Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Laarman Wines - First Platter's 5-Stars

Latest news from Laarman Wines - clinching 2 5-stars in the new 2022 Platter's by Diners Club South African Wine Guide.
That's 5-stars for their 2019 Focal Point Chardonnay & the 2019 Focal Point Cinsault. And it's the first 5-stars for winemaker Arco Laarman. 

Laarman, who spent 2 decades at one of leading wineries in Paarl, embarked on his own journey in 2017 to create site-specific wine that are a true expression of the terroir. "It is an affirmation that the vineyard sites I am working with are giving me the results I am looking for in my wines," says Laarman.

The Focal Point Chardonnay is produced with grapes that have been sourced from Vermaaklikheid, which offer a rather unique cooler-climate coastal, limestone rich terroir. Whilst the Cinsault hails from Paarl. 

"I am extremely happy with the results after three vintages of working on my own wines to achieve 5-stars on both my Focal Point wines."

Check them out here
Or support them by buying wine via Cape Site Specific, which is a collaboration of producers who share a vision of creating wines from specific vineyard sites. Check them out here.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Glen Carlou

Another #WineRoutingWithLloyd stop this year included a quick drive from Stellenbosch, out to Glen Carlou. The tasting room has a feel of a game farm, with the thatch roof & the furniture. It's a taste & smell of the bushveld right here in the winelands. 

Glen Carlou has an impressive list of wines under their belt. They are renowned for their Chardonnay, but you'll find everything from a Sauvignon Blanc & Naturally Sweet Chenin Blanc to a Syrah & Pinot Noir. Most definitely a variety to choose from & really, none disappoint. 

I kicked things off with a bubbly - it's the right way to do things. The Glen Carlou Blanc de Blancs is an all Chardonnay Brut Cap Classique. A gentle mousse with white stone fruits & soft floral notes on the nose. Whilst on the palate, that Chardonnay really shines - with a unique green apple, lemon & lime accompanied by a bit of toasted brioche. Most definitely something for any occasion & would pair well with light seafood. 

The Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay was another favourite of mine - a more complex golden white wine, with combination of citrus & those buttery aromas on the nose. Those flavours evolve on the palate, where a butterscotch becomes more evident. The aftertaste is not exactly as expected, with a lingering minerality & creamy almond like finish. This is a 100% single vineyard Chardonnay & would serve well with fresh pasta. 

On the red side - I've developed a love for Syrah, so I opted in for a glass of the 2019. A deep purple in the glass & as you swirl your glass, aromas of ripe black cherries & cinnamon develop. A full-bodied palate with blackberries & prominent spicy undertones & oak. Beautifully balanced with a soft tannin that should pair rather well with a mushroom soup, red meat dishes & even with some dark chocolate.

Lastly I tasted The Collection Cabernet Franc. Vibrant red fruits & dark ripe plums with a touch of vanilla & tobacco leaf make for a delightful nose. The palate is full of dark fruit & a slight herbaceousness that I'd compare to a peppermint. A velvety finish adds to the elegance of the long aftertaste. 

Check out Glen Carlou here. A visit is highly recommended - the picturesque views from the tasting room & wine, make for a great day out. 

#WineRoutingWithLloyd is driven by the #KiaSonet

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Quoin Rock

When in Stellenbosch, there are many wine estates that you could visit. The options & experiences are endless. However, one of my recent #WineRoutingWithLloyd stops in the Knorhoek Valley at Quoin Rock convinced me that it is one that you should have near the top of your must see/visit Stellenbosch estates.

This historic estate has undergone a transformation in the last few years. The passion of the owners for art, in all forms, is very evident. Be it visual, literature, performing or culinary; it all comes together at Quoin Rock showcase the very best. Their passion most definitely extends into the vineyard & further to the craftmanship that produces wine that embody the uniqueness of the terroir. 

But enough about that, lets talk wine - more specifically the Quoin Rock range. A simple tasting & straight to the point. 

 - Black Series Cap Classique
An elegant Brut with notes of Granny Smith Apples, Lime & Honey. A gentle mousse with tiny bubbles, adding to that elegance & giving it a smooth finish. A great choice to serve with seafood starters - oysters or salmon. 

 - Chardonnay
Energetic & vibrant. Ripe citrus & orange peel initially on the nose, followed by some vanilla & toasted brioche. A golden straw colour with glints of green as the the light dances through the glass. On the palate, that citrus comes through alongside a light buttery texture. Definitely a winner with fresh seafood. 

 - White Blend
A soft blend with stone fruits, figs & some sweet citrus notes on the nose. The Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon blend has a creamy & rounded finish. Again - the elegance in this wine is superb & would be a great wine for lunch or even those hot summer days next to the pool. 

