It is with deep sympathy that I report Nicky Hahn, Founder of Hahn Family Wines has passed at the Age of 81.

From the Winery:

Soledad, Calif. — March 7, 2018 —Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn, founder of Hahn Family Wines and pioneer of California’s Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, died Friday at his home in Zurich, Switzerland. He was 81 years old.

Before he was a vintner, Hahn was a successful business man in Paris, New York and London. He arrived in Monterey County in the 1970s in search of a new area to transform into an acclaimed winemaking region. In 1979, he purchased the Smith Vineyard and Hook Vineyard, which were planted to Cabernet Sauvignon at the time. The following year, the family made their first vintage of wine.

Hahn spent the next four decades dedicated to building a stellar reputation for what he identified as a unique winemaking area. The journey to making others see the same was not without adversity, but Hahn’s determination eventually led to consensus of the area’s quality among neighboring vintners and outsiders alike.

In 1988, Hahn rallied his neighbors on the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains to firmly define and promote the quality and characteristics of the region. Their efforts were rewarded with American Viticultural Area (or AVA) status for the Santa Lucia Highlands in 1991. Today, the Santa Lucia Highlands is recognized as one of the United States’ top winegrowing regions, especially for Pinot Noir, with nearly 6,500 acres under vine in the compact 22,000-acre AVA.

Hahn’s accomplishments have been recognized by both neighbors and leading wine critics. Earlier this year, he received Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “American Wine Pioneer” Wine Star Award for his essential role in establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. He was the inaugural recipient of this award, which honors pioneers who paved the way for others in the wine business.

While Hahn started with Cabernet Sauvignon, he determined the area’s climate was not suited to the variety after examining research and drawing on winemaking experience. He decided to make a drastic change in the early 2000s, and quite literally “bet the farm” by replanting hundreds of acres of the family’s estate vineyards to primarily Pinot Noir. That decision paid off, as Hahn Family Wines is now recognized as one of the top luxury Pinot Noir producers in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Wines that bear Hahn’s name are poured at leading restaurants and sold at fine wine retailers throughout the world.

“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,” said Philip Hahn, Nicky Hahn’s son and chairman of Hahn Family Wines. Philip Hahn has provided leadership for Hahn Family Wines since 2007.

Nicky Hahn is survived by his wife, Gaby Hahn, and his two children, Philip Hahn and Caroline Hahn.

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 to make a memorial donation.

In memory of Nicky, I’d like to share a few of my personal experiences with the Hahn Family, including a few wine reviews.

Winery Review: Hahn Family Wines

Hahn 2015 SLH Pinot Noir

Hahn Wines 2015 SLH Pinot Noir

Hahn Family Wines 2016 Chardonnay

Hahn 2016 Central Coast GSM

Hahn Family Wines 2016 Pinot Noir

For more information, visit

2 Comments on In Memoriam: Nicky Hahn Founder of Hahn Family Wines dies at 81

Leave a Reply