Festival of Fizz: When the Wine Route visits the Garden Route

This weekend we were those tourists who, despite being in a foreign country, only ate at McDonald’s. Naturally our equivalent was a little more fabulous, Capetonians attending a MCC festival in George.

Chilled bottles of MCC was available for immediate consumption. Credit: Fancourt Facebook page

Chilled bottles of MCC was available for immediate consumption. Credit: Fancourt Facebook page

The inaugural Festival of Fizz was hosted at the heavily gated Fancourt in George. Compared to the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival ‘The ‘Magic of Bubbles, it looked ridiculously tiny with only 16 odd farms. Though this number multiplied quite quickly as hardly anyone asked for a tasting coupon…

I didn’t plan on writing this post so didn’t take any notes of all the different MCCs we tasted. So this merely an oversimplified list of our festival of the festival: Steenberg, L’Ormarins, Genevieve, Tanzanite and Moreson.

In the spirit of trying something new we didn’t visit two farms that were already taking up real estate in our fridge back home, Graham Beck and our “local” De Grendel.

Once you got to the festival tent the organisation was smooth. There was one table to buy the all the MMCs represented and coupons used to purchase the food at the entrance/exit. Tables were placed under the trees for those wanting to enjoy gourmet snacks or a deeper sip of bubbly. Getting to the festival once in Fancout’s gates was a bit vague though. There would have been a better flow if there were dedicated shuttles waiting to transport to and from the parking lot, that or clear signs for those who don’t mind walking.

Saberage with a bottle of De Grendel MCC on our elopement day

Saberage with a bottle of De Grendel MCC on our elopement day in October.  Credit: Greg van der Reis

From previous visits to wine farms and other festivals we have learned quite a bit about the MCC process, so it was great to be schooled one of the lesser known joys of MCC, saberage. Saberage is the art of removing the top of a champagne bottle with a sword/knife, however it can also be done with a butter knife. The Plus One had a level of success with this over the years but hit a bit of a snag of late. The friendly guy from Moreson kindly shared a few pointers. He also pointed us the direction of Genevieve, a MCC he was sampling himself.

There was only one food stand which had exquisite looking bite sized treats. The spring roll was delicious making up for the average sushi plate. Dessert was juicy cream-filled strawberries.

A delicate spread

A delicate spread  Credit: Plus One

The Festival of Fizz was a fun diversion though I believe the tickets at R150 at pop, is quite steep for the value one gets. But even as I wrote the last sentence I knew we will most likely be back, champagne flute in hand, if we’re in the neighbourhood next year.

“Meeting” Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl

It was a social call I’ve been meaning to make for a few months now. A visit with Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl at Delaire Graff Estate. She was a gracious hostess, it’s not often that a multimillion rand painting waits for you in the foyer!

Despite being one of Vladimir Tretchikoff’s most reproduced paintings, Chinese Lady is still worth quite a pretty penny. In March last year Laurence Graff paid £982,050 (around R17 million) in auction for the painting and instead of hiding it in a safe he has made it available to the Tretchi loving masses. What a nice guy. The-Chinese-Lady

That said, Delcaire Graff Estate is the most out of reach places I have ever visited. Not that I felt unwelcome, quite the opposite. From the moment we passed through the gates and the security guard introduced himself, the security guards in the parking lot with ear pieces that make them look like secret agents who gave us friendly directions down to the doorman opening the dauntingly huge doors and receptionist happily pointing us to The Chinese Lady next to her desk.

The restaurant is off limits to children under 12 and since we have 2 of those we ate breakfast en route and made ourselves comfy in the Wine Lounge after ogling The Chinese Lady for a few minutes.Elements-Tasting

In the end we found a way to get a little closer to the restaurant by ordering the Elements tasting which consists of 4 canapés paired with wine from the estate. As out server Randall explained, the goal is to create a completely new flavour, 1+1 does not equal to 2, it’s 3.

