A Good Year

A Good Year: July 2013

Monday, 29 July 2013

La Motte Wine Estate


La Motte is situated just outside the town of Franschhoek.  It was a beautiful winter's day in the Cape, one of those rare sunshine filled but still a chill in the air days.  Perfect for a little wine tasting.  Unfortunately because it was a public holiday the renowned Pierneef a La Motte restaurant was closed along with the Farm shop and museum, but that just gives us a good reason to go back again.

So, through the garden and over the pond towards the wine tasting!  While I do prefer to be outdoors when the weather is fine, this tasting room is just lovely and I headed straight for the couches next to the fireplace.  A very stylish yet simple tasting room with glass windows looking into the cellar, the environment is relaxing and inviting.


You can choose to do the full tasting of 8 wines for R40 or simply taste a few of your choice.  Of course we opted for the full experience, which was fantastic.  A bread roll and glass of water for palette cleansers accompany the wine glasses on your personal tray.  The wine tasting is done very well allowing you to compare different wines next to each other to fully appreciate the effect that the different techniques have on the wines.
The La Motte winemaker is actually on the Shiraz board of South Africa, so there are a few Shiraz based blends.  All which were very impressive.

A great tasting experience and fantastic wines!  We will definitely be back here with friends and visitors and hopefully for lunch on the deck or dinner by the fireplace.

The only unfortunate thing about wine tasting in the winter is that the vines are all leaf-less, dry and brown, so you don't see the beautiful green blankets that cover the valleys and entrances to the wine farms.  Summer time is even more beautiful. 

A few wine notes below...

As per our TRH, this wine is made up of eight different Sav Blanc grapes grown in eight different places.  This means the wine has influences from a range off different terriors, resulting in a smoother wine with softer smells on the nose.  It is not as piercing as a crisp, zesty Sav Blanc can sometimes be, but rather more fruity and softer on the palate.  Very enjoyable.  We much preferred this one to the Pierneef one below which was served alongside to taste and compare. 

According to our TRH, this is usually the preferred of the two Sav Bs when tasted in a food and wine pairing setting, suggesting perhaps that this wine might be better with food.  This Sav B is organically grown which means it has no pesticides and less sulphur (less of all the elements which usually improve the wine - no?! with perhaps less of a headache).  Nevertheless, you can certainly taste the difference between the two Sav Bs when tasted alongside each other.  This wine is quite acidic, not so refined and makes your tongue cluck just a little bit more.  Not a favourite, but we'll try it again with a food pairing and see if it is any smoother.

This Chard was a little lighter in colour than most because only about one third has been in Oak.  It's got quite serious legs and yet the nose is surprisingly not so pungent, but rather a softer, pleasant oak smell.  It is very smooth and not too syrup or caramely, but rather vanilla and cashew nut flavours. 

This red is a Bordeaux blend.  It has quite a sharp taste and could probably do with some time in the bottle.  It is 60% Merlot and therefore has all the berry influence, just a little less of that rich fruit flavour.  It does dry your mouth out a little and tickle the nose hairs, but it is a good 2nd tier blend which good use a little time to smooth out.  Good and reasonable, not amazing.

Delicious!  Quite purple and ruby in colour with a spicy nose, our TRH suggested that this wine can in fact keep for another 10-15 years but probably enjoyed best in the next 5-8 years.  2010 is well known as one of the best years for South African red wines.  Like the description notes mention, this wine as an intense varietal nose.  It is heavy bodied with a dry finish that will smooth even more as it ages.  
This Shiraz is quite berry flavoured for a Shiraz with a slight white pepperness to it, not a lot of the tobacco/cigar smokiness you would expect.  It is quite heavy, but smooth and has almost a dark feeling to it.  It is less spicy than usual, but having said that, when compared to the Cab Sav above, the Cab smells like caramel and berries.  The Shiraz is a bit more spicy and delicious.

NOTE: Pierneef was a South African artist and there are about 136 of his artworks on the La Motte property.  Each year the artwork on the label of the Pierneef bottles changes to a different Pierneef artwork thereby making them almost a collector's item.

