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Myrna Robins

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Restaurants

Posted by on in Restaurants

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It’s been a while since I visited this timeless venue, that combines art and history, fine fare and winning wine in an elegant, seamless invitation to linger. It’s one of Franschhoek’s most historic farms and one that wears its centuries lightly.

While planning to soak up some Grande Provence charm this month I have been sampling their 2014 wooded chardonnay with enjoyment. It is full-flavoured, well-balanced, with oak and fruit - stone fruit and citrus – offset by a freshness that makes it an enjoyable summery aperitif as well as a wine that will partner complex salads, poultry and shellfish with panache. It sells for R150 from the farm.

Mid-March will see Earth Hour being marked across the globe. Grande Provence celebrates the occasion with a special dinner, served by candle and lantern light between 8 and 9,30pm on Saturday March 19. Chef Darren Badenhorst will complement the occasion with a menu of sustainably sourced and free-range produce, cooked, where possible, over open fires. There’s an alternative Earth Hour lunch as well, cosing R395, while dinner is R695 a head and includes a welcome glass of bubbly.

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Looking ahead to April, the farm will present the first of their annual monthly Wine and Dine Collaboration dinners on April 29. Chef Badenhorst tailors his menu to suit the wines, which starts with chardonnay, including those of De Morgenzon, Iona and Newton Johnson vineyards. Cost: R695 a head. To book call 021 876 8600 or email restaurant@grandeprovence.co.zaChardonn

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We enjoyed a diversity of wine and bubbles over the festive season, including a number of new releases. Here’s info on the latter that I think merit attention – they were relished by family and friends.

 

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Starting with an exotic white (a grape that I have now added to my favourites lists along with some Med varietals,) every sip of Thelema’s maiden unwooded Verdelho 2015 was savoured. From a vineyard planted in Sutherland in 2007, the specs list this as produced from the earliest recorded harvest in Sutherland history. I liked that fact that its markedly different to our standard whites, and is a little fruitier than some of the Provencal grapes now favoured by adventurous winemakers. The combination of gently spiced citrussy flavours and discernible structure was delicious. It’s also a fine partner for Iberian fare: Gyles Webb suggests that local Angolan and Mozambican favourite, fiery chicken livers (and fado) - I would also recommend trying it with chicken liver, yes, but gently spiced and finished with fresh coriander or possibly an Algarve cataplana with chourico and onion, tomatoes and fresh clams.

I believe that both KWV and Fairview are producing Verdelhos as well – I hope to get to taste these soon.

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Now for a wine that both gourmets and geeks will probably sniff at, but – when January budgets are depleted and the bills are still rolling in - a pleb colombard, well chilled, fits the bill. This fresh, easy-drinking (and early-drinking) dry but fruity white has enough character to please, and at R32,50 ex-cellar, slips down smoothly. Robertson Cape White Columbar 2015 sports not one but three golds above its long white minimal label, including one from Veritas. Interesting to see that the only other colombards to attract gold are from neighbouring Worcester region.

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Another holiday white worth noting is La Petite Ferme Baboon Rock unwooded chardonnay 2015: - heavy bottle, white label adorned with realistic baboon, minimal wording on front label. More on the back, expanding on how baboons frequently ravage the chardonnay vineyards, but (philosophically) adding that what’s left is more flavour-packed. And this is, indeed, a frisky flavourful chard, with aromas of honey, citrus and pear which continue to the palate. There’s a little minerality (now an unfashionable term?) as well, and it costs R68 according to the farm’s website.

La Petite Ferme acquired a new owner late last year, who is busy refurbishing and upgrading. There is also a new bistro, but I was not able to attend the press opening so cannot offer details. I presume that Mark Dendy Young will be replaced as winemaker, but have not heard about this.

