A Good Year

A Good Year: December 2013

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Beau Constantia Vineyards

I hope everyone had a superb long weekend.  Mine was extra long because it started with a beautiful wedding on Friday.  The venue, Molenvliet Wine & Guest Estate was stunning, the bride looked amazing and everyone had a wonderful time.
The Molenvliet wines at the wedding were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, both which were really great.  The farm is not usually open for tastings, because of guests, weddings and events, but give them a call and see if you can stop by next time you are in the area, it is beautiful there.

Monday's public holiday we decided to take ourselves on a Peninsula tour and started with breakfast at Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay.  Delicious food, which kept us full for most of the rest of the day!

We then stopped in at Boulder's beach to see the Penguins, skipped Cape Point (their entrance fee is a little steep), took the long way around to Kommetjie and headed up Chapmans for the beautiful drive. 

We finished our trip with a wine tasting at Beau Constantia Wine Vineyards, at the top of Constantia Nek, before heading into town to check out the Madiba walk of remembrance and flowers on the Grand Parade.

Beau Constantia has the most spectacular, almost 270 degree, view from the Constantia Valley across to the Somerset West mountains and all the way around to False Bay, you really have to visit them to fully appreciate it.  The farm is only 12 hectares, so you can see all the vineyards from the comfort of the tasting room as they stretch up to the top of the mountain.

They are a fairly new wine farm having only planted their first vineyards in 2003 after a fire burnt most of the fynbos on the mountain and they discovered rich soil beneath, perfect for vineyards.  Their first vintage of their flagship Viognier was only released in 2010, so they are still young.  The tasting room is stunning, glass all the way around so you can enjoy every little bit of scenery and a few small decks to sit outside on the couches too.

There are a few different tasting options, as well as pairings.  We opted for the R50 tasting which includes all of their 6 wines, starting with the 2nd tier brand which is called Pas de Nom, which literally translated in French means "No Name".  These are the more easy drinking poolside wines.  The Pas de Nom label is a pretty cool silhouette of Oom Japie, the bearded winemaker.  
The Pas de Nom White is a Sav B, with a little Semillon & Viognier added in to soften it and make it an easy drinking, poolside, light and peachy wine.  
The Pas de Nom Rose is made from Cab Franc, Merlot & Cab Sav but treated completely as a white wine in steel tanks and with limited oxygen exposure.  It still has the fruit flavours with quite a dry, acidic finish which makes it very versatile in food pairings.
Lastly, the Pas de Nom Red is a blend of Cab Franc which brings your cherry flavours through, Merlot with its plum flavours and 66% Petit Verdot (which is unusual to have so much) adding the floral notes.  It has spent some time in oak, although you can't really tell.  All of this range are very nice easy drinking wines, above average price, but still enjoyable.

The Beau Constantia Range are named after the wife, son and daughter of the farm's owner.  The Cecily Viognier, which has a 93 on that US rating system, is a Viognier and the estates flagship wine.  They mention coriander on the nose, and you actually can pick it up.  It is a little acidic, but smooth with lovely fruity, orange blossom and apricot flavours.  
The Lucca 2011 is a Bordeaux style blend using only Merlot (which brings the dark fruit element) & Cab Franc (with its cedar and cigar flavours).  It has the distinct gravel road-ish, earthy scents of a Cab, but with great fruit flavours on the palate.  This was definitely our favourite of the day, not too heavy and can it still spend another 3 - 5 years in the bottle.  
The Aidan 2011 is more of a contemporary version of a Bordeaux style blend, with no Cab Franc at all which makes it a lot less smokey.  It has a slight mocha nose and delicious red berries on the palate.  But the Lucca still won for us.

The wines are a little pricey, comparatively, perhaps because they are such a small boutique winery, or too close to the touristy vibes of Town & the Southern Suburbs.  But very nice wines nonetheless and spectacular scenery which you absolutely have to go see!  We had a lovely time.

How is your week going so far... hopefully unlike me, you are already on holiday and enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery!

Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch
Tel: +27 21 885 1597
33° 54’47.63” S 18° 56’27.05” E

Main Road, Constantia (Constantia Nek end)
Tel: +27 21 794 8632
Co-ords: S 34°0’ 48.57” | E 018° 24’ 21.67”

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Ridgeback Wines and Allee Bleue

As we head furiously towards Christmas, the weekends seem to blur into an array of activities and festivities!  This last one was filled with Madiba memories, kitchen teas, first birthdays, wine farms and sea swims. 

The boys started Saturday morning with a leisurely breakfast at Ridgeback Wines, a small unassuming wine farm in Agter Paarl.  We popped in there briefly during the Ommiberg festival at the beginning of the year and really enjoyed their vibe they had going.  The restaurant has a deck which sits over the small dam, home to a few swans, with a homely, down to earth farm feel to it.  We will definitely be taking people back here.

The boys were raving about the whole experience, a genuine boutique winery without all the hoity-toity-ness.  The TRH is a qualified Sommelier who gave so much insight to the wines and just made the experience that much more enjoyable.  They have really smart labels and I just the Ridgeback silhouette.  The name comes from the Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs on the farm, and the Rhodesian roots the farm owner has.  In the old days Ridgebacks were used for lion hunting and the name embodies the strength and quality of the red wines produced on the farm today.

