Inside soft candles flicker on the tables while a crackling log fire warms the restaurant. The soft hum of chatting diners draws us in.
“Hello, I'm Michael,” we are warmly welcomed. The waiter gives us a board of warm homemade seed bread with sundried tomato butter.
“We probably shouldn't be filling up on the bread,” I say as I reach for another piece. I can't resist. I've just read the menu and it looks spectacular. Maybe just one more piece.
The first shiraz arrives it's a 2010 Lammershoek Syrah. It's smooth with a lovely linger. Maybe it's because it's our first wine and the tastebuds are excited, but this is a great start.
We kick off with a spiced butternut and saffron mouth warmer. So smooth. So tiny. So leaving me wanting more.
Clink, clink goes a glass. All heads turn towards a tall, commanding figure standing near the log fire. “Hi I'm Karl the general manager of Grande Provance,” he says as we all go quiet. He welcomes us to the fourth wine evening for the year. Darren the chef then takes us through the menu in an exciting verbal journey. This is followed by the winemaker from Lammershoek telling us about both his vineyard and the wine. Now I have a problem. I want to go and visit this vineyard. It sounds stunning. Nicky is soon on Google looking to see if we can find it. Maybe...
“Sir, here is your Indonesian salt cured duck...” the waiter says continuing with even more detail. All I know is it looks delicious. And as my teeth sink into the succulent duck with citrus caviar I'm enraptured.
“What makes a wine great?” asks Tamsin from Hartenberg Estate who has now stood up to introduce our second wine for the evening. “It's the company you keep.” And she is right. I'm enjoying this evening with stunning company - my wife - and a group of fellow wine lovers. “It's a very masculine wine,” Tamsin says describing the 2008 Hartenberg Gavel Hill Shiraz. “Hmm...if this is masculine I'm glad I'm a dude.”
Horse and carriage, love and marriage. That's what this is. The perfect pair. The barbecue sea bass with charred baba ganoush arrives on a warm stone plate. It is deliciously smoky and goes like a Siamese twin with the wine drawing out the natural smokey taste of the Shiraz. It's probably the best pairing I've tasted.
While the bliss of the taste match is still doing a tango on my tongue the winemaker from Eagles Nest stands up and regales us with fascinating stories about their farm and the 2012 Shiraz we are now having. It's paired with slow braised beef brisket and once more the combo is a choreographed symphony.
Finally, Karl stands up again and introduces us to our last Shiraz. “It's always a worry when you have to pair your wine to dessert,” he says smiling, “because the cream and buttery flavours mask the taste.” He tells us a great story about the guy who attempted to produce great wine by introducing weeds, then goats to control the weeds, then dogs to control the goats, then children to control the dogs...and finally birth control to control child production. Which shows simple birth control can produce the greatest vines. Just shows what you can learn about wine making at an evening like this.
The dessert arrives which is scarily “sago with white chocolate creme”. Sago? For dessert? Isn't that boarding school food as Karl joked? The plating is beautiful. I take my first tentative bite. “Bounce” go my jowls. Bounce. It's sago after all. Despite the delicious topping I still think sago is best kept as punishment for boarding school kids.
The diners next to us joke that the sago is big balls - sago on steroids. Well, the Shiraz was great! And serving this for dessert was indeed very ballsy.
Finally Darren the chef appears together with the whole kitchen team. It's been a spectacular evening. Lovely tastes. Great wine. And as we learnt...the key ingredient...great company. Here's looking forward to the Pinotage evening.