for 2014 will be announced on 26 October.

The Cape Town Partnership managed the bid for the award, supported by Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town.   The recent decision to position Brand Cape Town as an innovation hub supported the World Design Capital bid, and uniquely differentiates Cape Town from other South African and African cities.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold welcomed the good news: “This is a significant moment for Cape Town.  Our shortlisting is an acknowledgement that design is an asset and a massive catalyst to align different sectors across the city with the ultimate goal of making Cape Town a more liveable (sic) city.  Many people associate Cape Town with our beautiful natural surrounds but design and innovation is (sic) leading the way for us to become a city that people are increasingly choosing to explore and discover from an urban context….  As Cape Town moves into the future, we are convinced that it will become an ever more exciting place to live in, work in and visit.”

Odd was the information contained in the ‘Newsflash’ sent to Cape Town Tourism members last night, which stated that “..Cape Town’s bid theme is about the City’s use of design to overturn the negative legacies of its colonial and apartheid past that saw design dividing people, disconnecting the city, and relegating both people of colour and the urban poor to the fringes”.  This mouthful of a statement, which does not make sense in blaming design for apartheid, gets worse in the rest of the ‘Newsflash’, and one hopes that the bid book contains a more uplifting and positive motivation for Cape Town to be selected as the World Design Capital 2014!

Andrew Boraine, Chairman of the Cape Town Partnership, wrote on his blog that the Finalist status is good for Cape Town for five reasons: organisationally it demonstrated a good partnership and teamwork between the private and public sector; the deadline in getting the 465-page bid book completed and submitted was a challenge well handled; it gives brand Cape Town international visibility; it gives the citizens of Cape Town pride in their city’s success; and it will help to develop a greater design focus on anything that impacts on design in Cape Town. 

POSTSCRIPT 22/6:  The website of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design summarises what the three finalist design capital bid cities represent.  Cape Town is praised for its beauty, and hosting of the World Cup last year, hardly the basis of giving one confidence of winning in October.  Furthermore, embarrassing is that a link is provided to the ‘Cape Town Tourism Board’, which is not Cape Town Tourism’s website, but that of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which organisation had nothing to do with the bid!  Even worse is that it is completely dated, with a boring You Tube video dating back to the World Cup!  Come on Cape Town – the world’s design eyes are on us now!  The photograph shown for Cape Town is an aerial shot of the city, with the Cape Town Stadium prominently visible.  That for Bilbao is of a highly modern building, in all likelihood the Guggenheim Museum.  The Dublin pic is completely boring.  Dublin is reported to have spent €14 million on its bid, compared to Cape Town’s mere R2 million!  This is what the Council wrote about each of the three finalist cities:

Bilbao  

Bilbao is the capital of the province of Vizcaya, which is situated in the western part of the Basque Country, in northern Spain. As a financial and economic centre of the region, it is a dynamic and innovative city with intense social and business activity. Since the creation of The Guggenheim Museum in 1997, this city with a population of over 350,000 has been in the process of a large-scale urban transformation that has led to the development of a composed and diverse metropolis on the cusp of a dramatic urban revitalisation. So much so that Bilbao earned the 2010 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize given for contributions to the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities.Spanish Tourism Board (Bilbao)  

Cape Town 

 The City of Cape Town lies at the southwestern tip of Africa, uniquely nestled between Robben Island and the majestic Table Mountain range, two national heritage sites. Since the end of apartheid, this city, now three times the size of New York and home to around 3,6 million people, has undertaken the process of redesigning itself. As South Africa’s oldest city and having recently hosted the first World Cup on African soil, Cape Town now has first class infrastructure and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. With the highest standard of living of all South African cities, this gateway to the African continent is rich in heritage, innovation, diversity and creative talent.Cape Town Tourism Board 

Dublin  

A city of one million people, Dublin is a hospitable, lively and eccentric city known to be open to ideas and creativity. With its wide connectivity and strategic geographical location, the capital of Ireland has become a busy crossing point for global flows of people and investment, as well as an international hub for large technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and IBM. With its unique design heritage, the Unesco City of Literature is host for influential and distinguished design events such as the ATypI 2010 conference and the World Craft Council Europe conference in 2011.Dublin Tourism Board

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

Bloggers should not blog about themselves, bloggers told!

The fifth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting was a lively one, held at the Salt Vodka Bar, with a most entertaining Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax blog, and a most informative Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, writing the Hein on Wine blog, sharing their views on the importance of social media marketing.   In talking about blog content, Hein advised bloggers to not write about themselves, but to focus on their blog topics instead. 

