SPEND an hour or two at Mymering, just outside Ladismith, and you'll soon get used to surgeon- turned-winemaker Andy Hillock's laugh ringing out from the vineyards, cellar, restaurant or tasting room as he shares his love for his farm and its produce with visitors.
Winemaking is a dream realised for the well-known retired PE surgeon, who tells how he once struggled to choose a career path from his three passions – medicine, flying and farming. He studied medicine, flew Harvards in the air force, and later bought a farm in the fertile Dwarsrivier valley, where he has farmed table grapes for some 20 years.
A visiting winemaker set the wheels in motion when he asked why Hillock wasn't making wine – the grapes were that good – and the first wines were launched in 2011. The off-dry, low alcohol (11-12%) chenin blanc is popular, Hillock says, with "the ladies who lunch" and he plans to retain that formula.
The surrounding mountains, with the distinctive double-peaked Towerkop, lend their silhouette to the Hillock Wines label, where he tells the story of his three passions and says he hopes that buyers will enjoy the wine with as much passion as it took to make it. That passion is captured in the hearty chuckle as he serves his wines at dinner, escorts guests on walks through vineyard and up mountain, or urges you to taste the grapes on the sorting table that will go into what he expects to be an outstanding sauvignon blanc this year.
The current sauvignon blanc is fruity and zesty, and the chardonnay lightly woded, citrusy with a hint of butteriness. These are easy-drinking wines, great with friends and a braai or light meal. Barrel roll is a white blend, with some yeastiness from barrel-fermented chardonnay and chenin, and sauvignon blanc adding crisp fruit.
Hillock says it's a hit with foodies, who rate it for serving with fish and chicken dishes.
Continuing the aviation theme, the Mile High red blend of pinotage and cabernet was named by Hillock's wife Penny, with the cheeky note on the label – "you have to try this at least once in your life" – earning it a nod from Platter's as the "(unofficial) name of the year". It's an easy drinking, dry red – a big hit with the English tourists visiting while we were there (they were also fascinated to discover that the grapes in their local supermarket back home come from this very farm).
A hearty shiraz, with distinctive plum and smokiness, rounds out the range. Having first bottled reds last year, Hillock says this year promises "a beautiful shiraz and an even better merlot".
Hillock Wines are available from the estate (mymering.com
) and at selected stores in PE.