The first taster was the most exquisite, an oyster in a delicate tomato extract paired with Sauvignon Blanc. The next two followed the principle of “oaky pairs with smoky”. An oaky chardonnay was paired with smoked carb with roasted potato while the heavy red Botmaskop enhanced the flavour of pork with beef dust topped off with prune puree. Both good pairings but it had nothing on number 4, dark chocolate macaroon with Cape Vintage. Divine. Delaire Graff Estate

For a few glorious minutes I thought about saving up and spending the night at one of the 4 accommodation options on the estate. The Plus One smashed this dream when he looked up the going rate… R10,000 – R30,000 a night. I’ve never been much of a saver anyway.

A day at the Delaire Graff Estate is like buying a Hermes keychain when you really wanted the Kelly bag. As much as I love my prints, nothing quite beats an original Tretchikoff.

Address: R310, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch
Telephone number: 021 885 8160

De Grendel: The wine farm around the corner

While other people have a local bar/pub (depending on if you did the London thing), I have a local wine farm. To be fair, I probably only went 3-4 times in the time that I lived in the area, but I had just fond memories of De Grendel. It was the go-to spot I took guests. DeGrendelTasting

A few Saturdays ago we went for a quick tasting to wind down after my weekend shift.  No one received us when we arrived and we had to ask for service multiple times which really soured our experience. Who has the time to wait for the wine to ferment first? In the end we cut our intended tasting of their whole range of wines short to only 3. fountain de grendel

I tweeted about the experience, nothing hard core: “Thoroughly underwhelmed by the wine tasting experience at @degrendelwines. Pity because I really do like their wines.” I then closed the matter in my head. They responded with a request to DM them the details. I was impressed that they knew enough about Twitter to actually follow me first before this request, too often one sees people tweeting a company that they can’t comply to their request as they don’t follow them. However, overall I did not expect anything to come of the gesture after a rather shitty experience with another company’s customer service on Twitter who seemed sincere at the time but wasn’t matched offline.

De Grendel followed through. After a 4 part DM their winemaker Elzette du Preez called me personally to apologise and to invite us for a private tour of the cellar and tasting.

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No wine tasting signs were stolen in the making of this blog post.

Elzette took us through the whole wine making process at De Grendel starting with the history of the farm and the Graaff family, the infra-red photos they take every two years to determine the way to harvest the grapes, overcoming perceptions of South African wine internationally, all kinds of chemical things that made me wish I didn’t fail biology horribly, the process of selecting wine barrels… It was a delightful crash course into the world of wine. De Grendel is very lucky to have such a charismatic woman as a winemaker.

We then moved on to the tasting room to give our palates the benefit of what we had observed in the cellar. The Plus One enjoyed the pinot noir and we both agreed on the rose and sauvignon blanc. I enjoy their Rose simply because it goes completely against the more traditional sweet ‘cold drink wine’ prefer by old people in the interior. It has a lovely dry crisp taste best paired with a second chances. 20130725_175322

At 17:00 they closed up the tasting room letting us finish up on the stoep and keep an eye on the sun slowly setting over Table Mountain. It was that magical time of the day where photos came out perfectly without the need of an Instagram filter.

I am happy to say, in the most pretentious way possible, that I once again have a local wine farm.

Killing time in Stellenbosch

It was the second weekend in a row that we were planning our Saturday around the social life of an eleven year old, but this time we really did not mind that much. Once boys hit that all important age often years old, there is only one kind of party that will interest them. If it wasn’t for the age limit at most paintball courses, this craze would’ve hit them even earlier. Last week we were lucky enough to find some place open before 8am in the sleepy town of Melkbos. This weekend we found ourselves in the Stellenbosch wine lands. Stark

On route to the paintball course I spotted Stark-Condé. I had never heard of the wine estate before but the name stuck a cord in a heart still heavy after the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones. A total stretch but I’m sure other GoT fans will get it. On our way back into town The Plus One indulged my mild fangirl tendencies by driving through the white gates. PostcardCafe

Stark-Condé turned out to be  the ideal place to kill time, especially with a child under the age of ten. Between the beautiful surroundings, a comfy spot in the sun and a delicious menu we did not switch on our tablets once. The eight year old was content with exploring everything in sight and getting more jam on his being than the croissant at their restaurant The Postcard Cafe. I had a substantial portion of fried prawn salad. Bliss! The Plus One was less happy with his lamb curry but only because there was no chutney. Curry without chutney is a sin. StarkTasting

