A Good Year

A Good Year: January 2014

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

"A Good Year" is changing address...

For a number of reasons and recommendations, "A Good Year" is moving to a new address...


Make sure you go check it out - any more recommendations for changes are welcomed!

If you are a follower, that is fantastic, and sorry for the inconvenience but you will have to add your details again on the new site.
See you all on the other side.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cavalli Stud and Wine Estate

I am sure you have noticed the new state of the art wine and stud farm that has popped up along the R44.  There was some speculation about it being an American owner, but it is in fact a South African.  And with all the security cameras and beautiful paddocks you can see from the road, I'm not sure about you, but we were waiting in anticipation for their opening.

So, on our way back from ice creams at the beach during the holiday break, we popped in to satisfy our inquisitive sides.  The security is pretty intense and you can't drive more than about 20km/h up the road to the wine tasting and restaurant.  On the way up there you pass the paddocks, stables and training area which are not open to the public.  I did however, see a few pictures from a friend of the indoor training arena they have there and it is really quite impressive.  Their website has a few more.

But, onto the next building, where you are welcomed and escorted in.  The restaurant has the most extrodinary views spanning the whole Stellenbosch valley.  The kitchen is open and there is a lovely relaxed, fresh atmosphere in the restaurant.  We didn't eat that day, but the menu looks delicious and reasonably priced.  If nothing else it is worth it just for the view, to sit out on the deck - beautiful!

The wine tasting is downstairs next to the gallery (we weren't sure if we were allowed in, so steered clear).  It has been built like a "Master's" cellar, with one whole room dedicated to the owner's personal whisky collection, which is apparently the largest private collection of the Southern Hemisphere (some 450 brands).  I do like the idea of an "underground" cellar and it is very stylish down there, beautiful artwork of horses as well as an impressive wine collection (another small room off the tasting room), however, on this particular day, the weather was so spectacular I was a little disappointed to be in doors with soft, darkish lighting.  Perhaps we will have to go back in winter... but only if the fireplace is in use.  Otherwise, it is a very stylish cellar.

The wines of course all have horsey names.  The labels are really nice, the entry level range simple and stylish while the premium ranges have strong black and gold labels.  The wine tasting was R30 for 5 wines (The Cermello was sold out, which would make up the 6 wines available at the farm).  Love the wine glasses they use in the tasting room - sometimes the small things can make a difference.

The wine tasting was very chilled, a few couches and stools up at a bar counter.  With regard to the wines, the White Knight 2013 is a slightly acidic Chenin with nice citrus and orange blossom flavours.  The Pink Pony 2013 is a medium dry rosé made from Grenache grapes.  Both the aromas and flavours lean more towards a red wine than a white, with red currant and earthy notes, it is rather enjoyable - our second favourite for the day (the flagship won).  The Black Beauty 2012 is made for easy drinking, it will probably soften over a year or two, but you may as well enjoy it now.  It is a Shiraz, but it has more berry flavours than spice, a little metallic and tongue clucking for me, but fine for a braai or pizza.

Onto the premium range, the Rogue 2010 which is a Malbec/Pinotage blend is surprisingly smooth with lovely spiced red fruits as well as wood and herbal undertones.  I really enjoyed it, lovely structure and aging potential.  The last wine was the farm's flagship, the Warlord 2009.  Definitely the best of the day, a blend of Cab Sav and Shiraz.  You can taste the distinctive Cab gravel road, earthy flavours together with plums and currants.  It has a lovely lingering aftertaste and would be a perfect compliment to a great dinner.

Well worth a visit, it really is beautiful out there, even more so if you are a lover of horses.  I would really like to get back to the restaurant sometime.  The wines are pretty good too considering how new the farm is.

Have you been there?  What did you think?

Strand Road (R44), Somerset West
Tel: +27 21 855 3218


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Riebeek Valley Weekend

Still a few posts from the holidays...

Our festive season actually started with a wedding in Riebeek Kasteel and what a great excuse for a weekend away.  We got hold of a few friends in the area, organised to stay at one of their sheep / wheat farms and we were set.  A round of golf in Mooreesberg on the Saturday morning followed by breakfast at Mama Cucina in Riebeek Kasteel and then onto the wine farms. 

Riebeek Valley is surrounded by wheat fields, but the two small towns of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West actually have quite a few wine and olive farms in and around them.  Riebeek Kasteel is also well known for having great restaurants, quaint shops and the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.  Only an hour or so from Cape Town and you are worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the City. 

