Hidden Farm, perched high above the Annandale Road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, was bought by former Capitec Bank chief executive Riaan Stassen as a going concern. This includes the winery, oil- and table olive business as well as the popular restaurant, Overture.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to sell,” admits Dave Hidden, “because it meant letting go of a dream I’ve had for the last 50 years. I can truly say it was a decision that was dictated by the head and not the heart.”
Dave Hidden, 66, confirmed that the farm name as well as the Hidden Valley brand name would be retained. Current staff will remain.
“I love new experiences and challenges. That’s partly the reason I bought Hidden Valley,” says new owner Riaan Stassen, who moved onto an adjoining property, Hillside, sometime after retiring from Capitec.
“When I heard Hidden Valley was up for sale, I came to take a look and immediately fell in love with the place. It was a very spontaneous decision to buy. I might have been a chartered accountant by profession but I operate very differently from a chartered accountant: I don’t believe in analysis-paralysis.”
Riaan Stassen says he invited a good friend, Nick van Huysteen of Saronsberg wines in Tulbagh, for lunch at Overture restaurant and told him of his desire to purchase Hidden Valley as a going concern. He received an enthusiastic thumbs-up in response.
“The whole process – from my first look to Dave Hidden signing his acceptance of my offer to purchase took no more than two weeks. I think that, from a marketing point of view, one can do something really special here; combining good wine, good food and art… preferably sculpture. The underlying theme will be nature and this wonderful natural forest that rises up from Hillside to the ‘hidden valley’.”
Riaan Stassen says the challenges facing him are “not completely foreign to me, given that I was in the liquor industry with Distillers for 14 years – ending up as operations director.”
Dave Hidden’s love affair with the 30 hectare farm on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains began while he was studying at Stellenbosch University in 1968. The legendary viticulture Professor, Chris Orffer, would often point out the Helderberg slopes to me “He would wave towards these slopes and say: ‘Up there is the best vineyard soil in the world’. And we visited the site."
He reveals that his decision to sell was prompted by the realisation that “neither of my sons were going to take over from me. It needed to go to someone who shared my vision. “This is a sophisticated operation and I’m sure the new owner will take Hidden Valley to the next level in becoming one of the finest brands in South Africa.”
He has no plans of retiring, though he will almost certainly bow out of the wine industry. My main aim now is to improve my golf and watch my three beautiful granddaughters grow up.”