Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Lunch at Tokara with Kruger Family Wines

Johan Appels Kruger won the South African Young Winemaker of the Year award in 2005. He grew up in the Bottelary ward of Stellenbosch on a wine farm called Sterhuis and made award winning wines there. He learned the art of winemaking at Jordan wine estate in Stellenbosch as well as abroad in the USA and Burgundy – hence his fine passion for vineyard specific wines. A few years ago, he and his Belgian wife Sofie decided to go it alone and started Kruger Family Wines. They do not own a farm; they rent vineyards and cellar space, which gives Johan a wide choice of South African terroir and different grapes. Johan believes in making wine with minimal intervention and takes a very natural approach to winemaking. Their first vintage was in 2017. Johan said, ”we called our first bottled wine under our new venture, the ‘2017 Sans Chêne Chardonnay’, which means ‘no oak’ in French, but also, no chains (as my Belgian father in law brought to my attention) – this as an expression of my freedom now to go all over the South African winelands to source these amazing parcels and give both the farmer and the vineyard the recognition they deserve". He is also passionate about saving older vineyards and works closely with the Old Vines project. So, of course, we accepted an invitation to join Johan and Sofie at a lunch at Tokara with the Kruger Family Wines
Tokara Wine Estate is located at the top of the Helshoogte Pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek
and is owned by merchant banker GT Ferreira
It is an eagle’s aerie and has magnificent views of the Cape Peninsula across its well manicured vineyards
Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, owner of the Tokara Restaurant, had organised the day and made it very special indeed
Michelle Moller, the Head Sommelier at La Colombe restaurant in Constantia, showed her skills and poured us all some water. It was a lovely clear, if hot, day on the terrace beneath the restaurant, where the table for the lunch had been set up
Vines and olives wrap sensuously around the high hill
The first wine was their Pinot Noir Cap Classique Brut Rosé. Eye of the Partridge colour, with lovely aromas of brioche and raspberry perfume. Crisp and satisfying with a good prickle of baking soda mousse with lovely, restrained raspberry fruit and minerality, Long flavours show a very French style. Very enjoyable indeed
Lovely bubbles
Setting up tables out of the sun as people began to arrive
Sofie Kruger is expecting her third child in January and they do know what they are expecting
(a third son), with anticipation. She is glowing with good health
Johan introducing the wines, while Lynne takes notes
Designer of the wine labels, fine artist Sumi Gouws
John Collins represents Kruger Family Wines in South Africa
They also have overseas representatives and the wines are selling well and are very popular in Europe
The Amuse Bouche to go with the Rosé Brut MCC was two plump Saldanha Bay oysters, one with watermelon & fig leaf oil, which John said worked as a combination; the other more traditionally topped with cucumber and salmon caviar
The caviar is always a good partner for oysters. Voted a very good partner for the MCC
Johan told us that he wants to save all the old vines, but must look to business. He loves Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
and has sourced some amazing vineyards as far apart as Hemel and Aarde Valley and Piekenierskloof
Good sourdough bread and mosbolletjies accompanied by whipped butter, olive tapenade and watermelon konfyt 
The next two wines: 2020 vintage Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch, from a 35 year old vineyard planted in 1988
On the nose, it is indicative of very cool country while it is from warm Stellenbosch, with lots of green fig notes
very tropical on the palate with lots of granadilla and peach and heady oak 
Then the 2020 Old Vine Chardonnay, also from Stellenbosch
it was shy on the nose initially, with peach and apple notes, which later opened up and appeared on the palate
Good stony minerality and a good partner with the next dish
Cured yellowtail fish, in a red chilli oil, with green fruit, lime, litchi and lots of coriander in the creamy emulsion
The fish skin had been deep fried to a crisp. The green coriander did fight a little with the wines 
To be served with the second course of Pork Belly, was the Kruger Family Old Vines Palomino 2020 - grapes from Piekenierskloof. What an outstanding wine and very different from any other wines we have tasted in South Africa. This grape usually goes into brandy (or sherry in Spain) and you can see that this would make a very, very good dry sherry, were it fashionable again in South Africa. Ah, the delight of a great Spanish Manzanilla! The wine is dry, full of minerality and thankfully without any oxidation. It is very refreshing and has layered fruit with complex flavours; it keeps exciting the palate as a good apéritif should, and makes you long to pair it with food. We think that this will fly onto top restaurant wine lists
The back label has all the information about the vines
We all know how well Chardonnay pairs with Pork Belly and The Kruger Family Klipkop 2019 Piekenierskloof Chardonnay would have no trouble in convincing you. Elegance first, then spicy ginger, yellow persimmon and quince entice you to take the first sip. Such refinement, with crisp clean minerality and some soft chalk. Silky and clean, with lovely yellow peach and citrus flavours; a touch of flint, with wood just supporting and long minerality. It really did compliment the braised umami pork belly (all fat removed), caramelised pear and pear purée, crisp pak choi, mustard leaf and the soy, sesame, ginger and apple cider jus. The dish was made a perfect whole by the savoury Heerenbone (SA version of a lima bean) purée beneath the pork. Topped with a twist of deep fried pork crackling. A triumph of a course which got applause. And yes, the Palomino was also a very good wine paired with this course
What is he saying to Jaap-Henk?! "Just so much!"
The wine for the third course, The Kruger Family Piekenierskloof Old Vine Grenache 2018
A glass composition!
An unusual pairing for an unusual course. Grilled langoustine in their shells, topped with a thick cheese sauce and a slice of crisp Parma ham. We have not had cheese sauce with prawns or langouste before. Lobster Thermidor, perhaps, comes close. It was a good thick cheese sauce, but it did overwhelm the seafood a bit. The wine pairing by Jaap-Henk was instinctively right and worked well: the Old Vine 2018 Grenache from Piekenierskloof. On the nose wild, as Grenache often is, with savoury plums and incense wood. On the palate, zingy red plums and rhubarb with lots of dark wood on the end. It would be good to try this lovely wine with venison in a rich sauce
The wines for the fourth course were two excellent Pinot Noirs, showing the best of their good terroir. The Pearly Gates 2016 Magnum of Pinot Noir from the eponymous Hemel and Aarde Valley and the 2019 version of the same wine, which has smoky bacon, wood, raspberry, cranberry, ripe cherry and minerality on the end. The Magnum wine is more perfumed with violets and cachous, dark wood, red berry fruit and vanilla. On the palate, sweet red berry fruit, so elegant; lovely wood supporting and such a great match with the duck and plums in the dish
These grapes are grown on the Pearly Gates estate owned by Jan and Tanya Hanekom
Seared, sliced duck breast with roasted plums, fresh and roasted beetroot and an earthy beetroot purée,
a tiny parmesan arancini, in a vanilla and port jus. The plums and the duck sang with the Pinots
The sauce was so good that we asked for more bread to soak up the remains
Were we flagging as the fifth course arrived? Not a bit
The selection of local artisanal cheeses was served with guava and another fruit chutney
The blue cheese was superb and we would love to know where it comes from, so that we can buy some
It was accompanied by a magnum of the 2017 Klipkop Chardonnay, from Piekenierskloof grapes, which has wood notes first, then brioche, and lots of zingy apple, citrus and pear on the nose and palate. A great wine for food. Thank you Johan for showing us these really good wines and Jaap-Henk and Chef Carolize Coetzee for putting together such a good wine and food pairing menu. Chef Carolize won the “Haute Performance Award” as South Africa’s most promising chef in the 2020 JHP Gourmet Guide. Her menus are inspired by the South African countryside and its farm produce
The weight of the world on his head? Or Klipkop?
The real title is “Disclosing Decay” by Sculptor Angus Taylor
Patterns of soil and vines