We had a delicious breakfast at Mama Cucina's, right in the middle of town.  Seeing as the holidays had officially started we enjoyed a bottle of bubbles - Pieter Cruythoff Brut (also from Riebeek Cellars) with our breakfast, a light, nice and dry not too sweet sparkling brut.  Then moved on to the first wine tasting.

A friend who works at Riebeek Cellars was with us and took us to their tasting room situated in town.  The actual cellars are just outside town and you can taste wine and go on tours during the week, but we were there on the weekend so we popped into the tasting room.  Riebeek Cellars are a co-operative (like Windmeul, KWV, Tulbagh Winery, etc), meaning it is made up of a bunch of members, in this case vineyard owners, who all deliver their grapes to the co-operative.  The Co-operative then produces, markets and sells the wines and the members receive their portion of the  profits.  Now the benefit of these co-ops is that they usually have very large quantities and are therefore, through economies of scales, able to produce good quality wines at very reasonable prices.  So when you are looking for easy drinking reasonable wines, these names are always good options.  A lot of them also have very good premium ranges too.

On this particular occasion, with the 40 degree heat outside, we merrily sipped through some of the easier drinking lighter wines in the tasting room.  The Montino wines are Riebeek Cellars' light wine range with only 8.5% alcohol, as well as being low in kilojules.  The Montino Light, has now become a family favourite.  It is a lovely crisp and refreshing white wine, with a few bubbles - not unlike a wine spritzer, it actually tastes quite like appletiser.  What a hit for the summer time!  The Montino Rosé version is a little bit sweeter, it literally tastes like graptiser, and the Montino Rosso is also sweet just a bit drier.  Personally I would stick to the Montino White.

In the Riebeek Cellars range we tasted the Riebeek Cellars Chenin Blanc, one of their best sellers, which is very very nice,  The Sauvignon Blanc was slightly tart with some green peppers in the mix.  The Rosé was also really nice, made only from Pinotage and having spent 4 hours on skins to get the pink hues.  All easy drinking poolside wines at very reasonable prices.  The only premium range we tasted was the Kasteelberg Chenin Blanc which is wooded in new oak.  It had delicious peach, vanilla and wood flavours.  

A lovely relaxed, light and enjoyable tasting with friends.  Kloovenburg was the next stop for the day, an awesome farm.  I'll save the details for another post.

The wedding we attended in the afternoon was at Hetvlock Casteel which I think is relatively new.  Right as you drive into Riebeek Kasteel on the right hand side.  It looks just like a castle and the ceremony was held on top, out in the open, overlooking the valley.  Quite the spectacular setting.  It seems they also have wine tasting when the venue isn't being used.

What a brilliant weekend with new and old friends, loads of laughs and new experiences.  Being only a 40min drive from us, I think we should definitely go visit more often.  Perhaps in the cooler months though as the temperature reached about 41 degrees when we left on the Sunday to come home.

When last were you in the Riebeek Valley?  Where are some of your favourite spots?

Tasting room in Plein Street, Riebeek Kasteel
Tel: +27 22 448 1213 

Church Street (R311), Riebeek Kasteel
Tel: +27 82 567 9132
S33°23¹22.74¹¹ / E18°53¹40.75¹¹

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Monday, 20 January 2014

Wine with dinner - Oak Valley & Leopard's Leap

We met some friends at one of our favourite spots in Paarl the other night - Noop!  I must say, everytime I go I am more impressed with their food, service and whole atmosphere.  We sat outside on the stoep and brought a few bottles of wine of our own.

The food as usual was fantastic, there were a few pork bellies ordered, my other half had the prawn and chicken curry which was full of flavour and I had the line fish with sweet potato and carrot mash, tarragon cream, some greens and a beetroot and ginger puree - fantastic!  And just because I can, I ordered a Frangelico creme brulee for dessert, which of course everyone had a taste of.  Just look how delicious it looks.  An absolutely lovely evening of good friends, food and wine.

We took a bottle of Leopard's Leap Shiraz Grenache 2010 which we bought the last time we did a tasting at the farm.

JD arrived with one of his birthday presents which was a 2005 Oak Valley Red Blend who's dusty label gave away its age and prestige.  A beautiful blend of 69% Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sav which has smoothed out incredibly with time, what a treat!  Oak Valley have the most beautiful farm out in Elgin with mountain biking trails, wine tasting, the chic new poolside bistro, row upon row of fruit trees and amazing greenhouses filled with beautiful flowers (our wedding flowers came from them).

Both fantastic wines and wine farms to visit.

