A step back in time

The Stellenbosch estate known as Muratie first came into being through the signature of title deeds by Governor Wilhem Adriaan van der Stel in 1699 in favour of Laurens Campher who had lived there since 1685. The long history of this farm, its buildings, owners and the people intertwined in the story are memorialised in the names of the wines. All of this will be revealed to you at the wine tasting, which takes place in the old cellar, slightly renovated, but with the trademark cobwebs adorning all the windows. That story will also be revealed by the cheerful and practised young man who presents each wine for tasting. As with many wines, not all of them stand out as memorable or even palatable, but if we all had the same tastebuds only limited varieties would sell. (The same applies to most things in life!) Before arriving at the estate, we had remembered that this is not a brand that you will see in many retail outlets, and had agreed that the export market was the target. The pricing bore this out, and it was clear that they were not relying on locals to see them through the season. A few did stand out as being excellent on the palate, bearing in mind that we went for the Classic tasting menu rather than the eye-watering high end. On reflection, perhaps the top of the range are the ones to taste even if you don’t buy any, simply for the elevated experience.

It is probably fair to say that the star of the day was the kitchen, and the restaurant was buzzing on a cold and very wet day under the gloomy clouds enveloping the Simonsberg. A roaring fire, neatly contained in an innovative fireplace, warmed the smallish dining area, keeping it cosy. The patrons were local as evidenced by the conversations, with a lively table of friends discussing their hunting trips and what appeared to be a special celebration at another table. If I lived close by, I am quite sure this would be top of my restaurant list. The menu is small but hearty, concentrating on comfort food from a homestyle kitchen but with the extras that one never can quite do at home. The lamb shank melted off the bone, resting on creamy mashed potatoes, rich jus, caramelised carrots and lightly sauteed beans and broccoli. A feast indeed, and extremely generous. The pork belly favoured by my companions looked just as tempting, but it was the vegetables that swayed me in the direction of the lamb. It was impossible to even attempt a dessert, but perhaps a starter only for the next time. I highly recommend that you put this estate on your to-do list!

I can only imagine that on a bright sunny day, the surroundings come into their own, with the opportunity to wander around the old buildings and the garden presided over by an ancient oak tree planted by the first owner’s wife, Ansela van de Caab, which endures as a mark of their great love for one another.

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