Monday, May 11, 2015

Ten year vertical tasting of Ken Forrester Rhône blends - lunch at 96 Winery Rd

A Decathlon of decadent Rhône blends, bands of Gypsies and Renegades with Ken Forrester   
And indeed it was. How to describe Ken Forrester? A passionate, knowledgeable rebel wild child who has the advantage of the wisdom of age – something we all aspire to - and a great winemaker to boot. It was with great excitement that we joined other media and trade people for this tasting on the farm last week, followed by lunch at his restaurant, 96 Winery Road
We met at the Ken Forrester tasting room at 11am
Ably organised by Nicolette Waterford, who manages the  Public Relations for Ken Forrester; seen here with Mike Bampfield Duggan of Wine Concepts
They had put the carpets out for us and arranged some lovely canapes to line our tums before the tasting
The best belly of pork canapé ever, deep fried to sensational crispness and crunch, divine rich creamy duck foie en croute topped with a slice of pear poached in red wine (Ken said he had spent the previous night making the paté)  good cheese straws and some charcuterie
Go on, have another
Did we forget to mention the spicy sauce? Have to try this way of cooking the pork rashers
A "Lighter Side of Wine" poster by Stellenbosch artist Frans Groenewald in the tasting room
Oh we like this one very much.  We might have to ask permission to use it
Inside the tasting room
The Barrel cellar
A short walk to the Manor House, where we were to taste the twelve wines
Built in 1694, the Foresters have had to make many repairs to keep it authentic
The elegant Voorkamer with its yellow wood beams, tiled floors and period furniture
Pouring the wines to be tasted
Looking back towards the front door
The tasting sheet, flight one, 3 vintages of Renegade, one of Grenache/Syrah the precursor to Renegade and two vintages of Three Halves. Ken's maths and humour are great. One' half' is the Mourvedre, the other two 'halves' are Shiraz and Grenache
The wines poured and ready. The 2011 Renegade has aromas of vanilla and sweet cherries, its hot sweet spicy fruit have a lovely warm mouth feel. There are complex layers of fruit, warm alcohol, aromatics, wood and some balancing acidity. 2010 Renegade's warm fruit is similar, but more woody and darker fruit and spice with some licorice on the end. We like it very much. The 2008 Renegade has vanilla, violets and spice, mulberries and rhubarb on the nose and again the warm bruléed rhubarb, cranberries and mulberries with some herbaciousness. It's fading but the fruit and warmth remain. The 2002 Grenache Syrah has a herbal fynbos ,buchu nose with bruléed  fruit. Softening rhubarb, mulberries and elderberries on chalky tannins on the palate
We were most impressed with the two Three Halves (50% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 25% Shiraz). The 2011 is elegant, dark and meaty with some herbaciousness, lovely ripe fruit but with restraint - black and red cherries with raspberries. Dry chalky tannins on the palate but lovely fresh sweet fruit, a juicy food wine. Very long fruit flavours remain with some chalk.  Drinking so well now, but will last

The 2009 is similar with vanilla, cherries, perfume of violets but also savoury notes from the Mourvedre show, almost marmite.  Soft tannins and fruit beautifully integrated and some savoury umami with wild dark fruit. Another food wine and absolutely at its peak and will be for a while. Ken tells us the story of the wines.  A few years ago, he found a 50 year old (planted in 1954) Grenache up the hill in Devon Valley "Twee draad opgelede boskop" (Transl. Two wire trained bush head) it could only be picked in stages because of the uneven ripening but he nabbed it. He blended it with Shiraz and labelled it Grenache/Syrah and no one knew what it was. It took him 15 years realise it couldn't sell as Grenache, so he renamed it. However, 20 years later plantings are increasing. Rhône varieties are suited to the Cape's Mediterranean climate, the Swartland region has gone there and the old vineyards have remained.  In 2004 there were 86 hectares in the Cape, in 2013 290,  It has grown in interest and in use. All the original 86 hectares are more than 50 years old. A Mr van Zyl at the KWV  used to buy the lot by the ton at 20 balling. It was over-fed, over-watered, produced 35 tons a hectare of grey puce grapes at R120 a ton. So no more was planted in the 50's and 60's..  At the beginning with Grenache/Shiraz, Customs were fussy about the main variety not being named first, so it is now called Renegade and the blend is adjusted each year according to taste
They are a family who love dogs and own a few
The second flight 6 vintages of the Gypsy, a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre. The 2011 still fresh and young has violets, basil, strawberries, vanilla and smoke on the nose. Soft tannins then vanilla ice cream with hot cherry syrup. 2010 Slight balsam on the nose with sweet and spicy fruit. Its very different from the 2011. Some tannin, some acid, licorice wood, fresh young berries on the finish. The 2009 showed very well, with the expected cherries vanilla and herbs on the nose. It's another lovely juicy wine with soft chalky tannins, some wood. It ends with long herbal and fruity elegance. Needs more time. The 2007 was the best of the flight. An almost creamy nose with herbal incense wood hints, ripe red and black cherries & rhubarb, it has soft delicious sweet layered elegance. A pretty wine. The cherries remain on the palate. This will last much longer. The 2005 has finesse, elegance coffee mocha chocolate with black cherries. On the palate white pepper, grippy chalky tannins, cranberry, pomegranate and warmth. The 2001 Has jammy fruit but some savoury on the nose. Grippy tannins on fruit that is slowly fading away. Still notes of red grapes and cranberries, and a dry elegant finish
The impressive line up of wines we tasted
Ken and Teresa Forrester
A nice character shot of Mr Forrester
We passed the stables on our way back to our car
An autumn view from the farm across towards Stellenbosch
The very old Chenin blanc vines on the farm
Into 96 Winery Road Restaurant for lunch
The lunch menu with pairings
We also had some Fijndraai VCR White 2012 with lunch. Ken makes the wine for a local vineyard
A light and fresh raspberry vinaigrette coating tender smoked duck slices on green leaves. A lovely way to start lunch
Oh those vetkoek have a lot to answer for. The best we (who sometimes Bant) have ever tasted
The 2013 Barrel selection Roussanne; limes, pineapple and citrus but dry...
...was a superb match to the rich delight of the truffled mushroom cappuccino
We love this fashion of vegetable crisps on top of meat dishes. Rich, falling apart, slow cooked lamb shank in a rich master stock, needed the foil of an equally rich wine and the 2009 Three Halves was it. The confit tomatoes added that nice acid contrast and surprise, surprise, some of the best creamy polenta - not a solid jellied block - we have eaten in a long time. We are not surprised that Chef Natasha Wray could produce this, just that we have never enjoyed polenta before. Let's start a revolution
The wines to accompany the lamb. The addition of Durif is interesting in the VCR red. It is not a wine we are familiar with. Described in Jancis Robinson's as a wine produced by a French nurseryman Dr Durif in 1880, it is more widely known as Petite Sirah, even though it has no connection with Syrah
For the cheese course we had the current vintages of the Renegade and the Gypsy
And what a gourmet cheese selection it was. Healey cheddar;  Epoisse, Pont l'Eveque, Natal Camembert, Harrods Stilton, quince jam and tiny spheres of something sharp and fruity, and candied lime slivers
And the final spoil was Rich chocolate truffles, macaroons, and rosemary shortbread, served with coffee.  A superb foodie lunch. Thank you all so much
Ken Forrester with Chef Natasha Wray
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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