Friday, March 29, 2019

The new Ken Forrester tasting room; lunch at 96 Winery Road, Stellenbosch

We received an invitation to visit Ken Forrester Wines in Stellenbosch to see the new tasting facility, taste the Chenin Blancs and then have lunch at 96 Winery Road. A lovely welcome was a glass of their Sparkle Horse Chenin Blanc bubbly, poured for us by Roxanne Martin
It spends 9 months on the lees, 9 months in the tank, and 18 months in the bottle
and is full of crisp apple and pear flavours with a zingy mousse
The tasting room renovation is finished and we really liked the feel of the room
It is relaxing, informal and comfortable, with doors open to the outside terrace
Soft colours, lovely terrazzo tiles on the floor and a big leather sofa to collapse into
This was the old barrel cellar, but it has been repurposed to welcome you
The new barrel cellar is now next door
The first thing we spotted was barrels of wines destined to be blended into the 2019 FMC
Officially Forrester Meinert Chenin, but it also has its informal name, F'ng Marvellous Chenin
Caroline van Schalkwyk's intern Nicola, PR Consultant Caroline, Lynne and Shawn Mathyse, the Cellar Controller
We moved outside to a table on the shady terrace with lovely mountain views across the vineyards
We began with the Petit Chenin, their commercial bottling, which you will find in many supermarkets, wine shops
and on many wine lists. It is very affordable and pumps quite a bit above its station. Rounded, crisp and satisfying
A range of home made biscuits, sold in the shop. The biscuits with the herbs are made with butter and cheese
and a little flour....! OMG. Much nicer than water biscuits
Then the Ken Forrester 2017 Old Vines Reserve Chenin Blanc and a huge treat, a bottle of the 2007 to see how it ages. It was very impressive; we were encouraging Shawn to enter this into major competitions that have vintage awards. The 2017 is pale yellow with a perfume of pears; it has a crisp tingle on the tongue, hints of wood and long flavours of ripe apple and plum. The 2007 is our Vintage Wine of the Week. We wish you could taste. It was so good. A nose of golden fruit and golden oak with hints of Riesling and some of Chardonnay. On the palate, richness in spades, truly amazing deep flavours of cooked apple and quince, long and in balance, it is so memorable. We predict it will win new awards
Time to try the FMC. The 2017 has a good balance of residual sugar, balanced by fruit acidity, Incense wood, it has spent 12 months on the lees with selective pickings throughout the harvest, (7 on this particular vintage) The perfume is worthy of a dash behind one’s ears, like good Chanel. It has a lovely mouthfeel, is complex and layered with a touch of honey flavour and texture from the botrytis on the last picking. They then blend different barrels of different pickings, and different zones until they get the final perfect blend of Chenin. The 2015 has a golden nose, hints of oak, more Chardonnay than Chenin at present. It has elegance and incense wood, long deep flavours of lime, lemon and apple and just waiting to mature. A food wine for sure
The 2018 FMC (not yet bottled) is a spicy Chenin with some wood notes on the nose, ripe apples, plums, long & deep with good acidity to balance the sugars, lemon, lime and that wonderful hint of honey botrytis. Can’t wait to see how this matures
Then a preview of the Dirty Little Secret Two. Made from grapes which are sourced from very old dry land vineyards in the Piekenierskloof region, planted in 1965. This wine is a blend of grapes from 8 different vineyards and three different vintages. Made to age, a 20 year wine. So complex with cooked apples, almost a Tarte Tatin on the nose. Round and full on the palate and then an amazing fruit burst on the tongue. The acid/fruit/sugar balance is perfect. And it says loudly "Put me with food, rich, expensive food please." A WOW wine. And it will be costly, the One was around R1000 a bottle
We then were given a taste of the Roussanne 2016. Riesling-like on the nose but not terpened, with hints from wood one new barrel was used. At first, a Rock n Roll wine, a bit wild and naughty, then it turns serious and says "Pay Attention"! A lovely oak hint on the palate, with peach and pale mulberry; hints of herbs and lime. Another of Ken's food wines. Well he is a gourmet, and that is what he and we love

Next we moved to the restaurant owned by Ken and his brother Allan, 96 Winery Road, which is just down the road from the wine farm. The good news is that 96 Winery Road is one of the Winelands restaurants taking part in Restaurant Week 'Autumn Edition' 2019 (18 April - 5 May). Don’t forget to book, you will love this food
Meat being dry aged in the fridge; Wagyu prime rib on the left and Chalmar sirloin on the right
So you now know where to go for great meat in the Cape
The Menu
You can choose the tasting menu and it is very good value
The Chef's Specials of the Day
and on the table, The Barrel 2017, 100% Mourvedre made in two American oak barrels, fined with egg white, and not filtered. They bottled 170 x 1.5 litre magnums and 10 x 3 litres double magnums, one of which was served to us. Perfumed dark fruit with spice on the nose, full-on dark fruit on the palate, vanilla oak, a little chocolate, wildness, mulberries, rhubarb, cherries and good warm alcohol 14.5. So good with meat dishes and amazingly approachable for such a young red wine
The back of the bottle - story of its naissance
Freshly baked mosbolletjies with good olive oil. Perfection
The New Style Sashimi in a sweet, hot, sour Asian sauce topped with mayo, sesame seeds. spring onions and ginger
Refreshing and very good fish
You should have seen the envy in the eyes of those of us who did not order the starter of Pork Belly. Look at that crackling!
Lynne ordered the crisp Panko calamari, with cous cous and a Parmesan cream, So tender inside the crisp coating
Louw Strydom, Ken Forrester’s Commercial Manager with Allan Forrester
The Venison Carpaccio topped with rocket and Parmesan cheese
A main course of the fish of the day, which was oven baked kingklip on a bed of mixed vegetables
Lynne went against her usual choices and had the 200g Hollandse steak with a pepper cream sauce and those really irresistibly crisp chips. Cooked medium rare as ordered, it was tender and the aged beef was so impressive in flavour, as was the rich peppery sauce
Another envied dish was John's Duck and Cherry Pie, a fixture on the menu. He has been eating it for years (first at Ken’s previous restaurant Gatrile’s in Johannesburg) and he cannot resist ordering it each time we come to 96 Winery Road. The chef has changed it slightly in that now it is a stand alone pie, which resembles a wine amphora. Previously, one was served a slice from a much larger pie
The pastry is buttery, crisp and flaky and the contents just as expected, rich duck and sharp cherries
No one could manage dessert, but coffees were ordered before we departed, very replete

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