Hein introduced the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz Viognier from the Pierneef Collection, and his role at La Motte over the past eleven years.  In winemaking, he said distribution and the intellectual property of the brand are key.  The goal of La Motte is to focus on making excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz wines, and wants the brand to be one of the Top 10 South African wine brands.   The estate created a vision to meet this goal, called La Motte Redefined, which consisted of a number of elements, all working in unison to create a WOW La Motte experience: a new Tasting Room, which has a combination of wood, brickwork and glass to make it more welcoming and less intimidating; a restaurant striving to be of a top 50 international restaurant standard, focusing on traditional South African food, with a demonstration kitchen and TV cooking; to offer a “plaaswinkel”, which sells items no other farm shop does, including five styles of breads, one of them even including 2 % shiraz;  to establish a gallery to present the collection of 44 Pierneef artworks which they bought from Pierneef’s daughter and brought back to South Africa from the UK; a museum in honour of Dr Anton Rupert; and to honour his wife Hanli’s musical career in a second gallery. 

Hein recognises that social media marketing is the new marketing platform, and he started blogging just over a year ago.  He realised that the world faces information overload, with no one having the time to go beyond the first page of Google when doing a search.  This is why one must use blogs and Twitter to package one’s information in a way that meets the target market’s need.  In the past the wine industry was at the mercy of the evaluation by Parker and Platter – now winemakers can talk to their market, explain the making of the wines and proactively provide information which empowers wine drinkers to drink their wines with greater knowledge about the brand and the particular variety.  Hein says that we are still not using blogging to its fullest extent, and over time many blogs will fall away, and new ones will commence.   He sees the decline of You Tube and videos, due to the time it takes to download them, and the increase in the use of Twitter.  La Motte publishes a new blog post every 2 -3 days, and tweets 2 -3 times per day.  Hein says that if one sets a frequency of communication, one must stick to this, as one’s readers expect it as one does a newspaper, because it becomes a habit for the reader.   This was mentioned by Dax too.   The Cape Winelands Cuisine, which is the focus of Pierneef Ã  La Motte, will be brought into the blog in future.  

Hein follows the late Dr Rupert’s communication mantra: simple, sincere and repetitive.   This applies to social media too.   Hein recognises the power of the Chinese market, and La Motte has made R 8 million in sales in its first year.  Hein is now learning Mandarin, commendable for a very busy wine businessperson.   La Motte wines sold 2800 cases 11 years ago – this has grown to 100 000 cases sold in 40 countries, whilst the economy brand Leopard’s Leap sells 600 000 cases annually.   The distribution company Meridian Wines, founded by Hein too, delivers wines from 28 cellars to restaurants in temperature-controlled vehicles.    The fellow Twitterers smiled in understanding when Hein said that he ends his day and starts the next with his iPhone, to read what has happened in the world.  It is the most time-efficient way for him to stay in touch, he said.

Hein’s talk was followed by a presentation and tasting of the first South African vodka, called Primitiv, made in Wellington by Jorgensen’s Distillery.    It is handcrafted, using artisanal methods, from barley and spelt, giving the vodka its unusual taste of peppery spice, floral and anise touches over a creamy grain base, with a masculine finish.

Dax impressed with his natural talent of speaking about a topic that is clearly close to his heart, and included tap dancing and being really funny, a side to him that he does not often reveal.  Dax said that the frequency of blogging will influence the quality of one’s posts, and therefore the traffic to one’s blog.   He advised that one’s blogging frequency should stay the same, to meet the readers’ need for consistency.   In terms of content, he advised that one pace oneself, and not write all one’s content on one day, to ensure that one’s audience comes back.  Writing comments on other bloggers’ blogs is important, he said, as it shows collegiality, and helps build traffic.  The timing of one’s Tweets is important too, and should be when one’s followers are on Twitter.  Little reading of Tweets is done at night, so tweeting then is wasteful.  Hootsuite, and similar scheduling tools, allows Dax to pre-schedule 4 – 5 Tweets per day, at intervals of one hour.  He advises Tweeting between 9h00 – 15h00.  

Dax writes about food and wine, events in Cape Town, green issues, artisanal beers and the Cape Town lifestyle.  He has been blogging for 7 years already, one of the pioneers.  His blog evolved from a newsletter he created, sharing with others what wonderful things he had discovered in Cape Town, after moving here from PE, via Durban.   Helping provide advice to others about where to celebrate a special event makes Dax feel good, he says.   The 2010 SA Blog Awards, and its poor organisation this year compared to 2009, was discussed.  In the main the comments, also from the bloggers present, were disparaging, and Dax concluded that the SA Blog Awards has devalued blogging due to the controversy associated with it, even though it was meant to achieve the opposite.  

The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 20 October , from 6 – 8 pm, at the Rainbow Room in Mandela Rhodes Place.  Simon Back from Backsberg will introduce his wines and the use of social media in making his family wine estate one of the most environmentally-friendly in the country, and Tom Robbins from Eat Cape Town will talk about Restaurant Reviewing and Blogger Ethics.  Contact Chris at info@whalecottage.com to book.

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