Image courtesy Leopards Leap Vineyards
Dear Husband and I were absolutely delighted to be invited to attend the launch of Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyard’s new range of wine the Culinaria Collection. It was rather a dismal day last week Thursday, but by the time we drove out to Franschhoek it had turned into a most beautiful evening. On arrival we sipped chilled Leopard’s Leap MCC and browsed the Kitchen Shop and wine sales as a light orange sunset glowed through enormous glass paneled doors showcasing the magnificently appointed interior of the Leopards Leap tasting room, restaurant and open kitchen.
The Culinaria Collection is new range of wines from Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards which has been specifically created to celebrate the age-old partnership between food and wine. The evening promised a five-course tasting menu featuring seafood, poultry and other meats, specially paired with five wines from the Collection. Recipes, we were told had been developed by Franschhoek Chefs like Chris Hoffmann of Café des Arts, Reuben Riffel of Reuben’s, Neil Jewell of Môreson, Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte, Ryan Smith of Ryan’s Kitchen as well as Leopard’s Leap’s own chef, Pieter de Jager.
Understandably, we arrived expectant, as did our guests for the evening – our dear friends the, make-our-lives-ever-so-much-richer-Oliviers, and we were certainly not disappointed.
Got me a hot date of 11 years!
Glamourous friends are very important, so are good, kind and loving ones.
The evening was introduced by Hein Koegelenberg, Chief Executive Officer, winemaker and the man behind the vision of Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards. From there we were taken on a journey through the Culinaria Collection by Cellarmaster Eugene van Zyl. Eugene introduced each wine together with a fascinating description of how each wine was specifically developed. Eugene is clearly passionate about his wines and his excitement for this collection in particular was infectious. Sitting listening to him talk, I was reminded again that wine making is such an art, a unique skill and an often arduous labour of many years of love.
How fortunate we are to live in right in the heart of South Africa’s wine making art form. Eugene was joined by Chef Pieter de Jager who introduced the taster meal accompaniment to each wine, providing a generous description of the flavours behind the food pairing. It was so interesting to watch Eugene and Pieter alternate the discussion, a dynamic reflection of food and wine in partnership.
I should point out that I am certainly no wine connoisseur or even attempt to imply such a thing, so I will not dissect each wine, but rather point out the wines and dishes that stood out for me. Dear Husband took copious notes, completely fascinated by all things wines as he is, so I can definitely point you to him if you require a more professional wine opinion.
The first wine was the Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Methode Cap Classique which was paired with a Tuna Sashimi and Horseradish salad by Chef Ryan Smith from Ryan’s kitchen. I adore bubbles as you must know if you have been reading this blog long enough and I really enjoyed this dry style, light and refreshing wine. Ryan’s dish was a delight and the tart dressing the dish’s standout.
The second wine was 2012 Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc which was paired with West Coast Mussels and Café de Paris Butter by Chef Neil Jewell from Bread and Wine. The mussels, softly spiced were just heavenly. The only problem with a tasting style menu of this kind is that inherent gluttony from your tasting partners means that you have to watch your plate very closely lest anyone try to steal it.
Third was 2010 Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Grand Vin paired with a pan-roasted duck breast served with red wine jus by Chef Reuben Riffel of Reubens. Reuben’s dish was an absolute standout for me, earthy and classic it paired beautifully with this wine.
The fourth wine was 2010 Leopard’s Leap Culinaris Shiraz Grenache paired with a Lamb Tangine by Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef La Motte. I think this particular wine was my favourite of the night, smooth and smokey on the nose, slight pepper on the tongue. Chris’s dish was a dance of Morroccan style flavours. Dear Husband was clearly overjoyed when an enormous bowlful of this tangine was set up on the magnificent veranda after the official tasting was over to quell any remaining appetites.
The fifth wine was a 2012 Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Pinot Noir Chardonnay paired with a Lemon Marmalade polenta cake by Chef Chris Hoffmann from Café des Arts. I think this particular wine was my favourite of the night (can you tell I had some difficulty choosing one). The colour of sunset, it is softly fruity and for someone like me who enjoys both red and white wine, it has elements of both. Let us just talk about this Lemon Marmalade Polenta cake for a minute. It is lightly tart and not completely sweet but then again it is sweet. With a light and soft texture, this dessert is nothing short of sublime.
I am very very excited to be holding both the recipe and permission to share it, and so a huge thank you to Chef Pieter for sending me the recipe so promptly.
The final wine was the 2013 Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Muscat de Frontignan paired with an Apple, cranberry and Almond pudding by Leopard’s Leap own chef Pieter de Jager. The wine is the colour of salmon and Dear Husband loved the aroma of Turkish Delight on the nose. I am not really a fan of overly sweet wine, but it did pair well with Pieter’s dessert, which as a final touch to a wonderful evening we were able to watch him demonstrate and appreciate the full Leopards Leap cooking school experience too.
To sum up this wonderful experience, The Leopard’s Leap Culinaria collection comprises six wines; a Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc blend; Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend; a Shiraz Grenache blend; Grand Vin Bordeaux-style blend; Méthode Cap Classique champagne-style sparkling wine as well as the naturally sweet Muscat de Frontignan. All of which are exclusively available at the Franschhoek tasting room of Leopards leap.
I assure you that a visit to Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyard is worth the drive. If you are planning to give gifts with a local flair this holiday, the wooden boxed set of Culinaria wines is as beautiful to look at as the wines are to drink.
Thank you so much to the gracious and ever so lovely Liesl De Villiers from Historic Wines for inviting us to be part of this wonderful evening.
PS For further information on Leopard’s Leap Vineyard collections contact Liesl (liesl(at)historicwines(dot)co(dot)za)