I thoroughly enjoyed this trip a number of years ago. I've tweaked the verbiage a bit, to make it more current. Since this trip I've also tasted wines across California's Lodi Valley and Sonoma County. Wine tasting is a delicious and relaxing way to explore different locales - whether in California, the Midwest, or near the east coast.
Touring wineries while on press trips can be almost as wonderful as tasting the fruit of their labors. That’s how I felt about Hahn Estate in Monterey County, California – a family-owned winery that is SIP certified (sustainability in practice) and a member of the Monterey Bay Area Green Business program.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes have a strong presence in this growing region. Chardonnay is the number one grape grown in Monterey County and Pinot Noir grapes are number #1 in the Santa Lucia Highlands wine growing region, where Hahn Estate operations are located. Their Chardonnay and Pinot grapes occupy thousands of acres and two AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
On a sun-drenched, cool October morning, we followed our guides to hilltop aging and bottling operations where half of us scrambled onto ATVs and the rest headed inside. The ATVs climbed rocky narrow paths with all the agility of a mountain goat as the valley opened up beneath us, creating breathtaking views.
The Santa Lucia Highlands are a long, narrow AVA located on very old soils with very consistent climate. Mountainous terrain above, river waters below and the close proximity of Monterey Bay create a ‘thermal rainbow’ effect where 40 degree temperature swings on a summer day and ocean air sweeping across well-drained rocky soil beautifully accommodate vineyards.
When we reached the summit, our hosts opened several bottles and provided glasses for a brief tasting. Everyone pulled out cameras as we sipped, before returning to the ATVs and a tour of the aging and bottling operations.
Hahn Estate is a busy place where the harvest typically finishes in early November. They produce upwards of three million gallons of wine annually with more than 1,000 acres of estate vineyards and 6,000 planted acres overall. Grapes are hand harvested and sorted, then stored and bottled on-site.
Hahn still uses French oak for aging the wines because it imparts more subtle flavors. Offering numerous price points among their nine brands, Hahn Estate wines are distributed to every state and more than a dozen countries.
Upon returning to the tasting room we sampled multiple bottles, including Lucienne, a deep colored and delicious 'luxury' red. We then enjoyed a gourmet lunch on the adjacent deck while admiring more spectacular valley views.
Wine pairings accompanied gooey panini sandwiches with creamy, root vegetable soup and a crisp salad full of goat cheese and dried cranberries. It was a lovely way to celebrate California wine making.
Note: As a travel writer, I received accommodations, entry fees, etc. while visiting this area, in advance of reviews and/or profiles. I do my best to remain impartial and offer full disclosure to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
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