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Myrna Robins

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Restaurants

Posted by on in Restaurants

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As I write this the ever-expanding rock – and green – outdoor festival Rocking the Daisies in is full swing near Darling. Not only is this becoming an international event, as claimed by the organisers, but this year’s events caused ructions in the academic world as UCT students requested being excused for exams as they had booked tickets for the fest.  In our era we would have probably been carted off to psychiatrists if we’d tried that one on...

But I digress. A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days with my family in Darling, just ahead of their annual flower festival which marked its centenary this year. While we missed this impressive milestone. we were in good time to wander among fields  of daisies in pastel hues in the tranquil Tienie Versfeld reserve as the bulbs were poking up stems with the promise of blooms to come. Rolling hills  of canola made a golden backdrop.

Darling town is laidback and hospitable, rustic but efficient when it comes to meeting visitor needs. We had booked for a matinee of Adapt or Fly at Evita se Perron, it was a magical hour that finished with the promise of Uys impersonating Julius Malema next time around – I can hardly wait. We spent a happy half hour at Darling Sweet – along with a sizable group of enthusiastic customers – sampling the irresistible toffees produced by the Hentie van der Merwe and Frits van Ryneveld’s staff in a glassed-off section of the shop. This is a success story based on hard work, good marketing and fail-proof recipes for both confectionery and human resources: In a handsome Edwardian building , once the home of Darling’s General Dealer, the partners’ sweet production is in full swing on one side, while on the other free samples of their considerable range of toffees and toffee spreads invite tasting. Then choices are made, and the till rings constantly as happy customers leave clutching their goodies. The enterprise has provided employment for 20 locals, has become a must-see destination on  the tourist itinerary, and, best of all, these handmade toffees contain no artificial flavourings, or colorants and cont no preservatirves. What, I asked Fritz, do you use for the fat ingredient? Butter, of course, only butter” came the answer. I am hooked!

We went to sample local artisanal beer and agreeable fare at a evening show in the industrial area, and by way of contrast, joined an elegant midday wine and olive tasting at Ormonde farm Their recently released NJB sauvignon blanc 2017, only available from the farm is a tribute to a former patriarch and is a classy, if fairly pricy, wine.

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For me, a highlight was a visit to The Darling Wine Shop, the little emporium of well-known négociant Charles Withington, and stocked with a delicious mélange of vinous delights. I was sorry that the owner was not there, having met him previously years ago, but as we left the shop, he and his wife Janet arrived. As it was closing time, there was little time to talk, but we have since corresponded on email, while savouring two of Withington’s wines, which I have reviewed separately. See WITHINGTON DUO – Winning wines of Darling

We ordered takeout pizza, and ambled through streets lined with both Victorian and Edwardian homes, - gentle, unshowy architecture in keeping with the atmosphere prevailing in the town. When the international sophistication of glamorous wineland destinations threatens to overwhelm, turn tail and head for Darling, an inexpensive and soothing remedy presided over by real people. As a bonus, you may discover some fine wines.

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As Heritage month heads to a climax with the public holiday - and a long weekend to boot – we know that millions of South Africans will be lighting braai fires across the nine provinces as the recent tradition of combining heritage with a National Braai Day as been enthusiastically adopted.

Round many a fire family, friends and cooks will be clutching glasses of good Cape wine – both to celebrate the occasion and to accompany the brunch, lunch or supper feast sizzling over the coals.

Some of our cellars have established a heritage legacy through their history, having been in existence for more than 300 years. Others have done so through their products, that have become renowned as wines with a long tradition. Nuy Winery falls into the latter class, having produced fine muscadels since their inception in 1963. Hardly a year passes without these fortified dessert wines being rated as best in the country, both white and red. Former cellarmaster Wilhelm Linde (1971 – 2003 is widely credited with being responsible for the impressive increase in quality of muscadel at Nuy, something that present cellarmaster Christo Pienaar upholds and carries forward.

This month muscadel fans can invest in a case of of Nuy muscadel wines with five year intervals between vintages from 1991 to 2016 along with a 2006 white muscadel. Only 15 of these heritage cases will be released during September, each packed in a wooden case made for the occasion. This heirloom collection costs R1500.

Meanwhile, Nuy has also been increasing its range of wines from other cultivars over the last couple of decades, and one of these, the Mastery range has acquired a sauvignon blanc 2017, just released in time for spring flings. Moderate alcohol levels at just over 13, the back label uses Afrikaans to describe the wine as presenting tropical fruit aromas followed by a combination of fruit on the palate and having a long finish. I found the nose quite shy, but the palate full and fruity with a silkiness that lingered. Mixed fruit, yes, with a little passionfruit and lime, balanced by the freshness of youth and no searing acidity.  Slips down agreeably, both as a aperitif and a companion to a range of summer fare/

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A group of us from the McGregor Heritage society recently lunched at the Nuy hilltop restaurant and I’m pleased to report it's maintaining its well-deserved reputation for both cuisine and service, although the prices have risen. (What hasn’t, I hear you mutter).

