Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Week's MENU. Tulbagh. Saronsberg, Rijks, Readers, Church St, Tulbagh Hotel, Waverley Hills, Whim Wham, Rijks Shiraz

Aloes at the ends of rows of vines at Saronsberg
A Luta continua. The realities of life     Just a quick update, still no car and still no house phone. And now we have no internet either, which is why MENU is so late. Telkom tells us "They have allocated us an engineer " since we last phoned a week ago. No! How kind. It seems there is a cable fault and they don't know where it is, so it may be a few more weeks. They have escalated the call to an emergency - only for the third time; it has been down since the 27th July. They seem to view emergencies as normal and still do nothing. Last week, we had no water for two days (burst main), and also no street lights. At least Cape Town City Council is responsive and fixed those within a day or two. But it definitely feels as if the planets are in retrograde. Oh, and John has had a streaming cold. Not complaining, just absorbing what life throws at us. And no, we don't wish for a power cut. Please.
To tranquil Tulbagh     We had been invited to visit several places in or near Tulbagh and some of the invitations were more than a year old; we just struggle to cram the many places and invitations we receive into our agenda. We had a reasonably clear week, so we accepted as many as we could. Car problems set us back and the original five days planned turned into three, but we had an amazing time with lovely sunny days and chilly late winter nights. Our hired car was great. What follows are various chapters of our lovely three days with the hospitable people of Tulbagh. Besides tasting great wines, it was also rather an eating marathon. Tulbagh is a small historic town nestled up a quiet and beautiful valley one and a half hours drive from Cape Town. You do need to plan a visit, you will love it
MENU has a new Facebook page 
A stay at Saronsberg      They have several commodious self catering cottages on the farm which they let out all year round and they kindly offered us accommodation there for the two nights we were in Tulbagh. We arrived on Monday morning, settled in and then made for the tasting room.
Visit to Saronsberg Winery     Dewaldt Heyns, the cellarmaster, had the same dreadful cold John was not enjoying, so he was pleased to sit with us in the sun for a while on the terrace and talk about the wines, while we tasted. He is a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and has wine in this year’s auction
Saronsberg Farm Tour with winemaker Dewaldt Heyns      Dewaldt is a competent cook and, on Women's Day, he made us breakfast with lovely eggs and bacon, croissants and great Chilean black coffee in his house. This feast set us up for a tour of the farm in his twin cab bakkie (utility vehicle). It is a very beautiful, fruitful valley, not only with wine but fruit, some of which is in full blossom at the moment
A visit to Rijks     Pierre Wahl has been making wine at Rijks since 2002 and makes some impressive wines. He is also a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and the farm has excellent terroir to produce good grapes that Pierre turns into exemplary wines. One nice marketing coup they have achieved is to have Rijks wine served in the restaurant at the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; great product placement. Owner Neville Dorrington bought the farm in 2000 and although advised to plant fruit, went for grapes instead, a fortuitous decision. We spent the afternoon with Pierre and tasted through the wines
Dinner at Readers     We met owner Carol Collins recently at an event at Den Anker and she asked us to come to supper at Readers, her restaurant in Tulbagh. It also is a serious cat lovers gift shop and, while you eat, various charming moggies visit your feet and the fireplace. They are not allowed on the tables. The restaurant is in the oldest house on Church Street (c.1849) the famous Cape street that was destroyed in the 1969 earthquake which has been beautifully and historically restored
A Walking Tour of Historic Tulbagh     On Tuesday, at last, we managed to book this historic tour. You meet at the church that gives Kerk Straat its name. Built for the population after the arrival of the Revd. Arnoldus Mauritius Meiring in 1743, it turned a sleepy hollow into a town. The minister had the presence of mind to sell off land in Church Street to wealthy people and soon a vibrant community was in occupation, attracting business and people to the town. In 1969, Tulbagh suffered a devastating earthquake (6.3 on the Richter scale) which destroyed many of the houses and seriously damaged others. Thanks to the Fagan brothers, architects and builders, much of this was restored and Church Street is now the jewel of the town. You can walk the length of the street with a guide and hear the history of the town
Dinner at The Tulbagh Hotel, followed by breakfast     We were invited to stay at the Tulbagh Hotel on Sunday night but our car challenge meant that we could only accept their invitation to have dinner on Tuesday night. This hotel is somewhere we have stayed in the past and we were really impressed with the improvements that the British owner, Alasdair McRobbie, who is a pilot with Virgin Atlantic, has made and they continue.  It is apparently the go to place for all the Tulbagh residents we met for a good dinner. We agree. They also invited us to come back for breakfast the following morning. Another good meal
Lunch at Waverley Hills     We last met Cellarmaster Johan Delport and Managing Director Kobus du Toit of Waverley Hills winery at the Green Wine Awards last year and we have had to keep postponing acceptance of their invitation to visit the farm. Finally, on a lovely early spring day we got there. The farm is just behind Wolseley on the road to Ceres. Brenn-O-Kem owns the farm. Run by the du Toit family, of which our host Kobus is a director, Brenn-O-Kem is in the old historic Waverley Blankets factory and the wine farm has grown from their expansion. Brenn-O-Kem  recycles wine production waste: skins, seeds and lees and runs this eco-friendly organically certified wine farm. It has a lovely site on the side of the mountain looking down over the valley and they have a really good restaurant, where we had an extremely good four course lunch following our cellar tour and barrel tasting
One of our favourites, and yes we did use this a few years ago. We thought you probably deserved a good dessert and this one is quick to assemble, not too heavy and quite delicious. Probably due to the alcohol content.
125g blanched almonds - 30g butter - 1 tablespoon sugar (vanilla sugar would be good) - 18 sponge fingers, broken in half - 90ml of fairly sweet sherry - Juice of 2 oranges, sweetened with 1 tablespoon of sugar - a glass of brandy - 250g whipped cream
Fry the almonds in the butter till toasted, throw the sugar over them, shake and turn onto a plate to cool. They will have a toffee coating. Put the sponge fingers into a large glass bowl about half an hour before you start dinner and pour on the sherry, brandy and orange juice. Leave to soak while you eat. Whip the cream till it just holds a peak and, just before you are about to serve it, pour it over the sponge fingers. Sprinkle over the almonds and enjoy
We were so impressed with this well-wooded wine. You smell notes of the 40% new oak, warm red berries and lots of spice. It tastes a little of salty liquorice at first. It is soft and silky on the palate with long black cherry and delicate spice flavours. Very, very elegant with a touch of dark toasted wood on the end. An ultimate food wine
14th August 2016
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