River Road Winery Series: Hahn Family Winery

Hahn Cat insolence + wine

In advance of the River Road Wine Trail’s first annual “Tunes, Trucks and Tastes” event, we are doing our best to visit those way-too-unknown but oh-so-easy to get to wineries along the western Salinas Valley, sitting at the eastern foothills of the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains. 

We have been out and about on the Wine Trail and learned that this special food, entertainment and wine event is selling out quickly! Go here to learn more and to purchase your tickets!

We aren’t sure why it took us so darn long to take the long drive from Foothill Road up to Hahn Family Winery. We’ve always shied away from wineries that sell their wines in grocery stores—we figured they don’t care about a blogger’s opinion in regards to their grocery store-bought wines, and we certainly aren’t looking for wine that you can get any old place.

Hahn Winery, which is a Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified vineyard,  is oh-so-much more than just that bottle you buy at Safeway. We had no idea!

Honestly, even if you don’t like wine, go visit for the billion-dollar view. The tasting room is located way up in the Santa Lucias, with a gorgeous deck and chairs that invite you to come for the view, but stay for the wine. Naturally for us, the day was cool and as we wandered into the tasting room, a torrential thunderstorm blessed us with more very badly needed rain.

Hahn Winery is owned by Nicky and Gaby Hahn, and is run by their son Philip. The property was first purchased as grazing for cattle, sheep and horses. But the potential for wine grapes was intriguing, and back in 1980 Hahn released its first wines. Meanwhile, Nicky Hahn recognized that the Santa Lucia Highlands weren’t exactly like the valley floor below, as far as climate, soil and sunlight were concerned, and he applied to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau at the U.S. Department of Treasury (government agency responsible for naming American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs) to name the Santa Lucia Highlands its own wine growing appellation, which was accomplished in 1991. 

Our tasting room hostess was a delightful woman named Malin, who knew plenty about the wines and expertly guided us through our eclectic tasting adventure. 

We started with the 2015 Hahn Winery Selection Rosé, which is of course made from Pinor Noir grapes grown on the Smith Vineyard, and is the location of the tasting room. The scent of strawberries and red raspberries are like summer fruit on your nose, and the taste, which is not overly sweet and slightly off-dry, is very tasty. 

Next up was a 2014 Hahn SLH Chardonnay. Hahn is the only winery allowed to use the initials SLH, for Santa Lucia Highlands. Aged in 33% new fresh oak, with the remanded being in neutral oak, the wine is not overly oaky and has a pleasant aroma of stone fruit on the nose. The flavor is crisp and clear—almost as if it had been finished in steel. 

The 2014 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir  was grown on several Hanh properties—on Doctor’s, Lone Oak and Hook & Smith vineyards. There are whiffs of plum, allspice and a dirt/minerally taste, which is not at all unpleasant. The wine is still a bit young and would certainly develop into a most pleasurable Pinot which will pair nicely with a pork tenderloin with tarragon, a mushroom lasagna or a chicken and braised mushrooms dish. Our taster finished her portion—which is a seal of approval for a non-Pinot Noir drinker. 

A limited edition wine, the 2013 Lucienne Pinot Noir is grown exclusively on the Lone Oak Vineyard. With an earthy and plum taste in the mouth, this wine is ready to drink today and would love to be paired with a dish like a mushroom pesto lasagna. However, the bottle does not keep well so you best be prepared to drink it in one sitting!

Another Pinot Noir, the Gabrielle 2012, is grown on the estate’s three vineyards—Doctor's, Lone Oak and Smith. There is a tease of allspice and earthiness on the nose and tannins and currant on the palette. It’s a bit more full-bodied than the usual pinot. 

Because we begged, we got a sneak taste at the Hahn 2014 Grenache, produced at the Hook Vineyard. It is available to wine club members only at this time. Join the wine club to get some—seriously! t is everything you would expect from a Grenache, and does not disappoint. We lingered at this taste and marveled at how well it would go with a BBQ chicken pizza. 

Our next taste was another special wine—the 2013 Doctor’s Estate Syrah . This is the last vintage produced from this lot—the vines were torn out and replaced with a different variety of grapes. This wine encompasses every scent and sensation a resident of Monterey County experiences—a hint of eucalyptus, sage and oak tree, plus our patented Monterey County fog that comes in from the coast. 

We managed to find room to get a taste of the 2013 Hahn Malbec. Grown exclusively in the Santa Lucia Highlands and aged in new French oak, your nose will enjoy the blackberry, plum and pepper scents, and your taste buds will like the blueberry, plum, pepper, with leather and tobacco overtures on the palate. This wine will stand up to your most tangy and spicy BBQ, have no fear. 

But we’re not done yet! Hahn’s 2012 Cuvee Red is a Bordeaux/Rhone-style blend consisting of 29% Malbec, 26% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 5% Petite Sirah. This very pleasing blend creates a pleasing army of dark cherry,  blackberry and wood smoke, which carries into the mouth, adding a bit of chocolate and acidity. You would not go wrong pairing this wine with a high-quality roast or a spicy pulled pork. 

The only wine sampled on this day that is widely available in stores was the 2014 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon. A Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec bland, you could be perfectly happy drinking this alongside a braised short rib, and use this wine to cook those ribs. 

As a favor to fellow blogger Just Beet It, we asked about possible pairings for beet dishes. We were given a quick taste of Hahn’s 2014 Noir Blanc, and revisited the rosé. We are happy to report that these two wines would be perfectly happy sharing your palate with the versatile beet. 

There are several levels in Hanh’s Wine Club which allows wine enthusiasts of all incomes to enjoy Hahn wines and the perks of membership. From the Highlands IV Reds and White Club, which is four bottles per quarter at a cost of $80–$150 per shipment, to the Highlands XII Reds Only or Reds and Whites, 12 bottles per quarter at a cost of $240–$450 per shipment. You also receive 20% off all wine orders, complementary tastings, a pair of complementary ATV tours of the vineyard, and access to special “members only” wines. Highlands XII members also enjoy free shipping of their wines if unable to come to the winery for pick-up.

There is a cute gift shop with books, candles and Hahn-branded merchandise.

Most people come to Hahn for the view, to obtain and understand the specialness that is the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, and to sample the renown Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that grow in this region. However, our choices for the day were the 2014 Grenache and the 2012 Cuvee Red blend.

Don’t forget to say “hi” to the winery’s working cats, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.