Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Lunch, tasting, cellar visit and overnight at GlenWood wine estate, Franschhoek

A GlenWood Experience
When you have driven into Franschhoek, you might have noticed a sign on the right hand side of the main road pointing to Robertsvlei. Should you take the turn, you will find yourself in a quiet, hidden valley behind the Franschhoek hills. The road turns to gravel for just 8 km and in the middle of this you will find a gem of a wine farm called Glenwood. If you continue, the road will take you to the top end of Franschhoek, near the Monument, a circular route we bet few know about; it is worth exploring
GlenWood Winery was established by the owner Alastair G Wood in 1984. They have 30 hectares under vines and DP Burger the Cellarmaster (Dawid Petrus is fondly known only by his initials) has been there for 27 years, surely a record for any winemaker. They have Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot and Shiraz grapes planted and produce a multi award winning Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend. The farm has Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) certification, which is a voluntary environmental sustainability scheme which complies with international criteria, and Bio-Diversity and Wine Initiative accreditation (BWI) 
DP invited us to stay overnight in one of the owner's guest cottages, taste some wines and sample their new tasting adventure, which pairs the wines with food served in the restaurant, called the Tasting Palette
We began the experience at 1 pm on the shady terrace alongside the restaurant,
where a panoply of glasses awaited us
Our waitress was Michelle Abrahams, she is a very competent trainee
She poured us a glass of GlenWood's wooded Chardonnay, shy on the nose, full of golden fruit, light vanilla wood and some perfume. On the palate citrus flavours and lots of bready lees. Nicely chilled and just right for the warm day.
This is the range of wines paired with the food tasters
The Food Pairing Menu
The Food Palette pairing of wine and food. When you have finished the tasting, you choose the dish you liked the most and you'll  have that dish for lunch as a main course, together with a glass of the wine paired with it. The cost is R395
From left to right: a tiny smoked trout roulade filled with a mousse and topped with dill; Paired with the Sauvignon/Blanc Semillon which is unwooded. Crisp and full of those racy fruit acids that Franschhoek produces, with some nice fullness from the Semillon component. A very good match with the trout
Next the Unoaked 2017 Chardonnay crisp and zesty with citrus, paired with a Ceviche of fresh Yellowtail, with pickled onion, radish and a lemon slice with a soy dressing that added the right amount of umami
Then an unusual pairing of the 2017 Merlot with a mini Chicken Caesar Salad. The savoury anchovies, chicken, bacon and cheese do indeed go well with the Merlot which is fruit driven, with spice and perfume, dry chalky tannins and refreshing red berry fruit acidity
 The Rugby Snack is next, a piece of ostrich biltong and a piece of droëwors which is paired with 2015 Grand Duc Syrah. We were told that this is for those who don't want a main course, just a snack. The wine is peppery, hot and spicy, with warm red berry juice and hints of chutney; a yummy match
Then the 2015 barrel fermented Grand Duc Chardonnay paired with a small Chicken leg set on mash and butternut purée - a match that works because of the similarity of flavours in the food and wine

