This was such a rare happening that tickets were sold out, and people were turned away at the gate. Too bad for them.
Those that got in filled up on barbecue--that's the meaning of brai--including sosaties (kebabs), grilled sausages (Boerewors) and grilled breads (roosterbrood), accompanied by chutneys, salads and plenty of wine.
Chicken sosaties (above) were strung with apricots, onion and red pepper, marinated in a curry sauce and served with a curry grain salad. Spicy flavors like these appeared in dish after dish, showing the influence of the Cape Malays--Indonesians whose ancestors were brought to South Africa as slaves.
The chef for the tour, Hugo Uys, was born in Johannesburg but now lives in New York. He travels with a battery of spices, many of them for Asian/Indian cooking. There he is at the top, directing work on the grills.
These little grilled rolls, or roosterbrood, were stuffed with fig, lemon and chili jam. They were served alongside grilled peri peri shrimp in a California green salad with a lemon, ginger and honey dressing.
And how could there not be a South African favorite, malva pudding, for dessert? More like a cake than a pudding in the version above, it contained cut-up figs and, as Chef Uys admitted, a lot of brandy. The topping was crumbled candied nuts and whipped cream.
But this was a wine tasting, not just a place to eat. An all-over impression from the wines poured is that South African wines are friendly, easy to drink and good matches for California food.
There were Chenin Blancs and Sauvignon Blancs that would be perfect for warm weather sipping or with Asian food. A stand-out was Mullineux Family Wines' barrel-fermented White Blend 2012. The grapes in the blend are Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Viognier.
The most attention-getting wine was Pinotage. This is not a blend, as in meritage, but the name of South Africa's signature red wine grape, bred from Pinot Noir and Cinsault. The 2009 from Aaldering Vineyards and Wines (at left above) is an elegant example. Whether one can find these wines at local shops is another matter.
Judging by the price list, they're affordable. A man pouring at one table observed that for the price of a single bottle of Napa red, he could buy a whole case of decent South African wine.