With the changing season, I find myself longing to indulge in lazy dinners that are packed full of exquisite ingredients to warm me right through. An evening spent at Reuben's at the One & Only tasting wines and enjoying Reuben's delicious fare is exactly the kind of evening I'm talking about.
To begin with, it's a treat to have a Reuben's bistro so close to home. It means that good, hearty food made with maximum love and flavour is just a few minutes away. Combine this with an educational (and at times, raucous) evening filled with wine and there's a match made in heaven.
So it was that my partner and I found ourselves stepping into the swanky One & Only Hotel at around 7pm on the last Wednesday of April for the second "Wine & Dine" event of the year, looking forward to learning a little more about Glen Carlou's wine.
For the duration of 2012, Reuben's will be hosting a wine and dine evening on the last Wednesday of every month, organised by the One & Only's larger-than-life sommelier, Luvo Ntezo, whose philosophy on wine is a refreshing one -none of the stuffy attitude that can often come the territory. Instead, he's entertaining, relaxed and above all, passionate about wine.
Together with chef Reuben Riffel and some of Luvo's favourite local wine farms, they have produced a special evening once a month that appeals to those who want to learn more about how wine farms produce their special vintages and blends, and how these are paired with food.
Luvo and Reuben at the One & Only.
Luvo joined the more than 30 of us in the bar, along with Glen Carlou winemaker Arco Laarman, whilst we sipped the first wine of the evening - Glen Carlou's 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - and started to relax.
Soon we were ushered to the restaurant – an impressive, yet warm setting – and on to a U-shaped table so that guests could share their experiences of the food and wine more easily with one another.
Somehow, wine and food brings strangers together and soon my partner and I were happily chatting to the people around us. Our host for the evening, Aubrey Ngcungama of Come Dine with Me fame, welcomed us and handed the mic over to Luvo and Arco, who wasted no time in introducing the amuse bouch courtesy of the kitchen - a decadent deep-fried parmesan gnocchi, with silky pumpkin purée and a parmesan foam.
This was served with Arco's latest unwooded Chardonnay made in concrete tanks. The concrete offers a happy medium between the strong woody flavours of a barrel and the fresh, clinical flavours of the steel tank, allowing the necessary micro-oxygenation to take place and ultimately allowing for the grape's original flavours to develop without interference.
The result is a well-rounded one that has all the creaminess of its variety without the heavy oak. Best of all, it offers a fresh finish, and I think it's a great wine for those ABC drinkers among us to try because it offers all the best qualities of its variety. Perhaps there will be a few converts amongst them.
Another star of the evening was the Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. While it'll benefit from a few years tucked away, its whole berry ripeness and light, silky tannins mean this is a bottle you should be opening this winter too.
A wholesome dish of suckling pig croquette and carrots prepared in crème fraiche stood up well to the wine, particularly with the addition of a fennel jus which echoed the gentle hint of liquorice left on the palate.
All in all, it was an outstanding evening and at R325 a head I was impressed with how well-priced it was, particularly as generosity was overflowing when it came to the food, wine and the time both winemaker Arco and One & Only sommelier Lovu spent answering all the guests' questions.
I'm already starting to take note of which other evenings I'd like to attend. There's a Graham Beck evening happening at the end of May, which I'm told I'd best book for now as seats are limited to around 30.
Here are the rest of the evenings available:
30 May - Graham Beck
27 June - Boekenhoutskloof Wines
25 July - La Motte Estate
29 August - Steenberg Estate
26 September - Ken Forrester Wines
31 October - Kanu Wines
2 November - Nitida Estate
To book, you can contact 021 431 5111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org