Sushi and Asylum


Jaap-Henk Koelewijn – less blurry than he looks here

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.

caperock2As 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.

5 thoughts on “Sushi and Asylum

  1. I’m waiting on a couple of bottles of Cape Rock GRV 2014 that I’ve ordered. A friend from my wine club, The Noble Rotters, recommended the 2013 but I couldn’t get it. He says the GRV is, for him, their best white and I’m looking forward to taste it. The new Platter guide has nothing on this 2014 vintage yet.

    Come to think of it, after stashing away some Sequillo Red 2012 and Sequillo White 2013 earlier in the week, I noticed that the new Platter guide also has nothing on them. Is this sort of thing because producers plan badly, or what? Surely, if I can already buy a wine now, a sample could have been offered to the Platter taster a few months ago (in most cases, at least)? Let me know if anyone knows where I can find a 2016 Platter’s Guide – haha!

  2. Hi Tim, thanks for the writeup. Most current wines were not ready or bottled to submit for Platter 2015, so we decided to submit for the 2016 edition. Sorry, working on new website, will go live early in 2015. We did not receive any email asking for more info? As Krige said I just left on honeymoon in Italy, but all wines are available from Vino Pronto and some from Wine at the Mill, Wine Concepts and Norman Goodfellows in Jhb. I will arrange to deliver some samples to you on my return.

  3. Ha, fun. Drinking Asylum as I read this blog! Amazing wine, very hazy but so fresh and drinkable at an early age. Amnesty is mostly Swartland wine by the way and also lovely.
    GRV 2014 is a bit tight and closed at the moment, or it could be the transport from SA to Holland.
    Gavin deserves more attention in SA, he has made some amazing wines!

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