{eat} At the end of the road: the abundance of Louisvale Wines

They say that home is not a place; it’s a feeling. For me, home is embodied by people, food and wine and love, all four at the same time and in abundance. Recently, I spent a home-coming afternoon at Louisvale Wines, which left me feeling familiarly comfortable and content, like when I pull my favourite wine glass from the cupboard on a Friday afternoon.

Introduction

The only thing I knew about Louisvale Wines before this afternoon, was that their bottles are branded in royal purple and are majestic-looking, to say the least. I didn’t know any of their ranges, anything about their farm, or the fact that they have an uber-modern restaurant.

The only other thing I knew for a fact, was that Louisvale is the home of Chardonnay. And that was enough for me to happily accept their invitation to lunch.

Background

Louisvale is situated at the foot of the majestic Stellenbosch mountains in verdant Devon Valley.  Their lush, manicured vineyards produce outstanding wines, particularly Chardonnay for which they have won many awards. ​Louisvale, one of the pioneers of Chardonnay in South Africa, is still solely planted to Chardonnay albeit different Davis clones.

The design rationale behind the Louisvale Wines Wine Emporium is about the marriage of the above elements embodied in a contemporary structure.  The soft curve of the Rheinzink cladding reflects the shape and surface of the Khoekhoen reed mat hut, supported by curved steel rails, connected by floating glass to the polished concrete floor, infused with chips of Perlemoen shell. The Rheinzink dome acts as a screen against the strong prevailing Southerly winds and hovers above a low concrete roof plated with Restios.  These reeds in turn reflect the thatched roof of the 1924 built, Neo Cape Dutch style homestead.  The new structure is connected to the existing building by means of glass roofed passage (https://www.louisvale.com/)

Venue

I soon realised that the Devon Valley literally ends at Louisvale Wines as it sits perched atop the hill and overlooks the winelands. As we wound our way up this somewhat hidden and incredibly fertile valley, I couldn’t help but feel excited to see where the road ends. A lush drive through the vineyards, and the estate opened up onto the most aesthetically magnificent building I’ve seen. Deliciously rounded curves, textured paneling, boldly patterned windows and accents of glass and steel – this structure is certainly a sight to behold.

Molded after and inspired by a perlemoen (abalone) shell, this structure pays homage to the roots of the very soil it stands on, which were first inhabited by the Khoekhoen tribes, the indigenous hunter-gatherers of the Cape. They often feasted on the bounty of the sea and relied on perlemoen for seasonal food. Also reminiscent of the traditional straw huts they lived in, the curves of this modern building is a clever and honourable nod to a part of our heritage, which is now captured in the spirit of Louisvale Wines.

The ingenious amalgamation of the old and new plays an important part in the identity of Louisvale, and this is reflected harmoniously in their new restaurant. As we walked in, I was taken aback by the stunningly contemporary space they’ve created, filled with natural light, the high dome roof and an almost 180 degree glass-door expanse, offering uninterrupted views of the winelands. And yet, it fitted. The lights reminded of a starry night sky, or shiny mother-of-pearl flecks catching the sun, which were also  thematically captured in the floors.

We were received by marketing manager and host extraordinnaire, Mouton du Toit, and from the moment we shook hands, I felt as if I’ve come home. His easy manner, genuine sincerity and effortless laugh were only preludes to the abundant hospitality we were about to receive this sunny afternoon. After a round of introductions and the choosing of a suitable table, we headed off for a little meander around the premises, where Mouton shared a bit of the history of the farm with me.

On arrival back at the table, we were greeted with icy glasses of their gorgeous Brut Chardonnay MCC and an invitation to sit back, relax and taste our way through their homely lunch menu.

Menu and wine

I must start by saying that Louisvale’s lunch menu is simply delectable. At a quick glance, there was nothing I wouldn’t happily eat. It’s comfort food, but zhooshed up a bit with innovative, surprising touches and twists. Executive Kirstie du Toit is my kind of chef – someone who cooks with passion and soul, from a place deep down in her heart where her love for food sprouted roots.

Throughout our lunch, Mouton guided us in an informal wine tasting and pairing – he suggested the wine pairings based on our lunch preferences and I couldn’t have been happier to hand over the reigns to him as he confidently introduced us to their different ranges. I was pleasantly surprised with their Stone Road range of wines with their classic, unpretentious labelling and big, hearty palates of flavour.

