Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It takes a good few hours to drive from Palermo Airport to Menfi, in the Province of Arigento, where our stone villa was just two minutes walk from the beach. The simple landscape of vineyards, prickly pears and old stone walls already set the scene for slow-paced, simple living. Cast in the Italian summer sunlight our surroundings took on a magical allure.
Of course, the authentic laid back pace doesn’t mean that the local Italians forget all about their fancy Armani sunglasses on Menfi’s Blue Flag beaches or neglect to look impeccable when they splash about in the clear, warm sea water. Style remains as imperative here as in any sort of Italian lifestyle. Style and, pasta sauce...
If life in Italy is all about spending hours sharing good food and wine with good friends, taking siestas and starting all over again, then we lived the Italian dream for a week. A communal favourite was simple pasta sauces made with combinations of red onions, sweet Italian tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies. We also enjoyed roasted fennel and had much fun making our own pizza in the traditional wood fired pizza oven out on our villa terrace. Dessert was fresh apricots from the tree next to our bougainvillea.
All of our home cooked meals were enthusiastically paired with our favourite Sicilian wines. We loved the Santanella from Mandrarossa, an aromatic floral white blend of Fiano, Viognier and Chenin Blanc. However my personal favourite was Madrarossa's Urra di Mare, a light, fresh Sauvignon blanc that dances like a sea breeze on the tongue.
Informally known as Sicily’s African coast, Menfi is separated from the North African country of Tunisia by only a narrow stretch of ocean. The town of Menfi itself has a distinct Arabian architectural influence, highlighting the cultural smorgasbord that adds to the delight of this Mediterranean island.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
My friends enjoy making fun of my driving skills, but they were not all there to see me test drive the new Audi A7 out to lunch with Peter Finlayson & co in Hermanus recently. It was a networking day with the kind of professionals who appreciate good South African pinot noir and king oyster mushrooms.
The Audi Centre at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town presented us with a couple of their most luxurious models; the A6, A7, A8 and Q7. Cape Town was showing off with gorgeous winter sunshine and the N2 highway was quiet enough for us to put foot. We all took turns to drive different stretches in different cars, almost like, musical cars.
During my stint as a passenger in the super luxurious Audi A8 I had much fun playing with the seat warmer. Just as I started purring like a cat, it was my turn to drive. It was almost like flying all the way up Sir Lowry’s pass, leaving sweeping views of the ocean behind for a host of apple trees in the Elgin valley. All the while the Bose speakers were blaring gangster hip hop and the lovely gentlemen from the Audi Centre allowed me to push the speed limit just a bit.
It was, however, the Audi A7 that stole my heart during that last stretch out to Hemel en Aarde (Afrikaans for Heaven and Earth) valley in Hermanus, while we were swiftly gliding around the last of the bends. I felt like a jet pilot with the high-tech travel speed display that was projected into the windscreen, only visible to me, from my driver seat cockpit. It’s a stroke of genius that allowed me to keep my eyes on the road at all times and still stay up to date with my travel information.
It was hard to part with this black beauty when we finally reached our destination: Bouchard Finlayson boutique vineyard in the Hemel en Aarde valley. Henrico Grobbelaar from Azure restaurant at the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa was already carefully preparing a feast of Chalmar beef carpaccio drizzled with truffle oil and paired with Galpin Peak Pinot Noir for starters.
And so from one love to another; luxury cars to gourmet food and fine wine with fellow coinnoisseurs. By the time I reached the platter of Cape cheese, glass of Hannibal 2009 in hand, I was filled with the wonder of this sunshiny day, the elegance of the cooler climate South African red wines and the lazy indulgence of being chauffeured all the way back to Cape Town in the Audi Q7. Heaven, indeed.