GRAPE TO GLASS 2023 Inter Hotel Challenge, sponsored by HEINEKEN Beverages

Participating wine stewards competing for the 2023 Inter Hotel Challenge, sponsored by HEINEKEN Beverages titles of Wine Steward of the Year, Most Promising Wine Steward, and Most Up and Coming Wine Steward (‘The Wonga Award’) attended in-depth workshops in the Western Cape in early September. 

‘Grape to Glass’ involved visits to several top-class wineries and distilleries where they had the opportunity to meet and network with guest speakers, winemakers, distillers and ambassadors of Nederburg, Durbanville Hills, Pongrácz, James Sedgewick Distillery and Van Ryn’s Brandy Distillery. The wine steward candidates also received comprehensive training provided by the Sommeliers Academy and the Cape Wine Academy, enabling them to complete these two wine education bodies’ online certificate course examinations.  

They were asked to share some information about themselves: where they see themselves in five years’ time, who their role models are, what book they’re currently reading, and which of the HEINEKEN Beverages’ wine and spirit products they best enjoyed learning about and why.  Their answers appear below.

WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE

NCUMISA PUPUMA  
THE LAGOON BEACH HOTEL 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

I’m a passionate, goal-driven individual, always willing to learn. 
I’m working towards continuing my studies at a culinary school and hope to make that happen in the next five years as I see myself as a food & beverage manager, working for one of the best five-star hotels in South Africa. 
I look up to Maxwell Magodla, our manager at The Lagoon Beach Hotel. He’s always willing to share his knowledge and assist me in better understanding how things need to be done. He motivates me to chase my dream.
I particularly like Nederburg’s Baronne red blend and Durbanville Hills’ Cape Honey Bee Noble Late Harvest, two of the many wines I got to experience during the recent Grape to Glass training week in the Cape.   

FATIMA MBUQE 
THE SILO HOTEL 
PONGRÁCZ & VAN RYN’S

I’m passionate and proud of where I am today. 
I would like to experience working overseas within the next five years. 
My role model is Luis Pinheiro. I’ve known him for 15 years and have chosen him as my role model because of his dedication to what he does each and every day. His humility inspires me. Luis started in the industry as a kitchen porter and then became a waiter. Today, he’s the GM he is our GM at The Silo Hotel. He’s been in the industry for over 30 years and didn’t study for this role, but achieved it through hard work and dedication. I see him being an inspiration, not only to myself, but to so many people daily, making his team continuously want to do better. Taking that broom and mop and cleaning the floor himself. He is the kind of person you can run to whether you have personal or work challenge. I am where I am because of him. Next year will be my seventh year working under his leadership. He truly leads by example, treating everyone with dignity and respect.    
I’m reading Black Diamond by Zakes Mda. 

THEO LITHA KALI
TWELVE APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY    

I’m ambitious with a strong drive to succeed, and have a bubbly personality with a good moral centre. 
I’d like to see myself as head sommelier of the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.   
My role model is sommelier Gregory Mutambe, because he was the first to introduce me to a career in wine.  
I’m reading Hustle Harder Hustle Smarter by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
My first highlight was when I met Jean Vincent Ridon for wine training because I’m a waiter normally so the information I received was really eye opening and mind blowing for me, and it left me having a desire to know more about wines and the sequence of service and to top it off I met a water sommelier for the first time, which was inspirational. Secondly having the opportunity to visit all those wine farm and distilleries was amazing. I was able to see and learn about the stages that grapes go through for wines to be made which is something that’s new for me.  Lastly, visiting Durbanville Hills was like a dream for me to meet the winemakers and learn about my favourite wine, and that I will be working with for the competition.

Nico Pieterse Water Sommelier

Durbanville Hills Winemakers Wilhelm Coetzee (Red Wine Maker), Jenna Higgins (Asst. Winemaker), Kobus Gerber (White Wine Maker) and Katrin Cross of The Vinotèque.
Do see www.vinoteque.co.za

WANDILE MPAKUMPAKU  
THE PRESIDENT HOTEL 
NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS WHISKY 

I’m hugely passionate about our hospitality industry. I studied professional cookery at Capsicum Culinary Studio. I was awarded the title of Barista of the Year in the 2021 Reaching for Young Stars competition, and since won the love of wine! 
My goal in the next five years is to open my own restaurant and focus on upskilling the youth in the industry. I love sharing knowledge and to continuously learn. 
British celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, inspires me. His journey wasn’t an easy one. He makes me believe that everything is possible with a touch of effort.  
I’m reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.
I loved visiting Nederburg in Paarl and the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington during the Grape to Glass training week. Their rich history and the delicious flavours of their products impressed me.  

