A few surprises (apart from some delicious miso soup, sushi, sashimi and a few bits and pieces) at my first visit to Takumi, an unpretentious, modest Japanese restaurant just off Cape Town’s trendy Kloof Street. First surprise was seeing Jaap-Henk Koelewijn in charge – I didn’t realise he was something other than sommelier at Tokara Restaurant, but he says that he’s now more often here than there (there’s an ownership connection which is a bit beyond my province to understand).
Anyway, that was a good surprise as we put ourselves entirely in his hands for food, and weren’t at all disappointed. And his wine recommendation – off a list I didn’t actually see, but Jaap says it is pretty short – was most satisfactory. Cape Rock was a name I’d only vaguely heard, and I’d never tasted any of the wines, but the promise of a chenin-based blend (with clairette and colombard) with only 10.5% alcohol and a hazy appearance was just too intriguing to refuse. Especially when we saw the label.
As you can perhaps see from the left-hand bottle in the pic, it features a lighthouse being enwrapped by an enormous octopus tentacle, and a tiny mention of the name: Asylum. The significance of name, image and any connection between the two of them is quite beyond me – it’s one of the many aspects I need to follow up. But I guess that “asylum” relates to “shelter/refuge” rather than a madhouse, given the name of the companion bottle of red that we moved on to: Amnesty. Now, what on earth is going on here?
Forget the story… what about the wines. The white was only a bit funky, despite the cloudiness, and was light, nicely balanced and a most agreeable lunchtime accompaniment. But of course we also had to try the red Amnesty, which is shiraz-based, with cinsaut, grenache and a few drops of carignan and mourvèdre. Also with a very moderate alcohol. Fresh red fruit, easy-going and as eminently drinkable as the white. They sell for about R220 off the Takumi list, Jaap says.
Youthful Swartland eccentricity and adventure, you might have thought, but no, though it’s clearly in the Swartland Independent spirit – Cape Rock is even further north, near Vredendal in the Olifants River district. Willie Brand and son Gavin are presumably suppliers to the local co-op, but are holding back a little of their more interesting grapes to vinify themselves, increasingly in the spirit of the new South African wine revolution, which is fantastic.
Neither wine is listed in Platter, which didn’t taste anything new from Cape Rock this year. The winery website is even less use – being obscure and minuscule in the extreme in terms of what very little it offers. I hope Willie and Gavin are not resolutely unwilling to communicate, and that email works better, as I’ve written for more info and to find out if other of their wines are available in Cape Town, as I’m keen to try more. I’ll let you know if and when I do. This looks promising.