The tasting room is on a cute island. To keep the freeloading Stellies students at bay a tasting of 6 wines goes for R30 per person. I hope every cent goes to a holiday fund for the lovely lady at the tasting room, maybe to an island with palm trees. It was not just a pretentious ramble about acidity and top notes (well not too much), she really knew the estate inside out. We cut the tasting short because we couldn’t have our dessert on the tasting island so we headed back up for apple crumble for the boys and chocolate pecan squares for me. Delicious! Paintball

Collecting the eleven year old took more effort than I had energy for after that major chill session. A sadistic sign claimed that the paintball place was just 800m away. It was uphill. It was a million kazillion km away. The Styrofoam cup of coke at the end of our trek felt like Olympic gold.

Getting over myself for the sake of forgiveness….but mostly good food

In Afrikaans there is an expression:  Ek het ‘n gly in die plek. It is human nature to remember a slight and when it is from a restaurant/hotel/winefarm there is a good chance that you will keep the grudge alive.

A few years ago, we went to the Robertson Slow Festival. First on our agenda was a safari dinner with Lord’s Winery. The traffic was slightly worse than expected so we called ahead to see if we would still make it in time. The lady on the other end assured us that they would wait for us before they headed off to the next stop.

Lord's Wines McGregor

Lord’s Wines McGregor

They didn’t.

We were pissed.

I am not the kind of person to throw a, ‘don’t you know who I think I am?’ tantrum but that day in the car, I did. Luckily we were in the Cruiser because I surely would have rolled a lighter vehicle with my pissed-offness. I had every intention of giving them the worst review that I could come up with.

When we got to the winey I decided to be more adult than I was feeling at that time and only give the organisers dirty looks when they weren’t looking. The building is quite pretty, we thought in spite of ourselves. The wine was served straight out of the barrel which we found quite charming in spite of ourselves. We found the biltong and blue cheese soup absolutely divine in spite of ourselves.  6

At that point they didn’t need to give us a bottle of MCC, and I really don’t want to come across as one of those bloggers whose opinion can be bought with a freebie, but it was nice that they did.

The evening was phenomenal. I can’t really remember what we ate that night but the perfect harmony between flavours still linger. The pairing of the wine was almost too good, everything blended together seamlessly into one amazing feeling of happiness.

The next evening we visited another wine farm where we experienced a very different kind of rocky night. Just like the main meal at Lord’s, I can’t for the life of me remember all the details other than a feeling of unease, that the food was uninspired and that the wine must have been paired by a beer drinker. They consistently succeeded in confirming our first impressions… that they sucked. So much so that I’m not going to bother with a more imaginative insult.

So now I only hold a grudge when the food is horrible. It’s the mature thing to do.

The night we became décor critics in Wellington

Two months ago I got out of the group buying industry. I did customer service/content/social media/remained civil to annoying salespeople. All those slashes got too much. To celebrate, I bought a coupon for a night at Oude Wellington from Daddy’s Deals, a competitor. I’m petty like that.

Oude Wellington

My biggest problem with group buying is that one does not always get the professed value that was promised to you. For instance they’ll discount a meal (Pay only R25, Save 50%!) but make the portions smaller. Basically a R25 portion. Not the R50 meal that you paid for.

As this was my first time using an accommodation coupon I was curious to see if we would have a R1000 experience as the coupon heading loudly promised or a night worthy of the R499 deducted from my account. GoodTaste

The décor of room number 3 at Oude Wellington was cape country cute with a dash of “Oh where can we hang this ugly butterfly print, put this super modern unplugged lamp and red triangle bedside cupboard that the 70s vomited out?” They missed the mark of fabulous country chic by only a few centimetres. The bathroom was a lot closer to this ideal (the one in my head), with only an offending canary yellow chair and their logo sandblasted on the mirror. The underfloor heating and the antique cast iron bath were sublime. I had every intention of just camping there for the night.  OudeWellingtonNight

The restaurant on the premises was closed for renovations so we headed over the road for dinner at Festa at the recommendation of our hostess. The parking lot was completely dark but we could make out a few cars so we figured that we were in the right place. This is the middle of nowhere, Wellington – there’s nothing else across the road. We were at the point of turning around when a security guard shed some light on the situation and the sign clearly pointing us in the restaurant’s direction. Piano

The revamped barn with a red piano hanging from the ceiling and other hipster paraphernalia were quite unexpected. Above all Festa really got it right. They went all out with toilet pot plants welcoming guest at the door and reigned themselves in with elegant orchids in teapots on the tables. It did not feel cluttered as this style tends to do.

