It’s always a good Friday when I get to spend it in the winelands. This, however, was particularly perfect day to drive through to Franschhoek. It was the day after the notorious Cape Storm, and while we didn’t get all the rain we were hoping for, we did get the season’s first snow. I was on my way to try the new winter menu at Holden Manz wine estate, and my trip was met with golden vineyards and deep blue mountains dusted with white powder.
If ever there was a day to drink red wine by the fire, this was it.
This was my first trip to Holden Manz. The estate is a little way out of Franschhoek on the Green Valley Road, but it is worth the trip. Follow the winding road through leafy trees and along lush farmlands, and you reach the collection of white buildings tucked snugly between the mountains and vineyards.
Our first stop was at the hotel for a quick tour of their accommodation. We were welcomed into a spacious foyer leading into a sunny breakfast room peppered with striking artworks, and a courtyard garden beyond complete with a Koi fishpond and a collection of sculptures.
The rooms at Holden Manz are modern and chic but also homey and comfortable, and you instantly get the feel of a calming retreat when you walk around. It’s the type of space where guests can run away from the world for a bit, get a spa treatment and recouperate.
After a quick tour of the cellar by winemaker Thierry Haberer, and a taste of their upcoming Chenin Blanc (I predict good things), our appetites were running wild and we were ready to take our seats for lunch.
Ricardo Le Roux recently took on the role of Executive Chef at The Kitchen, and I was thoroughly impressed by his natural flair for flavour and creative combinations. We had a four course lunch showing off a selection of dishes from their winter menu, paired with a Holden Manz wine, and each dish impressed.
Our lunch kicked off with a light salad, combining white grapefruit (yes, it exists) and mint with tomatoes, charred courgettes, crispy artichokes (yum!), and smoked cauliflower. This was followed by my favourite dish, Romesco Risotto with prawns, an artichoke and mustard croquette (delicious!), olive tapenade and smoked cauliflower. On first impressions the dish looked delicate and sophisticated but the flavours were big, bold and moreish, giving you that same comfort you’d get from a bowl of creamy risotto.
Another gem was the six hour braised beef cheeks with white bean and samp cassoulet, oxtail bitterballen, pecorino wafer and a plum, orange and spice jus. It was just as decadent as it sounds, with succulent, soft meat and a rich, savoury sauce.
Don’t even think of skipping dessert on your visit. We had their Chèvre Terrine, a creative spin on the classic cheese course. The dish arrived covered with a delicate biscuit, which created a sense of curiosity and excitement at what would be revealed. Beneath we found a cheesecake type terrine filled with preserved fig, served with frozen raspberries and slivers of kumquat, all resting on a fennel feuilletine crumb. It was delicate with a savoury sweet balance that really hit the spot.
All the wines we tasted were delicious, and I particularly enjoyed the Holden Manz Visionaire 2013 and the Big G 2013. I’m all for big fat red wines during the winter months.
I am really excited to head back and try more dishes from their menu. Apart from very yummy food, I think their prices are really reasonable too. Order two courses for R295, three courses for R395, four courses for R470 or go the full Monty with a five course menu for only R550. That’s seriously good value for money if you compare it to similar spots in the area.
For more info, visit holdenmanz.com