Admittedly I am not a huge proponent of California wines. Both my wife and I worked for wineries in California for several years and have drank our way through many greats. I enjoy them. Yes, there are great California wines, but if you asked me what my last drop of fermented grape juice to pass thru my lips would be, I would answer a great Bordeaux or Burgundy. Please do not say anything about elitism. It simply is preference. I too wish those wines would be friendlier on my pocketbook.
Several years ago a close friend who works for wine distributor Michael Skurnik confided that I ought to check out Paul Hobbs Winery and invest whatever I could into bottles and cases. I took note because Peter is a Burgundy hound and when he goes gaga over something I know it has to be special.
After last night’s bottle of 2003 Richard Dinner Vineyard Chardonnay I say with utmost confidence that Paul Hobbs’ wines are liquid magic. Peter was right and damn, I wish I bought a truckload. I have gotten to the age in my life where I am more impressed by simplicity than overworked complicated things. The less you manipulate, the better. Making wine is no different than a Chef’s approach to food. We met Paul’s brother Matt for a tour and tasting that included several barrels and bottles. He was an incredibly knowledgeable and gracious host who conveyed his love of the family wines to us. We loved them when we tasted them seven years ago, but last night was one of those rarefied moments of life when all the stars line up and bliss happens. I adore wines with some age on them, even whites. I cracked the Richard Dinner Vineyard Chardonnay open and poured the straw colored ten year old Chardonnay into our glasses. The nose was ethereal with the first taste bringing citrus and melon dancing on my tongue. Pure magic!
From their web site: ‘Meticulous vineyard management followed by minimally-invasive winemaking techniques allows us to produce wines that express their vineyard origins with finesse, complexity and authenticity. Paul Hobbs wines are fermented with native yeasts, aged in French oak, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.’ Nature at it’s best. When I cook, it is not about how much I can do to manipulate food but how little I can do to bring out the flavors. The perfect chicken, the perfect onions, fleur de sel, hand picked herbes de Provence. No mirrors to hide behind.
I simply seared then roasted a chicken from De La Ranch, one of Southern California’s premiere organic producers. I roasted the legs, thighs and wings on a bed of caramelized onions then added the breasts at the end so they wouldn’t dry out. I deglazed the pan with a cup of Paul Hobbs chardonnay while I plated the onions and chicken. I added a spoonful of Fallot Dijon mustard and a nob of Spring Hill butter and reduced it to sauce consistency. I napped the chicken with the Dijon sauce and served it with a sauteed mixture of fregola, sweet corn and sauteed zucchini blossoms. I figured a slightly classic Burgundy preparation needed a Burgundian varietal. A True match in heaven!
Sadly, I have one bottle left. I will prepare the exact same dish again, no changes.
I strongly suggest stockpiling Paul Hobbs’ wines. They are phenomenal. Visit their web site: http://www.paulhobbswinery.com/
Here is the cut sheet for the wine we drank last night!
¨ Owner/Mgr: Caroline and Patricia Dinner /Joe Votek
¨ Appellation: Sonoma Mountain
¨ Clone: Old Wente, Robert Young selection
¨ Vine age: 21 years
¨ Site: Hillside, northern exposure, gray clay-loam and
gravel with sub-soil lens of volcanic tuft
¨ Yield: Less than 1 ton /acre
¨ Harvest Dates: October 2 – 9, 2003
¨ Harvest Brix: 24.2° – 25.0°
¨ Growing Season: The 2003 growing season began as a difficult one
with hot and cold spikes. Rain in late spring
prolonged bud break, and resulted unusual
ripening patterns. Diligent work in the vineyard
throughout a consistently warm summer resulted
in wines of complexity and power.
¨ Hand-harvested grapes
¨ Whole cluster press
¨ Barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts; 2 months to
¨ Concurrent spontaneous malolactic fermentation in barrels;
6 months to completion
¨ Aged 15 months in Francois Freres, Seguin Moreau, Cadus,
and Alan Fouquet French oak barrels; 89% new
¨ Unblended, unfined and unfiltered; bottled January 2005
¨ Cuvee Agustina, named for my daughter, is a selection of the
best barrels of our Richard Dinner Vineyard Chardonnay. It is
produced only in the very best vintages. Warm gold in color
with a nose of honeysuckle and spice, this wine is unctuous
and mouth-filling. On the palate, flavors of pear and spiced
apple intermix with lively notes of orange blossom and lemon
custard, which linger through the enduring, velvety finish.
201 cases produced
Paul Hobbs Winery
Sebastopol, California Tel: (707) 824-9879 Fax: (707) 824-5843