 - Shiraz
A beautiful, big, bold wine that has a soft balance. Light floral notes of jasmine mixed with pepper & some vanilla. The oak adds even more elegance & smoothness. I'm salivating at the idea of having this with rich red meats, especially a Gemsbok steak. 

 - Red Blend
A big nose of red berries & layers of juicy ripe fruits. All of these follow onto the palate with a smooth entry & a lingering finish. Finish off the cheese platter after dinner with a glass of this. 

The wine tasting goes very well with either a cheese platter, a charcuterie board or a combination of the 2. Fresh meats, cheeses & olives to snack on as you enjoy the wine & the views. It truly is a modern winery that offers something for all the senses. 

Check them out here & booking a tasting is highly recommended. (Check out the Picnics too - I'm definitely doing that the next time I'm around.)

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Tokara

So #WineRoutingWithLloyd isn't just about the wine, but more so about all of the experiences along the wine routes in our country. A previous visit to Tokara for a wine tasting with winemaker Stuart set the bar high for the a 2nd visit. But this time around - I popped in to celebrate the arrival of Spring & the release of their brand new vintage of Extra Virgin Olive Oils.

Naturally - a glass of Tokara Blanc de Blancs 2013 Cap Classique to start the morning off right. 100% cool-climate Chardonnay from Elgin provides depth, elegance & complexity. A fresh fine mousse with apples & lemon blossom. On the palate toasted almonds with a crisp minerality. Just right & tastes like more. 

Olive Oil Master, Gert van Dyk led & guided us through the unique tasting of the new vintage Extra Virigin Olive Oils on offer at Tokara. (Check them out here.)

The 2021 harvest was somewhat of a smaller crop, but gave the opportunity to be a bit more selective & picking at the optimal ripeness. This ensures concentrated flavours in the Italian varieties that are grown at the foothills of the Simonsberg. "By picking & pressing at just the right time, we captures the true herbaceous & nutty flavours," Gert explains. 

When tasting olive oils, you'll be looking for fruitiness, bitterness & piquancy or spiciness. Just like with tasting wine, it's not just the taste, but it's an all encompassing experience from the aroma, to the textures. In order for the oil to 'open' up & release more flavour, you need to warm it up a bit first. Then take a small sip, swirl it in your mouth & swallow. Repeat & then on the 2nd taste, clear your throat after swallowing in order for that spiciness to really unfold.

Frantoio - a medium to intense oil with green grassy tones. The green notes carry through to the palate alongside added bitter notes, whilst leaving a nutty aftertaste.

Mission - is more mild with grassy & herbaceous characters. The walnut aftertaste makes this an all-round oil.

Mult-Varietal - a carefully blended oil to bring out the best characteristics. Notes of rocket & artichoke with a light herbaceousness.

The Unfiltered EVOO - a unique artisanal multi-varietal blend is specially selected for it's purity & unbridled flavours as the oil flows directly from the olive press.

Following the tasting, we have a small intimate lunch experience & I'm seated next to Gert. We had a wonderful conversation about food, wine, life & EVOO's. The way Gert talks about food & using EVOO's in cooking & how the flavour profiles of each would work with a variety of foods - giving me so many new ideas for my own meals back at home. "An intense EVOO is used to bring dishes to life."

Starters - artichoke & parmesan gratin, served with olive branch 'stok brood' (the branches, picked by Gert himself earlier that morning.) Paired with the 2021 Tokara Sauvignon Blanc.

Main - a tender lamb ossobuco with a creamy saffron risotto & gremolata served with 2018 Tokara Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dessert - vanilla gelato with crystalised ginger, olive oil & almond cake & Tokara EVOO, perfectly paired with 2019 Tokara Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest.

Gert is hands on involved in the entire process from in the olive groves right through the pressing & the bottling. He believes good oil is made on the tree & that fine olive oil is about capturing the goodness of the fresh olive in the bottle. Therefore hand-picked olives are cold pressed within 24 hours of being harvested in order to ensure flavour & freshness. 

Pop in at the Tokara Delicatessen for a complimentary olive oil tasting & purchases. Or you can arrange a more structured & guided tasting experience at the tasting lounge - but bookings are essential. 

Monday, 11 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Steenberg

What is a #WineRoutingWithLloyd trip without popping in for some bubbly at Steenberg? A stone throw away from the city, it's easily accessible if you can't travel out to the winelands, or the perfect stop en-route to the city. A true Constantia gem that delivers every time! 

One thing that has stood out for me on every visit to Steenberg, is the passion & enthusiasm of the team. These people really have a love for wine & they are eager to share their knowledge & love with visitors to the estate. 

