You cannot throw a well aimed grape in the Cape Winelands without hitting a picture perfect wine farm, complete with towering oaks, buildings that would have centuries of secrets to share if they could talk, award winning wines, sumptuous food, friendly and efficient service and spectacular views of the Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch mountains. But even in this epicurean and oenophile’s Shangri-La, La Motte is something special. It has everything you could possibly want from a wine farm: A tasting room, restaurant, farm shop & deli, gardens, vineyards, breathtaking views and European tourists walking around with sunburn and a questionable grasp on how one should pair socks with shorts. The newly refurbished tasting room looks like it comes straight from the pages of Architectural Digest with vaulted ceilings, original art, conversation pieces and ample comfy couches. Two of the walls have floor to ceiling windows so that you can view the working maturation cellar as you sit by the huge fireplace, nestled into a couch while knowledgeable wine experts guide you through the estate’s different vintages. The farm shop and deli sells artisan breads, baked with flour ground on the premises in the historical water mill, gift items designed exclusively for La Motte (if I wasn’t spending my husband’s money, I would have taken home a set of the handmade glass oil and vinegar sets), La Motte’s own coffee as well as deliciously indulgent body products. There are breathtaking mountain views from just about everywhere, sample vineyards so that you can get to know the different varieties (once you’ve tasted a Cabernet grape you’ll agree that stomping on it and then sticking it in a dark vat to ferment for a while really is the best thing to do with it), a Protea garden and even roses – resplendent in shades of coral and orange – named after the owner, Hanneli Rupert. And for those who are further horticulturally inclined, fifteen hectares of the estate are dedicated to the growing of aromatic oil producing plants such as buchu, lavender and rose-geranium and the they also grow special disa and serruria hybrids.The museum is dedicated to the history of La Motte and the Rupert family and showcases work by international artists and one of South Africa’s masters – Pierneef. From here you can depart on the La Motte historical walk or if you’d like to burn a few calories before tucking into lunch, start from the tasting room and do the grade 1B, 5km hiking trail that winds in a circular route through the vineyards and surrounding mountains. Of course, that’s not what you’re here for though, right? You’re here to drink. And eat. And you have definitely come to the right place!
Pierneef à la Motte is a bright and beautiful restaurant with spectacular food, an impressive wine list and a deck that will make you forget that you’ve already been out there for hours and you need to go home at some point. Dining here feels like you’re having lunch in an effortlessly stylish friend’s home. You know, those friends who have so much money that they can turn delicate dinner ware into beautifully unique chandeliers and have people serving them lunch and refilling their glasses? Yeah, I don’t have them either. But you can come here and pretend that you do! The Cape Winelands cuisine is inspired by the seasons and is a fusion of traditional South African fare with an international twist – think bokkom salad with quail eggs and almonds, for example. The flavours are bold and in your face, making liberal use of perfectly balanced herbs and spices. The honey glazed snoek salad with salted cashew and pumpkin brittle was properly moreish. I mean come on, cashew brittle? How do you stop wanting more cashew brittle? But the dish that I can’t stop thinking about is the warm quail and orecchiette pasta salad with smoked pork lardo and almond ginger sauce, amongst a melange of other flavours that somehow just worked perfectly together. Seriously, if the Chinese could taste how chef Chris Erasmus combines Asian flavours with creamy Italian pasta I would not struggle so much to buy dairy products there! The slow cooked Karoo lamb shin and mushroom risotto just oozed flavour and the crayfish ravioli with a coconut and saffron velouté was light and delicate. We were positively stuffed by the time dessert came around, but in order to be thorough for this write up, we soldiered on and after just sipping more bubbly for a bit we eventually settled on sharing the warm, bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart wiith peanut butter mousse, candy floss and cherry syrup dipped peanut truffles. I don’t really need to say more do I? No wait. I will. Have it just for the mousse, even if you think you can’t eat another bite. I’m not a fan of that light, sorry-excuse-for-a-dessert mousse, but this stuff was I-wish-this-will-stick-to-my-palate-forever good.
All the dishes have a wine suggestion paired with them. The wine list caters for every taste and budget, from La Motte wines by the glass to their vinoteque collection and everything in between. If you are one of the aforementioned rich people who can turn delicate dinner ware into chandeliers and have people serving them lunch and refilling their glasses, there is a large champagne selection, but if your dinnerware is used exclusively for eating, then there are also loads of MCC’s to choose from. There are also a host of other local and international wines on offer to suit any budget.
In my opinion, La Motte offers exceptional value for money. The portions are generous and the food is beautifully presented without trying too hard. You can grab a bottle of wine for as little as R50.00 (US$6) or splurge for a special occasion (like winning the Euro millions) and get the 1998 Château d’Yquem for R2905.00, so there really is something for everyone. Starters begin from R55.00 and mains from R62.00. Where can you eat such exceptional food in such glorious surroundings for that sort of money? The service is impeccable. Friendly, knowledgeable and down to earth waitrons keep your glass magically full at all times. And yes, that is how I judge a good waitron! I can think of few things I’d rather do than getting stuck out on the deck or under the oaks on the lawn here on a summer’s day, with a glass of bubbly and good friends and food.
Telephone: +27 21 876 8000
Tasting room: tasting(at)la-motte.co.za
Getting there: From Cape Town, take the N1 north. Take the R45 / Paarl Main Road off ramp and turn right then take the R45 towards Franschhoek. The estate is on your left a little way before you get into town.