I’ve realised over the years that one of things that give me the most joy, is discovering and visiting a wine farm I’ve not been to before. Maybe it’s the prospect of new wine and good food, or maybe it’s the promise of exceptional views over the winelands, but there’s something really exhilarating about setting off to a new wine destination on a Saturday morning. It was no different the morning we left for Morgenster Estate, a Helderberg haven of wine and olives.
There’s rarely a time I’ll decline an invitation for lunch, wine- and olive tasting, so when a good friend arranged a day of leisure at Morgenster Estate, I was filled with a sense of hedonistic anticipation. Reluctantly, I have to admit that I knew very little about Morgenster at that point, which meant a day of soaking in stories and memories as I made my acquaintance with this estate. That is, after all, what I do best!
Long ago, an Italian man fell in love with South Africa and the Cape Winelands. In 1992, he retired from his textile career, moved to South Africa, and bought Morgenster – a farm with a rich history that dates back 300 years. That was Giulio Bertrand, our founder, father and grandfather.
Armed with this motto, Giulio set out to create excellence – world class Bordeaux-style wines and the highest quality extra virgin olive oils that South Africa had ever seen. Morgenster’s soil and proximity to the ocean made it the perfect spot for both of these to flourish. Then, in partnership with the Olive Oil Institute in Perugia, he imported 17 specially selected olive varieties. From there, he paved the way for South Africa’s olive oil culture as we know it today.
Today, it’s mother and daughter team, Federica and Vittoria, that carry on the legacy of excellence that their father and grandfather started decades ago (https://morgensterestate.co.za/our-story/)
The olive oil
As we entered through the wide glass doors of the uber-contemporary tasting room, we were met with a cheerful chatter of tables tasting wine and olives, overflowing onto the most beautiful verandah with views across the dam. With the signature blue Helderberg mountains seemingly only a few meters away, it was breathtaking at first glance. We took a couched seat in the corner, and within minutes, Joy came around to welcome us. She expertly lead us through an olive oil educational tasting, which I fully recommend everyone tries at least once in their life.
The olive oil tasting includes four of their award-winning olive oils, as well as their balsamic vinegar, served with a small selection of bread, olives and tapenade, which enhances this unique experience to luxurious proportions. Silky, fragrant and glossy, the olive oil tasting engages all your senses and simply leaves you with a much more in-depth appreciation for this humble oil.
After whetting our palates, Joy brought round some wines for us to taste. This was the exciting part, as I’ve never tasted a Morgenster wine in my six-year wine journey. We started with the Guilio range, which includes, among others, the Vespri Vermentino, the Tosca Sangiovese Blend and the Caruso Sangiovese Rosé, inspired by Guilio’s love of opera. I was most taken with the Vermentino, a beautifully pale peachy wine, brimming with bright acidity and luscious citrus notes. More floral and aromatic than a Sauvignon Blanc, this is the perfect food-wine for al-fresco dining in summer.
Another stunner was the Caruso Sangiovese Rosé, with its signature Italian aromas and style. Prominent berries on the nose, but velvety, light and crisp at first taste.
We then moved on to taste some of the Bordeaux-style wines, which covers wines across their various ranges. I was mesmerised by both the Lourens River Valley 2016 and the Reserve Red 2015, the latter being Morgenster’s crown jewel in their wine collection. With the taste of this exquisite red still lingering, we were ready for lunch.
We sauntered quite satisfied over to their newly relaunched restaurant; gorgeously modern in muted tones of greys, blues and earthy highlights, with their signature gold touches here and there. With the most gorgeous summers’ day in the winelands, we chose a sheltered table on the veranda, where we could continue casting our gaze over the mirror-like dam, the reflections of the mountains undisturbed in the water.
The small, concise menu is deliciously Italian and delectably simple; not to be confused with easy or short-cut food. In fact, each hand-selected Italian dish on the menu has lovingly been created with time, luxury and pure enjoyment in mind. Simple in a way that embodies the main ingredients to their fullest, whether that’s a silky, snowy ball of burrata, traditional linguine or buttery clouds of gnocchi.
We started with one of each anti-pasti offerings, sharing the plates across the table, as our waiter opened a bottle of Giulio Tosca Sangiovese Blend, one of our favourites from the morning’s tasting.
For mains, we happily continued the Italian feast with offerings of gnocchi, prawn linguine and risotto. Each dish was perfectly balanced, freshly garnished and flavourful. Paired with the views, the wine and a long overdue catch-up, I was in my most happiest of states.
Dessert was a shared slice of ricotta almond cake with seasonal berries, a gorgeously lush way to wrap up such an immersive afternoon at Morgenster.
On our way out, I was so honoured to have a chance to meet the two formidable heartbeats of Morgenster, mother and daughter team, Federica and Vittoria, as they popped in to say hi to some regulars and make their rounds. Even just a minute in their presence echoes the passion, the love and the dedication they have for food, wine and the farm. Their roots are intricately woven through every piece of Morgenster; a bittersweet reminder of the legacy left behind by Giulio – a legacy they now carry gracefully forward in order to preserve and honour an Italian man’s love for South Africa and the Cape Winelands.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.
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