Tastes of 2012: Elgin Valley wine paired dinner with Paul Cluver & Iona Vineyards


Tastes of 2012 is a series of special dinner event held by The Square at the Vineyard Hotel.  Each occasion features a different wine estate or wine-growing region, showcasing the best wines and pairing them with a sumptuous meal.

The dinners are carefully thought out, with a pre-dinner tasting and wine-pairing event held over a month before to help the chef and his team decide exactly which wines work best with which foods.  Wine fundis and media are invited to the pre-dinner event, and asked for their input and opinions.  The favourite combinations of the day make it through to the final dinner, which is open to the public.

In June, the wine region of choice was Elgin, with wines from Paul Cluver and Iona in the spotlight.  I was invited to come along and take part in the occasion, and had the most fantastic time!

On arrival at The Square, my partner and I were handed a glass each of sauvignon blanc (one from each wine estate), which we savoured slowly whilst listening to the winemakers from Paul Cluver and Iona wax lyrical about their vineyards, and their own philosophies for wine-making.

Both estates take conservation and the environment to heart, and work hard to minimise their use of pesticides in the making of their wines, and use organic compost and mulch to strengthen the vines and lessen the need for additional chemical fertilisers.  Both are members of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, committing to farming sustainably and preserving portions of their land for biodiversity (Paul Cluver is a BWI Champion).

After that, it was on to the tables, where we settled down to a splendid 4-course meal – each course paired with a different wine.

Welcome Drink
Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2011 & Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2011

First Course
Mussel gnocchi, prawn cracker, smoked tomato flakes
Iona Chardonnay 2009

Second Course
Pan fried wild mushrooms, toasted brioche, sage hollandaise, truffle oil, spinach puree
Paul Cluver Pinot Noir 2009

Main Course
Herb crusted slow roasted leg of lamb, beetroot puree, fine beans, smoked marrow and paprika fritters, chlorophyll
Iona Gunner 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petit Verdot

Mini Belgium waffle, spiced apple puree, pear and apple galette, honeycomb and white chocolate parfait, verjuice gel, organic honey and rooibos reduction
Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2011

The food was delicious, and the care taken to select the best wines to complement each course definitely showed – each pairing was spot on (in my humble, non-fundi opinion).

Sitting right next to the winemakers themselves, I was fortunate enough to be able to chat to them about their wine farms, and was impressed by their passion and knowledge (though admittedly at times I got a little lost in the technicalities). In between courses the winemakers made their way around to various tables, giving other diners the opportunity to meet them and discuss the wines.

The decor in The Square is slightly surreal, with water fountains and large trees inside a completely enclosed indoor courtyard.  The tinkling sounds of live piano music filtered through the general hubbub of happy diners chatting to one another, making for a convivial, if slightly old-school atmosphere.

I had a great time, and I think it’s a lovely event, whether you’re a wine buff or not.  If you love good food, and appreciate fine wines, this is a good one to try out.  And, if you are a wine buff, you have the added bonus of getting to meet the winemakers and rattle off all the burning questions you probably have about their wines (or winemaking in general).

Tastes of 2012 is on twice every month for the next three months.  Each event is priced slightly differently, depending on the menu, but are around R265 per person, for a 4-course wine-paired meal.  More details available at the Vineyard Hotel website.

Tastes of 2012 – Upcoming events:

  • 10 August 2012 – Oldenburg Vineyards
  • 24 August 2012 – Mooiplaas Estate
  • 07 September 2012 – Antonij Rupert Estate
  • 21 September 2012 – Boutique wine makers
  • 05 October 2012 – Haut Espoir wines
  • 26 October 2012 – Constantia Valley wines

More about Iona Wines

Iona is located on mountain plateau 420 metres above sea level, surrounded by the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s a bit off the beaten track, but sounds like quite a beautiful place, and well worth a visit.


More about Paul Cluver Estate

Paul Cluver Estate is located in Grabouw, off the N2 about 70kms out of Cape Town. In addition to the vineyards and cellar, there are apple and pear orchards, a Hereford stud and eco-tourism activities, including amphitheatre concerts, on the farm.  Half of the estate has been set aside for conservation into perpetuity.


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