Andre Morgan, field ranger, formerly at Lion Sands Reserve
During a visit to South Africa earlier this year our team stayed at 1933, an exclusive rental villa within the Lion Sands Reserve, part of the world famous Sabi Sand Reserve near http://simonandbaker.com/kruger. During their stay, they were assigned a private guide and tracker. This allowed them ample time to chat with Andre Morgan, their experienced South African field ranger and guide, who spent some time sharing insights about game viewing and the African bush in an audio recording.
Click on the play button below to listen to their conversation.
In our family, the inspiration behind a wine tasting usually comes from our very own wine expert, my son Lee Fuller. This latest tasting on a recent afternoon, focused on biodynamic wines of Alsace, was no exception.
When it comes to his food supply, Lee is uncompromisingly green. He is also of one mind with Henry David Thoreau (“What is the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”); although the conversation that led to this tasting was more along the lines of: “what is the use of a fine wine, if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to drink it on?” This naturally led us to consider the dedication of a number of Alsatian vintners who have been producing biodynamic wines for the past two decades, long before it became fashionable.
What is biodynamics? An ultra-organic wine-making method that focuses not only on producing naturally fermented wines from organic grapes but also on healing the vineyard. The biodynamic vintner sees his vineyard: the vines, the soil in which they grow and the surrounding fauna and flora as an interdependent ecological whole. Where biodynamics goes beyond other methods of organic or sustainable agriculture is in its understanding that farming should be aligned with the spiritual forces of the universe. It is a return to agricultural methods that prevailed on the planet from time immemorial until the development of industrial farming in the past sixty years. In the biodynamic vineyard sowing and harvesting are again timed to the rhythm of the sun, the moon and the planets. Soil and crop treatment are homeopathic, using natural fertilizers such as composted animal manure, cultivating the soil and planting ground cover rather than using chemical herbicides. Plants other than vines are encouraged to grow around the vineyard to promote biodiversity by attracting beneficial insects.
There is no doubt that the biodynamic process is beneficial to the planet; and to the wine drinker who is no longer at risk of ingesting chemical residues that can end up in the wine. But… is the resulting wine any good?
That is the question we set out to address, in part, with a tasting of four biodynamic Alsatian wines.
Biodynamic practices are very labor intensive and require a huge long-term commitment on the part of the grower. Therefore we selected for our tasting an assortment of wines from four wineries that have been at the forefront of biodynamic viticulture for decades. This was our line up:
Domaine Barmes-Buecher, Crémant d’Alsace 2006 (sparkling)
Approximate retail price: $19.99
Since we often drink brut sparkling wines as an apéritif, we started with a Crémant d’Alsace Brut 2006, from Domaine Barmès-Buecher (crémant is the official appellation that designates French sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region). It was very pale in color with gentle effervescence in the glass that developed in the mouth. We found it unusually mild for a brut. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, its aroma was fruity with a hint of berries. On the palate, nectarine dominated. This was a lovely, refreshing sparkler that stood best on its own. A good choice for relaxed sipping on a warm summer’s afternoon, or by the fire on a winter’s evening.
Albert Mann, Pinot Blanc 2005
Approximate retail price: $15.99
This was a delightful classic Alsace Pinot Blanc! Made from 100 percent Pinot Blanc grapes, it was very pale with a lime-colored hue and a fresh floral and herbal nose that hinted at lemon basil. It evolved to an Anjou pear palate with undertones of ripe citrus. The pear taste lingered through the finish. Overall a dry, well balanced wine that we enjoyed on its own and with light hors-d’oeuvres. It also held its own remarkably well with a pungent cheese and nuts. I intend to serve it soon with grilled fish.