For dinner Festa surprised us even further by plating up meals that satisfied our diverse tastes. The Plus One had a HUGE portion of tomato bredie. Exactly what you’d expect at a platteland restaurant. I opted for a delicate blue cheese, Parma ham and fig pizza. Delicious. Festa2

The ridiculousness of the evening came to a climax when I discovered that the manager turned out to be a classmate of mine back in Bloemfontein.

I woke up the next morning craving the left over pizza but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I started to doubt if the evening ever happened at all. Had I just passed out after a bottle of Pongracz while watching model profiles on Fashion TV? The Plus One was also happy to go with this theory as he refused to believe that there is an active hipster coven hiding in Wellington’s platteland. Not even finding the credit card slip could bust this idea.

I found some comfort in the loss of the leftovers with a proper continental spread along with a warm breakfast. Edith fried up the crispiest bacon rashers that almost caused WWIII among myself and The Plus One. We really love our crispy bacon.

We had a lovely time away but I won’t give Oude Wellington too much credit for this. Festa definitely played a big role as well as our absolute need to have 24 hours to ourselves. We knew going in that it was an “upgraded farm experience” which is what we got, complete with dogs barking through the night keeping The Plus One awake.  Yes, I suppose there is some truth to me falling asleep with a bottle of Pongracz after all.

Following our noses down the West Coast on Worker’s Day

On May Day we woke up with nothing more exciting on the agenda than a mountain of washing. Rather shameful for a public holiday propped in the middle of the week! So instead we hit the road with only a vague destination of Yzerfontein in mind. Simply following our noses down the West Coast.

Groote-Post

Darling, home of South Africa’s most famous woman Evita Bezuidenhout, is usually a popular stop on a West Coast excursion. A stop we had every intent of making. However, once we spotted the Groote Post Wine Estate Tannie Evita didn’t stand a chance.

WineTasting

The tasting room at Groote Post

The Old Man’s Sauvignon Blanc is exceptionally fruity on the nose, but for the first time ever it was the wooded chardonnay that captured our taste buds (and later also my sobriety). It was rather unexpected as I usually love Sauvignon Blanc above all else. The dry Old Man brute rose was also a winner.

Restaurant

The Groote Post Restaurant

The restaurant was sublime. All the tables in the courtyard were taken but we could still appreciate the exceptional weather from our window table.

The Plus One opted for the steak roll as recommended by the wine tasting lady. “Steak roll” is rather a deceptive name that makes one think of second rate cuts smothered in sauce. This steak roll was rather special with at least 300g of steak. I had a platter of local cured meats, relish and amazingly fresh bread off the starter menu. The Plus One would have gladly traded half his steak for a spoonful of my plum and apple relish.

SteakRoll

A steak roll with wedges and homemade tomato sauce at the Groote Post Restaurant

I liked that they have kiddie options on the menu as R110+ for a main is rather steep for food that will potentially only be nibbled on. The kids both had fish and wedges which they enjoyed, except for the chunky homemade tomato sauce. Well, all of us liked the sauce sans the Eight Year Old who could not understand why it did not taste like All Gold. He just couldn’t wrap his head around it.

Fish and chips

The Eight Year Old before he tasted the homemade tomato sauce.

For dessert we headed over to Yzerfontein. Once again we went on the recommendation of the wine tasting lady and went to Beaches for crème brulee. The dessert was lovely (the Plus One had seconds) but the atmosphere was lacking.

Creme

Beaches

The Plus One discovered the panoramic function on this phone’s camera at Beaches in Yzerfontein

BathBeaches

The bathroom at Beaches has an interesting take on decor

After a quick frolic on the beach and we headed back home to Cape Town happy not to have done a stitch of work on Worker’s Day.

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The spawn vadering* on the beach

*For all the non geeks: Vadering

Images (except the bathtub which was in the little girls room) by @glanskind