Friday, May 29, 2015

La Petite Ferme: South Africa Winery Visit

Continuing the saga of our wine and safari expedition to South Africa...
The first leg of our South African Winelands tour took us to Franschhoek, and our initial winery visit was to La Petite Ferme, a beautiful winery known for its superb restaurant and stunning views. It's located at the base of the Franschhoek Pass. This village was settled by French Huguenots who brought with them their love of food and wine. 

We got a bit of a late start. As we followed our wine trail map, the entrance to La Petite Ferme abruptly appeared, a sharp narrow turn that was impossible with a revving Audi close on my tail. I opted to continue down the road a ways and double back. Unfortunately, there were no places to turn and I soon found myself climbing higher and higher into the mountains following twisting switchbacks. Nearing the top we were able to pull off at a scenic overlook and make a U-turn.

When we arrived at the winery we had another surprise. We entered and were greeted by cellar manager Sonja Parks-Ruttens who asked if she could help us. I explained that we were there for a wine tasting. She politely told us that tastings were by appointment only. She could sense our disappointment and offered an informal tasting of some wines. We were fortunate indeed!

La Petite Ferme is one of Franschhoek's most popular restaurants and Franschhoek is considered by many to be the food capital of South Africa. From the dining area you are treated to an expansive view of the scenic valley and vineyards. Since we were visiting in fall, the leaves of the vines were turning beautiful shades of yellow and orange.

Our wonderful hostess Sonja began with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, their biggest production wine. After my harrowing drive up the mountain, this was just what the doctor ordered. The grapes come from rocky hillside soil. The wine is light with a pop of zesty citrus flavor and green apples. This wine retails for 70R (South African Rand) or about $5.88. What a value!

The next white was the 2014 Baboon Rock Chardonnay. Green Dragon is in love with all things baboon and was constantly looking around during our two-week trip in hopes of seeing one. Well, this wine got its name because the baboons like to come down from the mountains and eat the Chardonnay grapes. 

The baboons have very good taste. This is a cold-fermented Chard that is finished in stainless steel. It has notes of honey on the finish.

On the red side of the spectrum, the winner for us was the 2013 Verdict. This is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is named in honor of owner Mark Dendy Young's grandfather, who was a judge in Cape Town. This was a delicious wine that is aged in oak for 17 months. It is elegant with cherries, dark fruit and spice. This wine retails for 250R (or about $21 US). It compares to wines two and three times that price in the States.

Sonja summed it up well when she said that Verdict is a wine that can take it all the way through the night. We purchased a bottle which came back home in a checked suitcase.

Also tasted were the Maison Rose made with Merlot grapes. The wine was orange pink in color and was fresh and crisp. The Maison Rouge wine is a blend of Merlot and Shiraz. It proved to be light and delicious.

After chatting with Sonja and soaking in the atmosphere, we strolled outside to enjoy the view. Behind La Petite Ferme the mountains of Franschhoek towered and to the front a patchwork of vineyards and farmland beckoned.

La Petite Ferme is world class experience for adventurers seeking the best in wine and cuisine.

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