The wine

Avontuur Wines

Avontuur Cabernet Merlot

50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

12 months in French Oak

Fruity, easy drinking wine that you can have on its own. A good blend of the red berries often found in the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the trendy, spiciness of the new merlots.

Brut MCC Rose

70% Chardonnay, 30 Pinot Noir

The word “brut” means that this MCC is extra dry. It is a crisp, MCC with a beautiful pink colour coming from 3 hours of skin contact. Probably not the MCC you would serve at your wedding to a mixed crowd of people.  This one is more for the discerning drinker that worked his or her way up from the sweeter bubblies to the drier ones. It is the one you can whip out when you are celebrating with a few people who appreciate a dry bubbly.

It has a distinct acidity that leaves a pleasant sting on the tongue. I tasted hints of orange and orange blossom and maybe a bit of slightly sour strawberries.  I think this MCC will go well with a fruit salad full of different melons because they have a sweetness that will complement it. I can also imagine it with fresh oysters on ice and maybe starters and hors d’oeuvres with seared tuna, smoked salmon and shrimps.

I also tasted the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Blend of Avontuur wine, and preferred it to the MCC, but that is only personal taste.

Pinot Noir 2016

A good, layered Pinot Noir made from grapes grown on the Avontuur farm, where the warmer climate brings more of a richness than you would normally find in a Pinot Noir.

Kate had a rather funny, but spot-on description of this wine, saying that Pinot Noirs can be “thin, like flat Coke” but this one was not!

Avontuur’s Pinot Noir lives in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels for two and a half years.

It has a smokiness in the taste with red fruit, like cherries, that makes for a dry, full flavoured Pinot Noir.  It will also age well for 3 to 4 years, for those who can wait that long.

Chardonnay Luna de Miel

Avontuur’s flagship white wine was named after the first racehorse on the farm – Luna de Miel.

This blend of 88% Chardonnay and 12% Viognier is my favourite wine in the Avontuur collection.

It tastes like coconut and citrus, with a woodiness that is at the same time subtle yet undeniable.

I would pair this wine with many things, but definitely with my “Wrong Curry” – a unique full-flavoured curry that I invented one day by doing everything “wrong”.  Follow this link to find out how to make a wrong curry…

Cabernet Franc 2014

I can’t say that I have had many 100% Cabernet Francs, and it is unusual to find one. Avontuur has been making Cabernet Franc since 1996, so they know what they are doing when it comes to this cultivar.

It has amazing floral notes; definitive violet, teaming up with sour cherry, and a whisper of mocha.

This wine is great with food or on its own. It will pair well with lamb and tomato.  I can just imagine how well it will go with a lamb shank, slowly braised in tomatoes and Old Brown…

For vegetarians, I would say it will go very well with a rich tomato dish, like a pasta with sundried tomato pesto, or something with heavy cream. Another dish that will get a thumbs up with  the Cab Franc is a melanzane, because  I think the mozzarella cheese and brinjal will bring it a slight sweetness that will work well.

I promised Bev I would make her a great ratatouille and pair it with this beautiful Cab Franc, and after giving it a lot of thought, I know just the way I am going to do this. More about that later…

 Dominion Royale – Shiraz Reserve

The best selling wine from the Avontuur Estate spends 16 months in barrels.

It is fruity and spicy as a good Shiraz should be. Where Shiraz normally has black pepper in the taste, this one surprises with white pepper.

Bev tasted quite a few sips, and I could see her thinking carefully before giving an opinion. Finally, she said that it falls short, and Kate and I had to agree. To me, it is amazing on the nose, and promises a lot. However, the promises are broken when it does not quite pull through to the taste.

Maybe it needs to age a bit…

Cabernet Sauvignon  2013

Awarded Best African Wine of 2017.

Not a wine in the traditional cab sav style. I picked up no thick blackcurrant, but rather more red fruits. It is lighter and reminds of strawberry jam. There is also an earthiness and a tiny bouquet of herbs when you swallow.

