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The Postcard Café at Stark-Condé wine estate

On a warm, cloudless, windless Cape winter’s weekday, when you have nothing pressing to do, others are at work, and someone invites you to lunch in the winelands, would you say no?

Our destination was Postcard Café on the Stark-Condé wine estate in the Jonkershoek valley. We made our way through Stellenbosch, driving up history-steeped Dorp Street, the cottages monitoring our progress with their Cape Dutch eyes, and the oak trees patterning the street and lei-water furrows with lacy shadows.

We exited Stellenbosch and travelled up Jonkershoek Road into the valley, the mountains leaning in on us closely. A few kilometres on, we turned into the entrance to Stark-Condé wine estate, spread to our left across the lower mountain slopes.

We were early for lunch and sought out the tasting area. We located it in the middle of a lake, housed on an island and set amongst reeds and nesting coots. We reached it via a gently curving boardwalk, and were greeted and taken in hand by Ciska.

Stark-Condé produces small volumes of wine, engaging in traditional winemaking methods such as hand sorting, open-top fermentations, hand punch-downs and manual basket pressing. All of the wines are bottled without fining and filtration. The grapes used in the wine are sourced from a variety of locations, making up their three ranges: Pepin Condé, Stellenbosch and Three Pines.

The Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are made from selected vineyard blocks in the Jonkershoek Valley. The Three Pines range consists of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Syrah from high-elevation vineyard blocks. The Pepin Condé wines incorporate grapes from elsewhere: the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes come from Elgin, and the Chenin Blanc from bush vines in the Bottelary region in Stellenbosch.

Ciska steered us mainly towards the easier drinking options, as we had indicated that we were tasting for fun, and did not have the facilities for long-term wine storage. For comparison purposes she gave us two Cabernets from the same year – one for drinking now or over the next few years, and a heavy-hitter that can really go the distance.

We tasted the following five red wines, all of which were impressive. My favourite was the Syrah, which was peppery, spicy, complex and delicious. Again, Stark-Condé offers a Syrah in an easier drinking style (the one we tried) as well as a more serious Syrah from the Three Pines range. I have included the notes from the tasting sheet in red:

Pepin Condé Range: Pinot Noir 2011 (Rowey vineyards; they also do one from Elgin)
Dark cherry and strawberry fruit. Flavourful with a fine silky mouthfeel.

Stellenbosch Range: Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Our estate Cabernet blend. Classic black-current fruit, full palate and soft, velvety tannins. 6% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Three Pines Range: Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Our flagship Cabernet. Pure, finely textured wine balancing elegance with power. From a single high-elevation block. Intense purity and richness.

Stellenbosch Range: Syrah 2009
The slightly less buxom but no less beautiful little sister to the single-vineyard Syrah. Rich plummy fruit, white pepper spice, black olive tapenade with fine tannins.

Lingen 2010 (Jonkershoek)
Unique blend of Cabernet (40%), Syrah (40%) and Petit Verdot (20%). From the small Lingen vineyard in Jonkershoek. Rich fruit, creamy texture and a touch of wild fynbos.

Ciska impressed us greatly with her knowledge, energy and enthusiasm for her work. She has completed the Cape Wine Academy Diploma course, and is ‘taking time out’ to gain a few years of work experience before taking on the Sommelier course. She breezily announced to us that she leaves work more relaxed than when she arrives there. She answered all of our questions with confidence and flair, and clearly conveyed her passion for the Stark-Condé wines.

Stark-Condé is an amalgamation of the owners’ family names – the winemaker José Condé and his wife’s maiden name of Stark. Around 80% of their wines are exported, but Ciska explained that they are making efforts to engage the local market more and to create more of a presence here.

As my credit card has been proffered a few too many times of late (the downside of having a taste for wining and dining), I made a modest purchase of one bottle of Cabernet and one bottle of Syrah, mainly as appeasement gifts for my other half, who was working and not engaging in endless fun fun fun like I was.

We made our way back to the Postcard Café. It is so named (I am guessing) because sitting at the outside tables, one is surrounded by scenery prettier than a postcard, and dramatic and majestic to boot. We both had a cheese, bacon and rocket omelette with salad, and accompanied it with the Stark-Condé Sauvignon Blanc. The lunch was enjoyable and the Sauvignon Blanc was superb – 20% barrel fermented and bursting with fresh flavour and minerality. Even my lunch companion, who professes to have an inability to taste very much in anything, commented on how smooth and enjoyable it was.

Sitting in the valley in the sun, enjoying the lunch and wine, it struck me how lucky I am to be me.

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