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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Boschendal Estate

Over the festive season we decided to take a drive through the winelands, we weren't actually looking to taste wine so we stopped in at the Lion Park in Klapmuts.  They have 35 cats there including two tigers and a few white lions.  It is set up almost like a national park rather than a zoo and you have to really look for the lions lounging under the trees.  But they are spectacular beings, king of the jungle, my favourite animal.  The tigers are really amazing too.

Anyway, afterwards we thought we would try and find somewhere with a picnic vibe or just a cheese plate afternoon snack and so ended up heading to Boschendal.  A farm we usually avoid because of its touristy-ness, having said that I have heard rave reviews about the picnics and restaurant.

We didn't eat on that side of the farm, but the picnic area is beautiful under the trees and I would definitely go back sometime.  On this occasion we headed across to the other side of the farm where the wine shop and tasting room are.  I love all the Cape Dutch houses and the heritage you feel when you drive in.  It is one of the oldest farms in the Cape, founded in 1685.  The wine tasting bar counter is at the base of a massive tree and the tables all lie under the branches, so when the weather is fine, like it was so often over the festive season, it is a great spot.

Overall, it is a beautiful place and well worth a visit, personally on the wine tasting side we were not overly impressed.  You can only taste the entry level wines, none of the premium wines are available to taste which was a bit disappointing.  Their prices are actually quite reasonable which is also surprising that you can't taste the reserves etc.  The entry level wines are fine, your standard good quality entry level, but the highlight of our wine tasting experience actually ended up being the delicious cheese board from Dalewood Fromage.  And also the Grande Cuvee Brut 2007 MCC (which is really good - sweet and dry), but is an extra fee to taste.  The Le Grand Pavillon Brut Rosé Non Vintage was also a really nice MCC tasting more dry, floral and pinkish. 

The 1685 Sauvignon Blanc was probably the second favourite of the day, it smells amazing and has lovely peaches, pineapple and greenery on the palate.  The 1685 Chardonnay Pinot Noir is nice and light for summer, with sweet earth and fruit flavours.  The Blanc de Noir smells like rose syrup and looks like red cooldrink, so if you like your sweet rosés, this one is for you.  The Le Bouquet you can smell straight away is a dessert wine, although it is quite light and enjoyable considering the sweet fruit palate.  A perfect pair for the cheese board.  

It was a really hot day, so probably my own fault for choosing to taste reds, but warm red wine on a hot day is never going to go down that well, they could have perhaps served a bit chilled.  For this reason I didn't enjoy the Lanoy (Cab Sav/Merlot blend), it was quite metallic.  The 1685 Merlot was quite enjoyable, light and fruity with very subtle wood spice.  The 1685 Shiraz and the 1685 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon are quite similar in taste although I preferred the Shiraz with its ripe tannins and white pepper flavours.  All were pleasant, easy drinking reds.

You can't really fault the wines of a 300 year old farm, the ones we tasted were all enjoyable easy drinking wines at reasonable prices.  And it was quite a lovely afternoon under the giant trees and next to the perfectly manicured lawns.

I almost forgot the cheese board - Not sure what the hard cheese was, but it was delicious.  The wild mushroom cheese was as smooth as soft butter and quite lovely.  Camembert was amazing, so too was the delicious brie with green figs.  The blue cheese was not strong at all, yum yum yum!

If you are with a tour bus, Boschendal is a beautiful farm and you will certainly enjoy yourself, but if you are in your own car and looking for a wine tasting, I would maybe rather stop at a smaller farm.  Certainly stop for lunch and a cheese board and maybe even buy some wine at Boschendal, but tasting experience, I would pick a smaller farm - personal preference.

Pniel Road, R310 between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek
Tel: +27 21 870 4210

Tel: +27 21 875 5725

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Monday, 13 January 2014

Brenaissance Wine and Stud Estate

We popped into Brenaissance on the weekend for a lovely afternoon lunch.  We felt like pizza and with the beautiful weather we were trying to find somewhere relaxed and outdoors.

I remember the last time I drove past there it was quite stark and the black and white decor stood out from the road as you drove past.  They have since planted vineyards between the restaurant and the road making a beautiful atmosphere at both the tasting room and restaurant.  
It seems like they also have fruit trees on the property, I think there were a bunch of plum trees next to where we were sitting.  There is an awesome jungle gym for the kids and loads of ducks in the stream you cross over, they even have duck food available if you want to try and feed them.