It was kept in oak barrels for 18 months, and can mature for a further 5 to 7 years. There are tannins that you can’t miss, and if you, like me, prefer softer tannins, we would have to wait half a decade or so.

As Bev said, these days she is more likely to go for the “road less traveled,” like the Cab Franc.  Having said that, this is a wine that holds a lot of potential, and I would not mind having it again when it has reached maturity.

http://www.avontuurestate.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Cabernet-Sauvignon2014.pdf

Dessert Wine 2009

A port-style dessert wine blended from 85% Shiraz and 15% Pinotage, fortified with Avontuur’s estate brandy. It is sweet, but ends drier, like a red wine. There is strong dark chocolate and flowers on the nose, and with the first sip, it was like walking into the rain… I love rain, and I love the petricor smell of rain on dust, and this wine has exactly that, bottled.  It is served cold, and tastes like cold rain, hitting a dirt road.  Needless to say, I loved it!

Spookfontein Wine Farm

We don’t do “wine farming” to give bad “reviews.”  On the other hand, I also have to describe a wine farm experience as it happened, to stay authentic.  So, unfortunately, the post about Spookfontein Wine Farm in the Hemel and Aarde Valley won’t say much, because it was kind of a non-experience. It is possible that we caught them on a bad day, so when I am in the area again, I might want to pop in and see if things are different this time around.

We got there late-ish, with about 35/40 minutes to go before closing time.  The setting was very nice, and we were happy to discover what we thought was a hidden gem.  They have a beautiful tasting room with stylish, creative decor that was arty without being over the top. We were on our way back to Cape Town and sat down for the last tasting of the day.

Three Wines from the Spookfontein Wine Farm

Bev asked what they offered, and we were told we could taste 3 wines. The three Spookfontein wines were preselected and they didn’t really tickle the imagination.  We asked if we could taste some of the others, and were told no, only those three were available for tasting.  The good thing about it was that it was a free tasting.  We even offered to pay to taste some of the other wines, but it was not an option. They said their license didn’t allow them.

The information we got about the wines were delivered unenthusiastically in the time it took to pour the wine into two tasting glasses. It was very generic; things we could probably have read on the bottle.  Questions were answered with a bland, “I don’t know.” I think it was around there that we really lost interest in the tasting. We didn’t discuss the wines much nor did we make any notes. We tasted our three wines – I don’t remember what they were – and left.  I don’t’ think anyone noticed – good thing we didn’t have to pay!

As we drove away, I tasted the name “spookfontein” in my mind, like I would roll an interesting wine around on my tongue.  I wondered about the story behind the name and I wanted the spook to jump out an haunt me.  The name Spookfontein Wine Farm, other than the wines, just sparks a rush of mystery coursing through the imagination.  I kept thinking – there is so much you can do with a name like “spookfontein…” So why don’t they?

Click here to visit Spookfontein Wine Farm’s website:  http://www.spookfontein.co.za

 

Onderkloof Wine Estate

Our pictures of Onderkloof Wine Estate

 

We tried going to Onderkloof Wine Estate in Somerset West once before, following the signs up from Old Sir Lowrys Road, but got to a closed gate.  A few weeks later I happened to drive past, and saw a sign saying that they were open that Saturday for wine tasting.  I let Bev know, because Onderkloof is a stone’s throw from my shack, and we were excited to check in on the Saturday morning.

They are now open for wine tasting every first Saturday of the month, from 11 am to 3 pm.  On weekdays you can visit the tasting room from 11 am to 4 pm.

To visit Onderkloof Wine Estate’s website, click here.

It was busy and the people from the estate had their hands full, but they were friendly and welcoming and served us promptly.  We started asking questions about the Onderkloof wines, but the guy helping us admitted that he was only helping out for the day and couldn’t answer all our questions.  Mindful of the situation, and it being a relaxed Saturday morning, we didn’t mind.  Especially since he promised to send the winemaker, Yves from Switzerland, to us as soon as he got a gap.  I always love speaking to the winemakers themselves!