And now for Christmas and, hopefully, a good New Year....

Saturday, December 19, 2020

This Week’s MENU. Elgin, Muratie, Yzerfontein, Darling

A Common Fiscal, also called Fiscal Shrike, (Lanius collaris) on an aloe leaf at Ormonde wine estate, Darling

We took a break, away from home, just to get away from it all. So where did we go? To a place on a beach, on the doorstep of one of our favourite wine producing areas. We booked, in August, on; a self catering flat with a view of the sea. When we arrived, we found that it had been let, last June, on a one year let. Panic. We found a lovely lady in an estate agency; long story shortened, she found us a superb place to stay. refunded our R8000 deposit and we could have a holiday. Of course, the story went onto Facebook; wine farming friends nearby read it and said we had to come for lunch…. So, after a long period in which we’ve only had two stories to tell each week, we close off this year with a bundle. We wish you a happy Christmas, Hanukkah, holiday; There will be one more story, too late for this deadline, and then it will be “see you in 2021”, hopefully with more and happier stories and, for now…. read all about it

Wineding through Elgin

An invitation to a media event, the first for a long, long time brought us to confusion and then consideration. They promised social distancing, and some of the events would be out of doors. They offered to take us there and back in a bus. Well, that was not as enticing as it sounds. At our age we really don't want to travel in a confined space with people whom we don't know well. We decided to go, to be cautious and to drive there in our own car. We are, after all, huge fans of Elgin wines AND it seemed like a bit of normality, which we have been craving. Read on….

