Thursday, August 30, 2018

A weekend in the Overberg

Once a year Lynne, who is the Secretary of our wine club, the Oenophiles, arranges a weekend away in a different wine region for members of the club. In the past we have done Paarl, Wellington, Robertson, Botrivier and this year it was the Stanford and Southern Cape area. Finding places with enough good accommodation is a challenge, as most of our couples want their own room and bathroom. We would love to go to some interesting areas but they have sparse accommodation and we enjoy staying together, which is a challenge. This year, we were a group of 16 and most of us stayed at the Stanford Valley Guest Farm where each couple had their own cottage, some self catering, others not. It is a vast place, with a good restaurant and close to the town. If you want to book with them, be very careful which booking agency you use, one of them we suspect is a fake and they wanted full payment up front - no one else does. Book direct or use an agency like - we nearly got caught, until Lynne became suspicious
Our cottage, with its stoep and wood pile. We used the second one more than the first! it was a very cold weekend
Inside, it was comfortable and we had a very efficient wood burning stove and a space heater on the wall
Our bathroom has both shower and bath - some of the cottages only have a shower
We began our weekend not with wine, but with a good local beer from the local establishment the Stanford RePUBlic
We got there in Happy Hour and it’s a fairly traditional but smoky pub. The smokers stand on the stoep but the smoke does filter in
For reasons that we cannot fathom, the Birkenhead brewery closes every day at 5 pm. Surely, on Friday nights with the weekend trippers and weekend cottage owners coming in, they could stay open later so that everyone can enjoy their excellent beer in their fine and spacious establishment? Here, we enjoyed a refreshing glass of Birkenhead ale. It cost R78 for two 500ml and one 340ml beer, not bad
Out on the stoep with Dr Johnnie Fisher, maxillofacial surgeon, there is not much seating
Time for dinner in The Manor House restaurant on the Guest Farm
The menu was large and had lots of choices
However, as we were a big group, Lynne was asked to make three choices for the starters, main course, and dessert from the menu. It is never an easy choice, as you have to consider allergies, vegetarians, small eaters, kosher and other food related problems 
The lighting in the restaurant was very dark and John struggled to get sharp photos as shutter speeds were slow and he does not like using flash in a restaurant as he finds it very disruptive to the atmosphere. This was the dish of potato skin nachos on a bed of bobotie, with a tomato and onion salsa, sour cream, Overberger cheese and an avocado guacamole. So large that it could have been a main course. Very satisfying
The prawn, chorizo & fresh chilli risotto with lemon was very much enjoyed by those who had it
The pan seared catch-of-the-day Kabeljou with mussels, celery, apple & chives in a Cluver & Jack cider sauce was served with a warm baguette & apple butter. The fish was so fresh and perfectly cooked, many of us said they had not had better fish anywhere for a very long time. The sauce was creamy and offset the meaty fish beautifully
They are used to big parties; they had two others beside us that evening
The tender, slow cooked pork belly with a potato, turnip & wholegrain mustard bake, and a fennel & apple slaw
Up for breakfast early the next morning, we had to catch the wine farms. Not much is open on a Sunday, so we had to squeeze as much in on Saturday as possible and they also close early. First we visited the Klein River Cheese farm. They have an interesting shop selling good things. If the weather is nice and warm you can build your own picnic and sit in the gardens and eat it.. They have a childrens’ play area, and lots of animals for the children to look at
Inside the shop we all tasted and bought some cheese
Huge rounds of cheese, but portions are sold in various sizes according to your needs. The cheeses are very good
One of the many chickens wandering about. This is a very fine and friendly cockerel
Next, off to Raka Winery which is just a small distance away up the road
Winemaker Josef Dreyer was there to give us a really comprehensive wine tasting
We sat in the sun and tasted and listened and afterwards quite a few boxes and bottles made it into peoples’ cars
Lovely bright sunshine on a very chilly day
Some of this Sauvignon Blanc came home with us; it is grassy and a bit tropical on the nose; clean, crisp and satisfying on the round palate with limes and loquats
The plump farm cat sunning itself in the indigenous Plectranthus neochilus, which has a rather catty smell, and survives drought really well
Lots to chat about
Josef's father Piet Dreyer, who started Raka, is a renowned commercial fisherman and the farm is named after his favourite trawler
