The wonder of our winelands

Being asked to address the Relais & Châteaux members who represent the top luxury lodges and hotels in Southern Africa was an honour indeed. My topic of Brand is close to my heart, and it was a treat to share some insights with these professionals. The venue? Delaire Graff. My man was more than keen to be my plus-one, so after booking in and spending an hour at the pool overlooking the vineyards and the rim of a Champagne glass (we are, after all in training for our visit to Champagne in June), he was whipped off to our lodge to relax before a tasting of all the Delaire Graff wines. I meanwhile gatecrashed the delegates’ lunch. It was a spectacular display of the talents of humble chef Virgil Kahn. On the hottest day of autumn we watched the sun set behind the Stellenbosch mountains in our heated, private pool. Dinner at Indochine was a romantic affair, taking time to soak up the spectacular décor and ambience. Part of the treat was having an informative sommelier who led us gently through his selection of Delaire Graff and other wines, paired with the Chef’s signature menu. Dessert was enjoyed on the deck, making the most of our surroundings and the balmy evening.

 

Fortunately, we were up early and the gift shops were closed – one could plan a high-end retail rendezvous to include some diamonds, linen and tableware, art and clothing. We headed for a sumptuous breakfast. I tickled the continental choices whilst my man ordered the smoked salmon with chilli corn. An unusual combination of flavours, it was delectable. A last look at the Dylan Lewis sculptures and other impressive works of art, and we packed up feeling like we had enjoyed a relaxing holiday not just an overnight stay.

Back to my favourite Stellenbosch just a few days later, as chef Michael Broughton of Terroir had invited media to enjoy his new winter menu. After catching up with friends over a glass of Kleine Zalze MCC Brut, we worked our way through four courses (R395 per person, with wines R495). The sesame crusted Norwegian salmon with white bean, miso puree and Vietnamese dressing was perfect. The seared line fish with bean râgout and langoustine with the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc, equivalent in taste. Dry-aged Angus beef sirloin followed, with celeriac, kale and brisket croustillant and the Kleine Zalze Cab Sav. Let me stop here to take a breath. I’m not going to give away the highlight of this dish, an accompaniment, get there and see for yourself. Chef Michael Broughton claims it is something he dreamt up years ago, but only know are guests ready for it. This course too, was plated like a painting. We finished off with dessert of chocolate, coffee, caramel and a whisky ice cream, and sweet wine from Kleine Zalze that has not yet been bottled. The winter specials are well worth the trip, and if you are not too hungry take the two-course menu at R295.

 

A few weeks ago I asked my mom-in-law where she would like to be treated to lunch on her birthday. When she suggested Delaire Graff I gave other options, knowing that we would have spent the previous weekend there. I booked at Pierneef a La Motte, and was flabbergasted when they called late on the Thursday to cancel our booking for Saturday lunch. The reason – a guest needed full security so they would be closing to the public. A restaurant experience starts with the word-of-mouth recommendations, followed by the reservation, then the welcome, before you actually sit down. Speechless, my assistant started to call a list of winelands restaurants, all fully booked with wedding fever. One Whatsapp to the dyamic PR manager of Delaire Graff, and we had our table. From arrival, our gastronomic gran was shown the right royal treatment. With complimentary bubbly (oh I love that Delaire Sunrise) in hand we toasted her 85 years, her sense of adventure (she is, after all, known as the more adventurous Mrs Handley…). The amuse bouche – scallops topped with a squid ink tuille – arrived, and I knew we were in for a special treat. Each course blew us away, and my duck leg confit was out-of-this world. Michael Deg, talented and innovative, presented his pre-dessert to loud applause, and before we could tuck into it, birthday gal Shirley was given a box of chocolates and – wait for it – a card filled with personal messages from each of the team in the restaurant. Not sure how we will top this for 86 and beyond! Thank you Tanja for checking that all was well on the day, to Michael and his team for going the extra mile, and for turning a disaster into a favourite family memory.

 

Looking for something fun, yet delicious to do in the upcoming months? Head down to Avondale Wine Estate to experience their new ‘Field to Feast’ luncheons where proprietor Johnathan Grieve and Chef Eric Bulpitt of Faber have teamed up to introduce a new concept to the world of winelands dining.