Thursday, February 22, 2018

A visit to Franschhoek with lunch at Mont Rochelle

It was all about the views. Oh and some restaurants. And of course wine. We took our Dutch friends to Franschhoek this week, at their request and showed them some beautiful wine farms, good restaurants and amazing views on the trip. And we tasted a few wines and had lunch. They are looking for a special restaurant to celebrate a birthday next month.
We began at Glenelly as our friends had seen our post about it last week and were keen to see this beautiful farm in Ida's Valley. It lies at the bottom of the Helshoogte Pass in front of the Simonsberg. They were very impressed
Then it was up to the top of the pass to Delaire Graff, where they admired a different view of the same mountain and the vineyards in front. We bumped into the winemaker Morné Vrey who is in the middle of his harvest, saw the amazing jewels, the art and sculptures and looked at their menu
Franschhoek was shimmering in the heat and we made our way to Mont Rochelle which also has lovely views across that valley
We headed for the Country Kitchen in the old house next to the winery, as it was time for lunch. They do have a fine dining restaurant Miko, at the hotel
You can have picnics in the vines there (they must be booked beforehand) and we did see some folk heading that way with the large picnic basket. Others were braving the heat and eating on the terrace
We headed inside for the coolth of the old building, and the good blasts of air from the roof fans
This is the tasting room area
Bread and butter was brought to the table
The menu has something for everyone, but is not very exciting. We were a little surprised at the prices, as it was much more reasonable the last time we visited, but it seems they have upped their game. Good to see them supporting SASSI - using only sustainable fish
Three of us decided to go for the Beef hamburger (it can come with a chicken breast instead) and it was a very, very good choice; it is a hamburger like no other, royalty in the genre. Not something Lynne has often but this was probably the best burger she has had for years. They cost R170
The Angus beef is roughly minced, has great flavour and is not filled out with anything. We all asked for them to be cooked medium and they were rather rarer than that in the middle but it was fine, the beef was so good, it was like eating a good beef tartare. You can of course ask for well done. The sesame bun comes drenched in creamy mayonnaise, cheese, a large slice of tomato, slices of pickled cucumber, rocket and marvellous crisp and crunchy fried onions. And as an extra a small pot of sliced mushrooms cooked in a creamy sauce that tasted as if it had brandy in it. The icing on a great cake, if you love mushrooms. Lynne got John's! Most of the buns were set aside as we tackled this moist flame grilled burger with gusto. However the chips were very disappointing as they came 'slap' not crisp, something many South Africans enjoy, but we detest half cooked limp oily chips. We had asked for crisp chips and when we mentioned this to the manageress she quickly brought us a large bowl of good crisp chips to share. Thank you!
Yvonne ordered the fish cakes which she said are full of fish, not padded out with potato. They were served on a radish and celery salsa, wild rocket, a tartare sauce, caper berries and pickled cucumber. R165. A substantial dish for a small eater, she took a doggie bag of two home with her
We didn't order a bottle of wine, instead we did the wine tasting. with lunch. The very well trained sommelier Natania served us and gave us all the information we needed about the wines. Her knowledge impressed us and she told us that she has passed WSET 2 and the Cape Wine Academy exams. We opted for two of the 5 wine flights at R75 per flight and we shared. 5 Wine Flight – R75 per person
Mont Rochelle Little Rock Blanc 2015. A wine we all liked while it was chilled. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier. They all show up individually and then get together. So the nose is most dusty full Semillon, Guavas from hot country Sauvignon Blanc, then the Chardonnay arrives crisp and clean with limes, and the Viognier brings the peach and melon. A slight bitterness on the end from perhaps one component that has a lot of wood
Mont Rochelle Sauvignon Blanc 2017. This lovely Sauvignon needs less chill for the characteristic green leaves, peppers and figs to reveal themselves. As it opens up on the palate, apples and English gooseberries show well. A food wine
Mont Rochelle Chardonnay 2016 has toasted brioche on the nose, and lot of wood on the palate. Limes, lemons and apricots from 4% viognier which is added.
Mont Rochelle Little Rock Rouge 2014 a Bordeaux blend, is almandine garnet purple, has a lovely nose, red berries and unexpected complexity. Juicy with warm alcohol, with sweet cherries and berries
Mont Rochelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Classic cassis driven Cabernet on the nose. Some wood hints on both nose and palate. Some green tannins and cassis leaves
Mont Rochelle Syrah 2014 Pepper and spice on the nose full of red and black fruit, warm alcohol and dark coffee chocolate wood

On the terrace
The girls needed to do some quick shopping in town so the lads dropped them and went off to Le Lude to taste some of their renowned bubbly. Very French Empire in influence, this is the tasting room
The glass floor gives one a sight of the bottles in the pupitres, slowly being riddled to get the lees to the neck of the bottles
Impressive chandeliers ...
.... and impressive Bubbly
Time being a little constrained (we'd been given half an hour) we elected the most simple tasting, the Brut NV and Brut Rosé, priced at R90. Le Lude's wines are different in that the second fermentation happens under cork, rather than the more common crown steel cap. The Brut is still a little young, but has light yeasty flavour over gentle citrus and a a refined bubble. The Rosé is more of a cocktail party wine, ripe strawberry flavour giving an impression of sweetness while it is still bone dry and a good, energetic bubble
Our final farm was on the way home. Glen Carlou also has a great view over the vineyards looking towards the Paarl mountains. We were ably served by Zayne Smith, another WSET graduate. He has attained Level 3. It is very encouraging to see how many people showing the wines on wine estates are being given this training
It was very hot in the afternoon so we sat on the shaded balcony and tasted five wines. We began with the Unwooded Chardonnay made in a ceramic egg. It has the reductive characteristic that one would expect from wine made this way
Then the newly released 2017 Curators Collection Chenin Blanc which blew our minds. Wow. This complex wine plays a tune on your palate - we foresee lots of awards for this vintage. It is an absolutely delicious rendition of what we would like Chenin to be. Wood shows on the end but Pianissimo. It has flavours of lemon, lime, golden peaches, loquats and litchi. It is our wine of the week and yes we did buy some
The Quartz Stone 2016 Chardonnay has a nose full of red apples, caramel and cloves, soft and creamy, then the fruit appears. Elegant and clean, a good food wine
The 2015 Pinot Noir with roses, violets and cherries on the nose. Soft fruit with some fresh fruit acids, lightly wooded with some chalky tannins. Needs more time, this could be a 10 year Pinot, built to last
2015 Shiraz has incense wood, cherries and spice on the nose. It delighted our Shiraz fans, Cherryade on the palate with good fruit acids, warmth and some chalky tannins, with licorice wood on the end
These friendly Barn Swallows were perched on a wire above us
We saw them in Germany last May and are amazed at such a small bird's ability to fly between continents 
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