Friday, June 28, 2013

50 New International Wines now available at Checkers

Known for their great collection of local wines (from over 80 different wineries), Checkers has now brought in a range of 50 different international wines, from countries such as New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, Australia, France and Chile – all for very affordable prices. 

A panel of top local winos tasted thousands (well, maybe hundreds) of wines from various countries, rating them out of 20 and looking at the aspect of affordability. Only wines that got a 15/20 score and up were included and are now available at the selected supermarkets nationwide.
Wine can now also be bought online via Checkers online wine shopping website here:

To introduce the range of international wines to the public, Checkers invited a few of us media-blogging peeps to sample 9 of the wines at an event at Jenny Morris' Giggling Gourmet Cooking Studio. We tried some French Champagne, Argentinian Malbec, Rhone Shiraz, Bourdeaux blends, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Greanache and so on... 

Yesterday I popped into my local Checkers in Sea Point and bought some bottles of 2011 Argentinian Malbec/Shiraz blend and 2011 Spanish Tempranillo/Grenache blend, both under R40.
While I totally support local, it is great to be able to try international wines and to have them so easily available.
To make up for my international buying, I will be heading to Franschhoek this weekend to stock up on some incredible local wines.

(Note: all photographs by

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Crypt new restaurant and live jazz venue

The CRYPT, a new eatery and live-music venue in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town offers a casual dinner menu with mezze and tapas-style meals such as Grilled Steak Special with Fries (R110), Hunter’s Chicken Stew (R80) or Linguini al Pomodoro with fresh Basil and Matured Gruyere (R75)

The restaurant will feature live international and local jazz acts from Tuesday to Saturday evenings. This weekend features Alistair Andrews Jazzy project on Friday and Saturday night.

For a full line-up of July's events, visit: 
Open from Tuesday to Saturday 17h00 – 24h00 serving light snacks and dinner.
Live Jazz is on show from Tuesday to Thursday from 19h00 to 22h00 and Friday to Saturday from 20h00 to 23h00. 
To book call 079 683 4658 or e-mail

Nespresso Cape Town launches three new flavours

The fabulous Nespresso store at the V&A Waterfront launched three new flavour capsules: Vanilio, Ciocattino and Caramelito, which will be added to their permanent collection.

For the launch the store introduced the new flavours by creating a variety of interesting and more-ish iced-coffee cocktails, all made with Nespresso capsules.

The Vanilio, Ciocattino and Caramelito are all made from the Livanto Grand Cru with an intensity rating of 6/10 and have subtle flavours of vanilla, dark chocolate and caramel respectively.
I've tried them all now and love the Ciocattino most of all.

Go grab them now!


A heads up for what's soon-to-be hitting shelves: Nespresso owners can vote for a new limited-edition flavour on the Nespresso website. The choices are Masala, Mint-and-Lime or Chocolate Cherry. The flavour with the highest public votes wins. Click here to vote:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Roadt trip to Calitzdorp 'Port' and wine festival

There is a small town in the Klein Karoo, high up in the Western Cape called Calitzdorp. It gets super super hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, as we experienced when the sun started setting on our recent visit to the local Port and Wine Festival.

On our way up to Calitzdorp, we stopped in at the famed Ronnies Sex Shop and Road Kill Cafe.  Literally in the middle of nowhere – not a town in site – this pit stop has been a biker and road tripper watering hole for years. The barman brags about the way he's convinced thousands of women to donate their bras and panties to the establishment (not the roof). But in general, it's friendly service, good food and cold beer – what more could you want?

The festival itself is held at The Station in Calitzdorp – literally the old train station.
Food stalls and trucks fill the outside area, while the undercover 'shed' building houses the port and wine producers from the region.
I had kudu sosatie (kebab) from one of the stands and a packet of slap chips. Real rustic. My hubby climbed into the cinnamon pancakes and kudu sausage rolls.
We did some olive tasting too...

It was my first time doing a 'port' tasting (R40 per person) and it's easy to forget that the wines are all around the 20%vol mark. But it was so chilly and easy to sip away at the various ports, that the alcohol content only catches up to you much later!

They ranged from pale yellow and pink to dark brown and ruby. There were straw wines, dessert wines, sherries, fortified wines and the occasional regular red wines. I even had a port cocktail – a glass of port filled up with a rose bubbly.

straw wine from The Fledge & Co was amazing!

One of the most important things I learnt over the weekend was that port cannot actually be called 'port' on the label unless it is from Portugal. This is being phased out slowly in South Africa and legally, wines that were made after 2011 may not say port on the bottle. You will instead find things like: 'Cape Tawny' or Fortified Wine on the label. But they are all in essence made in the port style. 

