What a thrill to debut Shades of Grape right as the wine farms of Franschhoek were collectively uncorking themselves for wine lovers from far and wide on 24 September. It was the perfect spring Saturday to spend with friends around a table in the sunlit veranda of Village Grill and Butcher, sipping a few of the Valley’s finest wines courtesy of GlenWood Vineyards, enjoying fresh and zesty morsels from the kitchen, and dabbling in some wine art. Here’s a look back at our first public wine painting workshop, a teaser of what future guests can expect in the coming months!
When we began designing the workshops, we decided the most important thing was to create an authentic and intimate interactive experience for the guests at our table. The only way we felt we could ensure the quality of this interaction was to limit the number of seats—just 12 available per class! And as we saw on Saturday, where we had a small group of fun-loving and totally game wine lovers, our cozy setting and small numbers afforded us an enriching depth of interaction throughout the workshop, just as we’d hoped.
To get things going, we were privileged to have the winemaker himself, DP Burger, give us a personal introduction to the featured wines. The genuine (and well deserved) love DP has for his wines shines through in his enthusiastic rendition of the winemaking process for each variety, and it’s infectious. By the time he had finished taking us through the wine list, we were also ready to fall in love. And with Saturday’s sunny weather hinting that the summer season is on its way, we were only too happy to indulge in three refreshing whites, including an oaked and unoaked chardonnay—something for everyone, as GW would say—before rounding out the workshop with a shiraz and merlot (a VG+B favorite).
Shades of September also marked the debut of the specially crafted GlenWood pairing menu, designed by Chef Laura Truter and brought to life by the VG+B team. The light, freshness of these winning combinations has secured the menu’s place at our future workshops—the beef curry basket alone demands to be shared with all future guests. I also have it on good authority that the tomato tart is something special.
The main event was, of course, the venture into the world of wine painting! GlenWood supplied us with three varieties from its 2016 batches, straight from the barrel, for our art: a malbec, a merlot, and a shiraz. The greenness of the wine guaranteed that we would have the brightest shades possible and indeed, I was floored by richness of color they offered compared with more seasoned wines. In particular, the vivid violet of the malbec was something I had not seen before. The merlot and shiraz were equally distinct, however, giving us quite a pallet to play with.
Another sticking point when designing the workshops was the format of the painting class: how to keeps us coherent and interactive as a group without enforcing a structure that limits individual style and preference. Each of us is inclined to interpret the physical world in a different way and we want guests to bring that to the table at our workshops, not leave it at the door. At the same time, we want to maintain the interactivity with a class where the instructor can engage with all of the students and the students can discuss their process with each other, all on some bit of common ground. I think we managed to strike the balance on Saturday.
In honor of Franschhoek Uncorked, the celebratory festival that it is, we had as our workshop theme vintage wine and spirit ads inspired by the Valley. Provided with a range of different posters with varying styles and contents, guests could choose a subject that fit their style and either emulate the piece entirely or let their imaginations run wild. Saturday saw guests do both: some meticulously translating the subjects into their wine art, others mixing and matching elements of the posters with their own ideas. I have to say, this bunch was really quite impressive. From sketch to paint, they composed some really special pieces and employed some clever techniques in the process. The result was a beautiful portfolio of posters that reflected the unique styles of our artists. They can definitely be proud of their work.
The workshop running time is about two hours but guests are absolutely welcome—encouraged—to linger on into the afternoon, perfecting their paintings or enjoying a coffee in the gardens. With the beautiful spring weather beckoning, our Shades of September crowd did just this, taking some time to soak up the sunshine on the patio while their paintings dried and getting a perk up from some Terbodore—our favorite local coffee!—before hitting the road. Suffice to say, it was the perfect bookend to our first event and we are super excited to do it again next month. Stay tuned for more on Shades of October!