A Star in The Dark

A Star in The Dark

The finishing touches are being put onto our new tasting room as Sam and I pull
up a chair to taste through his range of Minimalist wines.

The slightly less than gentle cacophony of angle grinder on mild steel provides the perfect backdrop to a vista of Stellenbosch spreading out in front of us. Basked in the spring sun, this place is going to be epic when it’s done!

It’s only Sam Lambson’s third vintage. He started making wine while still studying. Running between class and the cellar to check ferments. And also spending some time working at the now defunct Hawke and Schoon Wine Shop, after which he took on harvests helping Carl van der Merwe at De Morgenzon, then Lukas Van Loggerenberg and Chris Alheit. So the kid really has wine in his veins.

What gets you excited? I ask him. Syrah, he answers. Especially from Elim. While working at Hawke & Schoon we used to taste these incredible “salt and pepper” style Syrahs from Elim by Trizanne. They had the most incredible peppery perfume on the nose with this saline minerality on the palate.

I wanted to create wines at the point where science and art meet and let the vineyards speak for themselves.

I suffered from a long episode of depression back then and it was incredible how, even when I felt totally numbed out, great wines could still reach me. And that has gone on to become the inspiration for Minimalist Wines as well as the name for my flagship Stars in The Dark Syrah. The latter won’t be shown at the tasting room until 2021, as it’s currently sold out, but we have some very special experimental wines to keep us busy while it patiently matures in barrel.
The “experimental range” really puts the emphasis on mental. Mental health. With 10% of all proceeds going to (SADAC) The South African Depression and Anxiety Group. And it also gives Sam the opportunity to play around a little, experiment with different varietals, terroirs and vinification methods while he finds a stable mate for the flagship Stars in The Dark Syrah.

First up is the Experimental Blanc, a 2019 Riesling from Elgin. Botrivier side, planted on Bokkeveld Skali. Harvested riper than one would guess from the nose, a tribute to the cool Elgin climate. Fermented with as little intervention as possible and then matured in old 300L oak barrels for 10 months on the lees.

The wine is as tight as drum, steely, mineral and unyielding. Initially there is no fruit on the nose, only the faintest delicate secondary nuances of toast and a slight raw nuttines. After what feels like an eternity of exaggerated wrist cramping swirling the wine slowly starts relenting a concentrated bouquet of tart green apples and white orchard blossoms backed up by smokey flint. On the palate the wine is light, delicate, but racy. With a punch of acidity, beautiful flavours of chewy green apple that follow through from the palate and a long mouth watering finish of green apple skins and flint.

This is a very good wine. Probably a bit too young to drink right now but should be showing some serious fruit by mid summer and will continue to improve with upwards of five years of ageing.

Next up is the 2019 Connect the Dots Syrah. Blended from a parcel each of Elgin and Helderberg fruit. The wine is fermented 100% whole bunch, macerated for two and three weeks respectively before being matured in older oak for 10 months.

On the nose the wine shows bright juicy concentrated redcurrant with undertones of blueberry, a hint of green peppercorn and freshly picked wild herbs. The palate is bone dry with chewy youthful tannin lifted by good acidity. The flavours follow through nicely from the nose with a long satisfying dry finish of blueberries and herbs.

This is a good wine, bit youthful but will round out nicely with a year of bottle age and develop complexity with up to five years of careful cellaring. Paired with some locally produced rosemary and thyme infused olives this will make the perfect accompaniment to late afternoons watching the sunset over Stellenbosch.

Sam Lambson is one of the handful of bespoke artisan producers collaborating at the new Somm & Co. tasting room on Polkadraai at Karibib Wine Craft. With only three vintages under his belt and already producing gems like this we are expecting great things to come. His wines will be available at the farm or online at somm.co.za from 28 November.


From the author: I am a certified sommelier through the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), WSET and CWA educated and have worked and consulted for a portfolio of top South African restaurants. I’m a 3IC Certified expert in Piedmontese Food & Wine, currently serving as the chairman for SASA as well as the Head Sommelier and MD for Somm & Co.

I use a very simple scoring system. Faulty, Acceptable, Good, Very Good and Outstanding. No hundred pointers or star ratings. Read the note, love the wine, love the story, not the score.

Barry Scholfield

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