Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tasting in Walker Bay and Hemel en Aarde; lunch at Newton Johnson

The tasting room at Benguela Cove is on the edge of the Botrivier lagoon. Construction of a new very large conference centre and hotel is taking place next to this
Inside, a warm welcome from Leandre Muller, the manager of the tasting room
She took us through all their newly released wines
Some of the new wines with their newly redesigned labels
The current range of wines. We started with Matilda's Secret 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Its in the tropical style, with lots of granadilla, racy acidity and a grapefruit end. R70. Then the magic 2015 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend. This was made for them by Johann Fourie who is also Chief winemaker at KWV and Diners Club winemaker of the year 2015. Herbal and green pyroxene notes on the elegant nose, the lovely mutton fat mouth feel of a crisp satisfying classic white blend using Semillon. The perfect wine for seafood, crayfish, prawns, scallops and rich sauces. R140. A case came home with us. The Benguela Cove Sauvignon blanc is full of green peppers and herbs, green melon on the palate, clean and crisp with a long finish. The Benguela Cove Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 months on new oak, has vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate, plums and cassis and needs 5 years. The 2014 Merlot is classic with cherries, pears in red wine; soft and fruity, no bitterness or greenness and has great potential. The 2014 Shiraz is spicy and peppery with salty liquorice and cherries, warmth from 14.5% alcohol, a lovely mouth feel and chalky tannins on the end. We finished with the Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, which has mango, litchi and roses on the nose, is light and honeyed with some acidity, but It could do with a bit more for contrast and punch. A good tasting
Then as it was only 11h15, we headed for La Vierge in the Hemel and Aarde Valley to taste their wines which, we had heard, are improving under the guidance of winemaker Gerhard Smith
Lunch menu, not very inspiring, but the views are superb
The tasting lounge
Wines available for tasting. You can taste 6 wines for R30, which is deducted if you buy wine. We shared the tasting, as we often do, not to save money but to save wine and our livers
The restaurant
We began with the Sauvignon Blanc, tropical and warm with some semillon added. High acidity and more of a chenin character. Then the 2015 Jezebelle wooded Chardonnay, apples, caramel, long flavours, nice wine. The Pinot Noir, called Seduction, has plums and perfume on the nose, soft earthy fruit, dark wood. Anthelia Shiraz: smoky bacon, vanilla from US oak and soft deep fruit. Satyricon 2012 is a wild and sexy blend of Italian grapes Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo. The still chalky tannins indicate that it needs more time
And then the Nymphomane 2014, R115, a classic Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec that delighted us. The Cab Franc leads the nose and this wine has everything to offer that it should, but in the future. Definitely one to buy and mature for several years. We risked a case to hide in the back of our cellar
The view from the terrace
And then, suddenly, it was time to race up the hill to Newton Johnson for lunch, cooked by talented chef Eric Bulpitt, where they gave us a table with a view
It is an open kitchen, but not very easy to see from the restaurant
Atmosphere
Guests consulting the chef about the lunch menu
Chef preparing Lynne’s Kabeljou for the sous vide bath
The menu is concise and looks simple, but has something for everyone. We chose the 2 course option and ordered glasses of Newton Johnson wine
First you get the home baked bread. Wicked fritters, whipped lard, very nutty health loaf, glazed rolls and homemade butter filled with some honey - an idea to copy at home. It's a course on its own and comes free of charge
Starter of soft smoked salmon trout, done in the kitchen, with superb deep fried spiced cauliflower - it tasted as if it had been barbequed, really delicious. Cauliflower also came raw and as a puree and there was homemade grainy mustard for an added kick, also given by the mini nasturtium leaves and the green olive oil. Lynne drank a glass of the Newton Johnson Chardonnay with this
Friends at another table had the Soup and Sandwich which one of their children enjoyed
John’s starter was the Chalmar beef tartare, nice cubes of chopped tender beef, with all the required flavours mixed in, topped with potato crisps, and served with pureed and pickled turnip. Sadly, the picture has disappeared
Lynne's main course of Sous Vide butter poached Kabeljou (AKA Kob), a meaty white fish that can grow very large. They warn you that, when it is cooked, it will be slightly translucent and much softer than usual. It was amazing, one of the best fish dishes she has ever eaten and she was not deterred by the soft flesh. It was topped by a thick lemon Hollandaise sauce, perfect foil for the rich fish. and came with rather woody, slightly bitter radishes, and cauliflower greens. She still had her glass of Newton Johnson Southend Chardonnay. You do get a good large pouring
John's main course was tender Pork fillet in a lentil casserole, wonderful deep flavours, reminiscent of cassoulet, served with pommes puree and a Mint salsa verde. He had this with a glass of the Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir
We finished lunch with double espresso and the view of the autumnal vineyards below
The bill

Chef Eric and his wife Celeste coming for a quick chat after lunch
There is always wildlife and good fynbos to see on the hill above the winery. This is a bloukop koggelmander, or blue headed agama lizard
And a baby basking on a hot rock
A lovely day, great wines were tasted and great food was eaten. You do need to book if you want to eat at The Restaurant at Newton Johnson
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus
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