Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thokozani Ovation launch at Diemersfontein, Wellington

A very special invitation from Diemersfontein in Wellington to a Private Party to officially launch their Ovation brand - hosted by Thokozani Wines at Diemersfontein Wine Estate. This was held last Friday night and we were offered accommodation on the farm so we didn't have to drive home

Ovation is a wine label of Thokozani Wines, originally produced (exclusively) for Woolworths - but its fame has led to it now further spreading its wings in the market. We arrived as they were getting the venue ready just before 5
We and other members of the media were put up in the Guest House. A merry band
We had the bridal suite upstairs
Very comfortable and spacious with one of those huge football pitch beds, and lovely views of the farm
At the appointed time of 6 pm we all arrived at the party and our first drink was the new Ovations Spumante, a semi-sweet sparkle, served with a fresh strawberry. On the stand were canapés which had been paired with this wine. It is very reasonably priced at R69 a bottle. We drank this while all the speeches were in progress
A wrap filled with salad leaves, guacamole and cream cheese and topped with pineapple and a sprig of fresh coriander. It did partner well with the semi-sweet spumante
Or you could have hot (in two senses of the word) peppadews stuffed with cheese
And the bottles are colourful and would liven up any party
Members of media posing for the camera
Owners of Diemersfontein, David and Sue Sonnenberg. David Sonnenberg's background in clinical and industrial psychology has always meant that he cares very much about developing the potential of staff. When he and Sue returned from the UK to run the farm in 2000, they wanted not just to run Diemersfontein as a business, but as a community. In 2007, Diemersfontein launched its empowerment company, Thokozani, with 35 staff shareholders, including its white managers so as not to artificially split the workforce. This has been one empowerment project that worked. Several of the staff shareholders who began in quite menial positions, are now in senior Director positions and are helping to run Thokozani. They have been behind the launch of the Ovation wines. You can read all about this superb project here We were at the ceremony at which the first share certificates were presented to the original shareholders. It was a moving and inspiring event
Lucy is Sue's new dog; she charmed everyone at the party
The guests began to gather and the house was brightly lit
Denise Stubbs, Managing Director of Thokozani and HR Manager of Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate, made the opening speech and told us what was happening with the Ovation wines. The Zulu word Thokozani means to rejoice or to celebrate and that was what we were there to do. Three wines are available in Woolworths, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot and the Cabernet Merlot Red blend
She told us that she took her first sip of wine at 34. David is still mentoring her and still pushing her. She said "How can we change the lives of the community? The legacy in wine of just following what your parents and their parents did is not enough. You need to transform and grow. Look at where you started and where you are now". They are celebrating a brand that is working and we must spread the word. To get their brand into Woolworths, they had to go through the same rigorous specifications that everyone else does; they were not give a free pass or an open door. The wines have to sell
She called some of the staff who are shareholders up on stage and told us how their jobs had changed. They are all successes. Tamerin Crotz started as a receptionist and is now a Director and the Hospitality Manager; Aubern Williams was a team leader and is now the tasting room Sales and Brand manager; Cheslin Prince is now Guest House Manager; Hilary Brinkhuis manages Logistics for both and is a Director
Several staff members have won important singing contests and they now have their own group. They performed several songs for us and really delighted the audience. They are very, very good
A stand at which wine and canapés would be served after all the speeches
David Sonnenberg welcomed us all and spoke about the journey they have all been on, about the future and how rewarding it is to see people fulfilling their dreams and taking advantage of these opportunities and really growing. He told us that spending time on the farm as a young child really changed his life for the better because of the people he met and interacted with, especially one of the farm workers with whom he had a special relationship
Zinzi Golotela, Woolworths Corporate Affairs, said this is a beautiful empowerment story and journey; we need more in this country. And don’t be shy about who you are and what you have achieved
Beverley Ann Schäfer is currently Western Cape Provincial Minister of Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature. She spoke about empowerment and the future of agriculture and development
Winemaker Francois Roode told us about the Ovation Wines. They have had some success recently. Tsogo Sun has taken the entire stock of Pinotage for their national hotels. And the Thokozani wines have won awards, a Platinum at Michelangelo in 2017 for the SMV
Time to taste the wines and eat some canapés for supper
The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp with tropical fruit and green pepper notes, with flavours of pineapple and summer fruit

Lemon smoked artichokes with mint and baby tomatoes
A Thai coriander curry with baby prawns on a spoon
Grilled courgette ribbons, topped with goats cheese and herbs on a stick
The Merlot is quite robust, with good red berry fruit, some earthy flavours with spice and oak
The Calzone more resembled Vetkoek with some bacon and a little cheese inside. We very much enjoyed the mini potato skins stuffed with shredded lamb
The Ovation Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot red blend is full of cassis, cherry and ripe plum flavours, with nice soft tannins on the end. Good with food! These pulled pork samoosas were very welcome
A tray of canapés; we think this might have been the chicken, but we didn’t taste it; it disappeared so fast
Melanzane dip made with aubergine and a red pepper dip to accompany slices of ciabatta bread
The Thokozani Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier always delights with its complexity of fruit and flavour
and if you were not drinking and driving or just thirsty...
The speeches ended and we could go and try the wines and the canapés for supper
They had a great band called Jerry and the Bandits and we all got up to dance and have some fun
Even the slightly older members of the group can shake a leg
Rob Gower, Wine Buyer for Woolworths, enjoying the evening
and even some langarm
At about 11, we were taken into the conference room for our surprise, which turned out to be a feast of desserts. A white chocolate Croquembouche made of choux pastry buns filled with custard cream
Ice Cream Lab were making ice cream on the spot with liquid nitrogen
Mini melkterts
A creamy sago pudding
Brightly coloured macarons
And the pièce de resistance, a many layered Dobos cake that comes from Hungary. Lynne tasted walnuts in it and it was as light as a feather with a lovely creamy filling. Luckily there were two because they both vanished
A joyful group picture of all the celebrants, except the photographer, of course; he is there, just there, in your mind
and we each received a present of the two new Ovation wines
Lucy liked John; she went to sleep on his feet, a sign of approval!
Back at the house, we were cheered when we came back as all the other (younger) media people were already home and many already in their PJ's. They did sing for a while before we all went to sleep
Breakfast was in the restaurant next morning
We all gathered at a long table which kept expanding
Everyone was served with a muesli, yogurt and fruit
Coffee or tea and David joined us for a chat
And a full cooked breakfast with toast, butter, cheese and jam
bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried potatoes
Others sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air
These two ducks are a pair and are active all over the farm tiding up the snails and slugs
This beautiful large sculpture carved from a dead tree is still rooted into the ground. Time to head home. Thank you all at Diemersfontein and may your success continue with all the brands. We love and respect what you are doing and where your efforts are leading you

1 comment:

Cassandrina said...

I always loved going to Diemersfontein wine farm but it was many years ago Unfortunately they lost the original winemaker that made their original wonderful coffee tasting red wine and even their turning leaf wines were very good. Wines made after he left did not recover.