Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A celebration and a new vineyard at Ayama

Some of the best wines you are drinking contain grapes that are grown in an area called Paardeberg. It is a small but very fruitful area between Durbanville and the back of Paarl Mountain.  Although the direct translation is horse mountain, it is believed that it where Cape Mountain zebra were seen in abundance when the first settlers arrived in the Cape and they mistook them for horses.
Michela Dalpiaz and her husband Attilio bought Slent Farm 10 years ago, renamed it Ayama (a Xhosa word meaning “someone to lean on” – as the owners believe their Slent adventure leans on friendship and love )and have been making their wine and selling their grapes with great success. Now they want to do something different and last week we were invited to the farm to help them plant the first Vermentino grapes in the Cape. And what a fun day they made it. Vermentino which comes mainly from Sardinia and Corsica, is very popular in Italy we quote “Vermentino is a perfect match for our terroir, which is hot and windy and features mostly clay soils with sandy areas from disintegrated granite. The berries and bunches are large and thee grapes are late ripening, all of which fit perfectly with the existing varietals on the farm and the harvesting schedule.  ... it produces aromatic white wines which can handle wood and give you a beautifully powerful wine.”   We helped to plant it.
Under the trees on the farm, some bubbly to welcome us 
It started out as a bit of a chilly day but it brightened later
They presented us with lovely hats to ward off the sun
Trying on the sunhats and the panamas for the fellows
Owner and winemaker Michela Dalpiaz tells us about Ayama
We stand listening under the old oak tree
Michael gets a kiss from friend Simonetta dalla Cia
John can you name these people Simonetta and Giorgio dalla Cia with Dr Augusto Fabbro and the previous owner of Slent farm, Christopher New
We moved for lunch up above the farm in a fleet of 4x4s and sat under this magnificent, centuries old wild olive tree. These are indigenous to South Africa but, sadly, do not bear edible fruit
A light lunch of focaccia, grissini, Tsatziki and crudite as we were to have an early supper
They have wonderful views from this vantage point and can see from the Winterberg right around to Table Mountain
Their vineyards with the Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch mountains in the distance
Keeping the wine cool in a bathtub
Michela tells us about the vines they have and the plans for the future
Judy New previously owned the farm with her husband Christopher. They still have a cottage there and she loves to drive her Suzuki up the mountain to see the protected fynbos when they are visiting from their current home in Pringle Bay
Time to move down to see the Vermentino vineyard
Near neighbours Tanya and Willie de Waal of Scali farm with Judy New
Michela tells us what is going to happen next. The vineyard needs planting and we are going to do it!
An amused Judy and Christopher look on
Here is the equipment. And we are relieved to see that the holes have been dug
We also had a lesson in planting and an assistant to do some of the hard work. Actually, all of it for most of us
Attilio plants the first vine
And the whole family helps to tamp it in
Each of the vineyards has its own plaque
Each person attending was given custody of five vines they had to plant and a label to help locate them. In the future, we hope to be invited to help prune them and when the vineyard is ready in a few years time, pick the grapes of our vines
Lynne holds onto our first vine and helps to position it as our expert helps to arrange the roots
He then fills in the holes gently so that the soil completely covers the roots
Christine Rudman planting her vines with Attilio
John planting a vine and positioning it against the wire while the soil is replaced
A vineyard full of happy, industrious people. The hats were very useful
and everyone was involved
Ex-Winemaker Jonathan Snashall knew exactly what to do and Georgie Prout was the soil replacer
And Graham Howe did all his on his own, not for the first time. As a gardener, he just questioned whether the holes were big enough
Some people didn’t manage to get there, their vines will be planted for them by the friendly farm workers
Back to the farm and time for the tasting of 4 Italian Vermentinos from Sardinia
The bottles
Georgio dalla Cia noses one
The line-up. We found them all quite salty, with lots of tangy and crispcitrus flavours and with some honey, white peach and tropical fruity flavours on most. There is a definite whiff of herbs, sometime mint and some perfume. They all have that characteristic slight almost almond bitterness on the end. Very refreshing and great with sunny Mediterranean seafood
The tasting was guided by Dr Augusto Fabbro
Hats on, we all pose for the group shot
Some strange clouds appeared over the Boland. Lynne remembered that in Europe, if you see these over the mountains, they mean snow is on the way. And indeed two days later the weather changed remarkably and we had a huge cold snap, with a light dusting of snow on the highest mountains, silly weather for mid November, our late Spring
Dinner was planned in the ruins of the old farm which is being converted into a new tasting room and winery but because the weather looked rather changeable, we move to Vondeling where the tasting room had been converted into a elegant banqueting hall!
The menu was  extensive
Wonderful tender country lamb on the spit being carved. Cleverly, instead of doing mushy roast potatoes, the chef had done new baby potatoes. And he hadn’t added a thick over-flavoured coating gravy, just let the natural juices of the lamb herbs and garlic concentrate at the bottom of the spit
We had a vibey marimba band to bop along to
A buffet table full of salads, bread and cheese
We could try all of Ayama's wines
and drink them with supper
These wines sell very well overseas
The cheese platter. That black pepper cheese was breathtaking, literally!
Several varieties of tomato in the salads
Mozzarella was added to the salads later
Michela welcomes us and tells us about dinner
All the staff were invited, something you don’t often see
Marco Ventrello of KWV is a tenant on Ayama and enjoyed the evening with his lady
There was hand made pizza from Pizza Piaggio
The portable pizza oven comes on its own mini van
There were three flavours to chose from
Willie and Tanya de Waal watch theirs being made
The Fungi
The Coppa
The staff tables
Lots of happy faces
And we were entertained by a professional singer
Asparagus soup made by Michela
Giorgio bringing us wine
An added treat with dessert was his Grappa made from Merlot. Lynne poured hers on the Tiramisu. Delicious
How romantic is this, Vondelings chapel at twilight
Waiting for our bus to take us back to town after a superb day of fun and hard work and lots of eating and drinking,  Thank you to all at Ayama
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2014
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