This is a very easy drinking wine, it tastes like juice!  You can definitely taste the floral impact of the Viognier and how it softens some of the Shiraz spices.  We certainly agree with the 5 star John Platter rating, you can drink this wine everyday.  It's like the La Motte Shiraz above but you don't have to wait for it to smooth out.  A little harsh when compared to the Grenache blend below, but excellent in its own right!

This wine tastes more like a blend and is definitely the smoothest of them all.  The blend was inspired by the Southern Rhone area in France and is absolutely delicious.  I am a big fan of Shiraz and this blend is quite superb.  If you choose to you can let it rest for longer.  But this is a fantastic wine and can be enjoyed now or kept for longer.

My other half has recently jumped on the Chardonnay wagon, declaring that it only applies to exceptional Chards made in the traditional wooded way and enjoyed in a large glass.  None of these new age, half wooded, easy drinking ones... they won't cut it.  

So we left La Motte with a bottle of the 2010 La Motte Chardonnay and a bottle of the 2008 La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Grenache.  Even though we thoroughly enjoyed the Cab, we would rather purchase a Shiraz from a farm where their speciality lies in the varietal and save a Cab purchase for a so inspired winemaker.

An absolutely lovely tasting experience and fantastic wines, especially the uniqueness of the Shiraz based wines and focus on the varietal at the farm.  We will definitely be back again!

La Motte Wine Farm
R45 Main Road, Franschhoek Valley
T +27 (0)21 876 8000
33º 53′ 0.91″ S 19º 4′ 21.57″ E

Labels: ,

Friday, 26 July 2013

Bastille Day, Franschhoek



Apologies for the slight delay in recapping the festivities, I had some minor technical difficulties, but all is good now and below is a little sum up of the activities... 

Unfortunately for us the weather decided not to play along on the Saturday, but Sunday was perfect for those who went through.

Next year we will definitely NOT be going to the food and wine tent.  Although the tent was very festive and the live band was fantastic, the value for money was poor.  R150 per person as entry into the tent for which we received a wine glass and 5 coupons.  One would expect, being a food & wine tent, that at least one coupon would be for food if not a number of them.  At most festivals each restaurant or stand has a similar priced sample dish for which one or two coupons are used.  

There were no food coupons, and while there were some great restaurants and dishes, eating was an added expense.  The coupons which were therefore wine tasting coupons were valued at one coupon per tasting - not per wine farm tasting, per individual wine tasting.  I sort of understand, given the crowd, but I was pretty disappointed after I had made a list of the specific farms I wanted to check out.  So for R150 I got a glass and to taste 5 wines, which might I add were mostly second tier wines as I am sure the farms were not interested in offering their most prestigious at what appeared to be more of a drunken student party than an actual food & wine festival.
 Out in the town however, the French culture was much more present and the festivities were much more enjoyable.  We had a blast watching the barrel rolling competition.  And even got a Porcupine Ridge umbrella for our support in the rain - kudos to Porcupine Ridge, we will definitely buy their wine in the future!  The markets were great, one more of a curio/African nature and one more of a farmer's market, with great food (delicious samoosas!).  I was disappointed to have missed the Minstrel Parade, but we'll have to catch that next year.  I was also a little scared of the trail run, next year I will train a bit harder.  The Franschhoek Hospice was out in full force with pancakes, berets, scarves and rosettes for purchase and loads of people added a French flair to their outfits for the day.  All the shops and restaurants streamed in the French colours and bubbling onto the sidewalks with their food and wine.

So, all in all, a great day out in the beautiful town of Franschhoek!  Check the weather and go through when the sun is shining and rather enjoy the town festivities than trying to the fight the crowds in the food and wine tent.  (Unless of course you are a student and ALL your friends are going and you're in for the KUIER, then you will have a blast in the tent!)
I think next year we'll check out the festivities in town and then head to one of the surrounding farms.  Perhaps it might be a good idea for the farms to actually have activities going on as well, that might aleve/stagger some of the traffic and add a whole nother dynamic to the weekend... just saying!

Until next year...

