“Cancel the rest of your day,” was Suné Eksteen’s advise when I recently accepted an invitation to lunch at their farm in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, home to Bartho Eksteen Wines and Wijnskool. “We are going to kuier.”
And kuier we did, even though I was, strictly speaking, there for work. But that is rather easy to forget when your job is to taste a new food and wine pairing menu that was cheerfully being whipped up in the family kitchen by Suné and her sister, Joan Jordaan, while Bartho enthusiastically went about his new task as waiter and pourer.
Since the Eksteens bought the farm five years ago, Bartho Eksteen Wines has become a real family affair, with Suné leading the charge on all fronts and their son, Pieter Willem and his Argentinian wife, Sol working alongside Bartho as assistant winemakers. Even Shani, who is studying through Unisa, is running her own aftercare on the farm called ‘Plaasjapies’.
They are a close-knit unit and the farm is a happy place where visitors get to experience not only Bartho’s expertly crafted wines and Suné’s unique interpretation of boerekos, but the unpretentious, old-fashioned brand of Eksteen hospitality.
The new restaurant on the farm, named MANÁ – Uit die Hemel en Aarde, is located in the homestead next to the cellar, with doors leading to a covered verandah that overlooks the tasting room and terraced garden running down towards the Onrus River. While the tasting room, The Old Mill House has already been open for wine tasting and light lunches in the form of picnics and platters since last year, MANÁ is a new venture that will be open to the public from 21 November.
The name refers to the Hebrew word in the Bible for the food that God miraculously gave to the Israelites in Exodus after the food they had brought out with them from Egypt had run out. Here the maná not only comes from heaven but from our own valley of heaven and earth. Guests can choose between a three-course and a five-course menu, with each dish paired with a Bartho Eksteen wine. There is also the option of choosing just one dish as a main course and enjoying it with your own wine selection. All the dishes are made from scratch, using fresh produce from the farm where possible, or otherwise sourced from quality-driven, trustworthy suppliers.
We’re talking authentic Cape farm fare with a few quirky twists: Paté de Champagne with crusty farm bread paired with Bartho Eksteen DOM MCC; Onion Tarte Tatin with Bartho Eksteen Blom Rose; Soup de Fruits de Mer with Bartho Eksteen Meester Sauvignon Blanc; Boere Dolmades and Rooihartbees stuffed with deboned ribs and served with roast potatoes, spring greens and pampoenkoekies (pumpkin fritters) paired with Bartho Eksteen Ouskool Red Blend. And last but not least, Grenadilla Brúlée or Amarula Malva pudding with Espresso and a new release husk spirit, aptly named Bedjie Toe.
All Bartho’s wines have Afrikaans names, many of which have been inspired by Wijnskool, the wine academy that he founded with Suné, such as Ouskool (‘Old School’) and Meester (an old-fashioned word for ‘teacher’). Although he is best-known for his love of Sauvignon Blanc, which has earned him numerous accolades, including Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year and Platter’s Sauvignon Blanc of the Year, Bartho has also been very successful with Méthode Cap Classique and Rhône-style blends.
A visit to the farm is like visiting family or old friends. Both the homestead and the Old Mill House, which is one of the oldest buildings in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, have been lovingly restored and furnished with family heirlooms, including the paintings by Bartho’s grandmother on the walls and the vintage crockery on the tables. It is just the place for a laid-back, down-to-earth kuier.
The tasting room is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 16:00 and MANÁ is open for lunch from Thursday to Saturday from 12:00. Call 076 760 1104 or 072 323 5060 to make a booking or to pre-order a picnic or platter. Visit www.barthoeksteen.co.za