Yves and his wife, Luanne, came to talk to us, and it was a very informative morning, in which I learned quite a bit about the wines of the unique Schapenberg wine region. They also took us for a quick cellar tour, which was an added bonus. Yves and Luanne were married in the cellar, lending a romantic nuance to the whole Onderkloof experience.

Onderkloof Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014

Sir Lowry Classic Blend

I bought some of their Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014 to bring home, and I am enjoying it as I write this post.  It is easily my favourite red from the Schapenberg.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, 50% of each.  I have to be honest that I don’t know much about Cabernet Francs, but I am making a point of tasting them when possible, and I am liking it more and more.  In fact, I have become a big fan of red blends, and although I can’t always identify a Cab Franc yet, I am noticing that whenever I love a blend, there is some Cab Franc in it, which says a lot.

Tasting Notes

This particular one is smooth, with soft tannins.  It seems like a light, easy drinking wine when you take the first sip, but then you realise, it is not. When you swirl it on your tongue it starts teasing you with a subtle complexity that dares you to try and put it into words. There are chocolate and coffee that hit you first.  and then, for me, just a tiny bit of caramel in the mocha.  I also get a fleeting hint of lavender that disappears just before you can say, yes, there it is. Yet, it is there – or not quite there – with every sip, so I can’t ignore it.  The description on the bottle promises blueberry and cranberry.

I don’t really get the blueberry. Maybe very vaguely, only because I was told it should be there, but the cranberry jumps out with great enthusiasm! I also taste other red berries like strawberry and maybe even cherry.

Now I am going to stick my neck out! I think it finishes with a hint of black pepper, that I can’t ignore. It is subtle, and maybe it is just me tasting it, but I got it in every sip.

All in all, it is a wine that you just can’t go wrong with.

It is the one I will take to a dinner party when I don’t know what is on the menu, and who will be there, because it will satisfy the wine fundi who wants to think about what they drink, as well as the casual wine drinker who just knows that it is going down well.  It is independent enough not to be overwhelmed by most flavourful foods, but also versatile enough to complement many dishes. By that, I mean even dishes that have a unique flavour, and would normally be paired with a specific type of wine.

Paring the Onderkloof Sir Lowry Classic Blend 2014

Crispy fried tofu

Crispy fried tofu

I would pair the Sir Lowry Classic Blend with any beef dish, but tonight I had it with a rather plain, home-cooked vegetarian meal. It worked, and it was more than just enjoyable!  We had crispy fried tofu, savoury rice, a tomato and pesto based stew with onions and green beans, and a green salad with black pepper feta cheese, and it paired perfectly. I would also not hesitate to pair this wine with something like a Chinese or Asian chicken or pork dish; perhaps something in a sweet and sour sauce, or a soya based basting.

I think I need to get back to Onderkloof very soon, and stock up on this wine.  I really could have it every day!

Read more about Onderkloof Wines here.

Find Onderkloof Wine Estate on Google Maps:

An Avontuur Wine Adventure with Kate

Horses at Avontuur Wines Our decisions about which wine farm to visit on a particular day, are, in one word, random.  Most often, we stumble onto a wine farm, and when it is the third wine farm for the day, I mean that literally!  The one that happens to be open, or the one that happens to be…. well, there.  There where we are, wherever that may be. Then, at other times, it is the one we have heard of, the one of which we know the wines well, or simply the one that has a festival taking place.

Not Avontuur though.  We planned to go to Avontuur because Bev dreamed of horses and we decided to go and find horses.  Sommer net, because horses are amazing and Avontuur is known for their horses.  What’s more, their wines all carry the name of one of their horses.  It was another emotional day because my ex and I have been to Avontuur before and I had good memories that were going to haunt me.