And finally the hot, juicy and spicy 2016 Vigneron's Selection Shiraz served with Rump Steak. The steak is in an unusual Maple sauce and Teriyaki marinade which makes a really flavourful sauce for steak
DP joined us for the main course and told us how their harvest was going, they were due to finish the following day. It has been a slow but beautiful harvest, with firm acids, The hail storm that hit the Cape on the 15th of March did hit them with ice cube hailstones and damaged some of the grapes. But they have recovered. As has he from his heart attack last year, leaving him a wiser calmer man. He has always been fit, loving riding his horse and mountain biking, in fact he had the attack while cycling
Our choice for lunch was the same, the tender Steak in the Maple Teriyaki sauce, which came with potato wedges, sour cream with chives, a leafy salad and that glass of the 2016 Vigneron's Selection spicy Shiraz. We asked for the steak to be medium rare, it perhaps could have been a bit pinker as it continued to cook on the hot plates
DP ordered a special, a plate of tagliatelle with cheese, cream and mushrooms
The farm has lovely views
Time to do a tasting in the cellar with winemaker Zinaschke Steyn. The cellar staff was very busy filling tanks and pressing grapes
The barrel cellar ...
... where Zinaschke drew wine from the barrels for us to taste. The 2018 Barrel Fermented Grand Duc Chardonnay still has to go through malolactic fermentation but tastes fresh with nice balanced . acidity, the 2017 has wood and lees on the nose and is a clean pure expression of a barrel fermented chardonnay, one to watch, this will be bottled in April/May 2019. It has beautiful fruit and glints with purity
The 2016 Barrel Fermented Grand Duc is shy on the nose with fennel notes, soft and delicate with warm alcohol and, from another barrel, different flavours; sesame added to the fennel, more gentle, long fruit flavours and not warm at all. This is why clever blending is so skilled and important. It will be very interesting to see the result. They also use some ceramic lined barrels that don't impart any wood flavours, so they have choices when blending of how much wood to show
A worker doing a punch down on fermenting Malbec which had a superb aroma and a dark purple colour
Then a tasting from the barrel of the 2018 Grand Duc Semillon, the storm wine, has apricots and lanolin on the nose at present, clean, clear beautiful acidity with lots of minerality, and fresh grape acidity, a ten year wine from disaster to amazing. And finally the Noblesse 2017 which is golden honey in the glass with honey, apricots and sultanas on the nose and a palate, a Botrytus Noble Late Harvest wine from Semillon grapes. 125 gm/l, we mark this to win future awards
Paintings on the walls of the cellar
The paint used was red wine
Time to go back to the table to join DP for a vintage tasting
The 2015 Grand Duc Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which has won all those awards and is a 5 star Platter wine, is 80% Semillon 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapey Semillon has mutton fat notes and fullness on the palate with warmth which suffuses, It is supported by the Sauvignon Blanc freshness underneath the full rich layered Semillon and is still holding beautifully. None of us in the wine industry can understand why our local wine drinkers do not understand or drink these delicious, elegant white blends and turn up their noses at them. Luckily people overseas do, so they sell well there and are deservedly lauded. Leaves more for us to enjoy...
Next the 2013 Grand Duc Chardonnay, from the oldest vines in the vineyard, now over 30 years. It has had 24 months in barrel, has gentle wood notes, a beautiful chardonnay with zingy fruit, lovely crisp minerality, with wood notes at the end and so at its peak right now. A pinnacle wine
DP had asked the chef to whip us up some dessert and this was the result. A very tempting semi fredo ice cream with choc chips, a berry coulis, caramel sauce, nuts and sliced strawberries and raspberries. Very sweet and decadent
Went perfectly with the Grand Duc Noblesse NLH
Time for us to retire to our cottage next to the vines which owner Alastair Wood uses for his friends and guests. It is very well appointed and very comfortable
There are two bedrooms, this is the main one with a huge king size plus bed
A nice bathroom
The upstairs twin bedroom with its own en suite
The front where one can sit and admire the vineyards
Two lively dogs, which belong to the owner, play in their enclosed garden
In the early evening, we spotted this very distressed Forest Buzzard in the vineyards with a badly broken wing. We reported it to DP and are pleased to tell you that he rescued him and took it to the Eagle Encounters at Spier where Rico will take care of him
"I want to come in and socialise with you!" Sadly the door was locked.
Early morning light on the vines and the mountains. "This is a lovely quiet retreat. This property immediately attracted me because, not only was it suitable for farming grapes to make quality wine, but it also gave me a wonderful sense of being at the very heart of nature while still being close to the village”, said owner Alastair Wood
Getting in the last of the harvest
The wine cellar, tasting room and restaurant from the car park
A pathway alongside the vines
Those blue Franschhoek mountains. Thank you all at GlenWood for a very good experience

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