After one of our most interactive and exciting Twitter tastings with Lithos wines, one of our SuperFANS, Stephen Brierley, went along to the farm to discover where the magic is made. If you want to follow Stephen on Twitter for his magnificent tweets about wine, you can find him at @sbrierley75. If you’d like to visit Lithos, contact them at @wines_lithos or visit their website.
I had a long overdue engagement with Tim Hoek, the winemaker from Lithos wines and just under two hours in traffic from Century City to Somerset West was not going to stop me. The farm is on Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road, on Wedderwill Country Estate. The Estate has another wine farm on its property, but that is a topic for another post. Lithos wine farm is situated between the Schapenberg mountain range to the east, the vistas of False Bay, that go on and on all the way to Cape point, to the west.
Lithos is owned by Sean and Lorraine. Sean is a financier, who still spends time travelling around the country on business, while Lorraine is an artist and a dreamer and conceptualised the name of the farm. Lithos comes from the word Lithosphere which is the outermost shell of our planet. The terroir in the area is excellent, previously being submerged beneath the waves of the Agulhas and now comprises of a top layer of sandy loam, with clay beneath which requires very little or no irrigation during summer months. The vines were planted in 2003 by the previous owners, who made wine for their own consumption, and the farm was bought and developed by Sean and Lorraine in 2011.
Tim Hoek found his way as winemaker to the farm from Jordan, where he was the assistant winemaker for five years. Tim and his wife, also a winemaker, have spent time in Bordeaux, Napa, New Zealand and have also made sparkling wine in the UK. Tim was born in Swellendam and obtained his agricultural degree in Wellington.
Tim’s manner is cool, calm and collected. He had previous aspirations to make beer, if the wine industry turned out not to be for him. But fate dealt him good hand and he now produces both wine and beer for the farm. An unusual occurrence; a wine farm that produces beer, but as Lorraine states: “We make and sell beer during the off season when we are not focused solely on the wines”. Nothing wrong with a dual income, I say! The beer is bottled under the Lithos labels: a haunting set of winged designs which were conceptualised by Lorraine, but designed by Vim Botha.
The beer is an interesting offering and ranges from 3.5% to 5% in alcohol. The lightest is a Raspberry Weiss which Lorraine thinks should be aimed at the female market. It is clean and refreshing with the obvious hint of rasberries, which is by no means sweet and overpowering. Sunset Ale is their pale ale, which is snappish and has slightly more a finish to it than the previous. The Midnight Stout is sharp and bitter and was my favourite. I took a carry bag of this home with me. All the beers are fairly light and would go down well with a range of food dishes.
After the beer tasting (apt for recovering from a Friday spent in too traffic), we moved onto their wines. They offer a range of 3 wines. The first was a Blanc De Noir, made with Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers a strawberry fruit jam nose, light acidity and a layered freshness which was drier in terms of sugar content than a more typical rosé, but presents a good balanced between the three cultivars. This wine would go very well with a cream based pasta, or even a big hunk of salmon where the acidity would cut through the fat and oil.
Their Cape Blend, of which a limited quantity is available as they produced only 2100 bottles, is clean and balanced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cabernet Franc grapes. The wine is fermented in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill barrels, so it only had a hint of tannins and wood to it.
Their last wine on offer was the Syrah, which they referred to us such rather than a Shiraz as it was grown in the cooler climate of the area, which is generally 2-3 degrees colder than Stellenbosch. The wine gave me a wonderful delivery of plums on the nose, slightly moist biltong too and the mouth delivered a subtle smack of white pepper. It is a wine that is light on the palate with 40% matured in new oak.
Tim has recently produced a Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes bought in from Stellenbosch, which he matured in barrels for 28 months. He is not ready to release this yet, but the excitement of this new addition was evident.
I only managed to catch a glimpse of the landscape views on arriving at the Estate, but what I did see was breathtaking and worth a visit earlier in the day. Lorraine is an aspiring cook and offers food and wine evenings, where clients can sample the beer and wine with a hearty meal alongside. I could have spent more time with the family but sadly after 90 minutes I had to drag myself out and home, just catching glimpses of the most impressive scenery below before the sun disappeared from sight.
The farm is well worth the visit and is along the same road as other impressive estates in Journeys End and Waterkloof. The wines are available from Wine Concepts and Vino Pronto, but I would suggest a visit to the farm for the sights, sounds and warmth of Lithos wines.