This time I was in extremely good hands though!  The good hands of my bestie, Bev, and then the good hands of my therapist, or ex therapist, Kate.  She no longer worked at the institution where I saw her for therapy sessions, and we decided to hang out now that she was not my shrink.

I was a bit nervous. I mean, what do you say to your shrink when you are not baring your soul, using up all her tissues in ten minutes while crying about your existential crisis, and now you suddenly have to hide said existential crisis in a wine bottle?  What do you talk about?  What if she knew nothing about the weather, or wine, or Karlien’s pregnancy?  Then I rethought the part about hiding my existential crisis in a wine bottle, and I knew everything would be fine. Well, that, and the fact that I don’t even know who Karlien is; I only saw on Facebook it is one of the things one apparently has to know about.

At Avontuur, Bev and Kate teamed up against me!  They went straight for the reds, while I started with the MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) and moved on to the Chardonnay.

Bev and Kate were like – wháát? It is getting colder and more overcast by the minute. How can you drink chilled wines, don’t you know anything about the weather?

Okay, they didn’t actually suggest that I know nothing about the weather, but I could see it in their eyes. They were thinking it!

When the tasting room person – we call them winies – came to pour my first red, a beautiful Cabernet Merlot, she asked if we heard that Karlien was pregnant.  Ag, allright, I will stop it now. Of course she didn’t talk about Karlien.  The Cab Merlot part actually happened though and what a warm, happy moment on a cloudy day!

One of the first things I learned about Kate outside the therapy room is that she actually tastes wine. Whereas Bev and I taste wine as well as drink wine.  Kate would take a few sips and toss the rest, to our horror.  Besides that, it turned out Bev and Kate were wine twins.  They were drawn to tasting the same wines, and liked a few of the same ones.

We ended up talking about all kinds of things, from our children, to cooking, hiking, psychics and atheism.  And lemons. At one point, when Bev and I had one of our famous heated debates, I looked over at Kate and told her not to worry, that this sort of thing was very normal for us.   She just sat there listening, not sipping her wine (because it was in the spittoon) and said, “Oh, I am not worried.”

Kate decided to skip the second wine farm we wanted to visit, because it was getting late and she wanted to beat the traffic.  A fine, misty rain had started, and it was cold. Bev and I still wanted to go and say hi to the Avontuur horses, and then go on to Somerbosch Wines, just up the road.

We walked Kate to her car when the rain gave us a gap, and then we got stuck in the parking lot.  Stuck, as in, we were standing there talking a lot more. I love those parking lot chats!  It just shows there is a lot more to talk about and you all have to get together again, soon.   We all left when the cold started creeping into our bones.  Kate was standing there shivering in the parking lot, wishing she had a warmer jacket.  Turns out the woman knew absolutely nothing about Cape Town weather.  😉

Vergenoegd Wines

Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

The Place:

As far as beautiful settings go, Vergenoegd Wines is very high on my list.   It is a tranquil wine farm near Somerset West, with their famous flock of working ducks.  Seeing the Indian Runner Ducks parade past on their way to the vineyards to work, is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Their job description is to eat goggos (insects and creepy crawlies) between the vines, and I am sure they have a lot of job satisfaction as well as a good, market-related salary. Fringe benefits include tranquil lawns among the big, old trees and historic buildings, and access to the summer concerts on Sundays. There is also weekend markets and a restaurant and tasting room with beautiful antique decor that gives it a lot of character.

Because the ducks are not paid in the dop-system, the wines are left to recreational consultants like Bev and I.  What a hard job we have!  So let’s get to work and talk about the wines!

We were there on a cold, rainy Saturday, so we were more inclined to go for cozy reds than whites.