 

Earlier this year cellarmaster Christo Pienaar was elected the new chairman of the SA National Wine Show Association, replacing Charles Hopkins who retired after a five-year stint. Pienaar is well qualified to take over, and has been actively involved in the Association for more than a decade.

 

All in all Nuy’s tasting centre and bistro, with its panoramic views, provides both an outlet for some notable wines and spirits, and offers a delectable oasis in the gastronomic desert that exists on the R60 between Worcester and Rooiberg.

 

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There can be few landscapes more evocative of the rural Cape than that of Val du Charron – the iconic gabled farmstead, the whitewashed ringmuur, orchards and vines all set in an exquisite valley edged with mountain ranges.

Nicely named to encompass Wellington’s earlier name - Valley of the Wagonmakers -  while adding a Gallic tribute to the Huguenot founders, the beautiful 45ha Val du Charron is in the Bovlei,  in itself a district worth visiting for beauty, history, hospitality and good wine.

Just over a decade ago the Entwistle family bought the neglected fruit farm, first registered at the close of the 17th century, and set about restoring it. Once again English settlers have joined Afrikaners in this region, confirming a pattern that has been developing over the last few decades with beneficial, even synergetic,  results.

 

Val du Charron is today a renowned destination offering a choice of luxurious accommodation, fine fare and some fascinating wines. The farm acquired estate status some five years ago and today  produces two wine ranges, the Val du Charron Reserve, comprising chardonnay, pinot gris, shiraz and  cab, while their Theatre of Wine presents a trio of blends.

Catherine Entwistle sent me a pair of blends, plus the 2017 pinot gris from the reserve range.  Pinot Gris is an uncommon cultivar at the Cape, consisting of just .35% of the Cape vineyard area. I have found some previous examples rather characterless, so was keen to see what Bovlei terroir produced. This one is pleasing without overwhelming, crisp and fresh,  offering sufficient fruit, both citrus and melon, along with  discernible structure and with moderate 13% alcohol levels. A portion of the harvest from the eight-year-old vines was barrel fermented which no doubt helps account for fullness and good mouthfeel. Cellar door price is R89.

 My favourite wines of the moment are chenin-led blends, so it did not take me long to unscrew Four White Legs, a 2015 vintage comprising 38% chenin blanc, 28% pinot gris, 18% roussanne and 16% viognier. In a word – delicious! From its complex nose combining stone fruit with vanilla to wafts of flavour on the palate, fruit, cream  and honey, full-bodied but retaining freshness.  Fourie harvested the components over two and half months, and matured a portion of each in French oak, mostly second fill, for eight months. Alcohol levels at 14% are a little high for today’s tastes, but at R59 from the farm, I certainly would not let that detract me from a great buy.

This is also a chenin blend with a delightful  story behind its unusual name which is  spelled out on the back label  - suffice it to reveal that the four legs are those of a horse.

The tale behind the Black Countess red blend is also printed on the back label – this involves a British remittance man from Wellington  who met the daughter of a freed slave in the Northern Cape. The couple settled in Wellington and in 1883 the man, Harry Grey inherited the title of Earl of Stamford and his wife became the Countess. They stayed in this country, undertaking the building of schools and uplifting the poor.

The wine is a shiraz-led blend finished with 21% mourvèdre and 5% grenache. Medium-bodied, well-rounded with berry flavours alongside some herbiness, the oak adding a dash of vanilla.  French and American oak were used for 12 months maturation. Alcohol levels just over 14% and the farm price is R99.

Val du Charron also produces a merlot, malbec and other red blends.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

 

A host of countrywide events in the Cape, Free State and Gauteng offer wonderful wines paired with companionable snacks. The events are chronologically arranged,  followed by  a few tempting winter wineland dining options .

 

 

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FREE STATE WINE SHOW IN BLOEMFONTEIN

 

The fifth Free State Wine Show takes place on Thursday and Friday August 3 -4 at Emoya hotel and conference centre in Bloemfontein. Visitors will find a choice selection of the Cape’s best, from bubblies to whites to reds to Cape ports and fine brandies. About 40 exhibitors will be pouring their best and the full list can be found at www.freestatewineshow.co.za. Tickets can be bought through Computicket and other outlets.  The show takes place from 18h00 to 21h00. Tickets cost R160 online until July 30 after that the price is R190 online and at the door. For more info, call 011 482 5936

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ROBERTSON SLOW FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL: 4-6 AUGUST 

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Robertson’s annual Slow Food and Wine festival attracts repeat visitors year on year who savour not only the  hospitable Robertson Wine Valley with its warm heart and fine wines, but a festival where wine farms offer personal itineraries that range from fireside tastings and hearty suppers to picnics and platters, underground cellar tours, game drives, horse-riding and slow cruising down the Breede river.

The Sunday Family Market on Klipdrift farm on August 6 from 10am is a finale worth staying on for . The setting, the produce, the ambience add up to a delicious slice of country life. Entrance is free, and  children are well catered for.

Look through the website programme and make your bookings – don’t leave this too late as some events are already fully booked.  See www.robertsonslow.com. And call 023 626 3167 for more info.

