Although I’m from California, I’m really not all that familiar with the wines of California. Of course, I know your Mondavis and Fetzers but as so many of California’s wines don’t ever make it to the UK’s shores, I am a bit in the dark as to what they are doing over there.
So, I was quite pleased to be invited along to Automat American Brasserie in Mayfair for what was billed as a “Wine Country Tapas” tasting with Hahn Estates wines. Wine Country Tapas? Well, why not. I’m a bit tired of Spanish tapas anyway.
Turns out the idea behind the tapas is to showcase the local, fresh and sustainable produce of the region and pair it with Hahn Estates wines. They have an Estate Chef, Brian Overhauser, who has created dishes specifically for this culinary program. As we were in London, we got a taster of California cuisine, including seared scallops, wild mushroom risotto and, one of the most interesting dishes – smoked egg yolk and autumn vegetable salad. The winery sells these wine country tapas on site, along with a glass of wine, so that guests can see how food and wine matching works for themselves.
But what about the wines? Hahn Estates is located in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the Central Coast of California. If you’re familiar with CA, it’s close to Monterey. One of the main draws for Hahn Estates was the fact that the Santa Lucia range is very much affected by the “Blue Grand Canyon” – a very deep canyon (more than 2 miles deep) just off the coast, the cold water creating a cold wind that is funneled into the appellation. This wind has a huge affect on the grapes, helping to extend the hang time and development of the grapes. The soil of the Santa Lucia Mtn range also had very good drainage which gives added depth and complexity to the pinot noir, especially, that is grown there.
Bill Leigon, President of the company, and he told us that Hahn Estates are looking to make wines in the Central Coast that are more Burgundian in style rather than California big and brawny. They grow pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, merlot, petit syrah, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, grenache and mouvedre in that area. The results are wines with elegance and finesse. I was quite surprised at how light on their feet the wines were, so to speak. With the food, they were great companions.
I especially liked the smoked egg with the Hahn Winery 2010 Pinot Noir from Monterey. The wine had a smoky note to it on it’s own and with the smoked egg and autumn vegetables was delicious, an intense smokiness permeating the dish but not overpowering it. There was also enough dark cherry and red fruits to balance out all that smoke.
As for the others, Hahn also makes a syrah blended with 14% merlot and 2% petit verdot. We tried the 2010 Syrah. A fruity wine with structure, licorice and black cherry dominating on this medium bodied wine. They also make a GSM (grenache, syrah, mouvedre) from the Central Coast which was full of blueberries and white pepper on the nose and palate, a wine with structure and balance. I can say that these wines were a fantastic surprise. The common theme I noted was that although they had a lot of fruit, they were not fruit bombs but rather nicely balanced.
All except for the Boneshaker 2011. 85% zinfandel, coming from the Lodi appellation. Either you love red zinfandel or you don’t. I happen to be one of those people who don’t. A massive wine, it overwhelmed my poor taste buds with all of it’s jammy fruit, oak and alcohol. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll stick to the pinot noir or the GSM.
Hanh Estates Wines have now been launched here in the UK and are available from Patriache Wines. They are currently priced between £12.99 – £13.99