TO be fair, the invitation to celebrate “the beautifully reinvigorated Haute Cabrière” didn’t really convey the extent of it. Nevertheless, I wasn’t even mildly embarrassed to accept within seconds. You’re a fool if you turn down any opportunity to visit this farm in Franschhoek.
It’s been 25 years since the Von Arnim family launched the Haute Cabrière cellar, and in that time, the winery has transformed into a world-class space for visitors to immerse themselves in the culture established by proprietor Achim von Arnim. The colourful patriarch has taken a well-deserved restful place out of the limelight now but his presence is ever visible through his prolific artworks which are everywhere you look, and his family – wife Hildegard, son Takuan and daughter Tanja – continue to firmly hold the reins in their various capacities.
Usually, not knowing too much beforehand is a good thing. It means wonderful surprises. Sure, this can backfire now and then, but for the most part it works out for the best. It certainly did on this occasion. The stunning new-look Haute Cabrière makes the most of its spectacular view across the Franschhoek Valley with what they are affectionately calling the “glass box”. It’s the best and most accurate way to describe the structure which runs the full length of the front of the restaurant and tasting room which are carved into the mountain.
Not only do the glass walls offer all the view, but you can now eat and drink in complete comfort even when the wind is blowing. When it’s not, that glass folds back to let the outside in. It’s a win-win. On top of that, there are some “open air” couches, and a long deck with banquette seating and built-in little tables for your wine bottle and glass.
The A3D architect’s brief was to design a space that would continue to “create a stylish and authentically meaningful experience for guests; one that could adapt and cater to a variety of needs, for both local and international visitors. The existing canvas of spectacular views and majestic stone arches ensured that the spirit of ‘living beautifully’ could be executed elegantly.”
“The project has been about honouring the legacy of our heritage; while celebrating the beauty of evolution. Even though the wines and the destination are ever changing, it will never lose its essence,” says Takuan von Arnim, director of wine (which has to be one of the coolest job descriptions ever) and 2nd generation cellar master.
“My inspiration has always been classically French, with an appreciation for the South African palate, which is a natural fit for Haute Cabrière,” says Nic van Wyk, Haute Cabriére’s destination manager (another very cool job title), of the food. “I would describe it as elegant yet comforting, and the menus offer dishes that would satisfy locals, yet impress international guests with something unique.”
To this end, Haute Cabrière now offers a food and wine element from breakfast to dinner, and all the in-betweens. The new deli and bakery has freshly baked artisanal fare, produce from the vegetable garden (like zucchini blossoms which are so damn good filled with something creamy, and fried in tempura batter), and condiments from the menu. Like the jar of garlic aioli I have in my kitchen, for which I have big plans. The idea behind this is that when (not if) you enjoy something with your meal, you can have it at home too.
At the launch, guests were served canapés paired with bubbly, like bacon and cheese brioche toasties with Pierre Jourdan Brut, and sweet and sour lamb kidney vol-au-vent with poached quail egg and Pierre Jourdan Ratafia. Once we were seated, the sourdough and ciabatta bread course was served with butter and tomato jam (which you can buy at the deli). The ricotta and spinach dumplings with asparagus, broad beans, cheese and celeriac foam was served with the Haute Collection Chardonnay 2017.
Now. This new single vineyard wine is created from a block of Chardonnay planted in 1983 by Achim von Arnim. Only 2138 bottles were produced. It is flipping spectacular, all buttery and creamy and lovely, and is not available by the glass. I found this out when I returned a few days later for quiet sundowner tapas. I had to have a bottle. What’s a woman to do? Buy more to take home, that’s what.
The main course of grilled venison with port and truffle sauce and a pear tartlet brining the sweetness, was paired with the Haute Collection Pinot Noir 2017. Platters of Paris-brest, warm almond cake and rum truffles, and blue cheese and green figs on digestive biscuits, filled any remaining tummy space with Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar.
Along with that bread course, there were also bowls of pork kaaings (or kaiiings, the dictionaries are undecided). These delicious morsels were described by Hildegonda Duckitt as “the dry scraps of any minced sheep-tail fat or suet after it has been fried, and the boiling fat drained from it” which should explain what they are, and they are available on the tapas menu, with bread. “Just bring them with a spoon,” I said to Foster, the waiter who had looked after me at the launch and was happily back on duty. He called me “Your Highness” and “Your Majesty”, which I rather fancied. Seriously though, great guy.
Haute Cabrière is on the Franschhoek Pass (Lambrechts Road), Franschhoek. Wine tasting is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10am till 7.30pm, and cellar tours between 11am and 4pm. Breakfast is available Mondays to Saturdays from 8am till 11am; tapas are served between 1am and 7.30pm; the bakery and deli are open from 8am till 4pm and the à la carte menu is available from 12pm till 7.30pm. Haute Cabrière is open on Sundays till 3.30pm. For reservations and enquiries call 021 876 8500, email [email protected] click here. Follow @Hautecabriere on Facebook and Instagram. #livinglifebeautifully