In the barrel cellar
They make a very good Rosé wine from Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc. It is summer in a bottle, with notes of rhubarb and roses with some strawberry on the nose. Almost a light red wine on the palate, with raspberries and rhubarb, it reminds Lynne of Tavel Rosé from the Southern Rhone valley. 14% alcohol and only R45 a bottle on the farm, we will be drinking this with all sorts of food as it is so versatile. It is MENU's Wine of the Week this week
Where to next? Well, we had planned and booked to go to a friend's restaurant in Napier but the chef, their son, was being rather adamant about what he would be serving us and ignoring the fact that we had people with allergies and religious and dietary restrictions. We thought that the menu had been fixed 2 weeks before with the addition of a salad. He seemed to be nervous also of feeding such a large group - 16 - and phoned as we were leaving to insist that we stick to his rigid menu of three dishes, two with chilli, and four people in our group don’t eat any chilli - they have serious health issues. Our only previous request was for the chilli to be mild or left out of the bean soup if possible. Or if that was not possible, could it be substituted by a salad? They were not attracted to the other two heavily starch laden courses. And no, he would not do a salad. Lynne was very upset and confused by his forceful, uncompromising attitude and asked him gently "Would you prefer it if we didn't come?" An emphatic YES was the answer, to which we agreed.. So where were we to eat lunch? 16 people without a booking at 11 o'clock on a Saturday
Club members who have a holiday house in the area phoned Black Oystercatcher wines and they were very happy to accommodate us. Whew, problem solved
Since we were last there, they have so extended and modernised the farm, the tasting room and the restaurant. It is very impressive
We like the sentiment -  and the milk stout called "moerkoffie" (traditional coffee, made without modern appliances, just hot water on coffee grounds in a pot). Just don't add milk and sugar
Some of us wanted a beer with lunch and had some of their Fraser’s Folly IPA craft beer
The restaurant is vast, with lots of seating outside on the terrace too
Our lovely waitress serving Oystercatcher bubbly to some of the girls, who insist on it every day
It’s a 2014 Brut Rosé with a lively bubble and spent 3 years on the lees
Most people had lovely salads for lunch, this was a sticky chicken salad with avocado, fried aubergine and humus
A lovely prawn salad with roasted baby tomatoes and chorizo and a creaming dipping sauce
A smoked salmon salad with avo and cream cheese
You need to reserve a table on the terrace, they are very popular
We sat inside near the roaring fire and everyone was very happy with the lunch. Many did a tasting of their excellent wines in the tasting room and of course we drank some with lunch. Their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend called White Pearl is very special, gets 4.5 stars in Platter and you can taste the southern Atlantic in its crisp, slightly salty, sauvignon flavours with that dash of fullness from the Semillon
Next we were off for our appointment at Strandveld winery. They had been very accommodating and were staying open after their normal closing time of 3 o'clock especially for our wine club group. Originally, our lunch and tasting would have meant that we were in Napier, which is quite a distance away, and we could only have got here by three. We are very grateful to them
They had set up a long table for us
And we were welcomed by Otilla Janse van Rensburg who ably guided us through the tasting
Their First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (our Wine of the Week on 7th June) was awarded a Platinum medal and scored 97 points in this year's Decanter Awards, one of only five awarded to South Africa. It is the highest score ever awarded to a white wine at this prestigious competition, which receives just under 17 000 entries from around the world. They are very proud of it. We have bought several cases of this wine, (which we used to sell in our now-closed shop, Main Ingredient) and it is superb. It has green pepper and pea leaf aromas and a hint of the wild sea winds and fynbos. Smooth, crisp, with sea salt, limes and other citrus and minerality on the full palate. And it is sold for R80 a bottle on the farm
The Strandveld 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Pofadderbos has more fruit on the nose, more wood and vanillins too. It’s softer in style than the racy First Sighting with leanness, limes, white peach and wood on the end. We also liked their Sauvignon Semillon white blend with classic asparagus and peas on the green leafy nose, a full palate from the Semillon, figs, citrus and wood on the end with some chalky tannins. This is an old style binnebraai (indoor barbecue) cooking oven where people cooked on three legged pots as well as grids
