Last night, Red Rooster Harlem hosted its first of a series of Wine Maker Meet and Greets, this time showcasing South African wine maker Mark Solms, of Solms Delta winery. This exotic wine tasting kicked off at 6:30pm at the bar where guests could taste from variety of South African Solms Delta wines, including the Cape Jazz Shiraz, Langarm blend, and Africana Shiraz. DJ Eddie Ed set the mood for the night by playing popular South African hits; everything from early 70's jazz and pop to modern day house and hip hop. Red Rooster's kitchen also fired up some South African bites for guests, including Bunny Chow, Fried Yard Bird Nuggets with Atjar, and Pop Cake Fries with spicy mayo. The restaurant quickly filled with guests wanting to meet and talk to winery owner Mark Solms and Red Rooster Bar Director Christian Post for an insight to South African wines.
Owner Mark Solms, although born in South Africa left during the apartheid, and returned in 2001 to take over his family-owned vineyard, Solms Delta, that dates all the way back to 1690. When taking over the vineyard, he wanted to differentiate his wine by creating wines uniquely from there and slowly develop South African styles that weren't copied from anywhere else. "It was a matter of selecting grapes that grow well in African weather conditions and creating wines that fit the lifestyle of South Africa, like the outdoors," states Mark. One inspiring detail of his vineyard is its history of shared ownership. "Wine is a handmade thing and the whole relationship between farmers and the land is very complicated, so I wanted to address that," noted Solms. So upon taking ownership of the vineyard, Solms took the farm and used it as collateral for banks to then in turn give loans against that collateral to the farmers of the vineyard. With those loans, the farmers could then purchase the land next to the vineyard, hence creating a shared land ownership, where the workers of the land would also share profits of the finished wine.
This shared ownership proves to be a great success since the happy owners and workers have come together to create the exceptional wines that were featured at Red Rooster last night. The Sparkling Shiraz and the Africana Shiraz were among the favorites of all the guests. The Cape Jazz Sparkling Shiraz is named after the musical style in South Africa and is a unique sparkling red that is served chilled- an evident style that does well in the hot climate of Africa. The Shiraz grape is the main focus of the Solms Delta winery since it withholds very well in hot weather.
Red Rooster guests definitely took a liking to Mr. Solms' Shiraz. "The Shiraz was my favorite," stated Red Rooster regular Deborah Yates, "My sister lived in South Africa for 15, so I've tried South African wine before, and this one very smooth and full-bodied." Her friend Makeba Lloyd agreed and noted that "the Sparkling Shiraz was smooth and not bitter- like a breath of fresh air!" They also were quite smitten with the South African Bunny Chow as they "tore up" their plate.
Even first-time guests to the Rooster took part in the festivities. Akua and Kesana stopped by Red Rooster last night for the first time and were delighted with the wine tasting. The Sparkling and the Africana Shiraz were also their favorites and they "absolutely loved the Pop Cake Fries with Spicy Mayo and the Fried Yard Bird Nuggets." Both thought an exotic wine tasting at Red Rooster Harlem was a great way to start off their week!
Being such a great success for Red Rooster, Bar Director Christian Posts says that it's only the first of an on-going series he plans to bring to the restaurant. Once a month, Red Rooster with have a Wine Meet and Greet with wine makers from all over the world, with a chance for guests to try new and exciting wines on the market. In the meantime, he is planning to offer Solms' Sparkling Shiraz on the Rooster's Wine Menu by the glass sometime soon, although all of Solms' still wines are available now.
Check out some photos from last night's South African Wine Tasting; and stay tuned to more wine tastings and other events at Red Rooster Harlem!
Photos: Cyndi Amaya