Domaine Ostertag, Sylvaner “Vielle Vignes” 2006
Approximate retail price: $19.99
Made of 100 percent Sylvaner grapes coming from 50 to 70 year-old vines, this wine was a treat. A little paler than the usual Sylvaner, it intrigued us immediately with an unusual nose reminiscent of freshly baked brioche. It became pleasantly fruity in the mouth, predominantly apple. The finish was subdued, slightly mineral, with well-balanced acidity. We enjoyed it with mild cheeses and cold ham. It also did very well later on with a seafood salad. A versatile pleaser that I will keep on hand for varied occasions.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Riesling “Turckheim” 2004
Approximate retail price: $39.99
This was an opulent wine with lots of personality. Its very aromatic fruity nose mellowed after a while to a light citrus scent with hints of caramel. It evolved from pleasant sharpness on the tongue to a vibrant palate of peaches and tropical fruits laced with mineral accents. It had a long, mouthwatering finish that worked well with our goat cheese, and also with smoked salmon. Made of 100 percent Riesling grapes, this was a powerful wine that I look forward to serving this winter with a convivial platter of choucroute garnie.
We declared our experiment successful. The biodynamic Alsatian wines we sampled were delicious, loaded with personality, and competitively priced against their conventional counterparts. We will definitely seek them out from now on; and enjoy the knowledge that our libations are helping the planet.
Photos and article by Josette King, in cooperation with Lee Fuller, oenophile and wine collector.
A feisty junior elephant lets visitors know how he feels
A lion at Mashatu
Although many travelers think of the Botswana Delta, the salt pans or the Chobe area when contemplating a game viewing trip to Botswana, there is a little known area in southeastern of Botswana called the Tuli Block which is also worth a visit. Part of the attraction of that area, as with many parts of Botswana, is the possibility of seeing elephants roam freely in their natural habitat, unhindered (mostly) by the increasing land constraints that affect animal movement everywhere in Africa. The Tuli Block, near the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, shares borders with South Africa and Mozambique; this allows elephants to follow some of the seasonal patterns into wilderness areas many of their ancestors walked.
To reach Mashatu from South Africa it is necessary to cross over the Limpopo River in a basket and clear customs and immigration
Our team’s suite at Mashatu Main Camp
For travelers who like a dose of luxury with their game viewing, Mashatu Main Camp offers luxury Botswana style, including exclusive accommodations, Big Five game viewing and an opportunity to discover the remote reserve while sharing it with only 12 other guests in the main area and a few others in the reserve. All inclusive rates include dawn and dusk game drives, three buffet meals a day and suite accommodations.
In addition to sighting elephants and the attraction of and off the beaten location, magnificent star filled skies, optional elephant and predator educational drives with on site research staff, and volunteer opportunities are some of the attractions of this well managed property owned and run, in part, by the owners of the famous Mala Mala Reserve in the Sabi Sands Reserve near http://simonandbaker.com/kruger in South Africa. Click here to read about our Simon and Baker team’s impressions when they visited Mashatu Main Camp earlier this year.
The pool area at Singita Lebombo was spacious and attractive
The guest lounge
For most of its existence Kruger National Park, one of the largest and best known game viewing parks in the world, was limited to basic camp accommodations and day visits. Eventually, the park began allowing private companies to build accommodations and luxury lodges within the confines of the park. This has expanded the game viewing opportunities for visitors and multiplied manifold the income potential that helps sustain the park and its fauna and flora treasures for generations to come.
Our team’s suite at Singita Lebombo had a stunning view of the river
The most luxurious of the park’s lodges is also one of the most remote. Singita Lebombo Lodge, a Relais & Chateax property and part of the expanding Singita portfolio, is near the Mozambique border on Kruger’s eastern boundary. A Simon and Baker team visited the property in 2004 shortly after it was first opened and again earlier this year. They were impressed with Singita’s ability to offer exclusive luxury suite accommodations, stylish decor, game viewing and fine dining in a remote bush setting within the http://simonandbaker.com/kruger. Click here to read a dedicated article about Singita Lebombo.
Red, White and Drunk All Over
The holiday season is upon us. For many people it’s a time of stress as well as joy and togetherness. Part of the stress comes from gift giving. Here are some gift ideas including books, gourmet dinners and exotic trips, we hope will help you narrow your choices and relieve some of the stress.
In Red, White and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean shares her love of wine and insights from an international wine oriented journey of discovery. The paperback edition, published last year, is 304 pages long and an easy read. At $14.95 Red, White and Drunk All Over is kind on the pocket and the well written book may be a good stocking stuffer for wine newbies and wine aficionados alike.