Off the N1 along R45

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wine with dinner - Windmeul Cape Blend Reserve

 Just an ordinary sun filled Wednesday in the middle of the Cape winter and so what better excuse could you have for a braai and great bottle of wine?
With 10% discount at the Windmeul market on Saturday of course we were going to get a Reserve bottle for our friend's birthday (and one for the rack). 
One of the reasons we liked the wine was the number of awards stickers all over the bottle and the reasonable price considering it is a reserve with so many awards. And well deserved awards at that!  Just look at all those stickers.

Our braai guests had the choice of any bottle on the rack and settled for the Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend.  So, a Cape Blend by in general is a red blend with a significant percentage of Pinotage in the blend.  Pinotage being a varietal founded and bred in South Africa, a cross between a Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage).  The blends are usually similar to a Bordeaux style with the exception of the Pinotage which adds more berry flavours to the blend and less spice from the Cab Sav.
A blend we can be proud of here in the Cape!

We will definitely be getting a few more bottles for the wine rack at the market next month.

My other half's notes in the little black book...

WINE:  Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend
PRODUCER:  Windmeul Cellar 
REGION & COUNTRY: Agter Paarl, Western Cape
GRAPE VARIETY:  Cape Blend - 60% Pinotage, 30% Cab Sav, 5% Merlot, 5% Tannat
BOUGHT: The Market at Windmeul, first Saturday of every month

A dark red, almost purple colour.
NOSE: Earthy and fruity. Coffee beans.
TASTE: It has the smoothness of a blend, it is fruity with an edge and not too earthy. It has a subtle coffee flavour when you are drinking it, but none of the bitterness.
FINISH:A slight dark chocolate, like 85% Lindt dark chocolate finish. A smooth and soft finish.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Excellent! It is actually quite reasonably priced considering
OVERALL VALUE: Exceptionally well priced for a fantastic uniquely Cape blend.

A fantastic wine which complimented our lamb ribs and roasted vegetables beautifully!

+27 21 869 8043
Off the N1 onto the R44 towards Wellington
Latitude:-33.671667 Longitude: 18.910278

Labels: ,

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Jordan Wine Estate - Winter Charity Drive

Jordan wine estate is once again doing their winter charity drive, but you need to move quick because the wine runs out!!  And of course it is for a great cause.  I love it when a farm chooses to actively get involved in the community.



A bag of old clothes (no underwear or holey stuff!!) will get you a few bottles of wine.

We took a decent sized bag of clothes we no longer wear and for our donation we received a box with 6 bottles of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.  What a fantastic deal.

We have so enjoyed the wine, we're trying to find more clothes to donate as our stash is already half gone.

I'm sure there will be another wine with dinner post about this bottle, but it is a fantastic RED.
You can immediately smell the age in earthy aromas you get your glass.  There is quite a lot of sediment in the wine, probably due to the ageing.  But you can definitely tell from the get go that it's a great wine.  Smoothed with age, sophisticated in your typical spicy Cab Sav flavours and soft hints of dark berries.  We have enjoyed it with a delicious leg of lamb as well as a Sunday night family braai.

Thank you Jordan!!  An awesome wine estate.

GPS: S33° 56′ 33.7”  E 018° 44′ 41.3”
Stellenbosch Kloof Road
Tel: +27 21 881 3441

Labels: , ,

Monday, 15 July 2013

TSIBA Trail Running - This weekend at Dornier Wine Farm


This weekend is the next Trail run in the TSIBA New Balance Cape Peninsula Series.

It's not THAT early, its on a wine farm with beautiful scenery and there is a great atmosphere.

Get your running shoes on and see you there for some breakfast and wine tasting once you've finished.

Directions to Dornier:
From the N2, take the R44 turnoff at Somerset West and turn left towards Stellenbosch.
From the N1, take the R44 turnoff at Klipheuwel and turn right towards Stellenbosch.
When you get to the robots at the Stellenbosch golf club turn into Blaauwklippen road and follow the Dornier signs from there.

Labels: , ,

Friday, 12 July 2013

Steenberg Wine Farm, Constantia


This farm has the most beautiful wine tasting, restaurant, lounging setup!  The water features give it a tranquil atmosphere while Bistro Sixteen82 always seems to be buzzing in a relaxed kind of way.  They have an awesome light / chandelier feature over the wine tasting bar and a beautiful outlook onto the mountains.  Even on a cold and rainy day you can still sit on the couches looking out through the floor to ceiling glass doors.  You can enjoy a tasting inside or outside on the couches or even buy a bottle and go enjoy it with some friends on the grass. 

