Monday, 30 January 2012

Drifting through Robertson

In the festive season that has just gone by (for too quickly), my better half and I embarked on a road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town. The idea was to see parts of the country that I have never seen before and to experience more of South Africa. There were many highlights along the way, but the one I would like to share with you first was at the end of our trip, when we started our return journey.

The plan was to leave Cape Town relatively early and drive through Robertson and find accommodation somewhere there after. I had never been to the Roberson area, and in my mind had never really considered it as a destination to visit... I had no idea the area was so beautiful and so full of things to see and experience.

Robertson is about an hour and a half drive from Cape Town, and it is over looked by the Langeberg mountains with the Breede River running through it. It is known as the  "small town with a big heart", and for it's wine production.

As we were not staying in the area, we were limited on time to spend, but we had heard of a couple of places in particular to visit.

Viljoensdrift was our first stop. It is a family owned farm and winery, with brothers, Fred and Manie Viljoen, working their wine making magic since 1998. What attracted us to Viljoensdrift was the boat cruises that they run on the Breede River, or you can picnic on the banks of the river.

Booking is essential for the boat cruise during the peak season, but once the formalities are covered, you can create your own picnic from the deli by ticking off selection on a menu. There are a variety of things to choose, from freshly baked ciabatta to pate's to conserves. We opted for the ciabatta, mozzarella, cheddar and ham roll, butternut and Ppperdew pate, and the sweet and sour pepper jam. It all gets neatly packed up in a wooden box with the necessary crockery and cutlery, and is ready for you to collect as you board the boat.

Apart from the deli, there is of course all the Viljoensdrift wines to taste. They have three ranges, Viljoensdrift, River Grandeur, and Cellarmaster's Selection, with a few of the wines claiming high accolades. We tasted the Sauvignon Blanc, Cab Sauv, Shiraz, and the Villion Methode Cap Classique.

All the wines were very easy drinking with their bold yet smooth flavors. The Sauvignon Blanc has sweet grassy notes with granadilla in the background, it is a perfect summer time fresh wine. The two reds where surprisingly sweet, with the Shiraz (Veritas 2010: Gold, Michelangelo 2010: Gold)  having more dark chocolate notes and the Cab Sauv (Veritas 2011: Silver) having more dark berry notes. Our surprise favorite was the MCC (Platter 2011: 4 Stars). It has a fine mousse texture with honeysuckle flavors making this MCC crisp and refreshing, all of this left us with no choice but to enjoy a bottle with our boat cruise picnic.

The boat cruise was tranquil as we puttered along the river with the picturesque river banks, our picnic selection was tasty and more then enough to call it a good lunch, with the excellent MCC to round everything off.

Our time at Viljoensdrift was most enjoyable and I recommend to anyone visiting or passing through the Roberston area to make a stop here, I will visit them again!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dinner in Makhado with a 2003 Pinotage

Recently I was up north visiting my better half who resides just outside Makhado (formally known as Louis Trichardt).  It is a picturesque town at the foot of the Soutpansberg mountain range in the Limpopo province.

Aerial view of Makhado

With the town being relatively small to Johannesburg, the choice of restaurants is limited, however, there are some diamonds in the rough. Such as the Mountain Inn Country Hotel. 

The hotel is a few kilometres north of the town, nestled on the mountain just off the N1 highway. The setting is surprisingly beautiful with the hotel being surrounded by trees and the mountain range. The restaurant has a deck that takes full advantage of the view, it overlooks the town and the surrounding area.

The restaurant itself is comfortable, but could do with a bit of a revamp, but the service is helpful and tries hard to please. The wine list is larger than I had expected, with a good variety of South African wines and reasonably priced. However, on this occasion we chose to take our own wine along as they do allow bring your own for a small corkage fee.

The wine we chose was a Cloof 2003 Pinotage which was recently bough from the Cloof wine estate situated in Darling in the Western Cape. The wine was beautifully smooth, with notes of dark berries and prunes. This has a few accolades such as the '99 being crowned as South Africa's champion in 2002, the '05 made it into the Absa Top Ten, and this '03 Pinotage was selected by SAA for First Class.

As for the food, it was lovely. Their speciality seems to be steaks with a menu to satisfy most tastes, but we decided to stick to the steaks. I had an ostrich steak with a claret and cranberry sauce, with  roasted vegetables and potato croquettes, and my partner had the beef fillet medallions with a hollandaise sauce and the roasted vegetables and potato croquettes. Our steaks where cooked exactly to our liking, and the potato croquettes perfectly crisp on the outside and smooth on the inside. My claret and cranberry sauce was exceptional, although I doubt they used an actual claret (a Bordeaux red wine) it completed the dish all the same. The hollandaise sauce was not quite to my liking as I found it overly tart, but the dish as a whole worked well, with the sauce helping cut the richness of the steak.

Over all it was a good night out with delicious food and a wonderful view, and I will definitely visit the Mountain Inn again!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Hello one and all,

I am super excited about this new adventure of sharing my experiences of foods and wine, this has been a long time coming.

I will try my level best to try as many restaurants as possible, sharing with you my full experience from decor and service to the all-important food.

Apart from restaurants, I am a keen novice chef and will be trying my hand at as many recipes that catch my fancy. From these I will dispense results great, good and not so good, as well as things learnt and of course the recipes.

Along the way I will also be working hard to, expand my knowledge and my already great appreciation of wine, sample as many variations of coffee as I can, and dole out any titbits of info or news that I come across.

I trust you will find all of my endeavours informative and most of all engaging.

Welcome to AJ's Food and Wine!