Bells & Whistles is a monthly newsletter which aims to give a voice to the Asara team, and to celebrate good news in our own quirky way. At Asara our staff is our biggest asset, and each department has wonderful stories and achievements to share. Please enjoy this edition and remember to share your stories and ideas with us.
Harvest 2019 has finished, with the last crates of our later-ripening red varieties coming into the cellar in the first week of April. The yield at Asara this harvest, in terms of total tons of grapes, is down from last year, as it is across the Cape Winelands, largely due to the lingering effects of the recent drought. But the quality of grapes is exceptional, and bodes well for our 2019 vintage wines.
As Farm Manager Alan Cockcroft says: ‘When conditions are dry for a prolonged period the vines tend to produce smaller berries and less berries on the bunches, which inevitably means that the yield is reduced. But the smaller berries pack loads of flavour which is what we need to make great wines. This year we had cooler weather during harvest, and a gentler ripening phase, which also contributes to producing quality grapes”. The smaller berries have thicker skins, and the wine-making team adapted its approach accordingly, fermenting at lower temperatures and giving the juice extended skin contact to extract as much flavour and colour transfer as possible. We have a lot of new French oak in the cellar this harvest, which will enable the team to find the precise match between soils and oak which is necessary to create the elegant wines with pure, vibrant fruit expression, length and layering that the fruit offers.
A feature of mise en place this season has been the addition to the menu of a selection of steaks prepared in a distinct Asara style.
The menu offers a choice between a 900g T-Bone (served sliced and recommended for two), an 800g sirloin served on the bone, or a 180-200 g fillet. The steaks have proved such a hit with diners that they will also be on the Sansibar menu this winter. Head Chef Arek Witaszek explains: “We start with great quality beef that we source from a trusted supplier. From there we do everything in-house. We cut the steaks ourselves on the bone, and then age them for up to 30 days. Then, when it comes to grilling we use an Asara baste that adds a subtle sweetness, and grill on a charcoal grill so that the flames caused by the fat dripping onto the coals adds a little extra smokiness to the taste. The result is a flavourful, succulent, Asara-style steak. I don’t think you can find better anywhere in Stellenbosch.”
Asara was honoured at the Stellenbosch Private Hotel School’s annual graduation ceremony in March with the award of the school’s trophy for ‘Hospitality Management Mentors’.
School director, Susina Jooste, said that the award was in recognition of Asara’s “valuable contribution to our management student’s professional development... thank you for your support and encouragement to our students”.
There are currently four Asara bursary scheme students studying at the Private Hotel School (on both the management and chef tracks), and Asara frequently offers paid positions to students to do the practical work experience part of their studies.
Estate Manager Pete Gottgens says: “We thank the hotel school for the award. It is vital to our hospitality industry that we nurture young talent and provide the opportunity to develop skills and on-the-job experience, and we are always happy to play our part”.
The Asara team of Estate Manager Pete Gottgens, Winery Manager Sam Wiid and Brand Ambassador Mandla Patson, enjoyed a busy three days showing off Asara wines at the ProWein wine fair in Düsseldorf in March.
Prowein is Europe’s largest wine trade fair and an important event on the Asara wine calendar, and our presence at the fair was capped this year by the news that Asara’s Vineyard Collection Cape Fusion 2015 had been awarded a gold medal at the Mundus Vini International Wine Awards.
Sam comments: “ProWein is always a busy and productive three days and this year was no exception. There was lots of interest in Asara wines as usual, but it was good to see that there was also increased interest in South African wines generally. We enjoyed showing off some of Asara’s yet-to-be-released wines, and of course we were only too happy to let our visitors know about the gold medal for Cape Fusion!”
Our famous Easter treats will be available at the Asara Deli, and for pre-order, from the 10th of April.
- Easter chocolates made by chocolate artisan Naasir from expertly tempered couverture chocolate. A truly out-of-the-ordinary chocolate experience - ideal for a shared Easter indulgence.
- Sweet, spicy, sticky, fruity hot cross buns. Made with meticulous attention to detail by baking maestro Rafieq with his own mix of spices. A classic Easter essential done to perfection.
For pre-orders (recommended) please phone JP on 021 888 8000, or e-mail email@example.com.