Personally I think it is one of the nicest tasting rooms and atmosphere on the Constantia route and always love stopping in when I am that side of the Cape.  The staff were great as well, well informed and interactive making us feel quite comfortable where we were.  And we enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the Cape's winter sun tasting some great wines.

On to the wines, Steenberg prides themselves in their Sauvignon Blancs.  The farm has a number of South facing slopes which means the vines don't get that harsh sunlight.  The soil in the area is also rich in granite and a number of other minerals.  These conditions lend themselves towards great white wines and you can tell that the whites are definitely better quality than the reds.  Most of the white wines are almost a little creamy on the palette and leave a delicious after taste.  It's very interesting again to taste the impact a difference in terrior has on a simple grape.

All the HMS wines are for some or other reason named after battleships which were used in the battle of Muizenberg. There is quite a colourful history to the farm which dates all the way back to Jan Van Riebeck's and Simon Van Der Stel's days.  You can read it on the website or allow the TRH to give you a few snippets as you go through the wine tasting.
I opted to do the Premium wine tasting at R20 and my other half chose the Ultra Premium for R40 /(refundable on purchase of wine).  You can also taste the
Magna Carta 2010 flagship wine at R20 a tasting, this is an unusual White wine blend of 60% of the Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve and 40% Semillion.

A few tasting notes below...

A lovely MCC, definitely one for the favourites list.  It's not too dry on the tongue, made from 100% Chardonnay and has almost a biscuit texture with the bubbles.  It is lovely, fruity and quite like crisp apples.  Delicious!

Your standard Sav B, very nice with more green fig than green grass flavours.  A little like grapefruit sorbet if there is such a thing.

This wine, unlike the above, has been lightly wooded and you can taste the difference ever so slightly with the subtle (very) oak flavours.  It is actually a very nice wine and the slight oak compliments the usual Sav B flavours.

The Chardonnay is also lightly wooded with a light butteriness to the flavour.  It is quite a light, easy Chard with very slight caramel flavours and a bit more on the dried apricot side.  Very enjoyable!

The Echo is a blend of 70% Cab Sav, 17% Merlot and 13% Cab Franc, the grapes have been wooded separately and then again together.  It is a lovely easy drinking blend, but above average when compared with other "easy drinking" blends.  It is quite earthy and doesn't have the smoothness of a top blend, but it is still pretty good in its own right.

Apparently the area in which these grapes are grown is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and so when the wind blows and the flowers fall they tend to coat the grapes, supposedly giving a menthol influence to the wine.  While you do catch a whiff of menthol on the nose, I probably would not have correctly identified it as it is very slight.  This is a nice Merlot, not amazing, but good.

According to the TRH, this Shiraz is not as harsh as your typical "Boland" shiraz from places like Paarl where they pride themselves on the reds.  (We decided not to let him know we're from that neck of the woods).  The is fermented for some time on the grapes therefore producing more berry flavours.  It has the definite nose of a shiraz with the cloves and peppers coming through but you can definitely notice the stronger berry and plump fruit flavours.  It is by no means as complex or sophisticated as something like a La Motte Shiraz, but it is still an enjoyable Shiraz to drink today.

Definitely one for the favourites list.  This wine has no tongue cluck to it at all with it's smooth deliciousness.  You can taste the mineral flavours coming through from the granite mention in the earth where the vines are grown.  Lovely asparagus and grass scents come through on the nose and in the flavours.  We took one of these bottles home for the wine rack.
It must be noted that this is the last vintage that will be made from these vineyards as they are soon to be taken out.  The vines are old and while they still produce the best grapes, the yield is very small.

We both thought this wine was quite bland, which is not unlike a Semillon I guess, perhaps why it is recommended with any and all food as the food can only enhance the flavours.  Particularly spicy foods where you don't have to worry about the spices killing all the wine flavours.  It has soft vanilla and wood flavours and if served at the right temperature taste like vanilla ice-cream with a hint of dried apricots, or perhaps an apricot sorbet - which could double as palette cleanser I guess.
Not a favourite varietal for me I must be honest, but I do like its versatility with food.

