Monday, January 24, 2011

Culinary Delicacies and Cape Panoramas

Top left: Hout Bay; Top right: Cape Town city centre;
Bottom left: Cape Town Stadium; Bottom right: Robben Island seen from Signal Hill.

The last 2 weeks of our vacation in South Africa were a series of “one night stands”, day trips from our base in Thornton. We were culinary travelers, going from one delicious destination to the next delectable destination. If we weren’t savoring the views and vistas of the Cape we were indulging ourselves in its foods and the hospitality of friends and family. We were on the go all the time.

Initially I said I was not yet sure whether I was going to buy any wine to take back home, but I don’t think anyone believed me. I didn’t even believe myself. Usually the writers of travel books will tell you not to buy wine in your travel destination. Drink it and enjoy it. The wine, they say, even if it is just an average wine, won’t usually taste the same when you bring it back. Something to do with the fact that one is relaxed, on vacation, your senses is open to new experiences, the location’s ambiance, the local food and how well it pairs with the local wine. I suppose there is some truth in that. In any case, many times you can find that same wine at your local store or order it over the Internet if you take the time to look for it. And sometimes it’s even cheaper than buying it overseas. I can attest to that when I found the exact bottle of limoncello I bought in Italy at my local liquor store and cheaper than what I paid for it in Venice. And then there is always the chance that the box of wine or a bottle of wine packed inside your luggage can break while being transferred from airplane to airplane or from airplane to the luggage pickup point. And I can attest to that too, when, on a previous trip from South Africa I had wine bottles broken when one of my boxes of wine fell from that ramp that retrieve luggage from an airplane’s hull, at the very last stop upon our arrival at Lexington airport and worst of all, while I was sitting in the airplane, waiting to disembark, I was watching it happen. It’s like everything goes into slow motion mode, just like in the movies.

Rhodes Memorial near Rondebosch in memory of Cecil John Rhodes

But, if you live in Kentucky and you know you cannot buy wine over the Internet for delivery in Kentucky (against Kentucky law), and you know the wines you can and want to buy in South Africa is not readily available in the USA, and if it is it is at a far higher price, then you do what I usually do. You ignore the travel writers and ignore the risk of broken bottles and buy it anyway and you pack it as securely as possible in newspaper and bubble wrap in a very sturdy wine box and you hope for the best.

Where goats do roam

One morning when we woke the day was cool and overcast and a misty rain was drizzling down. The original plan was to go to Groot Constantia, not so much for buying wines, because I have always consider their wines overprized, but more to culturally enrich ourselves again with the history of Groot Constantia and to relive a moment we had at the estate many years before, to go and eat delicious scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream, al fresco style, under the old oaks, outside Die Jonkershuis Restaurant.

Nederburg Manor House outside Paarl

Knowing Cape Town weather, if it was drizzling in the northern suburbs it would probably be pouring at Groot Constantia, we decided to rather go to Paarl, which could get very hot even if it was a mild day in Cape Town, and hoping that Paarl and the Boland would be cool that day. After a solid breakfast on the way, to nicely line the stomach so to speak, we went to Nederburg, one of South Africa’s premier wine estates, for a cellar tour. Very interesting and informative! I didn’t do any tasting or buying at Nederburg because their general wines (Paarl Cabernet Sauvignon, Baronne and Pinotage) are available in Lexington and my focus was to only buy wines that are worth taking back home or not available in Lexington. The other reason for not buying anything at the estate was that I purchase several bottles of wine the previous day at a big liquor market in Milnerton, among them a Nederburg 2000 Private Bin R109 (the last one on their shelf), a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend that was sold in 2010 on Nederburg’s annual, world famous wine auction. Now that was worth bringing back home. Reasonably rare and exclusive. For me in any case!

Left: Laborie Manor House; Center: Fairview Estate's goat house; Right: Grapes at Nederburg 

From Nederburg we went to Fairview Estate, famous for its roaming goats. At this stage my brother-in-law (another wine appreciator) and his wife joined us and while the girls were doing what girls that don’t drink do, the boys had a proper wine tasting and sampling of their many delicious cheeses. I didn’t really care for any of their white wines, although the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 did go well with some of the cheese. Speaking of cheeses, their cream cheese dusted with Chakalaka spices was excellent. From their reds, their Merlot and the Jakkalsfontein Shiraz 2005 stood out above the rest. It was my kind of Merlot; very woody on the nose and soft and complicated on the tongue. Eventually I bought something blind, a limited release 2007 Caldera. A true Cotes du Rhône style blend. They didn’t have it available for tasting, but I liked the composition. A blend made from 15 barrels of 64 year old Grenache vines, rumored to be the oldest Grenache vines in South Africa, 8 barrels of Mourvédre and 8 barrels of Shiraz. We had lunch at Fairview's Goatshed Restaurant. While M had a delicious, traditional Curried Chicken Pie, I indulged in the Springbok Stir Fried Salad with crusty bread, balsamic vinegar and basil pesto and a few glasses of the Merlot.

From Fairview we drove next door to the Seidelberg Estate with its beautiful views of the valley below and visited the Red Hot Glass shop. By now the morning’s rain from Cape Town has reached Paarl. M and I drove into the town of Paarl and visited Laborie Estate, created in 1691 and one of the oldest wine farms in the Cape, for a photo opportunity of the opstal and more tasting. I bought a bottle of their Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and a bottle of their Alambic Brandy, which was in 2010 voted the best brandy in the world at an international competition in London. The brandy was really something special. Initally you get the taste of concentrated fruits before the amber liquid warms the throat as it glides down to the stomach.   

