The PRIMA Vini VINE- Monday, January 28th, 2019

Cape Town’s ‘Tablecloth’ draped across Table Mountain
Back at my chair this morning after two weeks rediscovering the wonders of the Cape Winelands of South Africa. Was it worth the 75+ hours of cumulative travel time and bad airline food to get there and back? Absolutely. It was the trip of a lifetime! We stayed in a friend’s home (thanks again Gilla and Bernt) at the beach, some 100 kilometers from Cape Town- in an absolutely gorgeous area that alternately evoked for us the Burren in County Clare, Ireland and the wildest parts of the Maine Coast. The winelands themselves evoked, in faraway Swartland, the arid rolling hills of Paso Robles or Jumilla, Spain, while the Paarl-Stellenbosch-Franschhoek winegrowing areas, right down to the eucalyptus trees, brought us right back to the Sonoma Valley, just dotted with stately 17th century white Cape Dutch architecture. The people are colorful, friendly and extremely diverse and contemporary South African cuisine was, despite one local winemaker dismissing it as ‘California cuisine 30 years too late,’ delicious, as was the more traditional ‘braai’ BBQ fare we enjoyed. We loved the traditional Swartland dish of grilled baseball-sized calves liver rounds wrapped in caul, served with grilled tomato, cheese, onion and chutney sandwiches! The wines, I am pleased to say, have improved dramatically since my last visit, fifteen years ago. From the stunningly distinctive Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays being grown in the cool, marine-influenced Hemel-en-Aarde and the state-of-the-art Chenins and Syrahs in desert-like Swartland, to the sophisticated, polished Cabernet-based blends being produced near Stellenbosch, there is a heckuva lot more than just rustic, old school Pinotage going on in South Africa these days! And with the South African Rand sitting at around 14-15 to the dollar, there are some amazing values too. I don’t think we once spent over $30 for a bottle on a wine list, and a sawbuck will pretty much always get you something excellent to drink. Travelling around wine country in South Africa sort of reminded me of visiting the Napa Valley in the late seventies or early eighties. You know something is percolating, and that maybe you’re witnessing the genesis of something important. The problem is, of course, finding the best wines here. It’s a mission I’ll gladly take on and I’ll show off some of my discoveries here at our next Friday night tasting on February 22nd.
And I do want to say thanks all to my colleagues, both here in Vini and in the restaurant, who so willingly and ably stepped up while I was away. Nice to see the place still standing! I love you all!
Now that I’m back, it’s time to turn my attention back to matters at hand. I see that our Cavalieri dinner celebrating the knights of the truffle and wines of Alba on February 19th is nearly sold out. Chef Peter’s menu looks great as do the wine pairings. And it’s a rare chance to dig around your own cellar too, and find a nice old bottle of Barolo or Barbaresco to share with your thirsty fellow travelers. Do let us know soon if you can make it. And it’s not too early to be grabbing your seats for our evening with the Pisoni family on March 14th. The Pisonis are royalty as far as Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are concerned, and we’re putting the finishing touches on a really fun and exciting menu to accompany a great selection of their wines. Stay tuned here for the details.