The Nebbiolo is in fact an Italian grape which our TRH suggested is like a Pinot Noir's younger and more robust sibling.  And that was in fact quite an apt description as the wine is quite light in colour for a red and it has definite strawberry flavours with a bit of earthy-ness to it.  It does dry your mouth out a little at the end.  It has a little unusualness to it, while it is strawberry jam in flavour, the flavours seem to disappear so quickly, there is certainly no linger after taste or finish to this wine, a strange sensation.  This wine is also recommended as a good food wine and again, you can start to see why.  I would like to have a food and wine pairing with both this and the above Semillon.

The Catharina is named after the farm's original owner who plays a huge role in the colourful history of the land.  The wine is a blend of 43% Cab Sav, Merlot and Cab Franc.  As 2009 was one of the better years in the Cape for wine making, I would expect a bit more from this wine, perhaps a smoother blend.  It is a very good, not amazing or comparable with some of our other favourites, but still good.  It is actually surprisingly quite light in colour and on the palette with a bit of a dry finish.  The TRH suggested that this wine can be kept for another 10-15 years, I would like to try it again in a few years and see if it has softened up a little and aged well.

I would definitely recommend the white wines, perhaps not the reds as much, but most definitely a visit, a tasting and something to eat.  An absolutely lovely farm to visit!

Steenberg Road, Constantia Valley
+27 21 713 2211
Latitude:-34.071126 Longitude: 18.425272

Labels: ,

Monday, 8 July 2013

Bastille Festival, Franschhoek - This weekend!

image from http://weheartit.com
The annual Bastille Festival kicks is happening this Saturday and Sunday in Franschhoek. 

For those who don't know, Bastille day in France is formerly known as The National Celebration and it is celebrated in remembrance of when the people of France stormed the Bastille Prison..  France at the time was ruled by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Antoinette who is famous for (even though it may not be true) saying "Let them eat cake" when asked of the poor and middle-class 'what should the people eat?".  The country was in a state of bankruptcy and the people were fighting against their oppression.  The storming of the Bastille was in order to obtain ammunition and the prison represented Royal Authority and the King's totalitarian power.  Bastille's fall marked the beginning of the the French Revolution.
image from http://quotesorb.com

And so today, the 14th July is a huge celebration (particularly in France) in honour of the day that began the revolution which resulted in the creation of the First French Republic (1792). 

Here in the Cape, South Africa, Franschhoek town came about when about 200 French Huguenots fled religious persecution in France and arrived in the Dutch run Cape.  They were allocated the land in the Franschhoek valley.  A lot of the people brought with them their wine making skills, hence all the wine farms, and a number of the farms are named after the original towns in France from where these settlers came (La Motte, Provence, Cabriere etc).  Franschhoek, therefore, has its own French history and we get to participate in annual Bastille Day festivities too!

There is a market all day Saturday and Sunday, barrel rolling competitions, boules competitions, the waiter's race, the Solms Delta parade, trail runs and MTB events, berets for all and most importantly the Food & Wine tent (R150 a ticket, R550 for VIP).

So don your Red, Blue & White in honour of the French, if you don't have a beret you can always get one there, and come enjoy the festivities in Franschhoek.

Picture courtesy of www.franschhoek.co.za/bastille.html

For more information about the weekend's events and activities, as well as a festival programme, visit the official websites - http://www.franschhoek.co.za/bastille.html & http://www.franschhoekbastille.co.za/

Labels: ,

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Welbedacht Farm - Schalk Burger and Sons.


A friend told us we had to taste the Welbedacht Hat Trick next time we were there because it really is quite impressive!  And so I made sure to pop into the tasting room.

Welbedacht is home to Welbedacht, Schalk Burger & Sons and Meerkat wines.  The tasting room is small, but you can always ask to sit on the tables outside, or even buy a bottle and go lounge on the grass.  The views are beautiful overlooking the dam and across the valley. 
The rugby paraphernalia adorning the tasting room walls is also a nice personal touch and a little insight into the family history of the farm owners and their rugby achievements.

The next time we visited the farm was actually to watch some rugby on a big screen in the No.6 restaurant with boerewors rolls, wine & beer.  (No. 6 restaurant is closed now for the winter months and should be opening again sometime in August, I think) . So, while we were there, I quickly hopped across to the tasting room, during the half time of the British Lions game, to taste the Welbedacht Hat Trick and Cricket Pitch wines.  I must say, I was quite impressed! 
Most of the Welbedacht wines, I read later, actually have 4 stars in the John Platter guide.

The Welbedacht Hat Trick 2007 is a Cape Blend (I was surprised that I hadn't heard of this more often living in the Cape, but I don't think it is a very common blend).  This blend is made up of 50% Pinotage, 35% Grenache and 15% Merlot.  It is a lovely smooth blend with the berries in the Merlot perfectly complimenting the bitter choc and coffee of the Pinotage.  Very enjoyable.

The Welbedacht Cricket Pitch 2008 is a typical Bordeaux style blend with 45% Cab Sav, 40% Merlot, 11% Cab Franc and 4% Syrah which gives that tiny bit of extra smokiness to the wine.    Also a smooth, very good blend, although you can distinctly taste the Cab Sav influence and flavours compared to the Cape blend above. 
The farm actually has a cricket pitch behind the winery, which is regularly used and from where the name of this wine comes.

Both wines are older vintages and therefore smoother having aged somewhat.  Having said that, now is probably the perfect time to be drinking these wines.  Both of these wines are very good and reasonably priced at R155.  We took a bottle of the Hat Trick home with us that day

I will definitely be back again to taste some of the other Welbedacht wines, probably again during a half time of a rugby game.

Their Meerkat second tier range is not a favourite of mine, I have previously tasted the Sav Blanc and Chenin Blancs.  While it might be good value and reasonably priced easy drinking wines, are don't find them so enjoyable - a personal preference.

Welbedacht Farm, Wellington
Follow the signs from the R44 as you leave Wellington towards Tulbagh / Riebeck Kasteel

021 873 1877

Labels: , ,

Monday, 1 July 2013

TSIBA Trail Run at Groot Constantia


Trail running has become some what of a craze recently and one can understand why.  There are some beautiful trail runs that take you up to views which you would never reach by car and, a whole lot of fresh air and exercise never hurt anyone, not to mention some food and wine at the finish!!
The TSIBA trail running series happens about once a month and each time on a different wine estate in a different are of the Western Cape. 

The TSIBA Foundation is a not-for-profit business school which provides graduate education to those who unable to afford it, focusing on entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Most of the funds raised at the trail running series go towards the TSIBA Eden campus, near Knysna.

There is usually a 6km or a 12km run, the 12km being a second lap on the 6km course.  This last weekend ended up being more of a 7.5km / 15km with some sneaky little climbs along the way, but spectacular scenery and very enjoyable nonetheless.  The races usually start at 8am, with registration from 7am and a cost of R60 per runner.  Most often dogs and prams are welcome on the farms and trails, so the events are usually very social and family friendly.  This last run saw about 400 people participating.  The events are sponsored by New Balance and Civvio, which means there are some great spot prizes at the end.

This last run took place at Groot Constantia wine estate in the Constantia Valley, one of the oldest and most historic wine farms in South Africa. It was really beautiful running in between the vineyards, up the mountain behind the farm and along the ridge where the view stretches all the way to False Bay, amazing way to start your Saturday morning!! Next time I will have to take the camera with on the run to get some shots and prove how worth it it is getting up that early on a Saturday morning.

There was coffee to help with the early morning cold and boerewors rolls and free wine tasting waiting for you at the finish.  The Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc a lovely fresh, with hanepoot on the nose, slightly sweetish and very enjoyable white wine; and the Groot Constantia Shiraz, a slightly spicy but lighter, easier drinking Shiraz, were the two wines available for tasting.

A fantastic Saturday morning, a great atmosphere at the event and beautiful surroundings, as well as a worthy cause.  We'll definitely make a plan to get to the next one.

The next run is scheduled to take place at Oak Valley Wine Estate in the Elgin Valley, Grabouw area on Saturday 27th July, 2013.  Hopefully see you there!


Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia Road, Cape Town
021 794 5128

34 01’ 37,03” S, 18 25’ 28,84” E

Labels: , ,