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Paul Clifton
 
October 21, 2022 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - October 21st

As Patrick wrote last week, we’re at the tail end of harvest, with just a few “dribs and drabs” coming into the winery over the next several days. All of our Santa Lucia Highlands fruit is in; we’re just waiting for a few more grapes from Arroyo Seco and Paso Robles. October is usually one of the sunniest months in our area, with a warmth that allows our late-ripening fruit to finish. But the first two weeks of this month were some of the coolest I’ve seen in my years on the Central Coast, with a heavy marine layer of fog that lingered well into the afternoons. The last couple of days have brought more sunshine, however, and our few remaining grapes are soaking it up.

Last year we initiated a “guest vineyard” program under Lucienne, where we produce a single-vineyard wine from a renowned grower/vineyard site. In 2021 we made a Pinot Noir from the acclaimed Solomon Hills Vineyard in Santa Maria AVA, which we’ll bottle in 2023. This year I was able to access Pinot Noir from the iconic Bien Nacido Vineyard, also in Santa Maria. And here’s the funny thing: when I was just starting out in winemaking, the first wine I made came from this exact same block – the same vines – in Bien Nacido. That was in 1997, 25 years ago! I’ll never forget the aromatics of that Pinot Noir, and I have high hopes for this one from 2022. Talk about coming full circle. 

With this being our last blog post of harvest 2022, a little review is in order. It was an unusual season, marked by the week-long heat spell in early September. But our vines held up and I’m proud of the way our team moved quickly to get our early-ripening fruit into the winery. With most of our lots through initial fermentation, I’ve been able to taste through the wines and I’m really happy with the quality, particularly how the acids have held up. I always say that when wines taste this good early on, you know it’s going to be a good vintage.

Before I sign off, I want to acknowledge our hard-working vineyard and winery teams. Sometimes people think that the winemaker is the one who does everything, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes a team to make wine, and I’ve found that if the people have as much passion for making great wine as you do, the wines will be the best they can be. I’m lucky to have people like that at Hahn, including veterans who’ve been here as long or longer than me, and newer hires that are learning the ropes. The key is having good people, and I’m thankful that we have the best.

One final note: I hope to see you at our Harvest Celebration this Saturday, October 22 from 11am to 3pm here at the Hahn Estate. In addition to our vineyard and winemaking teams we’ll be joined by Caroline Hahn and her husband, Richard. Our Doctor’s Vineyard is named for Caroline, who is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a great ambassador for the winery. I know I speak for Caroline and Richard when I say they can’t wait to welcome you to Hahn!

Thanks for reading!

Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

Time Posted: Oct 21, 2022 at 10:52 AM Permalink to Harvest Blog - October 21st Permalink
Paul Clifton
 
September 22, 2022 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - September 22nd

Following 2 ½ weeks of nonstop action we had a short break in harvest this past weekend as the weather cooled. We even saw a little rain on Sunday, though it didn’t amount to much – just enough to shake the dust off the vines. The pause in picking gave us a chance to catch our breaths and catch up in the winery, where we’re busy monitoring fermentations, pressing off the skins and barreling down the new wines.

Still, it’s amazing to me how fast harvest is going. I don’t think we’ve ever moved as quickly through the Smith, Hook and Doctor’s vineyards as we did this year. This week we’re bringing in the last Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Lone Oak, our northernmost vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Lone Oak is a slightly cooler vineyard, with fog that sticks around longer during the day, so it’s normal for us to pick it later than our other SLH vineyards. Even with the heat we experienced a couple weeks ago the grapes at Lone Oak needed more time to ripen.

Next, we’ll move into Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Arroyo Seco for the Appellation Series. And the Cabernet Sauvignon from further south continues to come in at a steady pace. I anticipate the last grapes to be picked will be Grenache and Syrah, which is normal for us. At the rate we’re going I expect to be done with harvest in early October, about 2-3 weeks earlier than usual.

With a fair amount of fruit in the winery, I’m getting a handle on how the vintage is shaping up and I’m very optimistic. I’m seeing great color, good extraction and acid levels in just the right range, even with sugars being a little higher than usual. I’ve got a good feeling about the wines from 2022.  

Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

Paul Clifton
 
August 26, 2022 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - August 26th

Welcome to the initial installment of our annual harvest blog! In a few days we’ll bring in the first Pinot Noir grapes from our Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards, marking my 20th harvest at Hahn Family Wines. The outlook for another outstanding vintage is good, though of course it’s too early to make firm predictions. Still, the most notable aspect of the 2022 growing season to date is the absence of any major weather events. Budbreak was a little early this year, especially for Chardonnay, but bloom came and went without a hitch and the timing of harvest looks to be normal, maybe a week earlier than last year.

As I mentioned we’ll start picking Pinot Noir first. Our vineyards feature a substantial variety of clones, and since they tend to go through bloom at different stages (which is advantageous if it rains during bloom), they’re also ready to harvest at different times. We always keep the clones separate as the wines go through fermentation and aging to see how each one performs. Among other things, this helps us determine which clones to plant – and where – in the future.

I’m excited to try out a new tool this year, a piece of technology developed in New Zealand. It’s a probe you drop into the fermenter that provides real time data on the temperature and Brix level of the fermenting grapes. I can simply open an app on my phone and get information about each tank’s progress, even if I’m out in the vineyard. I’ll let you know how we like it in a future post.

As we ready the winery for harvest, we’re also cranking out the final blends of our 2021 wines, including the SLH Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and our Hahn Appellation Series wines from Arroyo Seco. I say “cranking,” because we need to make room in the cellar for the 2022 vintage!


Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

Time Posted: Aug 26, 2022 at 12:23 PM Permalink to Harvest Blog - August 26th Permalink
Paul Clifton
 
November 12, 2021 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - November 11th

It’s a wrap! Harvest 2021 is one for the history books. We finished picking the Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir and Chardonnay last week, and this week we’re turning to the last bit of Syrah from Hook Vineyard, some bound for the 2021 Lucienne Syrah. We’re also harvesting the last Grenache from Arroyo Seco, and we’ll finish with Merlot, always the last variety to come in. Our timing is ideal. The scant amount of rain we had last week didn’t affect the small amount of fruit still hanging, but it was time to bring it in. The grapes are ripe, and since our Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are safely in barrel, there’s plenty of tank space. Plus, the outlook for the next several days is for cooler weather…Mother Nature is telling us it’s time to wrap it up!

Looking back, I have to say that 2021 is one of the finest vintages I’ve seen since I’ve been at Hahn. The growing season was smooth and uneventful, the weather was relatively cool throughout harvest, and the picking was evenly paced. The Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that have gone dry taste incredible already, and our other wines show lovely fruit and good concentration.

I want to give a big shout out to our vineyard and winemaking crews who’ve worked so hard over the past ten weeks – and many weeks before that – to bring in another fine grape harvest. It’s a long haul of six-day weeks, and they did an excellent job of working together while also working around the restrictions we’ve put in place due to COVID. I’m happy to report that we’re all safe and healthy, and looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. 

And thanks to all of you who followed along on our harvest journey this year. We can’t wait to share the Hahn Family Estate wines of 2021 with you!

Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

 

Time Posted: Nov 12, 2021 at 1:19 PM Permalink to Harvest Blog - November 11th Permalink
Paul Clifton
 
October 14, 2021 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - October 14

I don’t want to jinx it, but I have to say the pace of harvest this year has been ideal. With near perfect fall weather, we’ve been able to cherry-pick which vineyards, blocks, and clones of Pinot Noir we harvest as the grapes reach absolute ripeness. And while the yields we’re getting are a bit lower than we’d like, they’re not as low as we anticipated. By the end of the week, we’ll have brought in the last of our Lucienne Pinot Noir from our Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards. Then it’s on to Chardonnay.

Unlike other growing regions in California, it’s normal for us to harvest SLH Chardonnay after SLH Pinot Noir. Our Pinot Noir vines don’t set a big crop, the clusters are smaller, and the fruit ripens more quickly than Chardonnay. Plus, Pinot Noir is more susceptible to heat spikes, which can dehydrate and shrivel the grapes. Chardonnay, with its larger berries, can handle more heat and hang time. That said, we have brought in a little bit of Chardonnay from our newer plantings in Hook Vineyard; the small amount of fruit on these young vines ripened at the same pace as the Pinot Noir. 

But the bulk of our Chardonnay is still out there. In the Santa Lucia Highlands, we wait not only for the sugars to rise but the acids to fall. If we picked our Chardonnay too early, the acid in the wine would rip the enamel right off your teeth. We have to be patient because the cool nighttime temperatures here slow the respiration needed to bring the grape acids down. In a few days, I anticipate the acid levels in our Chardonnay will be ideal.

In the cellar, several lots of our SLH Pinot Noir are already dry and resting in barrels. Others are still fermenting, but I expect those fermentations to wrap up by the end of next week. The wines we’ve pressed so far look really good. Great color, beautiful aromatics, classic SLH Pinot Noir. Again, not to jinx it, but 2021 is shaping up to be a fine vintage.

Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

Time Posted: Oct 14, 2021 at 4:23 PM Permalink to Harvest Blog - October 14 Permalink
Paul Clifton
 
September 16, 2021 | Paul Clifton

Harvest Blog - September 16

It’s here! Harvest 2021 is underway at Hahn Family Wines. This is my 19th harvest at Hahn, and I must say I’m as excited this year as I’ve been every vintage since I started here. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve had an excellent growing season. We could have used a little more rain, but we were able to irrigate early in the winter and as a result our vine canopies were healthy from the get-go. The weather through the spring and summer was very consistent with no major heat spikes to speak of, and the grapes ripened slowly and evenly. Warm temperatures this past Labor Day weekend pushed the sugars to optimum levels, and this week I called the pick in several vineyards. 

A few blocks in Doctor’s Vineyard were the first to come in, including the Calera and 667 Pinot Noir clones. These are typically some of the earliest grapes we harvest, as these clones produce clusters with small berries which tend to ripen quickly. I love these small berries. They are so rich and concentrated, and they bring great color, flavor intensity as well as tannin structure to the wines. We also brought in a few blocks of Pinot Noir destined for our Noir Blanc. 

 

This week we embarked on an exciting new project, our “Guest Lucienne” series. Typically, our Lucienne wines are sourced from our Santa Lucia Highlands estate vineyards, but honestly, there are so many great vineyards in California, and we want to be able to offer our wine club members and tasting room customers a taste of these phenomenal sites. First up is the Solomon Hills Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley AVA in Santa Barbara County. With soils composed primarily of ocean-derived sandy loams, Solomon Hills is the western most and coolest vineyard in the appellation, with a reputation for wines of bright fruit and precise acidity. We’re excited to have access to this highly acclaimed vineyard and can’t wait to share it with you. 

Until next time!

Paul Clifton
Director of Winemaking

Time Posted: Sep 16, 2021 at 8:56 AM Permalink to Harvest Blog - September 16 Permalink
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