Saturday evening begins with a flurry of excitement. Honoured guests dressed to the nines confidently strut up a red carpet towards two friendly individuals, one handing them a glass a bubbly, the other checking their names off a guest list. As they enter the elegantly decorated foyer, they’re greeting by the soothing, yet contemporary sounds of a French-gypsy-jazz fusion band, Manouche. This is not Los Angeles, even at a push this could be Stellenbosch… but no: This is Rawsonville! A town more synonymous with the “Raw” of its first syllable, than anything else; yet this event is anything but.
DuToitskloof Wines was an unknown entity just over a decade ago. It was nothing more than another bulk producer on that side of the mountain. Being on that side meant the climb was that much more precipitous to gain national acclaim; geography almost suggested you should be forgotten. Something shifted seismically nonetheless over the preceding decade. This red carpet event did not feel foreign to this team, often lauded as the winery most experienced at producing wines of consistent quality that never breaks the bank.
This was not a 50th Anniversary gala event, this was not a sophisticated dinner party or an awards ceremony. This was more of a debutant ball, a coming of age if you wish. DuToitskloof Wines had grown up, was dressed to the hilt in the best fashion and damn, did she look spectacular. She was mature and she was glowing with pride in a way only a self-made success could beam with such confidence.
From all the staff, the invited guests, the members, down to the keynote speaker, company chairman Johan de Wet, all you felt was an air of pride and satisfaction. There was nothing this group was embarrassed about, not a wine they produced they wouldn’t recommend, not an achievement they did not work hard for. Everything this cellar is today was done through pure dedication, taking some serious calculated risks and many a time, being forced to walk the road alone, when other industry insiders said it could never be done.
The cellar’s history was lauded, with founding members being fondly remembered, talk of the days when building facilities cost thousands, not millions of rands. Not a chapter was missed, including the days when the KWV controlled every aspect of wine production, vineyard planting and even wine prices.
After an informative lesson in South Africa’s often difficult wine history, the food was served. Paired meticulously with the best wines DuToitskloof has to offer. The starter of Duck with a ponzu sauce on a bed of egg noodles was simplistic, yet inspired. Paired with the cellar’s Chardonnay/Viognier blend, one could not go wrong. This robust white blend with complex citrus tones and depth was evenly matched by the intense Asian flavours and citrus notes of the ponzu sauce. Neither was overpowered and the combination danced in your mouth to the delight of the taste buds.
Main course refused to be overshadowed. The lamb roll delicately placed atop a potato and pea mash, with a stunning red wine reduction, with two baby carrots contributing a burst of orange on the plate, made the plate a work of art. The only red that could possibly match this was DuToitskloof’s double-gold Michelangelo award winning Dimension. This red- blend is like velvet on the palate. The tannins are already subdued, making this wine ready for enjoying immediately; despite this subtlety in the wine, the ever powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz provided complexity and spiciness, the Merlot, a wonderful soft fruity tone. It was the perfect partner to the flavourful lamb. The red wine reduction and the Dimension seemed to fall in love with each other somewhere between the tip of the tongue and the tummy; the happiest tummy in recent months after the class-act that was the starter and entrée.
Francios Botha, DuToitskloof’s vice-chairman, proceeded to thank all those who made not only this night, but the cellar as a whole a success. A special mention has to go to a talented young woman, Elzaan Geldenhuys, who in her organisation skills and attention to stylistic detail, may be in danger of being snatched up by the Academy Awards organising committee in Los Angeles.
Desert was a to-share chocolate fondue with the most scrumptious and adorable biscotti, shortbread, nougat and fruit selection. It was a fun and interactive way to end the culinary part of the evening. People laughing as the noshed on the sweet delights held precariously between chopsticks, as they savoured the always appealing DuToitskloof Red Muscadel.
Marius Louw, the managing director and Shawn Thomson, lead winemaker, looked as proud as punch. One could only compare the glint in their eyes to what one may have if one’s daughter had just graduated cum laude from Harvard Law. As Johan de Wet stated in his keynote speech, DuToitskloof’s success is in its people. After such an evening of generous hospitality, this is indisputable. These are people who live, work and breathe DuToitskloof. They’re not personnel, members or directors, they’re family; their metaphorical daughter had grown up and what a phenomenal woman she has become.