New beginnings, New dreams, New friendships at Muratie

An invitation to Muratie and, after this hard year, we decided to accept as long as there were the proper protocols in place for social distancing. The invitation said: "Please bring a mask and note that all COVID regulations and precautions will be adhered to. A small attendee list allows for responsible social distancing". Read on….

Every December, we plan a small summer holiday. This year, after 9 months of lock down, we really needed a change of scene. And we love to be beside the sea; it helps us relax. We like both coasts but find the West Coast so much more affordable than the East Coast. We also don’t like very busy places. We had a holiday at Yzerfontein a few years ago and found a wonderful apartment there back in August on We booked for 12 nights in early December, paid in full on November 23rd and happily headed off with the car piled high with all our essentials for self catering, lots of reading matter, our lap tops and a few casual clothes.  Read on….

On our first night in Yzerfontein, so emotionally exhausted after having to relocate, we decided to go out for supper. Lynne had investigated the local restaurants on line before we came, and we chose Lulas (Squid in Portuguese), a Portuguese restaurant on the seafront. Many of the locals we spoke to recommended it. Read on….

When you go to Yzerfontein you just have to take walks on the two superb long white beaches. Read on….

When Berinda Basson of Ormonde wine estate in Darling read our horror story about our holiday accommodation in Yzerfontein on Facebook, she immediately invited us to their family farm for a tasting and a cheese platter. How could we refuse? We have always enjoyed their company, liked what they do on the farm and the wines are very good indeed. Read on….

If we are in Darling, we always try to visit the Darling Wine Shop. Owner Charles Withington is a friend and it is always good to see him and catch up on the local wines and gossip. We spent some time with him this trip, tasting wine before going off for lunch at the Darling Brewery. Read on….

We have many friends in the wine industry and, when we go on holiday in a wine producing area, we often get invitations to visit them. Groote Post is about half an hour from our holiday venue at Yzerfontein and we were invited to visit for a wine tasting with the winemaker Lukas Wentzel, followed by lunch at Hilda's restaurant. It was a very valuable visit; we tasted some very good wines and lunch was delicious. Read on….

Lunch at Rosemead Bakery, Yzerfontein

The Rosemead Bakery Cafe in Yzerfontein is legendary, but it was closed for their holiday when we arrived. However, they opened again midweek, so we were able to take our  friends Loraine and Ronnie there for lunch when they visited us for a day. We had done a quick recce of the other restaurants and this offered the best vegetarian options, with the most choice in the area. We have eaten there before and know how good are the bread, patisserie and sandwiches. Read on….

Saturday, 19th December 2020

All content © John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Darling Wine Visits 3. Groote Post

We have many friends in the wine industry and, when we go on holiday in a wine producing area, we often get invitations to visit them. Groote Post is about half an hour from our holiday venue at Yzerfontein and we were invited to visit for a wine tasting with the winemaker Lukas Wentzel, followed by lunch at Hilda's restaurant. It was a very valuable visit; we tasted some very good wines and lunch was delicious

They have game on the farm and, as we were arriving, Lynne spotted what looked like some donkeys in the far distance. John's binoculars and then his long lens confirmed that they were Quaggas; we have not seen such evolved beasts before. So few stripes. There is a national programme of breeding Plains Zebras who carry the gene, to bring them back. They were mostly shot out in the 19th century. You can book to go on one of their Game drives. And bird life is abundant; they have a bird hide on the Klawervlei dam 
A warm welcome from Peter Pentz in the tasting room; he was expecting us. His grandfather, Peter senior (the Old Man – referenced in some of the wine labels and on a dish in the restaurant), also appeared briefly to say hello
The tasting room is looking very good since they have renovated it. Love the photograph of the vines on the wall
We went straight up to Hilda's Kitchen restaurant for our tasting. It is in the Groote Post Homestead which was built in 1808 and, for a while, was Cape Colony Governor Lord Charles Somerset's only genuine “shooting box”
Lukas showing us some eggs from Matilda, his pet chicken. And he generously sent us 'home' with some
This popular restaurant on the farm is run by Debbie, the Chef, and Shaun McLaughlin. The interior is filled with lovely old furniture and you get a feel for what the house must have felt like when the Duckitt family lived here in the 19th century. It was the home of well known author, Hildagonda Duckitt (1839-1905), who also produced a much loved cookbook. The restaurant is named after her
It was such a beautiful day that we opted to taste the wines and enjoy lunch in the sheltered courtyard
Shaun explaining the excellent menu and the specials
The menu
Lukas had a treat for us. The three vintages of SeaSalter Sauvignon Blanc, a wine we love and have bought all three vintages as they arrived. But such a treat to taste a line up of vintages. This wine is a good example of cool coastal Sauvignon Blanc, grown high up on the Groote Post hills in sight of the sea and seems to have picked up some of those sea salt flavours and minerality from the soil and the cooling sea breezes. It generally has some Semillon added, which brings fullness and complexity to this crisp classic. It is a superb food wine. The original 2018 had 10% Semillon and is full flavoured with Semillon showing first then the Sauvignon Blanc takes over. Aging well. The 2019 shows more Sauvignon Blanc first, with green pepper, elderflower, granadilla, then the Semillon dustiness appears. Crisp, full, so typical of Sauvignon with green flavours and lovely minerality and salt on the end. Showing so well, we loved it. The 2020 has a hint of smoky bacon, than green notes and is enticing. Big green flavours with figs, capsicum, and the fullness and greyness from the Semillon. It is a step up in quality, more sophisticated; it still has the steely minerality, but not as much salt. Lukas says he has been working hard on refining the blend
Next, we tasted two vintages of the Salt of the Earth. The 2018 is a blend of 67% Shiraz and 33% Cinsault. You can smell the Cinsault on the spicy nose and it is soft and silky with savoury umami notes on the very juicy red/black fruit palate, with good minerality on the end. The 2015 was the first vintage, Earthy on the nose, full of lovely fruit and incense wood and Groote Post’s classic minerality. It is still there, soft sweet fruit with a good kick from the fruit acids and some soft chalky tannins that will take it further
Then the Groote Post Merlot 2019. Spicy rich fruit, mulberry and cherry, soft incense wood, soft sweet berry fruit a good kick of supporting fruit acid and warm (14.5% alcohol ending with soft tannins). Delicious. The Darling soil adds the spice, Lukas says, and there is some salty licorice wood and minerality on the end. The 2017 Merlot has incense wood, subtle dark cherry fruit; it is very sophisticated on the nose. Soft with sweet cherries on the palate and again good supporting acid, wood and alcohol. A lasting wine, good with food
They now have two Cap Classiques, the original Brut Rosé, made from 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. It has toasted brioche on the nose and a fine sherbety mousse with strawberry and raspberry candyfloss flavours. The new kid on the block is the Brut made from 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. Notes of dried pears and fresh pears on the nose, very clean on the palate with a good prickle. Cooked apple and pears first, with green apple on the end. with long flavours
Time for our starters, John went for the Springbok carpaccio; perfect with the Salt of the Earth Shiraz blend
Lynne loves the Camembert and tomato tart with basil. The pastry is superb, buttery and crumbly
The camembert is really creamy and the baby tomatoes are packed full of flavour
Lukas could not join us for lunch; Peter did and we had a lovely time trying all the opened wines with the different dishes
If there is lamb on a menu, Lynne will order it. This was very tender slices of roast lamb in a rich tomato sauce,
with boiled potatoes and courgettes and carrots
The Merlot went perfectly with John's favourite dish at Hilda's, the Old Man’s Steak Sandwich,
which comes with huge chips and garlic aioli
The wine list
The lads managed dessert, Lynne abstained
The white chocolate cheesecake served with vanilla ice cream, fruit and cream is a great favourite
and on our way out, a pair of Blue Cranes
soon joined by others
We took the road through Darling; it gives you fine views, over the wheat fields, of the Groote Post vineyards on the hills
Groote Post is a large mixed farm with beef, wheat and a large area reserved for wild game
A really wonderful visit. Thank you all at Groote Post and PR Posy Hazell for organising it