This 2013 Pinot Noir has cola, licorice and shy fruit on the nose, soft sweet chewy fruit followed by lots and lots of smoky wood. The 2014 has savoury notes, some shy berries and a little Brett. Cola, coffee and bruléed fruit. Their Pinot vineyards are the closest to the coast in SA. They are now using all the Pinot Noir in their MCC and discontinuing the red wine. Their top wine, The Navigator 2014; a Rhône blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. Vanilla oak, sweet fruit and some spice on the nose, a sweet and sour fruit balance. We enjoyed the Suikerbekkie Noble Late Harvest 2012. Herbal with cumin and fennel notes and some sesame, honey and salt which combine so well in this wine with extraordinary length; some soft chalk on the end, From Sauvignon blanc grapes matured in French oak barrels for 24 months. Alcohol 15.98%; Residual Sugar 57.2 g/litre;
Total Acidity 6.5 g/litre; pH 3.48
On the road back to Stanford we did get a little lost and ended up touring the wonderful Nature Reserve where we saw so many of these beautiful pink proteas
Majestic against the blue sky
Many still in bud
We returned to our cottages; some had a bit or a rest and some went for walks. Then it was time for dinner. We had made a booking at White Water Farm, which is just a couple of kilometres away from Stanford Valley Guest Farm. They only do dinner on Saturday nights in the winter. We ate in the glass walled dining room and were well dressed against the bitter cold outside
The menu. Each dish is shared by two people and comes with a starter for each person. The vegetables are also included in the price
The Beetroot Carpaccio, enjoyed by those who like beetroot
The rather large Thai fish cakes on a small salad and they come with a sweet chilli dipping sauce
The rump tagliata came with crisp duck fat potatoes, roasted tomatoes and salad leaves; it was tender with very good flavour
The fish was Kabeljou - obviously in season, as it’s what we had the previous night at The Manor House. We also were served a plate of mixed vegetable, carrots, leeks and roasted beetroot, some of which you can see on this plate. These are all the half portions after sharing, the portions are generous. No one could manage dessert, but a few coffees were ordered. We took our own wine and paid the corkage
After breakfast the next morning, which some people had in the Manor House restaurant and others in their rooms and one couple went to a cafe in town, we headed off to Springfontein for a wine tasting. This is their list. You choose which wines you want to taste
You do the tasting in the Wine Bar(n)
Springfontein was looking beautifully green and some of the oaks were bursting into new leaf
Indigenous yellow-billed ducks in the pond
They have good accommodation, but sadly not enough for our group as much was booked early
And they have a fine dining restaurant called Springfontein Eats. The chef, Jürgen Schneider, had a Michelin starred restaurant in Germany and his gourmet food which comes in multiple courses is very good. You need to book to eat here
This is the menu for Springfontein Eats that Sunday

The Food Bar(n) is the tasting room
We decide what we want to taste
The counter
Andrea de Pauw runs the tasting room and guided our tasting
The Pink of Springfontein is a Merlot Pinotage rosé, smells of fresh toast, then shy berries. Lovely fruit; cherry, berry, raspberry on the palate, refreshing and delish, with some Turkish delight on the end. R125 a bottle. The bunches are pressed whole, which produces more robust wines, and they are fermented on the skins. The Red of Springfontein 2012 has rich red dark berries and cherries with some fynbos and wood smoke. Dry red with chalky tannins, sour and sweet berries with long flavours
The TM Special Selection 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is fermented using wild yeast in a wine egg and a stainless steel tank. Its a little miffy, grassy and shy. It is different on the palate, not many recognisable Sauvignon Blanc characteristics, with minerality, limes, lemons, grapefruit and light wood notes
Jil's Dune is a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
At the end of our tasting we were delighted to see the talented winemaker Tariro Masayiti for a brief moment; he was off back to his home
Our final wine was the 2013 Terroir Selection Pinotage. Salty liquorice incense wood and spice on the nose, Good fruit, nice smoothness and a warm prickle ending with some chalky tannins
We ordered some good bar food and drank some of the White of Springfontein and the Pinotage before heading home or, for us a night in the Hemel and Aarde Valley, as we had a media function the next morning at Benguela Cove

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