See separate blogs about recently sampled sauvignon blancs, a trio of splendid wines from Neil Ellis and a few fine reds to contemplate.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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The ongoing story of Stellenbosch Vineyards is complex, one I have only partly unravelled:

Let’s start with the recent launch of a small range of Enaleni wines, part of an empowerment project, and the wines Fairtrade-certified. Stellenbosch farmer Schalk Visser gave a 23ha portion of his farm Nagenoeg to 23 farmworkers, now also shareholders in 2009. This BEE project is now coming to fruition, with four cultivars producing harvests, and at least two wines recently launched under the Enaleni label. These are a 2015 sauvignon blanc and 2014 cabernet sauvignon, both of which are selling at around R65. Both wines are undemanding, easy on the palate, and should find favour with  consumers looking for enjoyable wines to accompany summer fare, weekend braais, or just aperitifs on the the stoep. Enalenif funding has come from both the SA government and Schalk Visser. There is more information on the website www.enalenivineyards.co.za.

Stellenbosch Vineyards, which is marketing the Enaleni wines, is both a wine producer and exporter of several labels, with their head office at the historic Welmoed farm on the R310 outside Stellenbosch. Along with Welmoed wines, they market The Flagship, Credo, Stellenbosch Vineyards, Four Secrets, Infiniti, Arniston Bay, Versus and Infusions.

Their popular restaurant Bistro 13 on the Welmoed farm has established itself as a venue that is true to its title, offering real bistro-style fare – chef-patron Nic van Wyk presenting seasonal, simple, inviting creations  incorporating new trends without going overboard. Summer menu includes items like smoked mackerel salad with pickled fennel, an Asian-style tuna tartare, classic steak tartare, ox tongue gratin and desserts worth keeping space for. Prices are reasonable, if the website is accurate – from R120 to R160 for mains, most desserts around R50.

Wines from the SV ranges, by the glass and carafe, the restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and for breakfasts as well over weekends. See their website for more info. www.bistro13.co.za.

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The boutique Leeu House hotel is up and running, and the launch of this five-star Franschhoek hostelry is complemented with a feel-good announcement, in tune with the season.

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Nearly a decade ago the Kusasa Project took off in the Franschhoek valley, a charitable programme designed to help underprivileged schoolchildren with academic, sporting and life skills development. See www.thekusasaproject.org. They have been running daily, weekly and annual activities with volunteers and more recently acquired their own school, which offers an excellent standard of education to beginners: Foundation Phase children are benefitting from this, while older scholars have access to a bursary scholarship which supports 50 children with higher education.

Last week the project received a massive boost thanks to a very generous donation from Analjit Singh, chairman of the Leeu Collection, who has invested heavily in Franschhoek and elsewhere in the Cape winelands. Thanks to this gesture, Doug Gurr, Co-Founder & Trustee of The Kusasa Project has announced that the Early Learning Centre will be able to enrol children from grade 1 to grade 3 and the number of scholars can expand from 98 to 120.

BAS, as Mr Singh is known, regards education as an investment which contributes to global prosperity and he was inspired by the work being done by Kusasa.

As hungry children cannot be easily taught, he has also committed to make good any shortfall in the costs of the Isabelo feeding scheme which provides a meal to 1 300 needy children in Franschhoek valley every day. This worthy initiative is the brainchild of Margot Janse, executive chef at Le Quartier Francais, and has been operating since 2009. Le Quartier is one of the properties acquired by Mr Singh this year.

Caption to photo: Analjit Singh, Margot Janse and Doug Gurr.

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Posted by on in Restaurants
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The annual Cape Legends Inter-hotel Challenge Awards held their prize-giving event in the Cape Sun ballroom recently. This prestigious event is the brainchild of Annette Kesler of Showcook, and has blossomed into a major contest in the South African hospitality stakes.
In the Chef category, Charmainne Deacon of the Cape Grace hotel scooped the winning slot, which will see her spend a three-week working holiday at the Shangri-La hotel in Dubai. She also took home the SAPPO Purple Ribbon and the ScanPan Excellent Kitchen Practice Award. With her is Malika van Reenen Executive Chef of Cape Grace,
 
In the Wine Steward category Mpho Masiu, also  of the Cape Grace, paired with Lomond Wines, and was  awarded  the Cape Wine Academy top bursary, winning a travel experience with Tsogo Sun to the winelands and visiting various   Cape Legends' exquisite estates and  a blind tasting with the judges of the Platter Wine Guide.
 
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