Single Vineyard Wines
For my latest blog posting I have chosen Paul Hobbs as my subject matter. Paul Hobbs has been making wine for over 25 years in California and Argentina. He is praised by critics, professionals, and wine geeks for his incredible single vineyard wines of remarkably consistent quality. Paul Hobbs wines make up one of the larger percentages of bottles in my collection and his Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorite all around cabernet sauvignons.
Originally a New Yorker born and raised near Buffalo, it was no surprise to learn Paul comes from a large fruit farming family of 11 children. His first wine experience was what some would consider a remarkable first. When Paul was a small child his father gave each child a small cup of a well know Bordeaux desert wine called Sauternes, in fact it was a 1962 Chateau d’Yquem to be precise. At that moment he new exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up. According to his brother Matt, who I met recently at a wine dinner, Paul convinced his dad when he was 16 to rip out a few fruit trees and plant grape vines.
Paul received a viticulture degree as an undergraduate at Notre Dame and obtained a masters in enology from UC Davis – one of the perennial viticultural schools in the world. Paul got off to one of the best first steps a winemaker could have. Few people may know this but he is an alumnus of the Opus One team that made all of those fabulous wines back in the early 80’s when that wine was the premiere wine made in this country. Paul was personally selected from UC Davis by Robert Mondavi to join a team built to create Mr. Mondavi’s newest vision of American wine. In no time Paul was named head enologist at Opus One. To this day that wine still carries the prestige as one of America’s finest cuvees. Though of late, Opus One has seen better days from critics. From there he moved on to Simi over in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley in 1985 where he was the head winemaker. In 1989 Nicolas Catena hired him to create a world class chardonnay in Mendoza, Argentina. At the same time back in California Paul consulted for wineries such as Peter Michael, Lewis, Kunde and Fisher. In 1991 he decided to create his own label and recently in 2004 completed construction of a state of the art winery in the Russian River Valley town of Sebastopol. Up until 2004 Paul made his wines at Fisher and Kunde Vineyards in Sonoma County as he lacked a winery of his own.
The Craft, Terroir, and wines with “a First and Last Name”
Paul is a disciple of the traditional French methods and philosophies of winemaking: non-interventionist and bio-dynamic. Winemaking starts in the vineyard with meticulous care applied to the vines and the fruit. Vines are pruned, crops are thinned and come harvest the resulting fruit is ready for crush given physiological ripeness. Great wines are made in the vineyard. You can’t make great wine from inferior grapes. A skilled winemaker can only mask the faults of inferior fruit and the resulting wine will be out of balance. A balanced wine seamlessly weaves the acidity, alcohol, fruit, and tannin (reds) components. In a poor vintage if a winemaker knows what they are doing and make the right decisions in the vineyard you can still get impressive results with outstanding fruit.
An excerpt from his web site explains his philosophy towards single vineyard wines, “Taking grapes from a particular site and allowing them to show me different possibilities in the varietal makes for a wine in which the subtleties of the individual vineyard come through