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Hahn Estates: Consistently Top Notch

Hahn Estates debunks the misconception that large corporate wineries cannot produce outstanding Pinot Noir. The Hahn Family Wines lineup includes Pinot Noir under the Hahn Winery, Cycles Gladiator, Bin 36, Hahn SLH Estate and Lucienne labels. Total production of all Hahn Family Wines is about 400,000 cases annually from winery facilities in Soledad and Lodi (Cycles Gladiator label), making the winery one of the top thirty producers in North America.

Located on the Monterey Coast in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Hahn Estates farms about 653 acres of vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 350 acres in Arroyo Seco and 160 acres in Paso Robles. The winery did not have a single Pinot Noir vine in 2000, but now has about 620 acres of Pinot Noir with 20 clones and is a leading producer of Pinot Noir and a supplier of Pinot Noir grapes to many other premium wine producers. Hahn Estate is the largest grower of Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.

The three vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands include Lone Oak Vineyard (146 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris), Doctor’s Vineyard (243 acres of Pinot Noir and Syrah) and Smith & Hook Vineyards (254 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache and Malbec). In the Arroyo Seco, the two vineyards include Ste. Phillippe Vineyard (290 acres of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Grenache) and Ste. Nicholas Vineyards (171 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Andy Mitchell is the director of viticulture for Hahn Estate and Mesa Vineyard Management directs the farming operations of the estate vineyards. Much of the grapes are mechanically harvested.

Founder Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn is a Swiss businessperson, adventurer and philanthropist who became enamored with California wines while living in England, leading him to buy the Smith & Hook Winery in 1980. In 1991 he started the Hahn Estates brand and was one of initiators involved in creating the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. In German, Hahn means “rooster,” and the rooster is prominently displayed on the Hahn Estate label.

The current Director of Winemaking is Monterey native Paul Clifton who learned his winemaking under veteran Don Blackburn at both Bernardus Winery and Byington Winery. After obtaining a graduate degree focused on cool climate viticulture from Lincoln University in New Zealand, he started at Hahn Estates in late 2002, and quickly assumed the position of head winemaker. Clifton’s assistant is Greg Freeman.

When it comes to excellent value-priced Pinot Noir, no winery in California does it better than Hahn Estates. Hahn also has an ultra-premium Pinot Noir label, Lucienne, offering estate vineyard designated wines first released from the 2005 vintage. The Lucienne estate winery is a separate facility: a winery within a winery. The winery takes its name from Nicky Hahn’s middle name Lucien, but in the feminine form to honor the namesake of the Santa Lucia Mountain range where the vineyards are located. The 2006 and 2007 vintages were outstanding, the 2009 less so (the 2009 wines were originally reviewed in 2011 but tasted recently again with a better impression), and the 2011 wines are extraordinary.

Hahn SLH Estate Culinary Center, a wine trade education venue, is located in Soledad and shares the panoramic views of the Hahn Estate Vineyard with the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Center is a space for seminars and wine tastings as well as a professional demonstration kitchen to allow pairing of gourmet and local foods with Hahn Estates wines. The Culinary Center is nothing new to other wine regions of California, but it is the first facility of its kind in Monterey County.

Vineyard tours and tastings are offered at the winery Visitor’s Center and a unique estate ATV educational adventure includes a Reserve tasting in the VIP room. The tasting room is open daily at 37700 Foothill Road in Soledad. Visit the website at for more information. Hahn is one of the ten tasting rooms on the regional River Road Wine Trail that parallels Highway 101 at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Visit The wines reviewed below are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified.

2011 Hahn Estate SLH Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.62, 5,000 cases, $35. Released October 2012. Sourced from four estate vineyards (Smith, Doctor’s, Hook and Lone Oak). Clones are 113, 115, 667, 777, 2A, Mt. Eden, Pommard 5, Jackson 9. 100% de-stemmed, aged 11 months in 40% new and 60% neutral French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromatically stellar from the get go with scents of black cherry, black raspberry, spice and a touch of smoky oak. Easy to like on the moderately lush palate with a core of black cherry fruit wrapped in gentle tannins, showing an undercurrent of smoky oak and anise. A forward drinking wine that is quite enjoyable. Score: 88

2009 Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.61, 138 cases, $50. Released May 2011. Aged in 35% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is alive with aromas of cherry pie, black grape and plum with hints of spice and smoky oak. Rich and fruit-driven on the palate with an array of very ripe dark cherry and berry fruits backed by smoky oak. Very polished tannins, a soothing mouth feel and a big finish that really hangs on. Score: 89

2009 Lucienne Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.63, 647 cases, $50. Released May 2011.Aged in 35% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine pushes the ripeness envelope with aromas of black cherries, black raspberries and black currants accented by spice, sandalwood and vanilla, and flavors that mimic the aromas with an added undertone of smoky oak and anise. Very silky and harmonious with a satisfying fullness on the palate. Score: 87

2011 Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.64, 425 cases, $50. Released June 2013. Lone Oak is smallest and northernmost Pinot Noir estate vineyard. The cool 2011 vintage resulted in a relatively small crop, but the grapes that were harvested had greater intensity and concentration. Clones Pommard 5, 667 and 115. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold soak, native and proprietary yeasts, aged 13 months in 40% new and 60% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Scandalous aromatics featuring bright aromas of red cherries, raspberries, sandalwood and spice. A chewy wine that you want to nibble with a perfectly ripened array of red stone and berry fruits. Soft and nimble, with delicate dry tannins and a refreshing cut of acidity on the ridiculously long finish. This beauty has the balance that predicts longevity in the cellar. Score: 94

2011 Lucienne Smith Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.66, 438 cases, $50. Released June 2013. One of the first vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands and one of the original vineyards of Hahn Estate. It is the southernmost of the vineyards of Lucienne and located at the highest elevation, with the least influence from marine fog. Clones are Mt. Eden, Jardini, Pommard 5 and 2A. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold soak, proprietary yeast, aged 13 months in 42% new and 58% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of fresh black cherries, dark red berries, cardamom spice and a hint of toasty oak. Discreetly concentrated flavors of dark cherries and berries with a complimentary riff of spice and oak. Outstanding harmony, very smooth and sensual, with an appealing cherry tang on the juicy and lengthy finish. The wine continues to pick up charm over time in the glass. Very easy to drink now, but should get even better with another year in bottle. Very impressive, even extraordinary. Score: 95

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