Thursday, October 18, 2018

Relaunch of SALT at Paul Cluver wine estate, Elgin

The anticipation of enjoyment when we are invited to the media launch of a newish restaurant, which has been open for several months but has not been very vocal while they started up, is always good. . When it is on an iconic wine farm only 1 hour from Cape Town, the excitement increases. And when we learned that the chefs involved are some of Cape Town's best, we could not wait to see what was on offer. Chef Craig Cormack runs Goose Roasters with his partner Beau du Toit, where they do catering, training, functions, private dining and pop ups at festivals and markets and so much more. This is a new venture for them. Chef Mechell Spann is the chef in residence at Salt. Craig is also an expert on salt, its history and its uses and he had a huge collection of salts on show in the restaurant. He lectures about it worldwide. And you can taste it on the table and in the food
It is a lovely open and airy restaurant with terrace space and a large front lawn; good for picnics prepared by the chef. They do breakfast and lunch and booking is recommended. Contact 021 844 0012 or email And the Paul Cluver tasting room is close by, where you can taste their great wines
Chef Craig Cormack with Paul Cluver junior
We gathered on the terrace
and who should arrive to congratulate Craig, Beau and Michel but chef Gordon Manuel and his wife Emma, who manage the Pool Room restaurant at the next door farm, Oak Valley. They are old friends
The canapés we were served are actually tiny samples of the five starters on the menu
Smoked Ham Hock terrine, with pickled red cabbage, crisp coppa ham,
apple and ale cured homemade mustard. Well balanced and a very flavourful dish
A selection of them
The one in the front had a crisp sliver of what tasted like roast lamb skin, heavenly
Confit chicken, prawn satay, a dot of chilli jam, spring onion dressing and chicken liver paté
An impressive dish, one to order again
Dr Paul Cluver, with his wife Songvej, son Paul and his daughter Liesl Cluver Rust
The three chefs with Paul Cluver talking about the restaurant. They told us that the original purpose of the building was to hold the still when they made Calvados style apple brandy
Songvej Cluver, the matriarch of this lively family
Her unusual name was given to her by her Norwegian father
Chef Craig told us that salt is his passion: "I have been pairing wine and salts for the last few years, and my salt collection now numbers 143 of an estimated 180 to 200 different types, with all of them having different flavour profiles, from around the world. I believe that I am the first chef to do this exercise both in South African and the world”
The staff are professional and very friendly and helpful
Chef Craig explains the food that we are about to eat
Some of the Cluver Red wines. We had the Pinot Noir; perfumed and delicate, full of fresh raspberry notes, with rose petal perfume, carefully wooded, elegant and so good with food
A selection of Paul Cluver white wines for lunch. Lynne loves the rich, round and buttery Estate Chardonnay with its crisp citrus notes; it has been her Birthday Wine twice and may well be it again! The excellent flagship 7 Flags Chardonnay did very well at the Prescient Chardonnay awards this week, scoring 94 points, the top score. The main difference is the amount of new wood used on the 7 flags. It is site and barrel selected and made to last
Lynne enjoying our lunch with journalist Norman McFarlane, Dr Paul Cluver and Eppie McFarlane
Eppie McFarlane in conversation with Cluver Marketing manager Andrea Erwee
"Would you like Chardonnay or Riesling with your main course?" asks Dr Paul. The Paul Cluver wines are excellent and went very well with the food. They are made by son-in law Andries Burger, who is married to Dr Paul's daughter Inge. Andries has won many awards and his wines score very highly here and abroad
Chef Craig's salt collection comes from all over the world. If you know of any unusual salts and can send or bring them to him, he is always grateful. Several of these unusual and rare salts are available to purchase
There were three salts on the table for adding to the food or simply sampling. The food is very well seasoned, so we did not need to add anything. L to R volcanic Black Hawaiian salt, or Hiwa Kai, Kala Namak aka Black Salt, Sanchal has a distinct sulphur aroma and taste; and Hawaiian Sea Salt, aka Alaea, Alae, Hawaiian Red Salt
Looking through a block of Himalayan pink salt which is on every table. Food can be served on these blocks of salt
The current menu with its very interesting choices, it will change seasonally. The food is absolutely delicious and we shall return for more
You can watch the chefs in the open kitchen. Here Chef Beau is seasoning with salt!
Our main course was actually four small samples from the mains on the menu; clockwise from the top: Crispy Pork Belly, Salt Water Fish, Coconut Simmered Beef Brisket and Smoked Lamb Shoulder
Another view of the main course selection
and dessert was four small samples of the 4 menu desserts. Clockwise from the top: Banana Rum Baba; Chocolate Bar; Lemon Meringue and Stone Fruits. Also all amazing, with lots of texture and different flavours. And all seasoned with a little salt which improves sweet dishes enormously. The chocolate was an especially good match for the Paul Cluver Reserve Pinot noir
This is the picnic that you can order in advance and enjoy in the garden. Something we also plan to do soon. It can include a selection of local cheeses, various cured cold meats, our famous roasted tomato salad with wasabi cream cheese and basil pesto, pulled lamb shoulder rosemary and garlic flat bread and Banana rum baba crème pat. muesli crumble with poached fruit, bread and butter and Elgin apples. Phone them for a quote, it has to be pre-ordered. The wine is extra

