The Franschhoek Valley never fails to beguile and delight. Simply driving along beneath the spectacular mountain slopes, past woods and vineyards, initiates a process of enchantment transporting you into another world – only 60km from Cape Town, but of an entirely different order of tranquility, luxury and pleasure. Nowhere is this harmony better represented than the La Motte Wine Estate, where the culinary, oenological and visual arts combine to form a synesthetic palette that is nothing short of ravishing.
The scene is already set on the approach to La Motte, by imposing sculpture of a woman, four metres high, holding an overflowing cup. The Wine Bearerwas commissioned by the late Dr Anton Rupert’s daughter, mezzo soprano Hanneli-Rupert-Koegelenberg, to celebrateLa Motte’s tradition of sharing. The sculpture is one of eight strong, silent female forms that you will encounter at La Motte, all created by South African artists Toby Megaw and his father Theo. Take the Sculpture Walk if you want to find out more about these fascinating works.
The Wine Bearer’s overflowing vessel is also a prompt to head for the tasting facility. An experience in itself, this completely redesigned and refurbished space creates a truly inviting and friendly ambiance. The large fireplace looks particularly convenient for winter. There’s no stiff formality to wine tasting here – just take a seat at the tasting counter or one of the hand-made tasting tables and let the knowledgeable and very friendly staff talk you through the nuances of La Motte’s award-winning vintages, including the Pierneef Collection premium wine range.
Why Pierneef? After the old master’s death, ten sets of a collection of 128 linocuts were printed, after which the originals were destroyed. Dr Anton Rupert bought each of his children a set; Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg’s one now adorns the walls of the tasting room and the restaurant. In addition, each bottle of Pierneef Syrah Viognier or Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc has its own linocut on the front label.
The linocuts offer a fascinating glimpse into Pierneef’s concerns as an artist – historic buildings, lonely farmsteads, wine cellars, landscapes, his beloved indigenous trees, and the eruption of towering cloud formations behind mountains or over plains. What comes through is the independence of his approach – he was never a slave to any European school or theory. Perhaps this unique quality is reflected in the Syrah Viognier, with the red and white varietals playing a subtle game of light and shade, like the combination of white and black in Pierneef’s linocuts. From the tasting room it’s a short walk over an enchanting suspension bridge above a pond filled with lilies and fish to the Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant, where the culinary team rises to the challenge of echoing Pierneef’s artistry in their modern interpretations of old-time Cape Winelands cuisine. The á la carte lunch is a triumph of creativity, with astonishing twists on traditional ingredients. For example, it’s no exaggeration to say that every ingredient of the Cape bokkom salad, with the pungent flavour of the salted and dried fish set against semi-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, quail eggs, and toasted almonds with garlic dressing, acts like a note in a piece of music, so that your taste buds are stimulated to investigate the principle at play. Yes, the diner is a co-creator in this experience … In a different way, the Boerbok with braised and picked carrots and hazelnuts and heirloom carrot chutney transforms the humble farmer’s goat into something rich and strange. However, the pièce de résistance was the dessert, simply entitled “Jam”. This multi-layered, swirling confectionary of watermelon, jelly, white chocolate and pecan nut mousse, shades of pink cake, and watermelon sorbet (styled “a playful interpretation of South African’s love for all kinds of jams and conserves”) is like a Jean-Paul Gaultier creation in a glass. Clearly, one is in the presence of a formidable culinary artist. The temptation to return and sample the rest of the menu is strong.
To round off the experience, the La Motte Museum offers a stimulating excursion through the history of the estate, together with that of the influential Rupert family, and the perennially absorbing permanent collection of Pierneefs, which are well served in this setting. Also not to be missed is the new exhibition Fleurs de La Mottefeaturing Paula van Coller-Louw’s coruscating paintings of La Motte’s various flora, from mountain fynbos to lavender and roses.
Also to be seen is Toby Megaw’s The Blushing Bride, a sculpture in progress that will be completed in May.
Fleurs de la Motte runs until 17 June.
On Tuesday mornings, the Fleurs de La Motte Experience offers a guided exhibition tour of the exhibition; on alternate weeks, there is a sculpting demonstration by Toby Megaw or a walk-about with Paula van Coller-Louw or Museum Curator Eliz-Marié Schoonbee, followed by tea in the Pierneef à La Motte gardens.
Bookings 021 876 8850