Some people have a picture in their mind of what a wine estate should look like. That picture normally involves lots of big trees, long driveways and Cape Dutch style homesteads. A lot of wine farms do look like that, but they are normally the older ones. Newer wine farms get to choose their own style, some may try and emulate the traditional style, but others are keen to be unique and even functional in taking advantage of elements of the estate. Waterkloof Estate is a relatively new estate with the oldest vines being around 17 years old. This estate has very little in common with the typical traditional wine farm, even though it does border on Vergelegen, one of the oldest estates around.
The main building is a very contemporary structure of concrete and glass. It is situated right on top of the hill to take advantage of the amazing vistas. From the outside, it’s an imposing edifice but as you walk in it transforms into a gentle and welcoming space. On entry you walk along a passage with leads you to the centre of a room which is enormous. Not only is it triple volume, but you can see all the different elements of the estate offering. To your right is the open kitchen where you can see the chefs in action preparing the food, next to that is the wine sales desk and the space in front of the desk and kitchen is the wine tasting area with a fireplace which steals your attention as you walk in.
Past the wine tasting section is the top floor of the winery, which is walled with glass so you can see the fermenting tanks and when we were there we could also see people going about their work (in this case bottling the rosé). Then to your left is the restaurant with it’s stunning views. The main building is situated high up on the hill and to the one side is a view of the vineyards, the other side looks out over False Bay. To take advantage of these truly stunning views, the restaurant is made from glass so that whichever way you look, you are spoilt. Obviously a concrete and steel building with a glass box on the side is not everyone’s cup of tea, I personally don’t mind it and quite enjoy seeing something different when visiting a wine estate.
We started with a wine tasting. Waterkloof has three ranges of wine, the flagship is the Waterkloof label which is made from the oldest vines on the estate. The Circumstance range is well balanced and will make few enemies but the Peacock range has a brazen character which means you either love it or hate it. Their rosé is made from mourvèdre and is very dry, a very different rosé which will perhaps make rosé drinkers out of those who previously were not. We tasted the as yet unreleased 2009 Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc, their flagship wine. It was amazing, full of character and complexity. It had recently been bottled so it will be even better when it has settled. My favourites were the shiraz and the cabernet sauvignon.
The actual wine tasting experience is quite a treat. Seated around low tables which attend the fireplace, it’s a personal experience. Each wine is brought and explained before you taste out of the good quality wine glasses (we don’t always want to taste out of those small tasting glasses). The winemaker came and chatted to us, sharing some interesting information about the farm. They are aiming to become a biodynamic farm with several blocks are in conversion already. The intention is to use horses instead of tractors at some point, really going back to old school farming! The wine making is done in the traditional style too, but the equipment is modern which makes life easier. After the wine tasting we went for a tour of the wine making facilities and then headed back to the restaurant for lunch. By that time it was after 2pm and we were starving.
By now you’ve noticed that Waterkloof is getting a glowing review. The reason is because I really enjoyed both my visits and would be happy to go again and again. This visit with wine tasting and tour was by invitation. But I actually went to the restaurant with some friends a few weeks ago to make sure that I could report on the experience when I wasn’t expected. I’m happy to say the experiences were similar. I just ate more courses when it was free (it is quite pricey).
And so, on to the restaurant. It really is a great restaurant, a cut above others in many respects. Not only are expectations exceeded in the big things like service, food, view, etc. But there are many small things which elevate the experience to another level. The cutlery and crockery is amazing, the complimentary still or sparkling water is something not offered anywhere else that I know of and the complementary bread (freshly baked rolls) was served with high quality olive oil and balsamic.
I actually can’t wait to tell you about the food, it’s not often that I get genuinely excited about dishes (the last time was probably at Rust en Vrede). After all, as I like to remind people, I’m easily pleased but hard to impress. The presentation was excellent, you can see some of the dishes in the gallery. We were treated to some hors d’oeuvres of bite size garlic and herb loaves and olives while we perused the menu.
I had enjoyed some of the options on my previous visit, so made sure to order different things to get a good feel for the menu and food quality. I ordered a starter which someone had ordered on my previous visit and raved about, oyster mushrooms with rocket and crispy soft boiled egg (R65). It was amazing, my partner enjoyed her light goat’s cheese terrine with beetroot caramel, granny smith, nuts and melba toast (R60) but agreed that my starter was phenomenal.
For mains I had the lamb shoulder confit and baby rack with spring vegetables and basil oil (R160), absolutely delicious again. My partner had the springbok loin with eggplant caviar, roasted aubergine and jus (R170). Hers was also delicious, amazingly tender and moist springbok. On the previous visit we had the chicken supreme with potato mille feuille and spring onion reduction (R115) which was great. Also most enjoyable, the glazed pork belly with honey roasted butternut, cranberries and feta (120). The only dish we tried and weren’t convinced about was the seared tuna steak in panko crumbs with tempura vegetables (R145). While the tempura veggies were great, the coating of the tuna was too heavy and detracted from the delicate fish, as well as making it rather oily and heavy.
The first time I went we didn’t have dessert which I was very disappointed about, especially after spotting things like koeksister ice cream and tequila sorbet. So this time I wasn’t going to skip dessert even if I popped. I ordered the chocolate ganache, brownie and crème brulée with pecan nut ice-cream (R65) and I asked them to bring me a scoop of the koeksister ice cream as well, which they did (on the side, as not to mess with the presentation of the dessert I ordered). I don’t know if they would do it for you, they might have been more obliging because I was reviewing (but you can always try you luck!). The crème brulée was great and presented very unusually because it wasn’t in a ramekin but moulded on the plate. Both the pecan nut and koeksister ice cream were lovely and subtle in flavour, but to be honest I lost interest in my dessert when I tasted the panna cotta, polenta crumble with strawberry and basil foam (R55) which my partner had ordered. It’s an amazing taste extravaganza and looks amazing!
For this visit we were cheeky and finished the bottle of 2009 Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc (2008 is R255), but on the previous occasion we enjoyed a bottle of the Circumstance Shiraz (R160). The wines are all from the estate and all available by the (generous) glass.
I really had a great visit to Waterkloof and the food was really impressive. I look forward to getting back there. A secret tip: because they are new they are not always fully booked so if you find yourself needing to organise a last minute lunch on a wine estate, give them a call and you might just get a table when other estates wouldn’t be able to help you.
Waterkloof Estate & Restaurant
Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Somerset West
Tel: 021 858 1292