Congratulations to Janett Claasen and Verlin Petersen on the birth of a strapping baby boy, Luca.
Asara’s Private Hotel School bursary students - Bianca Goosen, Sihle Nhlapo, Marius Meyer and Oigen Kaptein - will be heading back to school in April after spending the last six months working at the hotel.
mise en place will be closing for winter from the 14th of April, and will re-open in mid-October.
Deepest condolences to Ike Petersen from all in the Asara family on the passing of his wife, Lientjie. Ike is a legendary mainstay of the farm team, having spent some 52 harvests at Asara, in recent years as farm team supervisor and now in semiretirement.
Lientjie was also a member of the farm team, and served as head of the women’s section of the team. After she retired, a number of years ago, Lientjie and Ike’s house at the heart of the Farm Worker’s village became a welcoming gathering spot for all comers. Lientjie was much-loved and will be greatly missed.
A warm welcome to new Asara team members:
Francis Schaff - Housekeeping
Maya van der Poel - Front Office
Clefton Chilingulo - Gardens
Congratulations to Hillary Toro and his wife, Anetah, on the birth of a baby boy, Tinoye.
Hillary is a member of the hotel’s Night Audit team, along with colleagues Samuel Machawa and Onias Tsakatsa. As the name implies, the night auditors are responsible for financial oversight, checking at the end of the day that all the various cash and credit card transactions at the hotel and restaurants have been correctly processed, and closing off each financial day and starting the new one.
But the team’s duties also involve everything necessary to provide a 24-hour a day service to guests, such as dealing with late night and early morning departures and arrivals, helping guests with requests for things like extra pillows, and taking care of room service from the night menu including serving wines and preparing and serving light meals.
Clearly it takes a great variety of skills to be a night auditor, you even need to be handy in the kitchen!
Asara was delighted to host a visit in March by Yumiko Yamamoto, co-proprietor of Luca Wines in Mishima, Japan, one of an increasing number of wine shops in Japan where Asara wines can be found.
Yumiko spent a month at Asara to develop her knowledge of our wines, and of the Cape Winelands, and did a bit of work in the cellar while with us, and lots of tasting and discussing of wines!
Yumiko is especially interested in food and wine pairing, and says that many of her customers are big fans of Asara’s Cape Fusion as it pairs so well with soy and wasabi flavours.
We bid a fond farewell to our charming guest – and look forward to much more tasting and discussion in years to come, and to seeing more and more of Asara wines in Japan.
Head gardener Tommy Williams is always on the lookout for new ways to bring out the best in the gardens, especially when it come to the 7 500 indigenous white iceberg roses on the estate.
Tommy’s latest clever idea is to recycle the used coffee grounds from the kitchen – which is available by the bucket load – as both a compost and ground cover in the rose and flower beds.
“We use the coffee grounds carefully,” says Tommy, “because they’re not suitable for all the plants, but I’ve already seen an improvement with the roses and gardenias. It’s also waterwise since it helps the soil retain moisture and reduces the need for watering. Plus there’s another benefit, when we put the coffee grounds on the beds in front of the Merlot and Cabernet blocks, the guests are always telling me how much they like the smell!”
Featured wine is our Vineyard Collection Cape Fusion 2015 which was awarded a gold medal at the Mundus Vini International Wine Awards in March. This is yet another in an impressive list of significant awards that Cape Fusion vintages have received in recent years. The 2015 vintage alone has also received a gold medal at the prestigious Frankfurt International Wine Trophy 2018, and Double Platinum / Top 100 status at the prestigious National Wine Challenge / Top 100 SA Wines competition for 2018.
Cape Fusion is a Cape blend in the tradition of the famous Bordeaux blend, except that it contains a significant portion (at least 30% to make a ‘Cape’ blend) of the indigenous Cape cultivar, Pinotage. In our Cape Fusion, Pinotage is blended with Shiraz and Malbec in roughly equal proportions, and then matured in French oak. The result is a fresh, elegant wine with spice, mocha and dark berry aromas, a full round palate with layers of luscious blackberry and dark chocolate, and a dry yet fruity finish.
As well as offering award-winning taste, Cape Fusion punches well above its weight in terms of value for money and is the biggest seller in the Asara portfolio of wines.