Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cultural, botanical and culinary heritage with wine at Solms Delta

As Klink judges, we are always looking at what else wine farms do to attract customers. Solms Delta in Franschhoek has so much to offer that it rather puts the rest to shame. This week, we were invited to experience the whole gamut of things on offer and we had a very good day, despite power cuts and rain. John does take his tour customers there for the cultural experiences. Yesterday we discovered how good the restaurant is and the people we met, who so love what they do. We had a wine tasting with the assistant winemaker, Joan Heatlie, a walk through the Dik Delta fynbos food garden with gardener Johan O’Rayn, lunch in Fyndraai restaurant cooked by chef Shaun Schoeman and visit to The Musiek van de Caab museum with Wanna Malgas. You, too can enjoy similar experiences when you visit
The wines we tasted. We really like the new label designs of the wines
Lynne on the verandah with assistant winemaker Joan Heatlie
She started with the Vastrap Chenin Blanc. It’s a classic Cape chenin with a kick of elegance from 3% Semillon they added this year
Next we tasted the 2014 Rosé called Lekkerwyn. Made as a classic Rhône rose from 93% Grenache noir and 7% Cinsaut, drinking it reminds one of being in southern France. Crisp and elegant, easy drinking with long fresh and invigorating flavours of strawberry
We went on to taste The 2013 Langarm Shiraz, full of cherries, spice and leather and then the 2011 Hiervandaan Rhône blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Carignan, Viognier and Mourvèdre with sweet and sour plums. It’s a food wine. Then the Africana, their top shiraz, made from desiccated grapes with a full-on mouth of licorice and black cherries, spice and fruit. It has minerality, soft chalky tannins and lots of elegance. The 2011 Gemoedsrus is their version of port, made from Shiraz fortified with grappa. Full of spice, chocolate and sweet berry fruits, it is not too sweet with only 68 gm/l of sugar
The Gemoedsrus is dedicated to the late musician Alex van Heerden (1974-2009) who started the annual Oesfees concerts
The inside of the tasting room has a glass floor suspended over the very old foundations of the building that stood here before
Wines for tasting and purchase
Gardener and fynbos expert Johan O’Rayn taught us so much about what is edible in our local floral kingdom
He showed us around the garden and we tasted many different things. This protea has edible berries in season
Drying calabash gourds
An indigenous fig tree, full of figs waiting to ripen
Edible heart shaped berries that taste like raisins
And another which has four parts
Maketaan wild watermelons. These grow wild in the fields countrywide. They have no flavour, but can be turned into a watermelon konfyt (confit) which is pieces of crisp and syrupy watermelon flesh, flavoured with ginger and sometimes cinnamon and eaten with cheese
This was a giant
Its tiny yellow flowers
Spekboom (translation bacon bush! No, not a ham bush) These grow all over South Africa, even in very dry areas, are eaten by elephants and other animals. They are one of the best absorbers of carbon emissions in the world. They are full of vitamin C and taste sharply sour, so are good with rich meats. We had them with lunch and they were delicious
Our indigenous wild “rosemary”, although it is not related, also known as kapokbossie or snow bush as, after flowering, the seeds float off like snow. It is used in medicines and food
The flowers
The num num ‘plum’ ripens to dark red and can be eaten. It is a variety of wild jasmine

