AMBELOUI WINE CELLAR
Saturday 17 March 2018
Wine – and life – is a funny old thing. A fun thing too! Ambeloui is the only winery that I have written a 3rd article on and yet the smallest I have visited. For those who don’t know – and most don’t, even those living in the Southern Suburbs, Cape Town and in the Constantia Valley – Ambeloui Wine Cellar makes superb MCCs from just 0.5 hectare of vineyards in Hout Bay. Read more here. The Cellar opens on just 2 days a year when most of its production sells out. One such day is the Annual Harvest Festival held in March.
Today was a return to the Harvest Festival having been to last year’s one too for the first time. Unlike last year, when my morning was spent in Stellenbosch for Cape Wine Academy studies, I was able to arrive at Ambeloui for 11.00 am opening time. Even so, with 10 minutes to go, there was a queue of eager visitors waiting outside this unassuming winery in a regular street in the Hout Bay suburbs. Unbelievably, there’s no entry fee. I cannot think of another wine festival I have been to that has a free entry.
Early arrival meant that my partner and I were able to get the best seat I the house! It was a small table for 2 in the shade and with a nice view of the visitors coming and going with their food and MCC. I knew it would become busy very soon so bought a bottle of Ashley Brut MCC. A full ice bucket was provided. There was a returnable R20 deposit for each champagne glass. I paid by cash which was just as well as there were e-payment difficulties due to the weak telecoms signal in the valley. The chalkboard sign that read ‘This is a Greek party – Expect some Chaos!’ said it all. Top tip: always bring cash.
My partner described last year’s Festival as ‘cheerfulness in someone’s backyard’ and this could not have been a better description for the return. It was good to see – and be remembered by – winemaker Alex and parent owners, Nick and Ann Christodoulou. Ann was promoting pre-sales of her Greek Cypriot/Afrikaans cook book called ‘What’s for Lunch?’ Now there’s new fusion cookery! I intend to review the book once published so keep your eye out on the website.
Very soon, people arrived in number searching for their friends. The Ambeloui Harvest Festival is very much a social event, perhaps even an excuse for the Cape Town Greek community to get together too. Seating is spaced around the family home and at long tables on the road in the vineyard. Blue and white bunting, in Greek flag colours, fluttered between the vines.
A few glasses of delicious, dry MCC and I was ready for some of the delicious Greek food. The lamb souvlaki (R70) were not yet ready so I bought a mezze platter (R110) and dessert platter (R60). The mezze included spanokopita, mini pitta bread, feta cheese, stuffed vine leaves, taramasalata, cucumber, olives and tomato. The dessert platter was a feast of sweet Greek delicacies – baklava, bougatsa and treats I cannot name – that were equally tasty. Later, my partner enjoyed the souvlaki that were well cooked and filling. Fortunately, a dry MCC pairs will all foods!
I stayed for a couple of hours before leaving. The Harvest Festival at Ambeloui is a great time just to relax and enjoy some excellent MCC (there were others, the MCC Rosé and pot-still brandy to drink and buy too) and Greek food. It is always a pleasure when all the staff, however busy or stressed, look as if they are enjoying the occasion as much as the guests. You put on a great Festival and with a great vibe (Greek music playing too). I shall return again next year and always recommend my friends do the same.
Meanwhile, I eagerly await my copy of ‘What’s for Lunch?’ …
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Ashley MCC – R195