Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Hillcrest Estate New Release Launch

Thursday evening saw us at Hillcrest wine estate in Durbanville for the launch of the new vintages of their Saartjie wines. They are named after GM, winemaker and viticulturist Arno Smith’s cute Jack Russell terrier and she has made it onto the labels. They have built a lovely new deck and they also have a Beer garden
They had laid a table with six different varieties of their excellent olives (we know they are excellent, we have bought 3 litre buckets of them for several years), homemade farm bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Just a snack before supper they said. There were also slices of Pizza bianco
We were served the 2018 Hillcrest Rosé, made from Cabernet Sauvignon
It is a summer wine; light, fresh and fruity
The four wines being released were the 2018 Semillon, the 2017 Malbec, 2017 Cabernet Franc
and the 2017 Petit Verdot, all of which we would taste at dinner, paired with different courses
Some of those plumptious olives. We particularly liked the lemon olives
- a version we had not tasted before
And there were some large canapés served. This was herb cream cheese topped with
a roasted tomato on a drop scone base. There was also a smoked salmon version
A word about the menu and the pairings from Restaurant Manager Elise Bothma
Winemaker Arno Smit welcomed us and told us some of the Saartjie story. She came as a puppy from Villiersdorp 5 years ago and they are inseparable. Saartjie comes with him into the vineyards, but she only tastes the grapes in the Semillon vines (they have 1000). She is very popular with visitors to the restaurant and tasting room and people bring their dogs to have play dates with Saartjie. She's a character, very friendly and approachable
Saartjie with her 'grandparents'. Arno says that when most people hear Saartjie’s name, they always make the joke or assume her name comes from Saartjie Baartman, the most famous Khoikhoi woman who lived in the early Nineteenth Century. But Saartjie is an old family name. A Great aunt of his - a fierce old lady - who also cautiously observed and assessed from a distance, and then, when she needed to intervene or to stand her ground, she would make herself known and silence all the wrong-, say- or doers. Just like Saartjie does
Time to taste the wines
The menu was large, we hoped that the portions would not defeat us
Durbanville is known for its generosity.
We sat at a long table in the restaurant
We began with the Semillon. It is made in one old French barrel, so quantities are limited. It is herbal, spicy, dusty with green melon on the nose, Full and rounded on the palate, crisp apples and limes, naartjies, with wood way in the background, supporting. R145 on the farm. We loved it. It would be amazing with crayfish or other seafood
Paired with the Semillon was seared tuna with pink grapefruit segments, green beans and a light wasabi mayonnaise. A good match
Huge activity in the kitchen plating up servings of the second course...
...a deep fried ball of goat’s cheese with a beetroot purée, avocado mousse and roasted baby tomatoes which was served with the 2017 Cabernet Franc. The wine is complex on the nose, dark berries, balsam, spice and savouriness. A thick robust red wine with lots of chalky tannins, more wood and balsam and a savoury, salty end, so it really suited this course
The next course was a rosemary and coriander crusted fillet of beef, served with shimeji mushrooms, a bone marrow custard and topped with crisp onion rings. This was paired with the 2017 Malbec; savoury on the nose, with hints of cumin, umami, sour cherries and something indefinable. On the palate pure salty liquorice, lots of cassis berries and leaves, mulberries on chalky tannins, grippy and lean, with long flavours, ending in more liquorice wood. Should age well
At this point we had a power cut, known in South Africa as 'Load shedding"; a result of dismal management by politically selected "cadres" who were responsible for a general lack of maintenance at Eskom, our electricity generator. When Eskom runs out of coal or the machinery breaks down, they cut off certain areas for up to 2½ hours. So we continued to eat in the dark, the table lit only with a few tea lights and the little torch from John's camera bag. Sadly, in the process, we did not get a picture of the next course, which was slices of Duck Breast, accompanied by a confit duck leg, fondant potato, pea purée and a good cherry jus. An excellent course, if a bit chewy on the duck, but a great match for the Petit Verdot. The nose is sweet, cooked berry fruit, some violets and herbs. A heavyweight, heady wine, salty, complex and silky on the palate, with dark Tay berries, great black cherry flavours, liquorice on the long end. Another one to keep for a while
A night time view from the restaurant, across to Melkbos, where the lights were still burning. Thank you Eskom
These are the chefs who fed us so well. We were challenged by the amount of food, but it was all very good
Dessert was a rather sweet Berry sorbet, a decadent and rich chocolate fudge brownie with pecan nuts, a pistachio crumb, fresh strawberries and a vanilla bean crème. This was accompanied by coffee and a taste of the new 2016 Quarry, a merlot. Sweet berries on the nose, lots of cherryade notes too. Rich with tight chalky tannins, tension, this is very new and needs time to come forward; the fruit acid is still high
Thank you Hillcrest for a great evening and for coping so well with the power cut
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