A few months ago I attended what is currently the most innovative wine event of which I’ve been lucky to be a part. Hahn Family Wines invited a group of bloggers and social media wonks down to their stunning Estate in the Santa Lucia Highlands for a day of tasting, touring and most of all…planting. Yes, I am now the proud father of one+ Pinot Noir vitis vinifera grape vine in the SLH appellation, replete with distinguishing placard!
Hahn has been behind a number of very forward-thinking wine social media events, including founding the very first Bloggers Forum at their corporate offices in Napa, organized by the one and only WineDiverGirl, Lisa de Bruin (Twitter). Since then, their ideas have spread with a very successful second forum at St. Supéry, organized by Lesley Keffer Russell (Twitter), and now this latest envelope-ripping event. Here we manage to knock off a wine tasting, lunch, FULL estate tour and plant our very own Pinot vine! Whew, time to get to work!
Once again I traveled down there with my feisty vinopanions, the full Brix Chicks complement of Liza (Twitter), Xandria (Twitter) and Nesta (Twitter). Amazingly…we were early (shocking for us, I know!). We decided to make a prerunning tasting stop at the very winery that kindly directed us properly to Hahn the first time we cruised down that way for the SLH Highlands’ Fling, Paraiso Vineyards. This time we were again, well taken care of, by one Mirella. She poured us a varied type of wines, whereby my favorite was actually the ’07 Irie Paso Zin, a new label founded by the family’s son. There was some great balance here with good complexity coming from the bramble and pepper in the palate. While killing time is rarely this tasty, it was definitely time to head further down the road to Hahn!
After finding the proper place to start the day, we were greeted with the strikingly crisp, minerally ’07 Huntington DCV Sauv Blanc…yesss! Inside the renovated, historic house that holds the new tasting room, we said hello to numerous bloggers and Hahn employees such as President Bill Leigon (Twitter), Winemaker Paul Clifton, Dir. of Vineyard Ops Andy Mitchell (possibly one my favorite wine gentleman of all time), Lisa dB and new Hahn social media maven, Philip Woodrow (Twitter, Twitter2). Hardy Wallace (Twitter, Twitter2), winner of A Really Goode Job was also there, lighting up the room.
We soon headed out for the first and best activity of the day, the planting of our very own grape vine. We jumped into various vehicles and zoomed out across the 350+ acre estate to their Smith Vineyard, Block GS-1…OUR block: The Bloggers Block! We arrived and trudged up the hill to hear instructions from Andy and his excellent crew, led by Orelio and Felipe. We then got to work, planting as many vines as possible (though most of the holes were actually pre-dug, somewhat). It’s not too tricky to get a ~2yr vine planted: dig a hole about 1.5′ deep, add a bunch of water, toss in a nutrient bag and then carefully position the vine vertical and right near the support post. Tamp all the dirt back in, place the protective box around the vine, tie the box to the post and there ya go! Now go and do that 1200 more times and you start to get a picture of the work that’s actually involved!
We planted Pinot Noir (clone 828) on 3309C rootstock using Vertical Shoot Position (VSP) trellising. All of this info was handily encapsulated with Bloggers Block Information Sheet…perfectly matching my wine-info geekiness. I reached wino nirvana when I saw that the Google Maps coordinates of my vine were included on the sheet…information known as fully awesome. I can watch my little guy grow throughout the seasons!
We trudged back down the hill and then headed back to the tasting room to fill our hungry vineyard bellies with a catered lunch paired with, what else, but a range of great Hahn wines. The most intriguing wine at lunch was the ’04 “Lost Barrel” Petite Sirah. As Philip explained it, this tasting room-only wine came from a barrel of Pet that is usually used as a blending varietal for Hahn. The cellar workers were going through their vast barrel room and came across this barrel that had apparently been overlooked for over a year. They tasted it, found it doing very well all on its own and decided to bottle it as a one-off special lot of wine. I found it still very young, but with some great promise to be a balanced monster of a Pet.
Satiated, we grabbed a glass of our favorite vino from lunch and moved over to their demo vineyard outside the tasting room for a further lesson on the history of grape growing at Hahn. Andy led this informative session, whereby we learned quite a bit about the various trellising systems and directional planting methods that they’ve used over the years. Following that was a rousing, higher elevation tour of the Estate in Paul’s Rhino, ending up at the winemaking facilities for a final barrel-tasting.
We tasted two different vineyard lots of 2008 Pinot, which proved to be quite eye-opening. The differences were quite distinct, even in these very young lots of wines, despite the same appellation. The two lost were the 828 Hook Ranch Vineyard that had 6 months of mixed French oak. My notes are below:
Nose: good tarter cherry, slight cola
Palate: Medium to full, subtle oak, great cherry/cranberry mix, subtle cola, and very bright with baking spice in the long bright red and root beer finish.
The second lot was the 828 Doctor’s Vineyard, same oak treatment. I found this one deeper and more complex, as seen in my notes:
Color: Darker ruby, violet tint & edges
Nose: Very deep, red fruit good brightness but more subdued with more black cherry, blackberry earth & dust
Palate: Very smooth, full, with good tannin & great acid but fruit still red & black and deeper red with great complexity earthier, drier cinnamon spice in finish. More root beer than cola.
Last up was an early taste in the fermentation tank of the now released 2007 Cycles Gladiator California Clement Pinot Noir, the second Pinot in the Cycles Gladiator line. This one was toasty with some complex red fruit of cherry and rhubarb. It was time to head out and back into the Bay, however, as we still had one more wine engagement for the day. I’m not sure if I could say enough thanks to everyone at Hahn, as they bid us a safe passage back with a goodie-bag in hand…so if I didn’t T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U!!
We headed back to Wine Witiculturalist Russ’ (Twitter) pad for Craig Camp’s (Twitter) Taste Live! tasting of three Cornerstone Cellars Cabs, like, yum! Three Cabernets were available to taste, thanks to Bin Ends Wines (Twitter), the ’02 and ’04 Howell Mountain’s and the ’05 Napa Valley. I found the ’02 a to be tired, but the ’04 and ’05 were doing phenomenal, with the ’04 just squeaking by for the winner of the tasting, what a young beast of a Cab! The 2004 Cornerstone Howell Cab was just the thing to finish off and incredible day of wine, whew.
[UPDATE] @WineDog snapped a pic of my very own placard and vine yesterday!
Feel free to peruse my reviews below, of all of the wines that we tried that day as well as all of my photos…what a day it was!! If you would like to list these in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “BlogForumPlanting2009” and “TTL2009Cornerstone“. Enjoy!