According to the boys, it was some of the best wines that they have tasted and at reasonable prices too.  Of course a few bottles were bought and proudly shown off, so I will have to post about them when we next enjoy them.  The wines which landed up on my wine rack were the Ridgeback Journey 2012, a Bordeaux blend, the Ridgeback Shiraz 2008 and the Ridgeback His Masters Choice 2008, an SMV blend (Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier).  The later two can still be kept for another 5 - 8 years, so we will have to see how long they last on the wine rack.

Us girls met up with them at Allee Bleue wine farm.  I always expected this farm to be busy with tourist buses and the likes, but it was really quiet when we got there.  No weddings on or anything.  The tasting room is very chic and modern, but we sat outside on the couches with the beautiful weather. 
I was there for a wedding a couple of years ago and it really is a beautiful venue, my friend walked down the "aisle" between the vineyards, drinks were on the lawn under the trees and the reception in the Manor House courtyard.

There is a delightful little bistro as you drive into the farm, but the wine tasting, picnic area and beautiful settings are at the end of the driveway.

Between us we enjoyed a couple of bottles of the Allee Bleue Sauvignon Blanc 2013, which is deliciously light, tropical and refreshing on such a hot day!  The grapes used are actually from vineyards in the Walker Bay area which is up the coast, of course the sea breezes creating great conditions for a Sav B.  I was super keen to taste the Brut Rose, it just looks so lovely, but there were no other takers - perhaps next time.

Another beautiful weekend with friends and family.  Looking forward to the long weekend and counting the days to the holidays!

From the N1, take the R44 turnoff towards Wellington.  Just after Windmeul Cellar turn right towards Paarl.  About 100m and the farm will be on a dirt road to your right.
Tel: +27 21 869 8988

Latitude:-33.673333  Longitude: 18.915

Intersection of R45 and R310 on the way to Franschhoek.
Tel: +27 21 874 1021

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Friday, 6 December 2013

MCCs & Champagne

There is just something about Champagne that makes you feel glamorous, elegant and in the mood for celebrations!! 

Always keep a good bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions.  Some times the special occasion is that you have a bottle of Champagne in your fridge
 - Hester Brown 

Thanks to the folks in the Franschhoek Wine Valley for the 4 tickets I won for the Franschhoek MCC & Champagne Festival.
It was a beautiful day on Sunday, perfect weather, bubbles flowing, people dressed in their stylish black, white, stripes and polka dots and a fantastic atmosphere. 
The bands were great, those that entered and modelled in the best dressed competition were a hoot! and the dance floor was still on fire even after the stalls had all packed up.

There could have been a few more food stalls, but we had a DELICIOUS mussel bowl and a salmon sandwich which was more than enough.  With our ticket we received a glass and 10 tasting coupons, which worked really well, you could choose your French Champagnes worth 3 or 4 coupons, or our homemade MCCs for 1 or 2 coupons.  Or, like the boys chose to do, just buy a bottle, sit back, relax and enjoy! 

Of course, for our own health, we couldn't get to everything, but a few mentions of the ones we did enjoy...

MORENA is definitely still one of our favourites (that's what the boys were buying).  SIMONSIG Kaapse Vonkel was another favourite of the day with their well deserved Veritas GOLD and 4 John Platter stars, the Cuvee Royale was also pretty good! 

KRONE was a hit, you could taste the Krone Borealis 2009, Krone Rose 2008, and Nicolas Charles Krone for just one coupon.  All of which are made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the second spending a bit more time on skins to give it a little pink hue and some fruit flavours, and the third, with extended lees contact was definitely the best of the three.
VILLIERA was also another great stop, not only were there three tasting for 2 coupons, but their Munro Brut, was probably the best MCC of the day!  The Grier MCC was also pretty delicious.
AVONDALE is another farm I've been wanting to get to, they are well known for their organic wines, and Avant-Garde Food & Wine Pairings (Crafted by Chef Reuben Riffel).  Their Armilla Brut was really nice.

It was great to see some of the smaller boutique farms there too, the likes of Charles Fox, Francois La Garde, GM & Ahrens, Ross Gower to name some, all of whom specialise in and focus on MCC production.  Their MCCs are obviously really good because they put everything they have into them.  Well worth a visit to some of their farms!

The only Genuine FRENCH Champagne we landed up tasting was the Piper Heidsieck which was really nice.  But honestly, our home grown MCCs are not far off the genuine Champagnes from the infamous Valley in France.  While this is brought in by Edward Snell, quite a few of the wine farms in Franschhoek actually import the genuine French stuff.  Colmant imports Chabivin, Morena stocks Thierry Lesne, Ken Forrester brings in Billecart-Salmon just to name a few.

There were a few macarons on sale to add to the French feel, but it would have been awesome if some of these Champagne Cupcakes (made by the Curvy Carrot ) were available.  Guess we'll have to make some ourselves the next time we pop open an MCC.

All in all it was a fantastic afternoon, enjoyed by all and great to get to know a little more about the delicious MCCs and Champagnes we have available right here on our doorstep!

Champagne certainly makes the party!  Now that the festive season has officially arrived and new years parties are already being planned - which bubbles will you be enjoying?

"Champagne! In victory one deserves it, in defeat, one needs it".
- Napoleon

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