Reaping in business, toasting life

Kick-off of a new series, Business Lunch, in which Floris Kappelle and his companion Rijk de Gooijer sit down with a renowned entrepreneur. Anecdotes and success stories alternate with clinking glasses and pricking forks. In this episode the napkin goes on the lap of winegrower Dennis Albada Jelgersma. “Life needs fun.”
Esther Quelle

Text Floris Kappelle
Photography Esther Quelle

Dennis Albada Jelgersma arrives promisingly with a box of wine under his arm in the courtyard of Sofitel Legend The Grand in the heart of Amsterdam. A city palace where you can simply park your car in front of the door. And where you can enjoy more than excellent dining with and without a Michelin star. Flanked by stunt taster Rijk de Gooijer, the three of us enter Bridges* restaurant. A top-class stopping place with a wine list to match. Not least because of the presence of Château Giscours, the wine estate of Dennis and his family. Today it's about the Good Life. As a full-time bon vivant, Dennis mainly presents himself as a winegrower. A thorough characterization of a gentleman who knows what La Dolce Vita has to offer. Because in Tuscany they also have a winery. We sit down at the table.

Mighty classic

Who better to have lunch with: a winegrower or a marathon runner? Dennis is both. He bravely runs off all those glasses of nectar. If necessary for a good cause. This afternoon, however, it is full throttle enjoyment and all brakes are released. Especially at De Gooijer who can eat with a knife and fork again. Still quite a challenge. Enter maître Daan Halle with a fine glass of Henriot, a mighty classic that suddenly shakes our palette out of slumber. It is only twelve o'clock and the afternoon is smiling at us. This also applies to Dennis, who, almost enchanted by the fine aromas, takes his talking chair and starts talking vigorously. Executive chef Raoul Meuwese also opens strong with a quartet of appetizers: a kek chowder soup with vineyard snails; fresh North Sea crab with piccalilly mayo, radish, papadum and flowers; good bread with miso butter; prawn crackers with sesame mayo, Szechuan pepper and hibiscus.

A festive prelude to an already legendary lunch. “This is extremely tasty,” Dennis points to his crab. “I'm usually a picky eater and not a fan of ointments. Despite that, I do try to educate myself by going about it with an open mind.” An approach that is familiar to De Gooijer. Don't think too much, just lavish the fork in and happa. Unperturbed, Dennis delves into his wine history: “We were not intolerant to wine at home. Starting young is taboo these days, but things used to be different. Fortunately, we have an innate love of wine. Always nice to have a glass together. During Covid you saw all kinds of bars popping up in the gardens in the area. I now also have a gentlemen's bar. Our Negroni is infamous. Life needs fun. Like with these escargots, I really love them. Add a nice glass of wine, delicious. A nice lunch, that's life.” De Gooijer reveals that he also keeps snails at home. Whether these are intended for consumption remains unclear.

Large wine estate

As a winegrower, entrepreneur and investor, Dennis has something to celebrate. Recently, together with sister Valérie and brother Derk, he can call himself full owner of the land and buildings of Giscours in the famous wine community of Margaux and Caiarossa in Tuscany. Crowning achievement of father Eric, the well-known entrepreneur with a great passion for wine who died in 2018. Dennis: “What is more beautiful than your own vineyard? And especially one of size. That takes some doing. Taking over a winery in Bordeaux is very formal. First, father took over the operation of the wine company with the lease of land and buildings for a certain period. That is now behind us and we have been able to buy the land. We are very happy with this because we can now start investing seriously. Both in hotel facilities and in the operation, which is still quite old-fashioned.

We want to become more sustainable and that directly benefits the quality of the wine. Terroir is of course very important. Just like the vinification in the cuvées, the barriques and the bottles.” Time for the first course: scallop with Jerusalem artichoke cream, hazelnut and bergamot oil. In our glass: Der Wilde from Weingut Weigand from Franconia with a blend of Muller Thurgau and the debuting Bacchus grape. De Gooijer tastes: “Floral aroma, grapefruit and melon, a touch of game with a soft character. Great boost for scallop.” And yes: that is correct. The sea creature gets a lift and the chef a compliment. Back to Giscours, because musing about wines is always nice. Dennis: “Modernizing a chateau costs a lot of money. We gained experience with Château du Tertre (the domain also located in Margaux was sold in 2021, ed.). Look, Giscours is not trophy assets, but a company where money has to be made. A winery of stature, and not just a holiday home. Our investments are focused on return. In the meantime, our relationship with neighbors and other winemakers has grown enormously over the years. Wine is family, so we go to the big dinners where we are recognized as representatives of one established wine family.”

Allergy to red wine

Chateau Giscours owes its global reputation to the Grand Cru classification from 1855. A niche it shares with sixty other Grand Crus from Bordeaux. Dennis: “That one legacy we must honor. As General Manager we have Alexander van Beek, who has been managing the family domains with verve for 27 years. A very good friend, a great connoisseur and above all: the best ambassador of our wines. He recently toured the US to promote our wines there.” Dennis himself can also taste very well, although that used to be different: “When my father bought this chateau in 1995, I was still a student and had an allergy to red wine. I haven't had a drop of red for fifteen years! And while we had a winery that only produced red wine. I have been able to cope with it again for about ten years now. So my taste palette is a bit behind. I can now taste pretty well, but not as good as my brother. There is a lot to catch up on. As a bon vivant, that works out quite well for me.” With approximately 500 hectares, Giscours is one of the largest estates in the Médoc, with 80 hectares of Grand Cru (25.000 cases per year) and 30 hectares of La Sirène de Giscours as a second wine (10.000 cases). Planted grape varieties, mainly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dash of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