Tasting Villion wines in Bot River

On the way back from the party and our overnight stay in Hemel and Aarde, we stopped off at Barton Wine estate, which we have been meaning to visit for a long time; it has been closed on the previous occasions we have tried. It is in the Bot River wine ward, but all is not what it seems. Cellarmaster viticulturist PJ Geyer has now left and owners Annie and Suzie Neill are living in the UK. There is still some Barton wine on the farm to taste and buy, however. The farm has been leased to Villion wines and they are about to renovate the tasting room. We had a very pleasant tasting of Villion wines with Chanel van der Berg and a tasting of the Barton Rosé. Their wine is made by Kobie Viljoen, previously winemaker at Gabriëlskloof, and all the grapes are bought in
Just to amuse you, we want you to know that this tasting was truly collaborative. Lynne's palate has been shot by two strong antibiotics (temporary, we hope) and John had a nasty cold, so he couldn't smell much. So words (nose) and music (flavour) are by us both! a first ever; concerto..
The line-up of the wines we tasted. Prices range from R150 to R200 a bottle. A creamy soft and sweet Chenin blanc from 34 year-old Bot River vines; lots of vanilla oak with peaches and naartjies. R190. The 2016 Chardonnay is lightly wooded, with a pretty golden nose, with peaches, sweet on entry with long flavours and gentle wooding. R180. The 2016 Blanc de Atlantic is a blend of 68% Viognier, 22% Chardonnay & 10% Bot River Chenin. Apricots, peaches and cream and soft wood on the nose, sweet and hot on the palate with 14.5% alcohol. Full of orange naartjie and yellow cling peach deliciousness. R170
The very young and fresh, with raspberries on the nose, Barton Rosé, from lightly pressed Pinot Noir is a bargain at R70 a bottle. Tastes of strawberries and cream, good for summer enjoyment. 12.5% alcohol
More of the Villion wines. The Pinot Noir has vanilla oak, rose petals and rich dark berry fruit on the nose. Savoury on the palate, with cooked strawberry and cola tonic. The 2016 Syrah was our favourite wine of the tasting. Savoury from the small amount of Mourvedre added, with violets, spice, dark cherry, and elegance on the big nose. There is also a soupçon of Viognier added and this comes across with the soft sweet fruit, lots of spice, ripe juicy black cherries, some red berries and black pepper and cinnamon which even Lynne could taste. R150. The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon R200 is classic Cabernet on the nose with cassis berries and green leaves and some violets. Warm cassis and vanilla, raspberry fruit, length, elegance and dark toasted wood on the end
The current tasting room at Barton, due for a revamp soon
The price list

A birthday party for two wine industry veterans, Allan Mullins and Peter Finlayson