ANDREW CHIRAUKA
TAJ CAPE TOWN 
NEDERBURG & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

I’m optimistic, cheerful and a go-getter. 
In the next five years, I see myself running my own bar. 
I admire George Noviskas, my former manager, simply because he’s running his own bar! 
I just love Heineken Silver – the king of all light beers! 

XOLELWA MANYENKAWU  
SOUTHERN SUN ARABELLA HOTEL, GOLF AND SPA
DURBANVILLE HILLS & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

I’m driven and want to learn new things every day. I am a go-getter! 
I want to see myself being the best in the hospitality industry and moving forward in life. 
My uncle is my role model as he started from nothing, and is now (the best) sushi chef. 
I also admire Oprah Winfrey as she gives hope to the young to reach their dreams.
I’m reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
What I particularly valued during the Grape to Glass training week, was the time spent at the Cape Wine Academy in Stellenbosch. Principal Heidi Duminy gave me clear insight in how to describe different wines to guests.  

ASHLEY KLASSEN 
QUEEN VICTORIA HOTEL & MANOR HOUSE WATERFRONT 
PONGRÁCZ & CRUZ VODKA

I’m analytical, creative, friendly, strange, charismatic, persuasive and a quick thinker.  
My role model and guidance coach, currently steering me in the right direction, is my senior manager, Jason La Fleur. He leads with humility, respect, and professionalism, and truly believes in his staff, encouraging us to keep aiming high. 
I’m reading Feeling is the Secret by Neville Goddard. It’s a self-help book that explores the profound influence of our inner states on our external reality. The author is regarded as one of the greatest law of attraction teachers of the twentieth century. 
What stuck with me during the Grape to Glass training week, is how little gets wasted or discarded in the process of making wine and spirits. Although each site we visited is unique, they do share many similarities when it comes to operations.  

LUCIAN HENDRICKS
MOUNT NELSON, A BELMOND HOTEL, CAPE TOWN 
PONGRÁCZ & AMARULA 

I’m a young, enthusiastic, and innovative individual who finds joy in perfecting everything I do. I enjoy interacting with people and finding effective and efficient ways to complete challenges in the workplace, as well as in my everyday life. 
I see myself in a managerial role in a food & beverage department, in the next five years.
My grandfather is my role model. He always encourages me to do the right thing, even when no one is around.
I’m reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (co-founder of Nike)
My highlight of the Grape to Glass training week was the Nederburg winery in Paarl. The amount of planning that goes into running such a large operation, and the winery’s ability to consistently produce quality wines, impressed me. The James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington was another stand-out moment. The ability to run a 100% sustainable establishment takes a lot of courage and perseverance.  

RUAAN VAN HELDEN 
SOUTHERN SUN CAPE SUN 
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

I’m an openly friendly people’s person with a willingness to learn. 
I would like to be a food & beverage manager within the next five years. 
My father is my inspiration. He convinced me to go into the hospitality industry. He’s worked on the Blue Train for 40 years! 
I’m currently reading the Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling. 
The entire Grape to Glass week was unforgettable, but the visit to Nederburg really stands out for me. Meeting winemaker Pieter Badenhorst and experiencing his warmth was incredible!

CIZARIO FULLER
SOUTHERN SUN THE CULLINAN 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

I’m career driven and intensely focused on becoming the best version of me. 
In the next five years, I see myself as managing or supervising a cocktail bar. 
My role model is my father, for his strong work ethic and his focus in all areas of his life. 
I’m reading The Culinary Explorer: A Journey Through Tasty Recipes and Cooking Technique by Christina Budd. My highlight was learning and understanding that there is more to wine than simply the taste you get in the bottle. It was fun to experience different notes on your nose, different exposure, different processes and commitment to taste and that even water can interpret and change the way you appreciate wine.

RAYMUNDO QUILLOSA
PROTEA HOTEL BY MARRIOTT® CAPE TOWN WATERFRONT BREAKWATER LODGE  
NEDERBURG & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

I’m a vibrant young man who takes pride in himself. I enjoy meeting new people and experiencing new things. I’m always willing to learn and open to new opportunities.
In the next five years, I see myself as an operations manager of an international brand. 
My second oldest sister is my inspiration because she is so hardworking and teaches me to continue learning and face all challenges that are thrown my way. 
I’m currently studying the material provided by the Sommeliers Academy.
Some of my favourite products tasted during the Grape to Glass week, was Nederburg’s Chardonnay and Van Ryn’s 20YO potstill brandy.  