At Giscours you can enjoy dinners, tastings and cricket on the former polo field. Dennis: “Sport brings people together, just like wine. Our cricket team proves this, with guests such as The Royal Household from England. We also host around fifty, mainly French, weddings here every year. This is partly due to our excellent chef. This estate is quite popular as a location in the region. With vineyards, vegetable gardens, meadows, forests, parks, works of art, water points and rare animals. Truly a magical place. My parents explored these lands on horseback, very romantic. They then discovered a somewhat dilapidated chateau: Du Tertre. More of a country house compared to the somewhat pompous Giscours. They then renovated it beautifully and opened it with my sister's wedding. Another highlight: Fête de la Fleur, the great Flower Festival, every year in June. We were once allowed to act as hosts for fifteen hundred guests! Everyone was there, all the chateaus, all the Grand Crus. My mother could organize a party. With a huge tent right in front of the chateau, completely orange on the inside, with large Dutch Masters and a hundred chandeliers on the ceiling. Guests dived into the 56-meter-long swimming pool, danced to the big band, enjoyed rituals and fireworks and yes: Heineken on tap. The message was clear: we have arrived, and we are here to stay. We then showed how life should be celebrated. So not with a block of cheese and a lukewarm pipe.”


I love it

Also not childish is the langoustine that swims smoothly, accompanied by puffed wild rice, celeriac and a duck liver terrine with algae powder and dashi. Signature dish. Looks beautiful, tastes great. The Rheingau Spätburgunder Rosé from Künstler seduces De Gooijer into sudden poetry: “Tikje Dry, an excellent bridge to lango and duck, playfully pink with an echo of red fruit.” Totally agree, again. So we meander through this beautiful menu and Dennis' adventures in Bordeaux. Now time for a dish of potato mousseline with crème fraîche, chives and a generous dollop of Perle Imperial caviar. Adjacent is roasted leek with mushroom, pecan and shiso leaf. Perfect with Patrick Piuze's Chablis, full of exciting depths and swimming salt. “I love it”, Dennis groans. We effortlessly move on to the main fish: pike-perch. Poached, Brussels sprouts, oyster cream, beurre blanc. De Gooijer is already sticking his nose in the next glass: “What a wine… a triumph! Although that nose, it puts me on the wrong track. I feel tension… plum, citrus, a bale of hay.” Dennis wholeheartedly agrees: “Deep acidity on the one hand, with a creamy fat on the other. And length.” This is Rocking Horse by Thorne & Daughters from the Western Cape. Clearly a good friend of fish. For entertainment, Dennis treats us to a few vintages of Giscours, which he has cleverly poured by maître Daan.

This is a taste of college. Sound of pleasure everywhere. We note: elegant and well structured, mouth-filling broad, clear aromas and refined tannins, powerful and fleshy. In short: a great personality. But we must continue. Because there is the pigeon, all the way from Anjou. Nice combination with Tinto de Toro by Alvar de Dios from the red-hot heart of Spain. 100 percent Tempranillo. Something completely different. Pure and full with a soft landing. Rijk pricks up his ears: “You hear the grape speak for itself.” And the pigeon too, perfectly cooked, in our own reduction, liver terrine, with beetroot and blueberry cream. The wine tones reflect beautifully in the dish. A pairing of great beauty. Gradually we notice less and less that Dennis is a picky eater. “For me it's about balance, what you eat and what you don't eat. What you drink. And that you stay fit. Lots of skiing, a little golf, the occasional marathon and swimming. The City Swim? Also done that.”

The conversation turns to Caiarossa, the family's wine estate in Tuscany. But that's another story. This Business Lunch is ready for dessert: chocolate sponge cake with date, mousse, blood orange and tonka ice cream. The Riversaltes from Domaine des Schistes pairs perfectly with the nutty aromas. Final of a lesson in the art of living. With a hedonist like Dennis at the table, who proves that the good life can go hand in hand with business. But in a pleasant setting. Like Bridges, a celebration of hospitality and gastronomic refinement. Dennis has to leave: “If I had known it would be such a nice lunch, I would have stayed longer.” A man who knows how to hang the streamers.

MASTERS Magazine

This article is from MASTERS Magazine. How passion, craftsmanship and enthusiasm can excite the senses. That is the common thread of the spring edition of MASTERS, which takes you through many catering entrepreneurs: from the big winner of the recent Michelin ceremony, Jurgen van der Zalm van Vinkeles, to 'Horecatering Entrepreneur of the Year' Herman Hell. Speaking of Michelin: what is actually the impact of the green star, which saw the light of day in 2021? MASTERS posed that question to six prominent chefs. During a business lunch in Bridges restaurant, Dennis Albada Jelgersma explains how he farms as a winegrower and celebrates life: “Not with a block of cheese and a lukewarm pipe.” The appetizing creations in Culinaire Couture prove that a good outfit is like a feast for the eyes. David Yarrow's fascinating photography is also a feast for the eyes. We get into the Lucid Air Touring to experience whether the electric car can have the same effect on the senses as the combustion engine. And we enter heaven for audiophiles: Bang & Olufsen Brussee. In short: plenty of stimuli for the reading buds. A song to enjoy!

Order MASTERS Magazine #57 here