These two large and much loved wine personalities are celebrating their 70th birthdays this month and we were delighted to be invited to join them both to celebrate. Allan Mullins, CWM and Wine Selector for Woolworths, turned 70 on Tuesday this week and Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson will do so next week on the 24th. The party was held at Bouchard Finlayson wine estate in the Hemel en Aarde Valley last Sunday and was so much fun
The party was held inside in the beautifully decorated function room (there was a South Easter blowing) and later we sat and ate at tables on the terrace of the tasting room
Chef Stefan Otto was in charge of braaiing the very fresh and well seasoned yellowtail
The rest of the food was brought by the guests and we had a lovely selection of salads and some canapés. Lynne made a classic from the original recipe by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume; Coronation Chicken, which was first served in 1953 at Queen Elizabeth's coronation
There were hot Greek pies and macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, a Thai salad with waterblom, caprese salads and much, much more. Hilton Kuck produced superb chocolate mousse cakes for dessert
Quite a few winemaker friends of both, like Neil Ellis, Etienne le Riche, Peter and Ann Ferreira had come to join the party as had many other people in the wine industry
Fun speeches were made, lots of toasts and a reminder by Dr John Grant that when Allan first had his accident at 23 he was not expected to live to 30! So for him to get to 70 is huge. He intends to keep going, he says
Some of the guests, listening to the speeches and looking at the groaning table
and Lynne Sherriff MW travelled from London for the celebration
Here she is with Allan's wife Therese and Allan. We are not sure why she is wearing Dirndl but she looks great and was the life and soul of the party

Peter Finlayson, with his wife Geta, was also having a great time with the mutual gang. It was a very special party

Constantia Royale Sauvignon 2018 launch and Nova Zonnestraal cellar opening

For several years we celebrated special events with dinner at Parks, the restaurant operated in a lovely Victorian house at the foot of the Wynberg hill by Michael Olivier. We didn't know it at first, but it was part of the Zonnestraal Estate, owned at the time by Reg Parker. We'd been told that Mr Parker turned the old house into a restaurant so they he could entertain his friends without having to leave his estate. Most Capetonians have driven through the estate for the last 30 or so years because the M3 Blue Route freeway divided the estate when it was built. As this separated the two halves of the farm, a tunnel was built under the freeway to allow access between them. This tunnel has now been transformed into the storage cellar for the farm's wines and we were invited to the opening
The estate now belongs to Parker descendant Lynn Rowland. The property is part of the original Alphen estate, which dates back to the early 1700s. For many years, it produced table grapes, but the decision was made in 2002 to plant wine grapes: Sauvignon blanc, Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon. The cool Constantia climate is not the best for the Bordeaux reds, but is excellent for Sauvignon blanc and this is now the focus of their wine production. Semillon vines have been planted, but these are still too young for the grapes to be used. A portion of Semillon is used in the Sauvignon blanc to enhance it, but the grapes are bought in at present> Olives and thoroughbred horses are also important in the farm's portfolio
We were welcomed at the entrance to the cellar, next to the vineyard
Roger Burton (seen here with Rose, his wife) is the winemaker. Roger is well-known as consultant winemaker for Tierhoek in the Piekenierskloof area. He joined the Zonnestraal team as Constantia Royale winemaker in 2013. Roger has Constantia roots and a good understanding of the terroir, as he worked under Hermann Kirschbaum at nearby Buitenverwachting in the early part of his career
The 2016 Constantia Royale Sauvignon blanc earned 4½ stars in Platter and was a Top 20 finalist in this year's FNB Sauvignon blanc Top 10 competition. It was our wine of the week last week. The 2018 was there to welcome us at the cellar opening
Nibbles to welcome us: Prawn mousse on slices of cucumber
and an excellent selection of cheeses and breads
with chipolatas and a mustard dip
The guests in front of the cellar door before the official opening
The cellar was being used by the caterers as their kitchen for the event
with cases of wine lining the sides of the tunnel
and tables and chairs for anyone who did not wish to enjoy the beautiful Spring evening air
The view from the cellar to the farmhouse
A view of the young vineyards
and the party
The 2018 Constantia Royale
Lynn Rowland tells the guests about the history and development of the farm
and Roger talks about the vineyards and the wine
The party continued; John left early as Lynne was not well and had stayed at home