GAUTENG & NORTH WEST PROVINCES

Sinalo Yanga Ngubo (54 on Bath), Sfundo Siyanda Zikalala (Sandton Sun & Towers), Christopher Tshepo Nawe (Sun City Convention Centre Hotel), Prince Zondo (InterContinental OR Tambo), Richard Mannafela (Sun City Hotel, Sun City Resort) and Nadia Sibanda (Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel)

RICHARD MANNAFELA 
SUN CITY HOTEL, SUN CITY RESORT 
NEDERBURG & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

I’m an industrious person, dedicated and passionate about farming. 
In the next five years, I’d like to become a businessman and help grow our country’s economy. 
Nelson Mandela inspires me. He fought immense battles and came out on top. 
I’m reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Grape to Glass provided me with the opportunity to visit the Mother City for the first time! It was also my first time on a plane. I had an awesome time, and made many new friends, thanks to HEINEKEN Beverages and everyone else involved. I enjoyed every venue we visited, especially Durbanville Hills where I ended up combining a Merlot brandy with milk tart. Our time spent at the Cape Wine Academy was also very valuable.   

Thapelo Letsogo (Executive Chef) and Alister Foto (Wine Steward) Toadbury Hall Country Hotel

ALISTER FOTO
TOADBURY HALL COUNTRY HOTEL 
PONGRÁCZ & BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

I’m passionate about all things I do. I’m on time and on point. 
In the next five years, I see myself owning my own cocktail bar. 
My role model is my father, who told me that nothing is impossible. Prosperity comes from a hardworking mind. 
I’m currently reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.  

SINALO YANGA NGUBO
54 ON BATH 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & AMARULA

I’m a driven individual who aspires to learn. I never want to be stuck in a comfort zone. I always look for different challenges to reach new heights and grow.
I see myself travelling within the industry in the next five years. It will give me extensive knowledge and hone my skills in being a good wine steward and barista, and help me reach the goals I’ve set for myself in this industry I love so much.  
My grandfather Mr L.J. Ngubo, is my role model. He taught me that learning never stops and hard work pays – something I learned by him enrolling himself for studies at UNISA at the age of 60. At age 70 he’s travelling the world, learning about religions and medicine. It shows me that learning has no age restrictions.
I’m reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
I had a most delightful learning experience throughout the Grape to Glass week. My most memorable experience was when we met and received wine service training from master sommelier Jean Vincent Ridon – I learned so much! 

NADIA SIBANDA 
IVORY MANOR BOUTIQUE HOTEL
DURBANVILLE HILLS & CRUZ VODKA

I’m an open-minded person, very strong and unwavering in commitment. I’m self-disciplined and responsible, able to endure challenges both physically and mentally. 
I see myself as an inspiration to all that have lost hope, succeeding in being the best version of myself. My aim is to own an upmarket wine bar in the next five years. 
I’m currently studying the Cape Wine Academy certificate course on South African wine, and reading The Road to Home by Vanessa del Fabbro
The best parts of Grape to Glass were our visit to Nederburg, as well as the wine service training we received from Jean Vincent Ridon. I can’t wait to share the knowledge I’ve gained with others.   

CHRISTOPHER TSHEPO NAWE
SUN CITY CONVENTION CENTRE HOTEL 
NEDERBURG AND AMARULA

I’m an energetic, ambitious person who has developed a mature and responsible approach to any task that I am presented with. I’m dedicated to working towards achieving all my objectives with excellence.
In the next five years I see myself as a banqueting manager, head of the department.
Patrick Setshogoe is the one who motivates and inspires me. He is the best wine steward at Madikwe Safari Lodge. 
I’m reading Food and Beverage Service (9th edition) by John Cousins, Dennis Lillicrap and Suzanne Weekes
I really loved visiting the Durbanville Hills winery during the Grape to Glass week in the Cape and found the education provided by the Cape Wine Academy outstanding. Nederburg and J.C. Le Roux (where Pongrácz is made) were also amazing experiences. 

S’FUNDO SIYANDA ZIKALALA 
SANDTON SUN & TOWERS  
PONGRÁCZ AND BAIN’S CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

I’m young and want to change my own life by doing good to people and making things around me better to I can live a fulfilling life. I’m dedicated and driven. I smile because it keeps me happy.
In the next five years, I see myself owning an entertainment, events and artist marketing company, as well as travelling and doing things I like.
My former line manager, Miss Sibongile Modiba, is my role model. She taught me self-management and how to work myself up in the industry with good manners and being presentable, thinking on my feet and being the heart of my workplace. 
I look up to local rapper and South African Idols judge, Tebogo Sidney Thapelo Thekisho (aka ProVerb). He’s someone I see myself as someday. He entertains people through being a guest speaker and host. He also writes motivational songs – this inspires me to write more.
I’m reading Begin Again by Phillip Makuba Mogedi.
Visiting the Cape during the Grape to Glass training week was exceptional. A definite highlight was our visit to the Van Ryn’s Distillery in Stellenbosch and getting to meet the in-house cooper who showed us how much dedication and hard work it takes to make barrels. I also got to taste the Van Ryn’s 15YO potstill brandy, announced the World’s Best Wine Brandy at the 2023 World Brandy Awards in London. It really hit the spot! 

NJABULO PRINCE ZONDO
INTERCONTINENTAL JOHANNESBURG O.R. TAMBO
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

I’m a positive person, always willing to learn from others. 
In the next five years, I want to be in the South African Wine Tasting team, representing the country, and train young up-and-coming wine stewards.
I admire American motivational speaker Eric Thomas. He truly uplifts and inspires me to have a positive attitude. 
I’m reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.
I had the best tasting of my life at Durbanville Hills during the Grape to Glass training week in the Cape. Tasting the Durbanville Hills Merlot Rosé blew me away – I’ve never tasted anything like it! 

Debra Nxumalo (Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani), Londeka Mkhize (Beverly Hills), Siyanda Craig Mthethwa (Southern Sun The Edward), Sibusiso Khumalo (Durban ICC), Nkanyiso Zikhali (The Oyster Box)

KWAZULU-NATAL PROVINCE

SIBUSISO KHUMALO 
DURBAN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE 
PONGRÁCZ & VAN RYN’S BRANDY

I am a highly motivated, passionate person working hard to achieve my goals. 
I’d love to see myself progress in the wine and hospitality industries – probably as one of the top sommeliers in the country! I’d also like to open a wine bar in my township of Umlazi. 
My grandmother is very close to me. She has shown dedication and strong determination and faced every challenge that came towards her. She has inspired so many in our community and taught me never to judge but to love everyone in live and always be humble. 
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin.  
I’m so grateful for the informative Grape to Glass training week.  Although I enjoyed every moment, I must say what I found most memorable, was learning about water and how it affects the taste of wine. We were presented with water that’s around a thousand years old and has never touched the ground.  What an experience! 

NKANYISO ZIKHALI 
THE OYSTER BOX 
DURBANVILLE HILLS & AMARULA 

I’m an energetic young individual, always keen to learn new skills to enhance guests’ experience overall. 
I’d like to be a senior sommelier with WSET Level 3 and well-recognised within the hospitality and wine industry.
Our F&B manager, Jameel Suleman for always challenging me, and my restaurant manager, for making sure I keep progressing. 
I’m currently focusing on bettering my wine knowledge by studying the information on Winefolly.com and contained in WSET Level 2 reading material. 
The stand-out experience for me of Grape to Glass was our visit to Durbanville Hills – I loved hearing the winemakers speak about their passion and tasting such terroir-driven wines.  The food and wine pairing lunch as also an eye-opening experience.  I’m so honoured and excited to be participating in this competition!

LONDEKA MKHIZE
BEVERLY HILLS  
PONGRÁCZ & BAINS CAPE MOUNTAIN WHISKY

I’m a hard-working individual, who takes accountability. I’m people-centred and enjoy interacting.  
I wish to become a famous winemaker who is able to bring together different cultures and nations.  
The late Dr Anthony Edward Rupert is my role model. He was a South African businessman, philanthropist, and conservationist. He worked to help black people play a greater role in business in South Africa and wrote one of my favourite books, Priorities for Coexistence
My best experience during Grape to Glass was the visit to Stellenbosch, one of our country’s most famous wine regions and home to some noteworthy wineries. I particularly enjoyed training by the Cape Wine Academy team and time spent at the Van Ryn’s Distillery. 

DEBRA DEBORAH NXUMALO 
SOUTHERN SUN ELANGENI & MAHARANI 
NEDERBURG & CRUZ VODKA

I’m passionate about what I do. I’ve been in the food and beverage industry for over 10 years and I love a good Cabernet Sauvignon. 
I see myself as food & beverage manager in the future. 
My mother is my role model, because she’s such a go-getter. She pushes me to realise my dreams. She’s also taught me the importance of working as a team and staying true to myself. 
I’m reading Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey.  
I learned so much during Grape to Glass training week in the Cape, and will be sure to share this with the team back home. I’m grateful for the opportunity and experience. Must say, I’m very partial to Heineken Silver. It’s the best beer I’ve ever tasted – so refreshing! 

SIYANDA CRAIG MTHETHWA 
SOUTHERN SUN THE EDWARD
NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS WHISKY

I’m a hardworking and driven individual who isn’t afraid to face a challenge. 
I see myself advancing in my career whereby I can develop relevant skills over time and explore new opportunities. 
I’m reading The Gift: 14 Lessons to Save Your Life by Dr Edith Eva Eger.  
The greatest moment during Grape to Glass week was meeting master distiller Andy Watts at the James Sedgewick Distillery in Wellington. South African whiskies like Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky astounded me!  

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