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Another perennial favourite to diarise: Wine Concepts will host their 5th Seductive Sauvignons Festival at The Vineyard Hotel in Newlands on Friday August 18 from 17h00. Taste a fine selection of recently released sauvignon blancs along with current cabernet sauvignons from more than 40 of South Africa’s top producers. Bubblies, rosés and dessert wines will be included to add delicious diversity, and moreish snacks will be offered throughout the event.

All wines showcased will be available at special prices during the show.Tickets cost R200 from www.webtickets.co.za, or at any of the Wine Concepts branches. Telephone Newlands at (021) 671 9030 or Kloof Street at (021) 426-4401 or at the door on the evening, subject to availability.Email: admin@wineconcepts.co.za.

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THE CRADLE OF FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

 

 

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Gauteng winelovers have a new festival to contemplate and it has the makings of an annual must-do. The Cradle Boutique hotel and leading wine outlet Wine Menu have joined forces to host an event, which marks August as women’s month by featuring the products of 10 estates where women star as both winemakers and creators of fine boutique gins.

The premium wines on show include those by Catherine Marshal (Elgin); Swartland’s Huis van Chevallerie (winemaker Christa von La Chevallerie) and Kloovenburg (winemaker Jolandie Fouché); Stellenbosch’s Haskell (winemaker Rianie Strydom); Franschhoek’s La Bri (winemaker Irene Waller); Greyton’s Lismore (owner and winemaker Samantha O'Keefe) and Waterkloof wine estate in Somerset West (Nadia Barnard).
 
Also at the show will be Callan Williams who will present her lauded handcrafted wine brand The Garajeest and Carla Pauw from Stellenbosch who will show both her Saltare wines and olive oils.
  
Taking place on Saturday August 19 at the Cradle hotel from 11am to 4pm, families are welcome, although only those over 18 will be sampling the wine and gins. The Cradle Explorers Club will have a guide on hand to take children for a two-hour nature walk at R80 per child, which includes a picnic. The hotel is at Kromdraai road, Cradle of Humankind.

Adults can opt to buy a picnic hamper after the tastings, or book for lunch at the hotel. Festival entrance costs R75, under 18’s go in free.

 

 

 

HARTENBERG WINE ESTATE WARMS WINTER WITH ITS SOUL FOOD

 

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Heart and tummy-warming soul food is on the winter menu at this hospitable estate, from classic farm-style soups with farm bread, to the Hartenberg hamburger with chunky fries. There's a Vintners Platter to share, Banting options, vegetarian choices, and, of course the estate fine wines to complement your meal.  Open for lunch from Mon - Sat from noon, booking advisable. Call 021 865 2541 or e-mail info@hartenbergestate.com.

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 Winter Classics at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

 

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Winter feasting at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel’s Planet restaurant

 involves a  a menu of hearty, traditional and classic dishes. Modern mezze, antipasti and fritto misto make starters, or opt for Chef Rudi Liebenberg’s famous South African Cheese Fondue.

There's a Valrhona chocolate fondue as well, silky indulgence at R365 for two.

For mains, there's  Laingsburg lamb neck, linefish, grilled chicken breast and tortellini or mushroom risotto. The Winter Feast Special costs R325 per person. In addition, classic Beef Wellington - albeit with a twist - is back, presenting another sustaining option. 

 

For more info or to make  a reservation, please phone 021 483-1000 or e-mail: restaurantreservations.mnh@belmond.com

 

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Glenelly’s  Lady May range consists of just one wine – Lady May 201 is  a beautiful cab  finished with 10% of petit verdot and a splash of cab franc. It’s an elegant wine in the best Gallic tradition:  cellarmaster Luke O’Cuinneagain expresses his talent in understated creations that many connoisseurs relish.

 

 The wine is a tribute to estate owner May de Lencquesaing who  - along with running Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux -  invested in Stellenbosch 14 years ago, buying an old fruit farm and transforming it into a distinctive and beautiful wine estate.

Should any woman think she is too old to take on a venture like this, Lady May could be the inspiration  needed: she is in her 90's, and is still very active in running both her French and Cape estates, supported by her two grandsons.  At the launch last year of the renovated cellar and opening of a new tasting room and The Vine  Bistro, her young grandson introduced some of the wines, casually mentioning that he was in charge of marketing the estate across the USA, Europe and Asia.

Glenelly offers visitors a world-class destination, with May de Lencquesaing’s extensive private glass museum as an added attraction .

 

There are more than 300 items on display, antique and contemporary, dating from Roman pieces through glass from the 18th and 19th centuries, Art  Nouveau and Art Deco pieces, creations gy Salvador Dali and the Italian glassblower master, Lindo Tagliapietra, to contemporary South African works.

 One need not be a mother to savour a day in such beautiful surroundings, but for children looking for an unique venue for mothers who appreciate fine wine and relaxed seasonal  bistro fare, it would be hard to beat a day at Glenelly with its  spectacular views. Or just schedule a visit to see what hard work and vision can be achieved by a nonagenarian who takes little heed of passing years.

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