Many local pelargoniums can be eaten or used as a medicinal herb. The leaves of many varieties have different flavours such as mint, chocolate, lemon, etc.
Another edible leaf
Buchu can be used as a herb or in tea
A Kei Apple. It resembles a small apricot and is rather good to eat, quite meaty and juicy. The tall thorny bush can be used to keep cattle and people out of your property
The manure of the native Nguni cattle on the property is used to fertilise the garden
He’s a formidable bull (on the right)
Wonderful horns
The Fyndraai restaurant
We met the chef, Shaun Schoeman, but not for the first time. He was previously at Aubergine under Chef Harald Bresselschmidt
The mission statement in the menu
Good herb rolls
Starters
Lynne had the ox tongue. It was perfect. So many people serve tongue as thin slices. This is how it should be served, in tender 1 cm thick slices. The sharp vinaigrette and spekboom were the perfect foil for the rich tongue, and the rich jus was also excellent. We each drank a glass of the wine recommended on the menu. Lynne made her Amalie (a blend of Grenache blanc, Chenin, Roussanne, Viognier) last for both courses. It’s a wine we like and buy and sold very well in our shop. It has caramel, toast and salt on the nose, sweet golden plums on the silky palate and is fresh with good acidity
John had the smoked ostrich carpaccio with a num num sauce and fynbos greens. Lovely tender, gently smoked ostrich. And the sauces were sweet plum and green herb. The leafy herb on top was hard to eat; it’s a bit like cotton wool in texture
Main course menu
Lynne ordered the wild herb crusted kingklip, the line fish of the day. She had originally ordered the snoek parcels but the waiter then came to warn her that the snoek came with its bones in the parcel. It is a notoriously bony fish and after two serious fish bone incidents, Lynne is very cautious about bones in fish and was very grateful for the information and the offer to change her order. Kingklip is a firm fish with large flakes, rather like cod and takes flavour well. The tomato bredie was a good foil and the creamy leeks and the crayfish vinaigrette were an excellent addition to the dish. The crisp deep fried onion slices were something new, we had never seen this done before and they were terrific. The onion had carmelised but was crispy crunchy.
Johns main was the braised (bontebok) venison, still pink inside but a little chewy. The potato rösti soaked up all the juices and the butternut purée was rather sweet. He also loved the onion slices
The Dessert menu. How, we thought, could we possibly order dessert but, because the main courses were not gargantuan, we did
Lynne chose the warm banana malva pudding, topped with a chocolate ganache and accompanied by a rich vanilla ice cream. It was like a combination of carrot cake, malva pudding and the best banana bread topped with chocolate. John was very envious
In an adventurous mood, he ordered the Rooibos cheesecake. Very wobbly and full of rooibos flavour, no chance of Lynne stealing any of that, she abhors rooibos. It was accompanied by an interesting citrus sorbet to cut the richness. Both dishes came with a wild berry coulis
Sadly, we could not have coffee as, during dessert, Solms Delta was a victim of ‘Load shedding’ and they couldn't use the espresso machine. We didn’t mind at all

At the end of the menu, they have this interesting glossary of terms to explain items on the menu. It so helps if you don’t understand something in a dish
Then it was time to meet Wanna Malgas and restaurant manager Ronel van Rooyen. Wanna took us to see the Music Museum
A small house on the estate
The sign explains it all
The exhibits are interactive and very interesting. Sadly, because of the power cut, Wanna could not use any of their recordings and had to explain a lot to us. She does it very well
She demonstrated all these replica instruments and it was a lot of fun. John, who used to play the trumpet, amazed her at his skill on the kelp horn, actually getting a semblance of a tune out of it.
She demonstrated the bull roarer which she says is useful when chasing away bees on the estate, it certainly sounds like a swarm in anger
These are Olieblik guitars, made out of old oil tins by Wanna and her helpers
She demonstrated how she plays them
She has been on the farm for 22 years and is quite a personality and is full of valuable information
We then made a quick trip to see the archaeological museum. Solms Delta is on the site of an ancient prehistoric settlement and they have collected many historic artefacts from the site. The black tiles commemorate slaves who were buried on the farm
The next room has a video screen which shows films of people involved with the farm's history
A Danish/German couple visiting from Germany, enjoying the Solms Delta experience
Koloni is a blend of Muscat de Frontignan and Muscat d’Alexandrie. Rose petals and honey on the nose, it has a residual sugar 16 g and a wonderful sugar and acid balance, rather like a good Rhine wine. It has spent 18 months on the lees. It is currently on special at R35 a bottle and we bought a case to take home. It will be superb with dessert, cheese and spicy food
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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