A gaggle of media people were invited to 15 On Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection, to indulge in a food and wine pairing experience curated by Michela Dalpiaz of Ayama Wines and Executive Chef Tamsyn Wells of Savour Restaurant. The result was an intimate romance and love story that rivalled history’s greatest couples. Not even Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Churchill and Clementine, and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had love affairs as seamless, spectacular, and harmonious as this.
I was struck by this revelation by about the third course of our tasting menu at Savour. Located right next door to the Iziko Museum and Planetarium on Queen Victoria Street, the upmarket, luxuriously appointed boutique hotel to which the restaurant belongs couldn’t be better positioned to receive and care for visitors from all over the world. With food and wine this beautiful, it was only fitting that our luncheon was hosted by a venue to match!
The Story of Ayama Wines
Over a decade ago, Michela and Attilio Dalpiaz left their home in northern Italy to holiday in South Africa and it was here that they unwittingly lost their hearts to the Cape’s staggering beauty, engaging people, and untold potential. They returned shortly thereafter to purchase a Voor Paardeberg farm complete with vineyards and plum and pear orchards.
Today, Slent Farm is home to the Ayama Winery, which produces the repertoire of wines we had the privilege of tasting during our meal at Savour. And leading the tasting was none other than Ayama owner, winemaker, and all-round-“supershero” Michela Dalpiaz who, in a melodious Italian accent, enchanted us with her tales of Slent Farm and the antics of its visiting baboon troupe.
Six-course tasting menu and wine pairing
With everyone seated around the lunch table, we were introduced to Tamsyn Wells, the Executive Chef of Savour. Then began the meal…
Our first course was beef fillet tartare laced with soft nuggets of potato and Parmesan cheese, and served with crispy disks of beef lard that offered a pleasing, juxtaposed crunch. This was paired with the Ayama Leopard Spot White 2017, a complex peach, apricot, honey, and spice hued blend of Chenin and Grenache Blanc.
Next up was the beetroot and hand-made goat’s milk chevin (cheese) with baby candy beetroot, pickled onion, quinoa, cashew tahini, and candied walnuts: a stunning dish of tangy, earthy, and sweet flavours that pleased every corner of the palate. It took an extraordinary wine to stand up to the flavours presented by this dish but Ayama had the perfect candidate in their arsenal…
Vermentino is a novel white grape varietal on South African shores and Slent Ayama is the first and only estate in the country to grow it (for now, at least). With the Perdeberg having a microclimate and terroir that is similar to that of Sardinia, where the grape proliferates, Michela and Attilio decided to introduce this light-skinned grape in 2014 and, in 2016, they released the maiden vintage of the Ayama Vermentino. The wine we tasted at Savour was the second vintage (2017) and was so beautiful – intense and fresh, yet creamy with floral, fruity aromas and ripe, tropical fruit flavours – that I simply had to take a bottle of it home with me.
Third and fourth courses
The fish dish was a salt, sugar, and dill-cured salmon (gravlax) with shaved asparagus, pickled radish, citrus crème fraîche, and ikura (salmon caviar), decorated with a fragrant herb dust, which looked like powdered emerald against the darkness of the plate. This was paired with the Ayama Baboon’s Cheek Viognier 2017, named after the resident troupe that paid the Viognier vineyard a well-timed visit that coincided with harvest.
We were then treated to a slice of roast Chalmar beef rib eye steak with parsnip and vanilla purée, sauerkraut, and a meaty, flavourful, and crunchy mushroom “soil”. The wine for this course was the Ayama Baboon’s Cuddle Pinotage 2017, a South African varietal that, on Slent Farm, is crafted in an Italian style to produce a complex, leathery, earthy, fruity red wine. Absolutely gorgeous!
Cheese, dessert, and Petite Sirah
The cheese course consisted of slices of creamy Forest Hill Manchego cheese the rinds of which were dusted with cocoa for a pleasant little nip of bitter richness, spiced plum compote, and seeded Parmesan crackers. This was paired with the Ayama Baboon’s Back Petite Sirah, a red wine of the most incredible inky black / purple colour. For a richly sweet ending, we received a marvel of a construction: a cherry glazed bubble of chocolate mousse with a crisp wafer centre, served on a swath of burnt meringue.
Impressed on all fronts
In this line of work, it’s no novelty to experience a multi-course tasting menu paired with wine but what was so noteworthy about this meal is the fact that Chef Tamsyn and Michela from Ayama curated a food and wine pairing that was so intimately compatible that one could barely discern where the one began and the other ended. The interplay of flavours and acidity was seamless, with the food bringing out previously untold depths of fruit in the wine, and the wine playing perfect accompaniment to the food. The meal was masterfully put together with the wine front-and-centre to its design, without allowing the food to take a backseat.
My advice here is three-fold: (1) pay Slent Farm in Voor Paardeberg a visit, where Ayama is located, and experience their beautiful range of wines, (2) hunt down Michela Dalpiaz for a chat – she is a lovely person with an infectious passion for what she does, and (3) treat yourself to a meal at Savour: Executive Chef Tamsyn Wells is a true master of gastronomy. Every dish was a symphony of flavour, colour, and texture.
I was incredibly impressed on all fronts and had the most wonderful afternoon (over) indulging all of my senses. Suffice it to say that I went home and had a smoothie for supper.
Savour at 15 On Orange Hotel is open for breakfast: Monday to Sunday, 06:30 to 10:30 | lunch: Monday to Sunday 12:00 to 15:00 | dinner: 18:00 to 22:00. For bookings and enquiries, please call +27 (0)21 469 8000