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Out and about on the wine trail

Lifestyle Section - Wine

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Over the Christmas holidays (which now seem but a distant memory), I had the opportunity to try out many wines offered as sample drops over the last few months – and with time on my hands to cook and laze in the sun, they went down a treat with the creations that were the fruits of a little extra effort in the kitchen.

aallesrose-mvPlace in the Sun wines offers some of the best value you can find and, new in their stable, is their 2013 Unwooded Chardonnay. Grapes come from two adjoining farms in the Devon Valley, well-known for its diversity of terroir and quality of fruit. The wines are all Fairtrade accredited: proceeds going to improve the lives of farm workers that ensures they too have a “Place in the Sun”.

The chardonnay is a lovely easy-drinking wine with upfront varietal-driven fruit, with tinges of citrus and lime. At around R36 a bottle you get a lot of bang for your buck.

From the Devon Valley to further afield in Stellenbosch, the elegant, historic estate of Muratie recently released its latest vintages. The Burgundian-styled Isabella Chardonnay 2012 (named after Isabella Melck, owner Rijk and Kim Melck’s eldest daughter) is a downright treat, where perfectly integrated wood melds with elegant citrus and a minerally finish. And at R95 it’s a good price for such a stately wine.

Muratie Ronnie Melck Shiraz 2010, previously called Muratie Shiraz, was renamed to honour family patriarch and winemaker, Ronnie Melck, who is reputed to have had a great fondness for shiraz. The wine is intensely red  with a violet edge, and offers rich floral and berry notes with touches of green peppercorns and gamey nuances, backed by a sweet spiciness and a delightful lingering vanilla aftertaste. Highly recommended!

It always makes for a wonderful excursion to visit this lovely old estate, and the menu now has been expanded to include breakfasts and a lunch menu.

The summer menu includes a Salad Isabella (perfect with the chardonnay) with roasted chicken, seasonal vegetables, feta and a sprinkling of toasted nuts..

George Paul Canitz, passionate artist and a pinot noir pioneer, was well-remembered for blending a rich combination of colours and flavours, and the George Canitz samoosas, also featured on the menu, is a combo of traditional Cape Malay curry wrapped in crispy pastry parcels, served with a homemade gooseberry chutney and watercress salad.

There is also a Laurens Campher Beef Burger, on a freshly baked brioche bun topped with mature cheddar cheese, smoky bacon and tomato relish, served with thin-cut crispy fries, which pays tribute to Muratie’s first owner, Laurens Campher.

From Stellenbosch to the West Coast, I recently paid a long overdue visit to Groote Post, which celebrated its 15th vintage at the end of last year. It’s hard to believe that way back in 1999, I was part of a group of wine writers who boarded a bus that took us out to what I considered was the middle of nowhere, to celebrate the launch of the first wines, the 1999 sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. (Little did I know that a mere two years later I would be living just seven kilometres from the farm on the other side of the highway.)

On my latest visit, where I was guest of the restaurant, Hilda’s Kitchen, and the Pentz family who own the farm, we had the delightful opportunity of sampling the new Kapokberg range, as well as trying some of the much-lauded old tried and trusted wines. This, along with some wonderful inventions in the kitchen by chef Debbie McLaughlin.

The restaurant is currently celebrating one of the Cape’s doyennes of food, Hildagonda Duckitt, who once lived on the farm, by recreating (with a modern twist) some of her dishes, and also combining or insinuating the need for fresh, local ingredients.

So, a starter course of local charcuterie comes from the Darling butchery, and includes the most delicious parma ham, salami and more, served with an apple and raisin relish and paired with Groote Post’s lovely chenin blanc, which is one of the best on the West Coast.

We also sampled a delicious full and flavoursome tomato, goat’s cheese and poppy-seed tart, with the stunning Kapokberg Sauvignon Blanc, so full bodied and varietal driven that it blew my socks off with its fine, racy flavours tempered by a singularly rich fruitiness.

For the mains we shared a wonderfully satisfying  dish of sticky pork, lovingly and slowly cooked to utter tenderness, with spicy Asian slaw, an ideal counterpart to Groote Post’s Riesling, a perfumed spicy wine which teams magnificently with the sweet and sour ensemble.

Other main courses demonstrate Debbie’s ability in the kitchen to include the familiar with creative accompaniments; so a hearty grilled chicken dish comes with butter bean purée and pan-fried chorizo with roasted red peppers, well- paired with the unwooded chardonnay; and spring lamb (which roam freely in the hills surrounding the farm) is served with with a pea salsa verde, matched effortlessly with the Kapokberg Pinot Noir. A superb wine with beautiful earthiness and notes of ripe black cherries, with wonderful background oaking.

Also a dab hand with dessert, Debbie’s rich white chocolate cheese case – an elegant and great way of serving a perennial favourite – went down a treat, again with the riesling.

With 4 000 hectares Groote Post is considered one of the largest farms in the winelands, with 107 hectares under vines and a sunset game drive is a fabulous way to experience the in the 2000-hectare game camp, where you can spot the eland, kudu, gemsbok, bontebok, springbok, as well as quaggas.

The Pentzs are fierce protectors of the natural vegetation, which includes the highly endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld, Swartland Shale Renosterveld and Atlantis Sand Fynbos.

The cellar, in the capable hands of skilled winemaker Lukas Wentzel, offers three ranges of award-winning wines which also sport new labels. Aside from the reserve Kapokberg range (named after the highest hill on the estate, where some of their best grapes are grown), there’s also the highly popular Old Man’s Blend range and the Groote Post varietal range.

Finally, also in Darling, Ormonde Private Cellar recently released wines in the flagship Ormonde range where, according to owner Theo Basson, “each year, select parcels of grapes are earmarked for special attention in the vineyard and the cellar, and only the wines deemed outstanding carry our flagship label”.

Included are the Ormonde Cabernet Sauvig-non 2008: Think aromas of herbs, vanilla, and toasty oak, blackberry fruit; Ormonde Shiraz 2009 (which I particularly enjoyed), has a lovely savoury nose with lingering spice and dark fruit.  Theo recommends it, interestingly, with balsamic rump steak with chakalaka.

Re-introduced is a sauvignon blanc to this range with the release of the Ormonde Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the first since the maiden 2008 vintage, which absolutely explodes with gooseberry and ripe figs on the nose and has beautiful minerality on the  palate with lovely green pepper undertones, a creamy texture and a long lingering Granny Smith acidity.

The Ormonde range, which includes several wines is only available from the estate in Darling. For more information call 022 492 3540.

Written by Orielle Berry You are reading Out and about on the wine trail articles

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