The tasting festivities were followed by some rugby in the bar next door and then later some live music provided by Rudi Die Wynmaker and Valiant Swart.
We were then dragged off to a .... (rustic would be the euphemistic word)... venue called 'bosvarkie', meaning bushpiggy about 3 to 5km outside of town. We spent the remainder of the night huddled by a bonfire, listening to some Afrikaans singer with cheesy backtracks chatting to locals. I ordered a glass of red wine at the bar – there was only one kind, and it was R15 per glass – and it was sharp!
But we had to keep sipping to stay warm. Thank goodness the camera was put away for this part of the evening.

The next morning we headed out as soon as we were up, in search of a good breakfast.
We found acute little BnB with a restaurant that served up a pretty good English breakfast for R50 and even made cafe lattes (hubby was thrilled!). After brekkie we packed up the landy and headed back to Cape Town with mild hangovers and new memories...

I loved the way they spelled 'lemonmerange' hmmmmmm haha!

For more information on the Port Festival, visit:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wacky Wine Weekend 2013 Wrap up: Day 2

We woke up on the chilly, but sunny Sunday morning in Mcgregor, as hungry and wolves. After draining my bottle of water, waking up my friends and getting dressed and ready for the day we went for a walk down the main road in search of breakfast. I was silently whispering thanks for my lack of a headache and for finding Deli Girls and Bistro just a couple blocks away with a big sign saying: ‘English Breakfast’.
The deli is packed chock-a-block with amazing ingredients, European sweets, Thai spices, homemade truffles – almost anything your heart could desire. So this is where Mcgregor residents do there shopping.
We walked through and warmed ourselves by the fire and ordered our food.

Breakfast at Deli Girls and Bistro in Mcgregor

English breakfast at Deli Girls and Bistro was served with farm bread for R50

After breakfast I took my friends to the Rhebokskraal Kombuis and Farm Stall across the road for some olive tasting. The garlic and herb olives were my favourite.
They make the most delicious 100% grape juice from the Rhebokskraal estate, but unlike any other grape juice, they make it from wine varietals. I loved the wooded Merlot juice, but other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Hanepoort are also on offer. The cloudy sweet liquid was such a treat that morning.

Delicious olives from Rhebokskraal in McGregor

Merlot grape juice from Rhebokskraalin Mcgregor
For more information on the town of Mcgregor and it’s shops and restaurants, visit:

After packing up our goodies and paying for our stay we were on our way and ready to do some wine tasting.
We stopped at a farm called Tanagra, which also offers a range of grappa for tastings.
We decided it was still a little early for grappa, but went straight onto the wine tasting.
I loved both vintages (2011 and 2012) of the red blend called Heavenly Chaos. Each year the blend is slightly different, depending on the grapes produced that year. They also had the wines on a very good special of R35 and R40 per bottle. They aren’t available in Cape Town, but do deliver.
For more information on Tanagra, visit

Range of wines from Tanagra Winery at Wacky Wine Weekend
We decided to spend the remainder of our time at Graham Beck Wines. After the whirlwind of missioning the day before, it was nice to just sit back and relax while sipping on great MCCs, eating oysters and listening to some live music reminiscent of Michael Bublé.
The setting at Graham Beck is simply stunning and as it is on the road back towards Cape Town, it’s an ideal last stop. I love the Brut Rose and Blanc de Blanc and got to taste some of the vintage bruts upstairs in the tasting room. I also tried their white wines – the Waterside chardonnay is smooth and very easy drinking.
There is an intriguing collection of art in the tasting room – just another reason to visit the estate.
For more information on Graham Beck, visit:

Graham Beck Brut Rose MCC with scrumptious oysters

Live entertainment at Graham Beck Winery during Wacky Wine Weekend

My husband loved the roasted pork belly wraps at Graham Beck

Enjoying the afternoon at Graham Beck Winery

The view from the Graham Beck tasting room is absolutely gorgeous

Tasting Graham Beck Wines
I always hate leaving... but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go and at least I have some wine from the different wineries we visited at home to remember my fun weekend by.
Until next year then...
For more information on Wacky Wine Weekend, visit:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wacky Wine Weekend 2013 wrap up: Day 1

I feel like each year I say this, but this year was by far my best Wacky Wine Weekend. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I didn't camp, and instead snuggled in a nice warm bed in a cosy cottage in Mcgregor on Saturday night. Maybe it was because I brought a bunch of my favourite people with me (including some first-timers). Maybe it's because of the new wines we discovered... Let's just say it was a winning combination.

R60 to Robertson

The drive to Robertson from Cape Town is a beautiful trip – the waterfalls were in full flow and landscape green with splashes of fynbos. Loaded with coffee and excitement we left just after 9am. 

