by Xochitl Maiman – March 6, 2016
The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of Hahn Family Wines exemplifies the quality of premium wine being produced in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA of California.
When viewed from above, like from an airplane, the patchwork quilt-like patterns in which agricultural areas are laid out have always interested me. I love the color variations, the vastness of the open space, and the precisely marked out parcels that seem to stretch on forever.
So it makes sense that I have viewed many a map of the vineyard locations of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA , 6,100 acres overlooking the Salinas Valley, with fascination and awe. There they are, 50 vineyards sewn in to the hillside’s topography – vineyards like Gary’s, Boekenoogen, Manzoni, Mer Soleil, Pisoni and Doctor’s – where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes flourish and find beautiful expression due to the fog and cooling breezes coming off Monterey Bay. Last October, I was finally able to visit the region, and the beauty of the mountainside vineyards and the fertile valley below was truly breathtaking!
As part of a group of wine journalists and bloggers, I had been invited to visit the area’s Hahn Family Wines for a tour of the estate vineyards and wine pairing luncheon. With the gorgeous valley as a backdrop, we were first given a show and tell overview of the region by Andy Mitchell, Hahn’s Director of Viticulture, and a member of the Hahn team since 1998. He also explained the history of Hahn Family Wines beginning with founder, Nicolaus ‘Nicky’ Hahn’s vision over 30 years ago, of the potential of the area to support world-class vineyards.
After our pictorial overview, it was time to get up close and personal with the estate’s vineyards…and view. To my utter delight and excitement, we were escorted to ATV’s for the ride up..and up…and up to about 900’ in elevation. An exhilarating ride – so much fun! The reward for a little blown out hair, ( I refused the branded baseball cap offered – vanity, you know), was a view not only of the valley, but also of the estate’s vineyards, which cover an expansive 650 acres. Basically, beauty every which way you turned.
After the obligatory picture taking frenzy, we then gathered in a pavilion to enjoy duck confit tacos with a cherry reduction sauce presented by Executive Chef Dyon Foster, paired with a line-up of their Lucienne label single vineyard Pinot Noir. Winemaker, Greg Freeman, took us through the wines, explaining the differences in vineyards, elevation and the 4 major contributing factors to differences in the wines: fog, sun, wind and clones. Indeed, each wine was quite different, but all were elegantly styled with great acidity, earthy aromas and bright fruit.
Another thrilling ATV ride down the hill brought us back to the viewing deck where luncheon tables had been laid. The menu looked promising and it would end up being an incredible display of culinary deliciousness!
Turns out making wonderful wine isn’t Greg’s only talent…..
Suffice it to say that a trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey County would not be complete without a visit to Hahn Family Vineyards. Pack a picnic, arrange a walking or ATV tour, and get acquainted with the wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands.
I’LL DRINK TO THAT! – I would like to express my gratitude to our hosts at Hahn Family Wines for their gracious hospitality and for providing us with a complete, informative and delicious experience while visiting their beautiful estate.
Related story: Carmel-by-the-Sea: A Weekend Food and Wine Getaway