Penelope is the manageress and sommelier at Chefs Warehouse on Breë Street, Cape Town. She is also the inspired wine-lover behind @WhataBlackGirlDrankLastNight on Instagram.
As the winter months slowly descend upon Cape Town and the Winelands, those carefree sweltering summer days, sitting on lawns tasting bubbles and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, while I run you through my beloved wine list, become a distant memory.
As a sommelier and self-proclaimed foodie, the rainy days in the Winelands start showing other gems as everything slows down. I find myself having the precious time to really enjoy what is on offer.
At this time of the year I feel chefs and sommeliers alike have the time to really hone in on their skills and give you the best of what they have with the bonus that the dreaded words “We are fully booked” is very rarely uttered, in the best possible way.
1. Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, Franschhoek
As you drive up the long driveway, you are greeted at the gate by a friendly young man enquiring after your name. Once confirmed, this wine tasting adventure begins.
Ah where does one start with so many things to say? Andrea and Chris, the superstars behind the Mullineux label, bring to the table one of the best representations of the Swartland as a wine region. Working with two grape varietals of Chenin old vines and Syrah, their tasting room in Franschhoek is the perfect setting and my number one go-to in winter. A manicured red brick footpath leads you to a tastefully decorated tasting room, warm colours of brown, grey and red are used, reminiscent of the soil types where the vines grow. Once settled in you have three tasting options, the Mullineux range which includes the entry level Kloof Street House wines, the Rolls Royce tasting which consists of seven different wines from single terroirs and soil types namely schist, quartz, granite and iron and finally the Leeu Passant range which allows Andrea and Chris to explore other regions and what they have to offer. It is best to book a wine tasting in advance.
As a self-proclaimed Chenin addict you can imagine how at home I feel sipping on these wines. The quartz Chenin stands out as one of the best Chenins I have tasted to date. Be sure to pick up a bottle or two of the Syrah which will go perfectly with a beef shin stew and crusty warm sourdough bread. With the range of wines they have to offer there is something for everyone at Mullineux and Leeu.
2. Vondeling Wine Estate, Paarl
A bit off the beaten track but well worth the drive, you’ll find Vondeling wine estate in Voor-Paardeberg with all the charm of an undiscovered landscape. Once you enter the stylishly appointed tasting room, a large roaring fire invites you to sit down and enjoy the spoils of the farm. I started off with tasting the Rurale, a Method Ancestrale made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. At this point I could go into full wine geek mode about the wine, but we shall save that for another day. Next up Mathew Copeland and I dashed off to the cellar in the pouring rain to go taste some reds still in fermentation tanks.
Peering into a fermentation tank, I reflected that falling in probably wouldn’t be a bad thing as long as their delicious wines awaited me at the bottom!
PS: Wine tastings over weekends and on Public Holidays are by appointment only so remember to plan ahead.
3. Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch
Have you ever had a Scotsman cook for you? No? Then don't fret, a 45-minute drive out of Cape Town you will find the Jordan Wine Estate and boy is it an experience! This estate is home to the Jordan restaurant with George Jardine, offering a mouth-watering selection of innovative dishes made with seasonal ingredients. Enjoy the likes of an aged Chalmar Sirloin, with an herb crust, roasted parsley gnocchi, grilled cauliflower and charred young onion with a glass of their delectable Jordan The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon. Think huge mouth filling flavours of blackberry, cassis and vanilla with a hint of toasted tobacco on this wine is a pairing made in heaven.
Once you walk into their cosy tasting room you will quickly learn that this estate is home to the Real McCoy and my go-to white wine in winter: a 100% Riesling with intense flavours of lime, white peaches and apples with a hint of toast making you long for a home-made apple pie. This is but one of the many gems that Jordan has to offer. So take a #shotleft on a bright, sunny winter’s day and discover a perfect synergy of wine and food.
4. 96 Winery Road, Stellenbosch
A favourite amongst local winegrowers and regulars (as I like to call myself) is partly owned by my Chenin guru Ken Forrester, a larger than life character I am both humbled and fortunate to know very well. This unassuming restaurant with the likes of braised Lamb Shanks, guaranteed to warm you up, and cuts of beef brought to the table for you to choose from, has one the best wine lists I have come across. The whole range of Chenins from his entry level petite range to the infamous FMC, the three halves and the Dirty Little Secret range are all featured. This is an experience not to be missed. The Ken Forrester farm is but a stone’s throw away from the restaurant and it’s a must visit. If the man himself is there ask for a little cellar tour and be ready to be amazed by the liquid magic they make here. Oh and grab an Uber after, you definitely won’t want a spittoon for this! And now my insider secret is yours too…
5. Chefs Warehouse at Maison, Franschhoek
As manageress and sommelier at the branch on Breë Street, I am very much in tune with the ethos of the restaurants and the passion that goes into every dish that is served. This unique menu, the brainchild of world-renowned chef Liam Tomlin, consists of eight tapas style dishes prepared using only the freshest ingredients from the garden on the farm that head chef Dave Schneider tends himself. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of Porcini the resident pig who is fed on all the organic yumminess from the kitchen. On a fresh winter’s day you can relax inside the main dining area with a plush throw, fire roaring in the background while overlooking the vineyards, enjoying a glass of the Maison Shiraz and Viognier red blend. What more could a girl want?