In die skadu van Papegaaiberg

‘n Paar dae na ons besoek aan die Paarl het ons in een van my gunsteling dorpe, Stellenbosch, gaan kuier. Stellenbosch was soos altyd kokend warm. Daar het ons die dorp platgeloop, stegie op en straatjie af; die baie ou geboue en argitektuur bewonder; op die dorpsplein deur die Afrika kunsmark gedrentel; by oom Samie se winkel ingeloer en gevind alles is te toeristies (?) en belaglig oorprys; ‘n heerlike gerookte salm, feta and aarbeie slaai saam met ‘n glasie (of twee) yskoue Sauvignon Blanc vir middagete geniet by Jan Cats se bistro op die stoep van die Stellenbosch Hotel terwyl ‘n groep lokale manne met min tande and ‘n vals kitaar almal ge-serenade het vir ‘n paar los muntstukke.

Oom Samie se Winkel in Stellenbosch. 'n Regte nagosie winkel waar 'n mens van die spreekwoordelike naald tot 'n kameelperd kan koop.

Later die middag, na ‘n bietjie van ‘n gesoek, want daar was geen aanwysingsbord nie en ek het nie ‘n kaart by my gehad nie en ek het moed opgegee met Google Maps se stadige responsietyd, het ek my “onwillekeurig” gevind op die pad na een van my gunsteling en een van Suid Afrika se beste wynplase, Jean Engelbrecht se Rust en Vrede. Terwyl M en haar suster in die koelte van nog jong, maar statige akker bome die landgoed besigtig het, het ek in die koel proelokaal hul rooiwyne gesnuif, geproe, gerol en gesluk. Ek het ‘n bottel 2009 Shiraz en ‘n bottel 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon gekoop om my 2002 Cabernet en 2001 Shiraz aan te vul wat ek reeds by die huis het van ‘n vorige besoek aan Suid Afrika in 2003. Laasgenoemde twee bottels sal ek aanstoots moet drink want hulle is nou gereed. Wil nie te lank wag tot hulle dalk oor hul beste is nie. Dis wat oor Thanksgiving met my gebeur het met ‘n bottel 1990 Delheim Grand Reserve. Te lank gewag, ondrinkbaar geword en ek moes dit net so omkeer en in die riool afgooi. Gelukkig was die 1991 Delheim nog drinkbaar maar ook reeds oor sy beste. Daarna het ek besluit ek hou wyn op die langste 10 jaar.

Ongelukkig het ‘n tegnologiese gogga of iets soortgelyk amper al my fotos van Stellenbosch uitgeroei. Iets moes met my kamera gebeur het die volgende dag of daar was dalk swak skakels op my kamera se SD kaart, want toe ek die volgende aand ‘n foto wou neem toe raak 75 van my fotos bedorwe. Dit gebeur soms met jpegs. Dit was baie teleurstellend want ek het ‘n groot versameling fotos geneem van Stellenbosch se deure.

The Hottentots Hollands Mountains as seen from Rhodes Memorial

Crisscrossing the peninsula

Eventually we got to Groot Constantia one day. After a visit to the stately manor house, now a museum, and the wine cellar, we tried out several of their wines. The Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon were the best of the bunch, of which last-mentioned I bought one bottle, although the Merlot was not too bad either. The rest of their reds where too heavy with too much tannins. We never got to eat the scones with jam because the day we went there it was cloudy and windy and the Jonkershuis Restaurant was fully booked at lunch time. But we drove down to Constantia Village and at the Cattle Baron Grill House we ate of the best beef curry I had in many years.

A collage of Groot Constantia, the mother of all wine estates (the oldest) in South Africa.

Eendag het ons ‘n draai gery Swartland toe, by familie in Malmesbury lekker gaan gesels tot laataand en gesmul aan egte boerekos; gebraaide skaapboud en vele ander lekker bykosses. Op ‘n ander dag het ons eers by Rhodes Memorial gestop en daarna verby Kirstenbosch, oor Constantia Nek na Houtbaai toe. Daar was die Suidooste wind brutaal en ons weggewaai en ons is gou vort Llandudno se kant toe, al langs die see verby die Twaalf Apostels, by Kampsbaai weggedraai oor Kloofnek en met Seinheuwel op vir pragtige vistas oor Kaapstad se middestad, Seepunt, Groenpunt and Robbeneiland.

Snoek op die kole.
Tussendeur al die gereis was daar altyd tyd vir braai. Een aand vis, dan weer gesoute skaapribbes met roosmaryn, 'n ander aand hoender in tamatiesous en Mrs. Ball's Chutney, en nog 'n aand 'n skaapskenkel potjie.

In the end I returned home with 14 bottles of wine, some purchased some I got as presents, and 3 bottles of brandy, among them a 15 year old KWV I got as a present. Most of the wines are young and will need a few years mellowing out in the bottom of my wine rack while some of the older ones currently in the rack will move up for drinking. Among those I brought home: Meerlust, a 2005 and a 2006 Rubicon, a Raka 2006 Quinary, a Rustenberg 2008 John X Merriman and two wines from Thelema, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the others I mentioned above.

I would have liked to bring back more wine, but was restricted by tight luggage regulations both from South African Airlines and Delta Airlines here in the USA. The amount you have to pay extra if you go over the weight limits makes it not worth the while to bring more wines.

The rest of the time I did what the travel authors tell you to do: Eat and drink and enjoy while on location.

Part of the collection that made it home.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Nee, kyk! Jy het definitief die beste van jou tydjie in Suid-Afrika gemaak. Ek beleef elke oomblik saam met jou, aangesien ek die plekke en wyne ook so goed ken. Ek geniet hierdie reisvertellinge en knik my kop instemmend soos jy so oor die wyn gesels. En 'n uitstekende versameling wat jy teruggeneem het Kentucky toe!

Terloops ek het Nederburg se Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon hier opgespoor en dis 'n lieflike wyn!