Kick off the your visit with a tasting & jump straight into a flight of bubbles to tickle the taste buds. 

 - 1682 Chardonnay Brut NV
Light in colour with a delicate mousse. A fresh nose with crisp hints of Granny Smith apples & soft white peaches. Lively on the palate with flavours of lemon, sweet citrus & fresh croissants. A lingering fresh finish that makes this the perfect bubbly to go with your breakfast. 

 - 1682 Pinot Noir Brut NV
Pale pink in the glass, exuding fruity aromas of raspberry & strawberry alongside a sweetness of red apple & toasted brioche. A fine mousse which brings out more of the berry flavours on the palate, that add to a somewhat creamy texture & dry lingering finish. The longer you leave this bottle, I'd expect some more savoury characteristics to develop making it a great bottle to serve at a pool party or at the dinner table. 

 - Lady R Cap Classique 2016
A gorgeous pale copper tint in the glass accompanied by a nose of freshly peeled red apples, almonds & citrus with a slight hint of dried herbs. A soft & creamy palate that is complemented by a refreshing acidity with a touch of cinnamon spice. Truly elegant bubbles that add to a refined texture with a soft lingering finish perfect for those special occasions. 

Next up I'd suggest you try a flight of Sauvignon Blanc on offer.
 - Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc
 - Steenberg Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc
 - Steenberg The Black Swan Sauvignon Blanc

Constantia Sauvignon Blanc really just hits differently & Steenberg is top in it's class when it comes to showcasing the varietal in it's true form whilst providing a pure expression of the unique terroir that proves you can age white wine for a few more years in order for it to truly evolve into it's full potential. 

Each of these have similarities, but also have stand out points that make them so unique & different. From that Cape Gooseberry freshness with lime & white blossoms to the Elderflower, asparagus & Fynbos. The crispness & acidity that softens with each bottle into a more creamy texture. A lingering minerality follows in each, that makes the cool climate Sauvignon Blanc just so much more beautiful. Ageing from the Sauvignon Blanc from 2-5 years, the Rattlesnake from 5-7 years & The Black Swan between 10-20 year.

Finish off tasting the white wines with the Steenberg Semillon. A pale gold liquid in your glass with aromas of lime & light hints of apricot. Following onto the palate alongside some citrus & roasted almonds with a rather elegant mid-palate of fruit. A bright acidity with citrus & floral notes lingering on the palate on the aftertaste. (One of my personal favourites.)

Lets delve into a glass of red or 2 too. In the next post that is. So now it's time to sit & enjoy the beautiful tasting room with contemporary finishes whilst overlooking the water feature & admiring, what I consider to be, a piece of art that hangs from the ceiling above the tasting island in the centre of the tasting room. Sip on some more wine whilst a wine ambassador tops you up & tells you a bit more. 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Pierneef à La Motte

It's a well known fact that La Motte is one of my all time favourite #WineRoutingWithLloyd stops. It's on my list to visit with every trip to Franschhoek! This last trip was my visit to the restaurant - Pierneef à La Motte. I had previously been treated to a meal prepared by Chef Eric Bulpitt so was excited to sample something coming his kitchen in his playground. 

Like most things at La Motte, inspiration is drawn from the artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, hence the restaurant name - Pierneef à La Motte. The restaurant has a unique focus on heritage cuisine whilst embracing and interpreting various cultures; ingredients & recipes. Which resonates with the adoration Pierneef had for the South African landscape & the country's diversity. 

The restaurant reminds me of an old school dining room on the farm, with a modern contemporary twist & pop of colour. I must say, I rather like it. It's raining outside & the fire is crackling in fireplace whilst families are enjoying their Sunday lunch. It feels like home; cosy & relaxed. 

The à la carte menu provides hearty, comfort food & presented picture perfectly by Chef Eric. There are frequent interpretation changes to the menu, but the focus on culinary heritage is constant, using & modifying recipes that have been used over more than 3 centuries. The seasonal menu is inspired from produces straight out of the gardens at La Motte.

The menu perfectly pairs each offering with a La Motte wine. Chardonnay with the Fish or the La Motte Millennium with the Pork. One thing that I admire is that these pairings go beyond just what you taste, but extend to the play on textures of food & wine too. 

Never skip dessert! Especially when a Chocolate Torte from La Motte is on offer. (Okay, well it's an overload of chocolate. But good gosh, it is absolutely divine.) A Milk Chocolate Crémeux, Hazelnut crumbs, Raspberries with a Hazelnut Ice Cream. What a delightful explosion of flavour & texture alike with each mouthful. Pair it with the Cabernet Sauvignon & you're all set.  