The wine tasting area is just to the side, under a vineyard trellis with a very relaxed cool vibe.  Tastings are R50 for 6 wines and they have a great variety with some cool names like "King of Clubs", "Queen of Hearts" and "Jack of Diamonds" to name a few.  We weren't tasting today, but did enjoy a bottle of the Lady H which is a lovely fresh apple and summer pine Sauvignon Blanc, a perfect match for the weather and the pizza. 

The restaurant Cafe Blanc de Noir has pizzas, salads, craft beer and wine on the menu, along with some delicious dessert treats.  We opted for the Full House pizza which has four pizzas in one - great idea.  Our favourites were of course the Parma ham, and surprisingly the Caramlised Onion one.  I say surprisingly as my husband usually can't understand a plate of food that doesn't have meat on it, but even he agreed this one was delicious.  The restaurant also offers a pizza and wine pairing.  The food looked so good I wanted to take a photo of the plates on the table next to us, but by the time our pizzas arrived we were all so hungry, photos were the last thing on our minds - apologies.

A lovely afternoon, beautiful restaurant, food and wine.  The farm has accommodation as well which I can imagine is stunning.  We'll definitely bring friends and family back here.
How was your weekend?

75/2 Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch
Tel: +27 21 200 2644
GPS: LATITUDE -33.91879 LONGITUDE 18.81748




Monday, 6 January 2014

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

I hope you had the most fabulous festive season and are ready for a BIG 2014!

We were up in Durbs during some of our time off, and boy were we spoilt with food, wine and beautiful weather.  I sometimes forget what an awesome city Durban is.  The boxing day test was an absolute hit!  A trip to Ushaka was always on the cards, all the slides, the dolphin show, the aquarium and a swim in the warm Indian Ocean - love it, that was definitely a highlight! Loads of family time, beach time and even a few coffees overlooking the Valley of 1000 Hills.

Before we left for Durbs, our friend JD held a Christmas dinner, with delicious slices of kudu steak snacks and potbrood, followed by perfectly braaied sirloin steaks and finished off with caramel banana springrolls and ice cream.  Of course the festive season isn't complete without a few bubbles, so a Villiera Tradition Brut was opened for the occasion, delicious as always, slightly dry but crisp with zesty fruit.  The boys tucked into an impressive bottle of Tokara Five Year Potstilled Brandy which went down a treat, a beautiful bottle and extremely smooth (according to them).

Our first night in Durbs was scrumptious prawns and swordfish on the braai, my aunt is an amazing cook and my uncle enjoys a good wine, so together with our seafood we enjoyed some Domaine Grier French Rosé as well as Pierre Jourdan Tranquille.  The Domaine Grier is a small farm in France owned by the Grier family of Villiera wines, the French Rosé is simply delicious and perfect for a summer seafood, slightly dry yet crisp and refreshing!  The Tranquille, from Haute Cabriere, as always was lovely too, made with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay it has a beautiful pink champagne hue and a similar moussey flavour to that of an MCC, just without the bubbles - a "Still Champagne".  Interestingly this wine has been made in a similar method to an MCC whereby the juice has been recovered from bunches of grapes before they are crushed, taking out a lot of tannins and leaving the elegant MCC finish.  Quite delicious, and even better is the Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir which blends in the opposite ratios to the Tranquille - All three are fantastic wines for the Summer.
More bubbles flowed on Christmas Day, starting with a bottle of Boschendal Grand Cuvee Brut - which is now one of my personal favourites, delicately moussey with almond biscotti and green apple flavours, it is both sweet and dry, a delight! 
A case of Moreson Pink Brut Rosé was also delivered on the day, to my uncle as a present from his sons, and we were lucky enough to pop a bottle for the occasion.  Another great MCC, I always love the soft pink hues of a rosé champagne.  While the strawberry and raspberry flavours are there, it is quite a dry MCC, very enjoyable, but after the Boschendal it was a little bit dry for my liking - personal preference.

With the Durban heat and humidity we had red wine only once, a glass each and that was enough.  A bottle of Springfield Estate Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 given as a gift to my mom.  A great opportunity for me to use my new aerator and wine glass identifier friends (you can see the little yellow guy grappling on to my glass there - love them!).  The wine was delicious, loaded with berries, but still that distinct Cab earthiness and gravel road-like scent and finish.  Being young it could probably keep for a few more years, but it is made to be enjoyed now.  Springfield Estate is in the Roberston Valley.

There were a bunch of wine farm visits during our holiday too and other activities in and around the winelands.  I'll post a few of those in the coming weeks.

We are certainly well rested and nicely tanned as we return to work here.  How was your festive season?  Are you ready for 2014?

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