The wines:

Vergenoegd Runner Duck Red 2014

A blend of 33% Touriga Nacional, 28% Cabernet Franc, 25% Malbec, 14% Tinta Barocca.
It is a full-bodied wine with a deep red colour. I got mostly cherries and prunes on the nose, but also a bit of spiciness, maybe mixed spices like in Granny’s mixed spice biscuits. In contrast to what I have said, I don’t find it to be a heavy wine.  It will pair well with food, but I could just as easily pour a glass to enjoy on its own after work, or while cooking.
It will go well with a good rump steak, but also some chicken dishes, duck, and venison – especially Impala and Springbok. Although, at Vergenoegd I don’t want to think about eating duck… Not here, no.
I would even have it with a rich, creamy seafood pasta or potjie but I may get a written warning for saying that. I would still try it on a day when the boss is away though…

Vergenoegd Shiraz 2008

The best Shiraz I have tasted recently. I know Shiraz is supposed to go with a curry or something spicy, but when I tasted this one I could only think of one thing:

A sticky oxtail potjie, slow cooked on the fire. I think it is the white pepper and smoky taste in the wine that makes me want to repeat it in the food.  A year ago I won a competition with an oxtail recipe, and it is the perfect wine to pair with it.  Click here for the recipe: Oxtail Potjie with Old Brown Sherry. (ag okay, the stuff formerly known as sherry.)

Vergenoegd Estate Blend 2007 – Bordeaux Blend

52% Cabernet Sauvignon; 42% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc
It is an elegant, full bodied wine.  It is spicy and there are hints of chocolate and vanilla, but in an Oreo kind of way. Or a layered dark chocolate cake with a bit of vanilla in the icing.  The problem with wine is that I often sound slightly crazy to myself, but then, I taste what I taste and I would rather look silly than to say only what is expected to be said.
So yes.  Cake, with vanilla and chocolate.
Bev has been telling me about a pasta she makes with leeks, Porcini mushrooms and smoky cheese.  She thinks this will pair well with it, especially with another cheese added to it. Maybe gorgonzola that brings a blue taste in without being too overwhelming.  She will have to invite me to dinner soon!

Vergenoegd Old Cape Colony 2008

Possibly not the best name in our current political scenario, but that is the only thing about this “port style” dessert wine that is not great.  Loved it, especially the perfect balance of being sweet but not too sweet. I want to drink it in winter in front of a fire.

I would pair it with a dessert speciality of mine – mini Butternut pancakes with a dark chocolate and chili sauce, topped with nuts.  The recipe? Mmm, I would have to think about it, because it is a bit of a secret.  I would make it for you though…  Get in touch.

 How to get there:

Yonder Hill Wines

Yonder Hill Wines

I am very impressed with Yonder Hill!  So much so that I think their Inanda could become a new personal favourite.  Also, we are going back there soon, which says something!

The tasting room is intimate and tasteful, with a display of nice olive products from Olyfberg for sale.  From face creams and body butter to olive oil, jars of olives and a lovely vegetarian tapenade. The vegetarian tapenade was an added bonus because most of them have anchovies in them, which tastes great, but excludes vegetarians. It is hard not to buy something here, so we did some shopping.  They told us they are renovating soon and opening a restaurant, which is nice, but I hope they don’t go too commercial and lose their charm.

They spoilt us with crackers, olives and olive tapenade to nibble on between tastings, which was to die for.  I made sure I bought a jar of tapenade to take home!

 The wines

Danilo Rosé

They brought the Danilo Rosé first, and although I am not the biggest Rosé fan, this was a great, easy drinking wine that i would buy for the right occasion.  It is fruity, light, not too dry, but not sweet.  It is balanced, with a lovely light pink colour.  I would drink this wine at a summer’s picnic and pair it with any cold chicken dish – chicken sandwiches, drumsticks, cocktail wings, saté, salad.  Also a simple crusty bread with butter.  For vegetarians, I will go with egg mayo sandwiches – Bev makes the best ones -and mild cheeses, tomato and green salads, or a dip like tzatziki. I think it is an easy, crisp wine to drink cold with many summer snacks and salads.

Sauvignon Blanc.