Of the three cars headed to Robertson, loaded with eager, thirsty friends, ours was the first to arrive. So hubby and I went to collect our passes and started tasting wine at the La Verne Boutique in the town of Robertson itself while we waited for our friends. We tried some nice reds from Burgershof and Bushmanspad - 2 wineries I hadn't heard of before. Once everyone was altogether and had sampled various wines, we decided it was time to plan our route.

For more info on Le Verne, visit

Outside La Verne Wine Boutiqe

Burgershof wines - I liked their Cab Sauv/Shiraz blend

Bushmanspad The Menno was great

Wellies adorned and ready for the imminent rainy weather

I, of course had already printed out my map, made lists of places to go and wines to taste – but the only thing that wasn't on our side was time. Leaving La Verne at 12, we went straight to Springfield to throw our first-timers into the swing of things and sample some excellent unoaked chardonnay.
By this stage it had started pouring with rain, so we crammed in and huddled by the fire as we took turns tasting the range of wines.
For more information on Springfield, visit:

Kyle - the good guy to know at Springfield Wine estate. Follow him on twitter at @KyleLikesWine

The range of wines at Springfield Wine Estate - I liked the Wild Yeast Chardonnay and the Thunderchild

Wine tasting at Springfield - Wacky Wine Weekend
After Springfield we headed to Excelsior Wine Estate. I hadn't been there before and for ages wanted to blend my own wine – an activity the estate offers during Wacky Wine Weekend.
My work copy editing colleague and I blended a great red: 50% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon and 10% petit verdot. We called it Copy Cat Vino and will drink it together once the varieties have had some time to settle and marry in the bottle.
We also ate the tastiest chicken Cape Malay curry for lunch from one of the food stalls.
Gerald Clarke played live music, which created a great atmosphere while everyone huddled indoors avoiding the occasional rain.
I also enjoyed the Paddock Shiraz 2009 and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
For more information on Excelsior, visit:

Walking to Excelsior we saw the prettiest rainbow

Curry time at Excelsior

Blending our own wine at Excelsior estate

Bottling my own blend of wine at Excelsior estate

Our blended wine at Excelsior estate

Fun times at Excelsior winery at Wacky Wine Weekend
Next stop was Esona Winery. None of us had been to Esona before, so it was a lovely experience visiting this boutique winery for the first time.
They made a great dairy-free butternut soup, which we bought cups of for R15.
The group of us snuggled upstairs around the fire, sipping on soup and wine and enjoying our afternoon.
They have an awseom Shiraz and a great single vineyard Chardonnay. 
For more information on Esona, visit:

Esona Wine Estate

upstairs at Esona's tasting room

Tasting Esona's wines at wacky Wine Weekend
After Esona we went to one of my favourite boutique wineries, which lies closer towards Bonnievale, called Quando Wines.
The tastings offered here were intimate and unlike some of the wineries where there are masses of people and tastings are impersonal. As we arrived, we sat ourselves down near the fire before Terrence from Siris Vintners took us through a tasting of the estates wine, providing us with information and anecdotes from the farm.
I love their Chenin/Viognier, Pinot Noir and Rose. They also make an excellent dessert wine. 
For more information on Quando, visit:

Wine tasting at Quando Wines

Wine tasting at Quando - Yummy Pinot Noir

Wine tasting at Quando - we dried off nicely next to their fire!
Our last wine stop for the day was Arendsig.
By this stage I was certainly a little tipsy and 'in my cups'...
However, I tasted a couple more wines before we made our drive back to Mcgregor where we had book dinner and were staying for the night. I liked their Shiraz and Cabernet sauvignon.
They also had the most beautiful lab who followed us around thwacking us with his excited tail. 
For more information on Arendsig, visit:

Arendsig Wines

The friendly lab at Arendsig wines
We ended the night with a dinner at a lovely husband-and-wife team Aimee and Ryan (who previously headed up The Cellars-Hohenort's The Conservatory) restaurant called Karoux in Mcgregor. It's a quaint and cosy establishment, with a fair wine list and hearty winter dishes.
I had the mushroom risotto, which was rich, but beautifully balanced and flavoursome. Hubby had the lamb shanks, while others tried the slow-roasted pork belly and the beef steak.
Everyone raved about their food and it was a fantastic way to a fabulous, wine-filled Wacky Wine day....
After dinner we retired to the Overdraught pub, a tiny bar at McGregor Country House (about 2 blocks away), where we spent the night. 

For more information about Karoux Restaurant, visit:

lamb shank at Karoux Restaurant Mcgregor

mushroom risotto at Karoux Restaurant Mcgregor

Steak at Karoux Restaurant Mcgregor

Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode....
*ahem* Wacky Wine Weekend 2013 wrap-up: Day 2.

More more information on Wacky Wine Weekend, visit: