Jan 2011 Update

Hi sports fans

Just before January loves us and leaves us, I felt it prudent to bless – no curse – no subjugate – no all of the above!- you to my monthly newsletter. If I waited till Feb, it wouldn’t be monthly…

What do we know?

2010 was an awesome year for PG TOPS, and a rollercoaster ride for me personally. I made some great friends, had some fantastic experiences and lived anD loved the FIFA World Cup, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

2011 is set to be even more awesome. PG TOPS is evolving as a business – I’m looking at expanding the business in terms of some permanent staff (that means my proud claim to being a one-man-band might ring hollow soon – pretty soon I’ll start talking in the royal WE, as in: WE are looking forward to hosting you. WE are a young dynamic company. WE are glad to meet you. WE are looking forward to the banquet and the slave dancing. Etc…) Watch this space.

The reason for this is awesome friends and clients. Take a bow Patricia, Natalie, Stephanie, Charmaine, Warrick, Karin, Angelo, Le Roux, Lyle, Erika, Donna, Reynard, Candice!) You guys kept me nice and busy. This month, thanks to you guys, I did the following awesome new things:

  1. Visited the Garden route with some cool Swedish guests, and enjoyed the fantastic hospitality of a beach braai at Afrovibe lodge in Sedgefield. I also had lunch at Enrico’s in Keurbooms for the first time (thanks Monkey Lady for the tip).
  2. Dinner at La Colombe with the St Anton lads – some of the most knowledgable restaurateurs and hospitality members of Austria’s premier ski resort were duly impressed by the level we could go to in Cape Town – but they loved Mama Africa just as much! Top stuff.
  3. Played the course at Metropolitan for the first time since the World Cup construction began – hey, for R800 you can hire two sets of clubs, play 9 holes and not even the leave the city. Now that’s what I call a bargain.

I also hired out vans, waited till 1am at the airport for KLM flights, demonstrated wine snob cheating to some Dutchies, dodged baboons, ate too much calamari, almost got lost in the Swartland, slept on the beach, marketed Dom Pedros and generally had a blast.

For January, February and March, there will be some multi-day bigger groups as PG TOPS evolves. Accommodation booked from the Radisson to the Backpacker! Meals arranged, drumming organized, Safaris booked, helicopter flights found, and whatever else strikes your fancy… apparently we got it all in Cape Town.

What a place to live!

Hope your 2011 is filled with a bit of wonderful, not too much sadness and abundant opportunities to be AWESOME!

Best,
Pieter G
+27 83 288 4944

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Top 5 Wineries for views

Please feel free to challenge these choices, but my extensive Chardonnay-sniffing Cab-spitting adventures have delivered to me these gems for incomparable views while you enjoy your vino…

Counting down from no 5, here they come…

NO 5: Seidelberg in Paarl area: The picnic tables outside is a great spot to enjoy some sun, a view of the winelands all the way to Table Mountain on a clear day and the cheese and meat platter remains my favourite in the winelands. This is one of my most visited wineries, I especially like the unwooded Chardonnay with some parma ham and Fairview cream cheese… hmmm….

NO 4: Constantia Glen: I recently chanced upon this one taking some wine enthusiasts from the States around… they managed to hit 10 estates in two days, good work to the Lorenzes. Constantia Glen’s elevated tasting room has a magnificent view over the Constantia valley, the oldest winemaking area in SA. Classy!

NO 3: Ernie Els, Stellenbosch: The Big Easy’s classy wine tasting spot has won me over. I resisted going here initially, but this place is magic. Good reds, ambience, and a view from the top.

NO 2: Uva Mira. Slightly higher up from Ernie Els, Uva Mira is a more understated tasting facility but the sassy hospitality from your hostess Audrey compared with the majestic view of the False Bay Basin is only surpassed by the world-class Chardonnay. A new favourite!

NO 1: La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek. I’ve had numerous functions, parties, dates and just hosting friends here… and this place just can’t keep me away. The tranquil setting coupled with a lovely view of the Franschhoek valley makes for one of the most enjoyable dining experiences in the winelands. Be sure to book a table early and ask for one on the terrace!

My top wine farms – the can’t fail wine tour

I spend a lot of time sniffing Chenin Blancs out in the winelands. This is a dirty job, but someone has got to do it. I take my quest of trying to visit every wine farm in the country quite seriously, and have notched up about 80 farms or so at this point… I need to do a count.

Over time, I have found firm favourites depending on who the client is – red wine lovers are different from champers-guzzling wedding parties, wine connoisseurs need to taste the really good stuff as opposed to wine snobs (read the French) who need to be handled with kid gloves.

But the Cape Winelands, comprising Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, is so diverse that I find you can always satisfy the needs – how to choose? How to choose… and that’s where I come in.

I have a formula, though, and here’s how I would go about a blind wine tour – ie, I don’t know the clients, I’m not allowed to ask them what they like and I need to make sure the tour delivers. Here’s how:

FAIRVIEW

You start the trip at Fairview www.fairview.co.za – this is the lazy wine guide’s favourite, because man these guys are slick – cheese and wine tasting, beautiful estate, some goats prancing around and Khoi fish in the pond and a well known cheeky brand known as the Goats do Roam (yep, the French hate them). Fairwiew also has some sweet BEE social initiatives through Fairvalley wines and overall this is deservedly an estate that attracts a lot of visitors. It’s a crowd scene, but a good one, and it represents big business in the winelands well.

TOKARA

GT Ferreira’s baby project is a magnificent modern building nestled on top of Helshoogte pass complete with helicopter pad and breathtaking views from the tasting room. The huge fireplace, big comfy leather chairs and swanky interior makes for a great winter of summer spot. This is my “fancy” visit – they make really good whites with grapes taken from different regions, the folks are friendly and there’s always a buzz. It’s made a splash in SA winemaking in a relatively short time, with good reason!

MURATIE

The legendary Melck family are pioneers in SA winemaking – Tannie Annetjie even helped create Oom Samie se winkel, and she still makes the jam preserves you can buy in the tasting room. This Stellenbosch estate is an institution, it’s been around for over 330 years and I don’t think they’ve renovated since then. Cobwebs, ancient wagon wheels, historic paintings of owner mistresses in the 1800’s with the accompanying saucy legends, encapsulated in the iconic Ansela van de Caab flagship red and well documented by the informed tasting staff. This is my “real” visit – an estate that celebrates it’s heritage. The ports are great too!

MIDDELVLEI

This third generation estate in the heart of Stellenbosch has been a favourite for a while. Owner Ben Momberg, ably assisted by canine companions Pinotage and Tinta, takes us through his cellar for an informative winetasting lesson and inappropriate amounts of wine tasting from different containers and wooden barrels. By the end of it, we are more than ready for lunch, which is a farmstyle braai in summer and a great snack platter by the fireplace in winter. This is the business!

Top 5 outdoor activities in Cape Town

This is, of course, purely a personal appraisal. But while I cool down after going nowhere very quickly in spinning class at the gym and wait for my ride, I thought it prudent to share the things that cost nothing… and yet are awesome!

1. Cycling up to Chapmans Peak!

My undisputed number one, and probably the reason why I started PG TOPS in the first place. Admittedly, I have to navigate the city centre agro drivers before getting out to the Sea Point Promenade, but from there it is a beaut. The Promenade with abundant jiggly joggers, bootcampers, occasional yogaers and dogwalkers is a meeting place for all the beautiful people and oddballs of Cape Town… but it doesn’t even match up to the natural beauty of Clifton and Camps Bay. Before you know it you’re climbing up to Llandudno and slapping yourself on the back for living in the most beautiful place in the world, the Atlantic shimmering below you. Then swoosh down Suikerbossie before hitting the gentle winding climb up to Chapmans Peak, and one of the best views in Cape Town. From my place it’s about a 67km return ride, and worth every drop of sweat.  Love it!

2. Hiking up Lions Head!

There are numerous hikes in and around Table Mountain that I love, but for sure Lions Head is the firm favourite. You circumnavigate the peak before hitting some tricky climbing up chains and then a scramble up the rock face. Your reward after 45min of magnificent views is…. more magnificent views! Panoramic views of Cape Town, and no better place to have a morning coffee or a full moon glass of Graham Beck Cap Classique with your lady. It’s easy to get to too, just take a taxi up to the starting point and off you go!

3. Jogging on the Promenade!

See no 1. For a quick workout after a hard day of paper pushing (or in my case, sipping delicious wines with awesome clients) there is something to a sunset run on the promenade. I’ve seen some amazing ones, even when the weather is absolute crap. From the Lighthouse to the pool and back is a good 5km, just enough to build up a sweat!

4. Hanging out on Clifton beach!

My personal favourite is Monday night Ultimate Frisbee on Clifton 2nd or 1st, but there are many ways to enjoy what networking guru Marc Malan claims is Clifton’s “micro-climate”. According to man-about-town Malan, a tornado can be flipping apartment blocks up in Vredehoek, but quiet paradise will still exist down in the secluded coves of Clifton. You can therefore enjoy a champers picnic for the sunset, frisbee or touchies with mates or just come down there to check out the beach action. Warning to the ladies out for some honey: There are four beaches, though, and at least two of them are filled with buff hunks who will only have eyes for each other.

5. Having a braai on my porch. 

Ok, technically this doesn’t count, but I have an awesome view and the porch and pool to prove it. This beats out mountain biking on Table Mountain, hiking at the Cape of Good Hope and even Kirstenbosch summer concert picnics. So you know its awesome!

Cape Town. Live it. Love it!

CAPE POINT FAVORITE RESTAURANTS

How many times can one man really visit the penguins before he goes nuts? Sure they’re cute. Sure they’re cuddly. But hey, seen one penguin, seen them all….

Luckily, my sanity, enthusiasm and overall enjoyment of the Cape Point day trip is maintained by concentrating on the awesomeness that is Cape Peninsula cuisine. I get to go eat lunch at some of my favourite spots up the Indian or Atlantic Seaboards, which is partially the reason why I now carry an extra 6kgs of passion up the hills on my bicycle. Everything has its price…

My woes with weight management notwithstanding, can I share with you my top 5 culinary experiences on the road to the South Western Tip of Africa…

1. Imhoff Farm Village in Kommetjie, www.imhofffarm.co.za, is a spot I always stop at. The farm stall has great bobotie pies, snoek pate and florentines, and the Blue Water Cafe is not only very kid friendly, but has a great atmosphere with a view and I swear to all that is sacred one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted, the Pizza e Poire (caramelized pears, blue cheese, bacon and rocket).

2. Harbour House in Kalk Bay (www.harbourhouse.co.za) is a firm favourite. Awesome location right up against the rocks on the harbour, fast friendly service and great chow – especially the calamari rings. Good for first dates, anniversaries and hard-to-please clients!

3. Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay (www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1788356-d1126762-r64986190-Olympia_Cafe-Kalk_Bay_Western_Cape.html) boasts the world’s most awesome cappucino. I don’t stop here for lunch, but I have stopped here numerous time just to satisfy my craving. My assertion is based on two legendary cappucinos: Stopping for coffee in the year’s Cape Argus, but more importantly, a post-big-night-hitting-the-wall-on-my-bike experience about a year ago with mate Stuart Vorster, where the sugar and cream rush brought me back to life. I heard angels singing.

4. The Tea Room at Kirstenbosch Gardens (www.gardenvisit.com/garden/kirstenbosch_national_botanical_garden/details). Friendly, fast, and excellent menu options include Cape Malay chicken curries and bobotie. In one of the most spectacular settings possible, I do have a soft spot the Gardens…

5. The Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia (www.grootconstantia.co.za) is another great location spot… if you ain’t gonna make it to the Winelands, this is the next best thing. Great Cape Malay tasting platters with some top notch Constantia vino… this made the tour for me recently, and I’ll be back for sure.

The Peninsula is littered with restaurants in great locations… Berthas, Seaforth, the Black Marlin, the Brass Bell, the Lookout deck… all seaside spots with fair seafood and fair service, but if you can, try one of my recommendations… you won’t be disappointed!

Devil’s Peak and the Legend of Van Hunks

I had the good fortune to be free this last Sunday, and could take advantage of an opportunity to do a group hike with my friend Andy Cole up Devils Peak.

The awesome thing about my house is that I live right up against the mountain. I could therefore walk out of my house, buy a croissant at the Spar and start walking up to Tafelberg Road. I was a little bit behind Andy, his girlfriend Chantelle and friend Angela, but I caught them in due course.

Fun facts about the hike up to Devils Peak:

  1. 900m in height, takes you about 2 hours to get to the top (given assorted lengthy breaks to discuss the Springbok rugby selection, Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle and the way Manhattenites feel about Jersey).
  2. The rocks on the side of the winding path to the top are dodgy – we managed to almost run two little old men off the road, no permanent injuries or lawsuits resulted.
  3. The view at the top IS majestic… better than Table Mountain or Lions Head, in my opinion. A slight breeze balanced the summer heat, and we could enjoy a solid taco with some salad while bitching about South African immigration services.
  4. Go to the end of Tafelberg Road, park your car and remember to take some water. You can’t really get lost, although you can take the long way back down (as we did).

I was also reminded of my favourite story about Table Mountain and Devils Peak in particular, and it goes something like this:

FACT: The Table Mountain Tablecloth is the mass of condensed cloud that sometimes spills over the top of the mountain as the prevailing conditions cause the air to condense on the east side of the mountain, and then forces the cloud to spill over the top.

FUN FICTION: This is way cooler. The legend goes like this: Van Hunks was a dirty rotten stinking old pirate that settled on that part of the mountain back in the day… he wouldn’t let anyone on top of HIS mountain (selfish right) and if you dared go up there, he would kill you.

Fun guy. Here’s the kicker. He also liked to smoke, and he was well known for being a prolific puffer. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but not buff or rich.

I digress. One day, this little teeny tiny dude with a forked beard and a beanie on his head comes strolling up the mountain. Van Hunks thunders at him: “Get thee to the nunnery!” … maybe wrong story, I mean to say he said “Get thee off my mountain! Stat!”

The little old man says: “No. I want to go up to the top.”

Van Hunks says: “I’ll kill you if you do.”

Little Old Man: “That’s immature. Why don’t we duel for it. I hear you’re quite a smoker…”

Van Hunks (reportedly): “If smoking was an olympic event I’d be Isiah Bolt. You’re on, light up a pipe…”

So, in order to determine who get the right of the mountain, they sat down, lit their pipes, and started smoking.

And smoking.

And smoking….

Fast forward three days and three nights. The combatants are puffing away like third world steam engines, in fact, they’ve generated so much bad air that the whole mountain is covered in a cloud of smoke.

Achaa….

After 72 hours of tobacco abuse, even Van Hunks famous lungs can’t do it no more, and he drops his pipe, and drops down to the ground clutching his chest, wheezing for what would be his last breaths. He looked with rampant disbelief at his diminutive conquerer and croaked: “That is impossible! No-one has ever outsmoked me…”

Cue evil laugh, as the little man whips off his beanie to reveal two pointed horns. The sight of Bad L lighting another smoke was the last thing Van Hunks would ever see…

And, duly noted, from that day on the peak is known as Devils Peak. When the Cape Town Tablecloth rolls in, the locals will glance at the mountain knowingly.

Van Hunks and the Devil are at it again…

A few of my favourite things…

These are a few of my favourite things…

In the interest of sharing and caring, I have decided to join the blogosphere with some random ramblings about what I consider to be hot and what’s not. There is not shortage of close friends or family members who reckon my tastes are completely out of touch, out of sync and out of proportion to my budget, but nevertheless, I am going to give you my two cents (or maybe three) on what I love about Cape Town.

My weekly insights will kick off with listing my five favourite restaurants in Cape Town. Now, bear in mind that I throw Tabasco on nearly everything and I, until recently, considered Tassies a good compliment to a Goodie Burger, this might not find favour with the foodies amongst us. Bah I say! This is the PG TOPS Rated:

BELUGA – sushi
For many a year I stoically resisted this Cape Town mainstay, just because for all intents and purposes it appeared to be a posy overpriced meat market for Sex-and-the-City type girl groups and the guys that like to watch them. Irresistibly, the daily half price sushi special and ambiance eventually wears you down, and once my lovely girlfriend Dianna entered the mix I was sold. No 1 for boozy lunches, I suggest sitting outside in the courtyard on a lovely Spring Day, indulging in the yummy Tempura and splurge on some Sterhuis Chardonnay if its payday.

First alternate: Savruga, sister restaurant in the Waterfront. 

BACINIS – pizza
Up near the top of Kloof Street, Bacinis is always busy. ALWAYS. Why? Because it’s a real ol’ Italian pizzeria, where the owner has a greasy ponytail, his teenage daughter waiters occasionally and there’s always a lively atmosphere, wonderful aromas wafting around and good value wine to be had. I’ve been a fan for years, and they haven’t let me down yet. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza there without Avo on it… just not done!

First alternate: Carlysles, simply because it is my local. 

OCEAN BASKET – seafood
So sue me. I love Ocean Basket. This franchise has a great little value for money seafood platter at under R90, friendly snappy service wherever I go and it’s consistent. I have, in fact, had great experiences taking foreign guests to the one in Sea Point and over at Cavendish…

First alternate: The Spur, for the same reasons, only steak and nachos…

ADDIS IN CAPE – African
This place has zero atmosphere. And the service sucks. So howcum I keep going back. Simply because the food there is AWEEEEESSSOOOOMMMEEE… lots of different tapas type saucy dishes dumped on a massive injera in the middle. It’s expensive, but so worth it.  If you like a real different experience, try this bit of Ethiopian magic right off Long Street on Church.

First alternate: Ooh. Tough. This one is pretty unique… don’t have one.

THEO’S – Steak
Another spot that’s never let me down, Theo’s down in Mouille Point apparently got a massive range on the menu. I don’t actually know, I always have a steak with some variation on the cheese/mushroom sauce theme. Their steaks are beautiful….

First alternate: Hussar Grill in Green Point. BYO!

Eco Wine Tour in Cape Winelands

WINE TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE

Wine tour, tasting and exploring the Cape Winelands just became even more fun with the launch of our new “Eco Wine Tour”

From the 22nd September 2010 we will offer a weekly scheduled Eco Wine Tour that promises to be a truly unique experience. The tour will focus on environmentally friendly activities, conservation and sustainable farming practices. This tour is not only for the nature lover, regular hiker, bird lover, plant fundi, organic enthusiast, but also aimed to please those who love to experience something different, meet people and have a zest for life.

Eco Friendly Wineries

You will experience: Organic, biological and sustainable farming practices, vineyard wine tasting surrounded by ducks, visit a private nature reserve and wineries reducing their carbon footprint by offsetting carbon emissions (e.g the planting of trees and using lighter glass bottles).

Birdseye view of Stellenbosch from the “penthouse”, discover the “big five”, 4×4 style, explore the Bottelary hills by foot and experience fynbos and renosterveld. Have lunch in an “amphitheatre of green”. Visit Cape Town’sonly City Winery – sample wine from the barrel, listen to wine stories from Camps Bay, Kalk Bay, Oranjezicht and Constantia. See the oldest wine producing vine in SouthAfrica. An unforgettable experience!

This is a fun, activity based tour that has been designed to not only focus on wine tasting but to equip you with knowledge and insight into the eco friendly world of wine and provide a hands on experience in what the South African wineries are doing to protect mother nature.

Tour Travel Taste

This tour is operated by PG Tops Tours (Pieter Geldenhuys) and BottlePlatePillow (Charles Lourens). Charles, a garagiste winemaker and founder of the BottlePlatePillow concept, has a great passion for the Cape Winelands and promotes the accessibility and hospitality of the South African wineries with his “Wine farm search Engine“. Pieter has been a tour operator for the last 2 years and his vibrant personality will make him the perfect host for the Eco Wine Tour.

This tour is inclusive of all tasting, transport, guide and activities. The tour departs from Cape Town at 9am and will return by no later than 5pm. Book your spot on the scheduled Wednesday tour or alternatively book any other day (min 4 guests – Subject to availability). The eco tour is offered at R695 per person. A special lunch package has been negotiated to compliment the eco friendly theme and is available at R75 (Excluding drinks and service fee)

Carbon Neutral Wine by Backsberg

Carbon Neutral Wine

Backsberg has become the first wine producer in South Africa and one of only three in the world to gain Carbon Neutral status by sequestrating its carbon emissions.

Proprietor, Michael Back, who joined the family business in 1976, is passionate about the environment, believing that each generation is the custodian of the land for a limited period of time only. “Care for the environment means care and concern for succeeding generations. As custodians of the land, it is our duty to understand and recognise potential threats, and to mitigate against them for the benefit of the next generation,” says Back whose forward thinking has already rescued several plant species from extinction by reserving 10% of his land for non-development and preservation of the endangered “Fynbos” biome.

Backsberg has completed a comprehensive carbon audit initiated to understand the carbon emission consequences of its farming and wine making activities. The carbon audit reviewed all activities from overall energy consumption, to CO2 emitted during fermentation. The level of detail considered in the audit allows Backsberg to deliver a range of Carbon Neutral fruit and wine to clients, both domestically and internationally.

The carbon standard applied at Backsberg follows the Kyoto Protocol on Green House Gas emissions. The scientific nature of the carbon audit allows Backsberg to understand the magnitude of the sequestration solutions it needs to seek and develop, in order to reduce its carbon footprint and maintain a status of carbon neutrality going forward.

The sequestration solutions developed by Backsberg will involve a greening program within the nearby village of Klapmuts. This program will be managed by the internationally respected Jeunesse Park, CEO of Food and Trees for Africa, the non-profit national greening organisation driving the Carbon Standard offset program in South Africa. This collaboration will see Backsberg use the Food and Trees for Africa Carbon Standard logo.

“We are indeed proud to be associated with Food and Trees for Africa,” said Back, who believes that a whole new market sector with the emphasis on care, not only for the wine and the consumer, but also care for the environment is about to open. Backsberg will now deliver to wine lovers throughout the world, fine wines, individually crafted within our wine making philosophy of producing wines with a high level of  ‘drinkability’ which are also Carbon Neutral,” added Back.

“Trees are the most efficient and simple means for us to store carbon, providing us with the air we breathe and absorbing the carbon dioxide we exhale and that is emitted in large quantities by our carbon based society,” says Park, who was honoured with an International Chevron Conservation Award in California in October last year for her efforts to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged South Africans through natural resource improvements. Since the start of the Public Benefit Organisation 17 years ago, Food and Trees for Africa has distributed over 2,5 million trees throughout South Africa.

Whilst tree planting is crucial to the absorption of greenhouse gas emissions, it is equally important to develop more conservation oriented practices by becoming more energy efficient for long term sustainability.

Backsberg sees tree planting as part of a package of solutions to climate change and is currently either applying or reviewing a number of these solutions. This “package” includes conversion to bio fuel, setting aside land for development of additional biomass, reviewing packaging (especially in terms of glass weight) and the development of methane digester technology.

Fortunate to have both an environmentalist and a horticulturist in its employ, the Backsberg “Green Team” is helping to create a paradigm shift of care for the environment.

Backsberg Estate, situated along the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains, midway between Paarl and Stellenbosch, has been producing quality wines for over 70 years and enjoys international acclaim as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the world as rated by Wine & Spirits Magazine in New York.

Backsberg offers a wide range of fine wines enjoyed throughout the world, not just for their structure and finesse, but for their seamless ‘drinkability’. Backsberg is open seven days a week for wine tasting, sales and lunches.

For more information call us on + 27 21 875 5141.

CAPE TOWN DAY TRIPS AND TOURS!

PG TOPS TRAVEL AND TOURS offers high quality Day Trip Experiences in and around Cape Town, including: