For West Ngcwabe, joining the Mount Grace Country House & Spa team is indicative that his life is moving in the direction that he envisioned when starting his career as a starry eyed new intake in hotel school.
The 25-year-old sommelier and restaurant manager at one of Gauteng’s most popular hotels grew up on the East Rand and was first introduced to wine while a student at the International Hotel School. Back then Ngcwabe was a keen student with an eye for detail but he credits a meeting and subsequent mentoring from an influential industry player as a spark that has helped him stay the course.
“While I was doing practical work at Forum Homini, I was lucky enough to meet and be mentored by chef-owner Philippe Wagenfuhrer, one of the most respected names in the food and wine world. A self-taught expert, I realised when I met him that it is passion that makes the difference between a good professional and a great one,” says Ngcwabe.
Currently working towards honing his skills with a Cape Wine Academy qualification, it is clear that Ngcwabe’s enthusiasm for wine is unbridled and, on hearing him sing the praises of his current favourite vintages, it’s difficult not to be equally enthused.
“Although I recognise the value of the great wines of Stellenbosch, I’m very interested in the wines of Cederberg and Tulbagh and I’m slowly introducing some of my favourite finds from these areas onto the wine list”, says this keen golfer, who harbours a desire to work a season or two in Burgundy and even make his own wine one day.
Meet Ngcwabe at Mount Grace’s signature Rambling Vine Restaurant, where he and chef Franc Lubbe host monthly Gourmet Weekends. Upcoming wine estate events include Nitida on 28 / 29 July, Zewenwacht on 25 / 26 August, Allée Bleue on 22 / 23 September, Iona on 27 / 28 October and Beyerskloof on 24 / 25 November.