The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday; 11:30 - 15:30 but a reservation is a must. (You can do that here.)

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Middelvlei

Have you ever wanted to say that you've got a bottle of wine with your name on it? Well, like literally, you can have your name on it - one you blended & bottled yourself? Well - it's a rather exciting experience that you can get in on at Middelvlei in Stellenbosch. 

This unique experience allows you to create your own personalised bottle of wine that you can take home with you. So, it's official - I have the 1st bottle of #WineRoutingWithLloyd Middelvlei red blend

On arrival welcomed with a glass of their latest Rosé on a chilly morning, I sat down in the tasting room with a fresh stoked fire blazing to warm up. In front of me - the whole blending kit, 3 bottles of wine fresh from the barrel, tasting glasses, a pen & paper for notes. I've been wanting to do this kind of thing for a while, so to say that I was excited, is a bit of an understatement. 

Whilst going through the motions of tasting & creating your own blends, you'll get to snack on Middelvlei's famous freshly baked Potbrood served with their home-made Snoek Pâté & sweet strawberry jam. 

In those 3 bottles -
1. Pinotage: a Momberg classic. Deep ruby red with fresh fruit on the nose & palate. Accompanied by oak & some spice. 

2. Merlot: an easy drink glass with ripe red cherries & a smooth finish. 
3. Shiraz: a bit of body with pepper & darker fruits with a beautiful aromatic nose.  

Now that you understand a bit about each wine the fun starts - pour yourself a glass of each & taste. Taste & feel what your palate enjoys. Then into a 100ml test tube you pour your own desired mix of the 3. Go on a have a taster, see what stands out, make some notes - the good & the bad. And if you don't like what you've put together, you pour it out & start again. And again - until you find that perfect personalised blend that works for you. 

Multiply your final choice of blend by 10, give it a good mix & now it is ready for bottling. Time to put a cork in that bottle & add a foil cap & label your new creation. (Yes, you do all that too.) Check out my bottling experience here.

Also - there is enough left, after filling your bottle, for you to enjoy a glass or 2 of your final blend whilst you sit back & relax taking in the surroundings of the Middelvlei farm & finishing up the last piece of your Potbrood and jam. 

At R250, this is a lot of fun and the creativity you can express here with this experience is endless & can really be enjoyed by everyone.  If you love your own blend that much, you can have them make you a few extra bottles at R180 each & have them delivered to your door or collected at a later stage. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

#WineRoutingWithLloyd - Spookfontein Cottages

Sitting reminiscing about my #WineRoutingWithLloyd trip today had me wishing I was back in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Specifically back at Spookfontein, where I got to spend a weekend in one of their cottages. 

There really is something magical about this place. I think it must be the combination of the location, the wine & the people - it makes me smile thinking back. The estate is nestled between The Kleinriver & the Babilonstoring Mountains with views looking out over the valley below back toward Hermanus. 

The Blue Crane Cottage was all mine - situated in the middle of the vineyards & the mountains it gives you the perfect country feel. The simple farmhouse decor reminds me of the old house on the farm that we grew up in whilst visiting grandparents. The large stone fireplace was not going to be missed out on - so I built myself a a fire & warmed the cottage up on the cooler evening. 

Each room is en-suite with it's own bathroom & with French doors that open up on the the patio whilst overlooking the vineyards & allowing that gentle sea breeze, that cools the vineyards, to move right through the entire cottage. 

Pop in to the restaurant for a late lunch & wine tasting - suddenly I'm craving the Fried Hake & Chips, served with mushy peas & a lemon mayo with a glass of the Merlot Rosé & a side order of Pork Gyoza (these are nice & spicy - working really well with the Cabernet Franc). Check out the latest menu here.

The cottages are self-catering & the I must say - the kitchen is really well stocked with everything that you would need on a visit. If you don't feel like cooking, the restaurant at Spookfontein has got you covered! Only open from Wednesday to Sunday & the kitchen closing at 15:30 - however, you can order from the restaurant & they will semi-prepare your meal & deliver it to the cottage. Think of it like a DIY restaurant quality dinner. 

Prepped ingredients arrive vacuumed sealed along with instructions on how to put your dinner together. I opted in for the Chicken Ramen, Chilli Ginger Broth & Noodles for my dinner - check out my video of prepping my dinner here. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy the outdoors & the night sky (the stars are absolutely beautiful here) - they have a braai outside & you can throw your own steak on the coals to cook something just to your own liking. 

Also - a must mention: the cottages are TV & WiFi free! It gives you that proper & much needed break from the outside world & provides you with a way to escape here in the Valley. Check out more details on the cottage offerings here.