The only wine I had at Yonder Hill that I am fairly neutral about. I was not impressed but also not unimpressed.  It was a Sauvignon Blanc like many other – tropical fruits but with a slight bitterness at the end.  Not enough to be bad, but it was there. I just won’t go out of my way to get this wine.

2016 Merlot.

I loved it!  It is a pure Merlot and a wine I could easily drink every day. It was made with a process called malolactic fermentation. According to Wikipedia: malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking in which tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Read more here.

It is fruity – I got strawberries and raspberries and a very slight mintiness that some people may question. It is very smooth and soft. I think it will pair well with foods that traditionally pair well with lighter red wines, but also a whole bunch of other things that are not really the usual red, or Merlot, partners. A good moussaka, pizza, cheesy pasta, or chicken casserole with green vegetables – beans, baby marrows, broccoli, spinach.  For vegetarians, simply leave out the meat, keep the green veggies and be creative!  Vegetarian moussaka will go well with this wine! Also, spanakopita, spanakorizo, bread or crackers, the Olyfberg olive tapenade…  There are endless possibilities because it is such an easy drinking wine.

Yonder Hill Wines

Yonder Hill Wines

2013 Merlot.

If the 2016 is good, the 2013 is simply wow! The extra time, and of course the vintage, made this wine a winner – literally!

Platter 2017 – 4 Stars;
Vitis Vinifera 2017 – Gold
Winemag Merlot Awards 2017 – 89 (Top 10)
Top12Wine Awards for Merlot 2017
• 4th – MERLOT 2014
• 6th – MERLOT 2013

It is richer, darker, has got a lot of depth and complexity, and endlessly interesting flavours. I got chocolate, dark caramel, maybe a bit of mulberry and blackcurrant… For pairings, I would throw the Merlot cliches out the window and go with ostrich steak or sausage, chicken spatchcock with mango marinade on the braai, oriental dishes with soya-sauce beef, and definitely my South-East-Aisan Pork Stew. It is a fusion dish, combining Thai and Chinese flavours for something unique but not so way-out that it becomes too “weird.”

For vegetarian pairings, I’d use vegetarian beef or chicken strips in Asian dishes, or give a vegetarian patty from Fry’s or Quorn a new spin with a Soya Marinade before cooking it on the braai. Also chickpea or brown lentil dishes.

Nicola.

This wine won a Silver – Michelangelo IWSAWARDS 2017.  I am in the minority here, from what I understand! Although absolutely amazing, I thought the tannins are just a little bit too bold, and I would love to taste this wine in a year’s time. Having said that, it is a very, very good wine!  It is layered and complex, with flavours hitting your tongue and combining in different ways creating a full-bodied taste explosion!  While it is one of their premium wines and I really liked it, I stick to my guns – I want to taste it in a year’s time. Or 3…

Inanda

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does!  Nicola may be number one, but Inanda is my personal number one.  Inanda means “Place of Beauty” and the beauty of this wine is captured in every sip!  It is a red blend, and a good one at that!

47% Cabernet Franc;
44% Cabernet Sauvignon
6% Merlot
3% Petit Verdot

It is powerful, without being pretentious.  Slightly lighter than the Nicola, and as smooth as soft rain in the Cape.  I immediately wanted waterblommetjie bredie with it. (a traditional SA stew with a type of water lily and mutton.) I probably should have been thinking about more food to pair with it, but my mind got stuck there!

From the place, to the wines and the winemaker Abe Beukes whom we met, to Sherna who served our wines, Yonderhill was one great experience.  Sherna was friendly and knowledgeable and engaged us with information and her quirky sense of humour.  Abe Beukes taught me so much about winemaking in a 20 min crash course that I want to pick his brain some more and absorb information from him. We are going back soon to taste the premium wines with a cheese platter. I can’t wait.

On our way to the next stop from there, I went to buy waterblommetjies from Mooiberge.  I promised Bev I am going to come up with a vegetarian waterblommetjie stew.  A week later, I still have no idea how I am going to do that, but I will find a way!

How to get there: