Monday, February 27, 2012

Middelvlei, my South African happy place.


Middelvlei Tasting Room

It is always wonderful to walk into a wine tasting room and witness the passion that the staff and owners have for their wine.  The first time I went to Middelvlei I fell in love with their Free-Run Pinotage, their passion for their wines and on leaving I felt as though I was a part of the family. Middelvlei is the home of the Momberg family who have been wine farming since 1919. 

Gorgeous Middelvlei farm house.

Middelvlei tasting room.

Momberg coat of arms.

On my trip home this year Middelvlei was on the list to visit.  My cousin had discovered online that they do a Boerebraai (Farmers BBQ) with all the traditional South African foods.  She didn't have to convince me twice and we immediately made our reservations and counted down the days.

Friday finally arrived and Mom, Aunts and cousin all packed into the little blue and grey jets and made our way to my happy place.  The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky a gentle breeze and not over powering in heat. 

The first thing I noticed was Grappa.  Grappa is a new addition to the Middelvlei crew and is off the Richter scale in cuteness.  Still a puppy and still chewing on things so I had to take a few pictures.

Chew toy.

How adorable is this face!

'Can I move to America with you?'

Wants to play with the big dogs.

We chose to sit outside, how could we not.  The farm animals were all around us and the kids (baby goats) were being very boisterous and feisty. 

Middelvlei Chardonnay Unoaked 2011

We started with our wine tasting.  First on the list was the Middelvlei Chardonnay Unoaked.  If you have been following along my cousin and I are not big Chardonnay fans.  We have found a few that are palatable, but only a few.  The Middelvlei Chardonnay was fruity on the nose.  I loved the bouquet, fruity and crisp.  On the palate it was smooth and I got the guava taste on the front and a titch spice on the finish.  My cousin got more a mixture of the tropical fruits.  We both agreed this is a wine that we both would have in our cellars, if it lasted that long.

Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot 2011

Next up was the Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot. Pinotage is South Africa's signature variety that was created by Abraham Perold in 1925.  He was the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University.  It is a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (now known as Cinsaut) hence the name Pinotage. Only in the past few years have wine lovers in America started to embrace Pinotage.  It can be a somewhat heavy wine, lots of tobacco hints and some you literally have to chew before you swallow.  Incredibly robust. 

The color on the Pinotage Merlot is incredible.  My Mom does not drink, but she was enthralled with the deep, rich garnet color.  Blackcurrants were popping out of the glass with regards to bouquet.  I could have just inhaled all day. On the palate it was wooded spice and plums.  It had a nice finish, not too abrupt like a one night stand.  It stayed for breakfast.

Middelvlei Free-Run Pinotage

Finally my all time favorite, Middelvlei Free Run Pinotage.  The best wine to have in your sippy cup when your day has been a bitch.  It wraps you up in a cloud of pashmina and you hear angels singing in the background, but that only happens after about the third glass. Free-Run refers to the free-run juice that naturally drains off the freshly crushed grapes.  The color is a deep ruby red and on the nose we got raspberries and oaky spices.  On the palate it is pure heaven.

The lunch menu was as follows:

Potbrood (pot bread)
Smoked Snoek Pate
Homemade Fruit preserves

Boerewors (Traditional farmers sausage)
Lamb Loin Chop
Mustard Chicken Sosaties
Braaibroodjies (BBQ bread with cheese, tomato, onion)
Green Salad
Potato Salad

Boeretroos (coffee)

Lunch was served and it was outstanding.  The cost was $16.50 at the current exchange rate.  More than enough food and what a wonderful introduction to traditional South African BBQ.  I highly recommend Middelvlei for an authentic meal.  No pretenses, no frills, nothing over priced, just good food and good wine. 

Where the magic happens.

Our wonderful chef making Braaibroodjies

Smoked Snoek Pate, Homemade Preserves, Fresh Farm Butter

Our mugs for our coffee

Mini Corn Souffles

Green Salad, Braaibroodjies, Potato Salad

Boerewors+Sosatie+Lamb chop = Happy Belly

Boeretroos - best coffee

Ben and his incredible team.  These people rock!

Ben and his incredible team made our afternoon great and one we will remember for a long time.  If they had hammocks we would have taken naps in the vineyards.

Time to go home.

Exactly how I felt after our great lunch.

We had a fantastic afternoon and everyone agreed that this was one of the most memorable lunches.  They do offer dessert for an extra charge, but we were all so full we waddled to the cars. 

I am the one at the back, always lagging behind.

If you ever get the chance to visit Stellenbosch, please make Middelvlei one of your stops.  Be sure to book the Boerebraai and arrive with an empty belly, camera battery at full status and friends/family, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Neethlingshof and Kramer Sparkles.

Today we went to Neethlingshof a wonderful wine estate in Stellenbosch.  Another gorgeous day and perfect for lunch under the oaks.  Once a month my Aunt meets her high school friends and today they chose the Lord Neethling restaurant.  My cousin and I tagged along, we heard 'wine farm' and we had our shoes on and were ready to go.

Entrance to Neethlingshof 
Lunch under the oak trees in front of the main house.

The main house was built in 1814 and is now a restaurant.  We sat outside under the oaks and as you can see, the weather was perfect.  In honor of my Aunt's birthday, 14 February, I had brought with me a bottle of Kramer Vineyards Müller-Thurgau sparkles from Oregon.  We were going to open it on her birthday, but got sidetracked and my Aunt figured today was the perfect day for sparkles!  The manager was very gracious in allowing us to bring in our own sparkles for lunch and he charged us $3.23 (current exchange rate conversion) for corkage.  (You hear that Bent Brick?) 

This is the furthest South Kramer wine has been.  I win.


Cork popped and the bubbles did not disappoint.

We all enjoyed our sparkles and I am glad I got to share a little bit of Oregon with my Aunt and her friends.  We all ordered our lunch and it was, as always, very good.  I was quick with the camera so managed to get food shots before I licked my plate clean. I decided to have Ostrich as on the way to Neethlingshof we saw a female Ostrich and her chicks.  The chicks were cute, but all I could think of when I saw mom was, mmmmm steak. (if you're vegan I apologize)

Cute chicks

Ostrich steak with a port and Cape gooseberry sauce.  Wine pairing, Pinotage.
Sole fillet with queen prawns, white wine hollandaise on mash potatoes
Bobotie (curried hamburger with egg custard) rice and condiments

Chicken schnitzel

Tuna salad
Antipasto platter

One of the main reasons we love this restaurant is for the dessert.  Lord Neethling surprise. 

Deep fried ice cream served with fresh berries.
The Wine Cellar

Another perfect day of great food, great wine and great conversation with family and new friends.

Friday, February 24, 2012

La Vierge, Domaine Des Dieux and Southern Right

The last two stops in Hermanus were La Vierge together with Domaine Des Dieux and Southern Right.  La Vierge had a private luncheon, but we were still allowed to taste their wines.  My cousin chose La Vierge to taste and I chose Domaine Des Deux.

La Vierge tasting room.

Tasting deck with Boules

Great view from the tasting deck.
Domaine Des Dieux Sauvignon Blanc

We enjoyed this Sauvignon Blanc.  It was very fruity and crisp with lots of green apples on the nose.  This would be that great wine to pour as your guests arrive and you are waiting for the food to be done. 

Our wonderful wine hosts, Shane and Jo-Anne with the Pinot Noir winner!
Shane poured for La Vierge and Jo-Anne poured for Domaine Des Dieux.  When Shane poured the Pinot Noir and I took my first sip there were fireworks in my mouth.  It was delicious. It was smooth.  It was fruity and everything I love about the Pinot Noir grape.  This is when I get a titch upset about the American wine shipping laws.  For me to have a case shipped to Oregon is $600.00.  That is without the purchase price of the wine, just the shipping.  Things need to change people!

Our next and final stop was Southern Right. The reason we stopped here is because of my Marine Biologist husband, so I wasn't expecting a great wine, just loved the bottle.  In Oregon they have canons to scare the birds away, in Hermanus they are used for baboons.  As we were driving along the road the canon went off and suddenly there were over 50 baboons running across the driveway. 

Southern Right Pinotage

This is a fabulous Pinotage. This wine I am able to have shipped from California, so I am very happy as now I have more room in my luggage for other wines.

Trying to be creative with my photography

Southern Right is owned by Hamilton Russell so in a sense they were redeemed.  The wine hostess was very friendly and had great knowledge on the wines. 

Old brick factory on the grounds.

One of the baboons

I want this wine rack!

Baleen from a Southern Right Whale
Great view on the way home.
The Strand and Gordons Bay
We had a wonderful time in Hermanus and were happy with our wine purchases.  We will be back to visit during the migration of the Southern Right Whale and hubs will be with.  He can watch whales while I sip on some great wines.

Shout out to my Aunt for being our chauffeur and to my cousin for being my wine tasting buddy.  The family that tastes wine together, stays together.  Nubian logic.