Our starters were heavenly. Great South African classics presented with a touch of glamour, and a sprinkle of contemporary innovation. Grilled sweet potato salad with flakey smoked snoek and rooibos, beetroot salad with a garlic flat bread and roasted corn and creamy, fragrant cheese bon bons that would melt any cheese-lover’s heart. Paired with their bright Stone Road 2019 Sauvignon Blanc and the Stone Road 2018 Cinsault Rosé, this was a delectable start to an afternoon spent in sterling company.

For mains, I couldn’t resist the soy & maple glazed pork belly (those pork crackers, though!). The Tall Hedonist tucked into a juicy offering of grilled lamb steak with polenta, whilst Mother Hedonist kept it light with the lentil and pumpkin shepherd’s pie.

It was at this point in our lunch, the table colourfully laden with fresh, wholesome food, that Mouton brought out the big guns: an icy bottle of 2017 Chardonnay and the 2016 Dominique red blend. The Chardonnay is intensely complex with layers of sun-ripened fruit and earthy, toasty notes, where the Dominique is elegant, ripe and dark, but soft enough to enjoy copiously with a meal. Although – these two Louisvale gems were only appetisers for what was to come with dessert. Enter Louisvale Chavant 2018. But first, dessert.

Dessert was simply a showstopper, but without the frills and fuss. Great flavour combinations, lip-licking textures and that full-mouth sweet experience you crave after a satisfying meal. I had the grilled pineapple with salted caramel and rum butter, whilst the other two little hedonists opted for the raspberry meringue.

A surprising pairing for dessert, the Chavant 2018 left me a little speechless. Coupled with the warm, spiced notes of the grilled pineapple with swirls of browned butter and rum, it was simply incredible. Butterscotch and vanilla hints were brought forward by the lightly oaked nature of this Chardonnay, without losing the signature stone fruit aromas. As boldly as it stood up to the spice of the grilled fruit, as delicately did it envelope the meringue, vanilla ice cream and pistachios of the other dessert. I might be somewhat obsessed.

Dessert was a real treat, with all the puns intended. We tucked into each other’s plates, just to make sure we don’t miss a morsel of deliciousness.

In the last year or so, I’ve rekindled my taste and appreciation for Chardonnay. After several visits to the Robertson valley, I’ve fallen in love with this stunning varietal. Louisvale does magic to its Chardonnay, and as I’m sure you can tell, I fell head over heels this day for their Chavant 2018.

Mouton checked in on us every now and again, telling a story or answering questions. He makes hosting seem simply effortless as he periodically meandered through all the tables, stopped for a quick chat, removed plates or poured refills. There was a comfortable chatter throughout the dining space, without the need to fill the airy emporium with loud music or any other additives. The joy and laughter that rang through the air made it a confidently relaxing space to spend a few hours, just breathing in the pure goodness of life in that moment.

At the end of the meal, as the lunch crowd lazily sat back in their chairs with glasses of wine, Chef Kirstie came around to our table, having completed another successful lunch serving. If you don’t know by now – Kirstie is Mouton’s wife, and this vibrant couple lives and breathes the essence of Louisvale. We had a lovely chat with her about her passions, her inspirations and just life in general, before we had to push out chairs back and leave this Chardonnay sanctuary. But before you go, remember to look for the “hole” in the tree!

In conclusion

When we left, it felt as if I’ve known Mouton and Kirstie for years. Louisvale felt like home, and their wines like a celebration of all the joyful, small things in life.

We spent an incredibly beautiful afternoon on the estate, feasting on the bounty of its spoils. I’ll think back on this lunch with much fondness for a long time to come and have crowned myself their unofficial ambassador from here onwards.  We left with a box of wine (because I simply had to infuse some Louisvale love into The Little House!), jars of Kirstie’s home made beetroot chutney, olives and big smiles.

If you’ve not had the chance to visit yet, let the winding road lead you to the generous arms of Louisvale Wines for a day of plentiful peace, rich hospitality and all things indulgent.

Thank you, Mouton, Kirstie and Louisvale Wines, for hosting us so lavishly, and for offering us a home away from home for the afternoon!

Second photographer: The Tall Hedonist, aka Timothy P. Gibson

The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.

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.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.

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