Cooks and cooking amateurs may appreciate the wealth of information in The Spice and Herb Bible (Robert Rose, $27.95). The exhaustive 607-page tome by Ian Hemphill includes detailed information about, well, herbs and spices.
Naughty Paris A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City
Naughty Paris A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City is for women who want to discover another side of Paris. According to the author, the City of Love offers ample opportunities for locals and visitors to indulge in the pleasures of the senses and love. In the 296-page well researched paperback book, Kristen Loop shares some of her ideas, findings and suggestions about love, romance, sexy hotels, outings, shopping, beauty options, culture, dancing, and shows in the romantic city.
A server shaves truffle bits over a dish at Ledoyen
While we’re on the subject of Paris, are you a foodie, celebrating a special occasion or just plain love dining in Paris? Do you have a healthy budget? How about a few days enjoying the best in gourmet dining available in the City of Lights? Of course you can try a neighborhood bistro but if you’re going all the way to Paris you probably want to indulge. Alain Ducasse and his Paris team at the Plaza Athenee Hotel are well known for their over the top dining. If you can’t get a table there or would rather be a tad more modest, other top tier choices include the dining rooms of: vegetable guru Alain Passard at Arpepe; Christian Le Squer at Ledoyen near the Champs Elysees, Helene Darroze at her restaurant in the Latin Quarter; Pierre Gagnaire’s Le Balzac; Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance, in the ritzy 16 arrondisement; Guy Martin’s historic Le Grand Vefour; and Guy Savoy at his eponymous establishment.
Dusk in Santa Fe
If North America is where you want to be on your next vacation, consider the Canadian Yukon, one of the last vast expanses of wilderness, for next summer; or one of the saints: San Diego and San Francisco in California or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each one has its own charm. San Francisco, the most famous of the three, and the nearby wine country offer many options, accommodations, food and wine attractions within a short drive. San Diego, much further south and closer to the United States-Mexico border, is large and diverse with upscale and quaint seaside towns like La Jolla. Finally, Santa Fe, is a magnet for Pueblo style architecture and museum and art gallery lovers.
Male and female leopards “flirt” at Londolozi Tree Camp in South Africa
Do you long for something with a little more zest and adventure? If you are itching to travel, have the desire to see beautiful animals in their natural habitat, the patience to fly more than eight hours, and can afford world class accommodations, or as close to that as it gets in some remote areas, consider a safari trip to Africa. There are plentiful choices of destinations, properties, and game viewing options.
Many travelers in search of luxury lodge accommodations with gourmet dining, spa services and outstanding game viewing mention the Sabi Sand Reserve and the http://simonandbaker.com/kruger area in South Africa as favorites. Sabi Sand Reserve is home to Ivory Lodge and 1933 in Lion Sands, Tree Camp in Londolozi, Mala Mala Main Camp and Rattray’s in the Mala Mala Reserve, and Earth Lodge and Selati Camp in the Sabi Sabi Reserve. For a relaxing spa oriented visit our team liked the Cybele Forest Lodge and Health Spa near Kruger. The Outpost in the northern reaches of the park near the border with Zimbabwe offers game viewing in a serene off the beaten path setting.
Those seeking a wilder experience and willing to rough it, fly baby planes, stay in luxury tents and eat more modest meals can opt for other important African game destinations such as Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia depending on their interests, time and budget preferences. Botswana is known for its upscale orientation, huge elephant population and the famous Okavango Delta. Earlier this year, one of our teams enjoyed a visit to Mashatu in the Tuli Block of Botswana.
Areas to consider if visiting Tanzania include the Ruaha National Park, Selou Game Reserve, and Grumeti Game Reserve (adjacent to the Serengeti National Park). Visitors to Zambia may want to include one or more properties in Lower Zambezi National Park, South Luangwa National Park and Victoria Falls in their itinerary.
Whatever you do, we wish you a wonderful holiday season!
Click here to buy
Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass
Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City
The Spice and Herb Bible