March 13, 2018 – Nicky Hahn, founder of Hahn Estate, passed away last week at age 81, so he didn’t get to hear the news. But he would surely have been proud to learn that the 2016 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Syrah was chosen “Best of Monterey” at the recently concluded Monterey Wine Competition, held at the fairgrounds in King City. Congratulations to longtime winemaker, Paul Clifton, vineyard manager, Andy Mitchell, and to the entire Hahn team for this award. And condolences to them all on the loss of this esteemed pioneering icon of the Santa Lucia Highlands.
It was the 25th anniversary for the Wine Competition, helmed by wine writer Rich Cook, whose write-ups for all the Platinum winners can be found on winereviewonline.com. It’s the first time Hahn has been so honored with the Best of Monterey award. In 2016, it went to Bargetto for their 2015 Pinot Grigio.
As you might expect, the other big winners at the 25th annual Monterey International Wine Competition were the big boys. Names like E&J Gallo, Trinchero, Delicato and The Wine Group were peppered throughout the Platinum and Gold medal listings like confetti on a San Francisco sidewalk after the Giant’s multiple World Series wins. Can we dare hope?
As long as we’re talking local powerhouses, let’s reveal another big winner in this particular medal party, Scheid. Taking a page out of the Big Boys playbook to success and hopefully, domination, in the wine world, they’ve been busy spinning out new brands faster than your average pharmaceutical company discovers a new cure for a condition you never knew existed.
Here are the Scheid wines that won Platinum or Gold. I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of most of them:
Scheid Family Platinum Winners
2017 Hive & Honey Medium Sweet Riesling – Best of Class Riesling
2017 Craftwork Sauvignon Blanc – Best of Class Sauvignon Blanc
2015 Very Dark Red (VDR, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot), Hames Valley
Scheid Gold Winners
2016 Scheid Vineyards Odd Lot Red
2016 Craftwork Pinot Noir, Estate
2016 Scheid Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
2016 District 7 Sauvignon Blanc
2016 Long Valley Ranch Pinot Noir
2016 Sea Phantom Pinot Noir, Riverview Vineyard
All these wines are made from their estate fruit. Impressive!
Carol Shelton Wines of Santa Rosa was named Winery of the Year, with three Platinums, including Best Carignane for the 2015 Old Vine Carignan from Oat Flat Vineyard. She also scored three Golds.
Napa powerhouse, V. Sattui, walked away with two Platinums and 10 Golds. They who also scored Best Wine of the Year for the second year in a row for a Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. This year’s winner is from the 2015 vintage that retails for $90.
In addition to the Platinum Best of Monterey for the Hahn SLH Syrah, Hahn also scored Gold for the 2017 Dry Rose of Pinot, and for the 2016 Hahn Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir.
Congratulations are also in order to Anna Maria Dos Remedios of Idle Hour (Carmel Valley) for a Platinum awarded to her 2016 Clarksburg Tannat, from the Heringer Estate Vineyard, a first effort by her with this grape.
J. Lohr scored Platinum for their 2016 “Wildflower” Valdigue, a perennial favorite from Monterey.
Loma Prieta Winery (Summit Road Area) took an impressive Platinum for their 2015 Pinotage Sparkling, a wine deemed by the judging panel to be the best use of Pinotage ever. Said longtime La Rochelle winemaker and sparkling expert, Tom Stutz, “This is some of the best tasting sparkling ever. I can’t believe it’s Pinotage! Brilliant!” Loma Prieta also scored Gold for their 2015 Bodo’s Blend, a red Pinotage from two different vineyards.
Bargetto took Gold for their 2017 Monterey County Pinot Grigio.
Other local wineries showing well were Delicato, with their Z. Alexander Brown 2016 Uncaged Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay scoring Platinum and Best Chardonnay, while their 2015 Uncaged Pinot Noir scored Gold. The label features a hawk, talons out, ready to rumble in the sky.
Furthermore scored Platinum for their 2014 Pinot Noir from Rosella’s Vineyard.
Estancia claimed Platinum for the 2016 Mark West Pinot Noir, as well as the 2016 Estancia Reserve Pinot Noir, Stonewall Vineyard, and Gold for their 2016 Mark West Chardonnay, both from Monterey county fruit. They also scored Gold for the 2016 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Monterey Chardonnay aged in bourbon barrels. Yes, it’s come to that.
Winemaker Gianni Abate of Chalone has to be pleased to have scored Gold for the 2016 Chardonnay, a soundly crafted wine with abundance of fruit and just enough of that textural weightiness that has made Chalone whites such age worthy classics in the past.
Despite being acquired by Gallo, Talbott impressed with a Gold for the 2016 Kali Hart, and Gallo racked up Gold for their 2015 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($35).
Scott Family scored Gold for their 2016 Chardonnay, Dijon Clones, from Arroyo Seco. This is an impressive Chardonnay: check it out.
Remembering Nicky Hahn
Hahn, a Swiss born international businessman, arrived in Monterey County in the 1970s, intrigued by the idea of establishing a new growing region. He purchased the Smith Vineyard and Hook Vineyard, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, in 1979. Although some stellar Cabs were and are still produced from this plot of land, Hahn realized that the climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands might be better suited to Pinot Noir, and in the early 2000s, staked his fortune on a replant, to deliriously delicious results.
His lasting legacy will be the fact that in 1988, Hahn rallied his neighbors on the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains to define and promote the unique aspects of the growing region, which was granted AVA status as the Santa Lucia Highlands in 1991. Today, the Santa Lucia Highlands is recognized as one of the United States’ top winegrowing regions, revered for Pinot Noir, with nearly 6,500 acres under vine across the 22,000-acre mountains and benchlands above the Salinas River.
Earlier this year, Hahn was honored by Wine Enthusiast magazine with their “American Wine Pioneer” Wine Star Award for his essential role in establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. He was the inaugural recipient.
Hahn’s name has become synonymous with excellence in Pinot Noir, whether under the Hahn label or under labels like Testarossa: their Doctor’s Vineyard Pinots are the most highly coveted each year by their wine club.
Nicky Hahn is survived by his wife, Gaby Hahn, and his two children, Philip Hahn and Caroline Hahn. Said Philip, chairman of Hahn Family Wines, who has led the company since 2007, “My father left me with one indelible lesson: there are many dreamers, but it is not enough to dream. We must also do, and that is exactly what he did. He voyaged to California and created a new AVA. And there was nothing on this Earth he desired more than watching the grapes glisten in the sun setting upon that which he named the Santa Lucia Highlands. He built something truly meaningful, and I’m proud to carry on his legacy.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations in his memory to Oceana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans. Please contact Laura Wright at email@example.com to make a memorial donation. http://oceana.org