Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Stanford Wine Route Launch: Robert Stanford Estate

Our first evening started at Robert Stanford Estate, established in 1855. Wine was first grown here in the 1890s, one of oldest vineyards in the area. The estate was owned by entrepreneur Sir Robert Stanford who gave his name to the area. He turned the estate into a provision farm and shipped the fresh produce to Cape Town in his cutter which he moored in the cove which also bears his name
It is currently owned by the Malan family, who take an environmentally friendly approach to farming and are proud of their Biodiversity Champion status. They also have a Restaurant called Madres Kitchen run by Madre Malan, Jan Malan's wife, but we did not get to eat there on this trip. It is only open from Thursday to Sunday from 8 to 4 pm
A glass of their excellent chilled 2014 Sir Robert Stanford Sauvignon Blanc awaited us, Nice and crisp and classic
The comfortable and well tasting room with fireplace
Wines for tasting and purchasing in the tasting room
The 2013 vintage of their Pinot Noir
Jan Malan guided us through the wines
We were taken on a walk up to their small distillery The Stookhuis
Where they have a mini column still that produced their grappa and other fruit spirits under the label Robert Stanford & Brothers
The gabled back of the tasting room
Time to get on the Stanford Vineyard Tram to go up to the dam. It is pulled by a rather smoky tractor. They need to extend the chimney as the smoke blows back on the passengers, so not very healthy
A grey heron followed us up the hill ...
... & seemed to want to join the party
It was an exciting trip on quite a long bumpy road but soon we reached the summit and found the tasting of their wines cleverly organised alongside the dam
Nice to see a full dam
The views looking down at Stanford were superb
Cheese, strawberries to accompany the wines. Madre’s Kitchen can organise picnics by arrangement
The strawberries went very well with the Shiraz, which is full of fruit and spice and very attractive. We also enjoyed the 4½ star The Hansom, a blend of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc with 20% Merlot. And then there was the extremely quaffable rosé
A basket full of Clivias, one of our most beautiful indigenous bulbs
Cloud coming down over the mountain. We were blessed with a dry weekend even though the weather had threatened
Sunset over the dam
Back down in the Tractor tram, listening to Jan Malan talk about his vineyards
A lovely start to the week. Now we were off to dinner next door at Stanford Hills
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

Stanford Wine Route Launch: Springfontein

Springfontein speaks quality in everything it does: wine, food, accommodation and landscape. It is definitely worth a visit. To get to it, you go through Stanford village and down alongside the river on a well maintained hard packed road for about 7 kilometres
Our accommodation was in the new guest cottage on Springfontein which can accommodate three separate couples or one family with interconnecting doors open. Other members of the media were housed at Stanford Hills in the large farmhouse. This cottage is now available for guests
There is an apartment at either end, each with its own terrace, and the middle apartment has the verandah next to the pool, where we were. Two other members of the media, Graham Howe and Monika Elias, had the end apartments
The view from the front door. The cottage you can see is about to be converted into more guest accommodation. Hildegard Witbooi, Tariro's partner, is a horticulturist and is in charge of all the landscaping on the farm, all of it using indigenous plants and trees where possible. She is also now the farm's viticulturist
The pool verandah. We wish we had had more time to enjoy sitting here but it was not possible with our heavy schedule
Our comfortable bed in front of the fireplace. We could have lit a fire, but we didn't need to
The very large bathroom with walk in shower...
...and roll top bath
The middle apartment has a fully fitted kitchen. The end apartments both have a fridge and a kettle and their own fully fitted bathrooms...
They have left parts of some old walls bare so that you can see how the original cottage was constructed
Gabion walls straddle two old trees
After breakfast at Vaalvlei on Tuesday we were taken up the hill to the top vineyards at Springfontein for a wine tasting. "Founded in 1994, Springfontein is held by shareholder families whose heritage spans 3 continents: Germany, the USA and South Africa." Dr. Johst & Jennifer Packard Weber are directors
A glass of Springfontein Pinotage
Tariro and Hildegard with the marvellous view of the mountains and the valley below. All Springfontein's vineyards are on the other side of the river from Stanford, very close to the sea, on the dunes. The sandy soil means that they can experiment with planting vines on their own rootstocks as there is very little risk of Phylloxera
Tariro points out some of the other vineyards on the wine route
Hildegard pours us some of the very quaffable and elegant 4 star Chenin Blanc
Tariro talks about his wines, all of which will be available for lunch at Springfontein Eats after the tasting. Lynne fell in love with the 4 star Petit Verdot, full of violets and spicy fruit with depth and wildness. John loves the Pinotage, which has rich, ripe fruit with a spicy backbone. Tariro serves Pinotage in Pinot Noir glasses, as he believes that they suit the wine best
Nice to taste wine in the sunshine with sea breezes
The vineyards are in leaf
They are constructing new vineyard at the top of the hill and another guest cottage
Diggers making drainage channels
The workers taking a break for lunch
Very chalky soil, perfect for grapes
Tariro being interviewed for radio by one of our number
We subscribe to their motto: Eat, Drink, Sleep, Breathe...
Time for lunch in the restaurant Springfontein Eats. The chef is Jürgen Schneider who runs the restaurant with his wife Susanne. He was a Michelin starred chef at his restaurant in Germany for 14 years so the food is excellent. He forages, he uses vegetables grown in the large organic kitchen garden, uses locally sourced produce, he creates something different almost every day. You have to book, it is very popular. And it is not cheap but worth it. 3 course R 295 - R 335 · 4 course R 395 · 5 course R 475 · 6 course R 535. And then you can order wine from their wine list of locally produced wines. They also have an impressive list of French and German wines
Blackboard menu
The Vinotec
The scrupulously clean kitchen
Our tables
Jil's Dune Chenin Blanc, which has a touch of botrytis, is naturally fermented in barrel. This wine, with stone fruit and honey notes, was so good with the food
Chef brings canapés to the terrace
Crisps with sesame and black pepper
soft cheese in nasturtium leaves
and small filled rolls of pastry - didn't get one so can’t describe!
Tariro hands us over to Susanne to manage
She tells us about the lunch we are about to eat
A celebration of carrot. A baby just pulled from the ground, a carrot jelly, a carrot rappé and carrot puree flavoured with herbs and spices
Do we have enough glasses?
Stuffed squid on a crunchy couscous 'soil' with beetroot jus and a chicken wing ballotine
Lamm x 2 was how the menu described the two main course: An individual raviolo stuffed with lamb in a creamy herb sauce with salty black olives
Hildegard enjoying lunch
Tender roast lamb loin with spring vegetables, a marvellous lamb jus on a celeriac puree
The dessert wowed. Some people had never had fennel in a dessert and it certainly predominated. There was a fennel & vanilla ice cream, a syrup and a puree on a pana cotta base with orange slices and fresh pieces of the leaves and stalk. It was topped with a gingerbread crisp which was a nice foil. Some said it was the best dessert they had ever eaten
It was served with a Chenin blanc noble late harvest
And with coffee back on the terrace some friandise: Small almond financiers, wickedly sour red fruit jellies and some almond biscotti
Chilling on the lawn
Graham Howe feeling relaxed

The road back to town. We were off to town to the Don Gelato emporium to eat ice cream and then onto our final dinner on the African Queen River boat
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015