As you step into his domain, the moment he speaks his first well articulated words and then gracefully shows you to a comfortable chair in the lounge, you know this man is different.
He makes you feel as if you have stepped into a classic movie.
Our star is Tokazane Sibeko, stage name TS, beverage manager at The Devon Valley Hotel and this month’s Stellenbosch Tourism Ambassador.
Whether it is his enthusiasm or passion, or a combination of the two, TS immediately makes you feel very special and you realise why he is so popular with guests and why they come back to Stellenbosch again and again.
He makes you feel like [you are] being welcomed into the embassy of some exotic country, and makes you feel at home – the world outside forgotten.
For TS interaction with visitors is the name of the game. “Through interaction you maximise their expectations, you change their visit from a normal experience to something spicy.
“Interaction is also the way to fix problems, which invariably occur …”
The phrase he likes to use most is: “Get a life, get a glass of wine!” And does he know how to do that! TS is a wine list champion of note. His Diner’s Club International Wine List of the Year accolades read as follows: Best Platinum 2007 and National Platinum 2008.
TS will nonchalantly hand you his big wine list with dark brown covers. You open it up. It looks like most others at any good restaurant or hotel, and then you start paging. More than twenty pages of it, to be exact – twenty-four pages of wines, malts and spirits, locally produced yes, but also from all over the world.
From Japan to Chile, Ireland to Tuscany, Alsace to America and from Spain to Devon Valley and through most of our country’s wine regions. Who else can boast 59 single malt whiskeys?
How does he choose? He continually tastes new wines. He invites winemakers for tastings. He takes note of all the awards and the star rating books, but never takes them as his absolute guide. He must experience a wine himself before it enters his list. He loves to taste the ‘underdog’ or Cinderella wines and bring them to their deserved glory. He also loves to slip these wines into the list of expensive wines and watch the reaction of guests …
But how did it all start? While growing up in KwaZulu-Natal, TS associated the high life with good wines and to reach his dream, landed up studying viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, but had to leave after three years due to financial obstacles.
He became barman at The Devon Valley Hotel and soon became involved in compiling the wine list. Then he became beverage manager and the rest is history.
His dream is to start his own wine cellar one day, but for the moment Cape red blends are his favourites – anything with a bit of pinotage, and as for white he enjoys the easy drinking treat of a chenin blanc. As for world wines he prefers the ones from Chile. They have the same style as ours, good flavour, but not as spicy.
What are the words he loves to hear the most from his guests? “You are a star! You have made our stay a memorable occasion. We will come back.” These words still give him goose bumps of gratitude.
That is why TS keeps on doing the best he can.
Published in the Eikestadnuus