It’s Tuesday and you want a glass of wine. It’s Friday night and you’ve just ordered a pizza and — want a glass of wine. It’s Sunday and you’re having a few guests over for brunch who may just, well, want a glass of wine. Casual, everyday situations call for a glass of wine, but you don’t want to necessarily open something “special.” You want to open, what I call, a reliable “daily drinker.” And here is where Hahn excels: While they produce some magnificently refined single-vineyard expressions of their flagship varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they also dedicate their simply stated Hahn line of wines to the daily drinker.
“I want to make wines that everybody enjoys,” says Hahn winemaker Paul Clifton. And, indeed, he does. From the elegantly balanced Lone Oak Vineyard Chardonnay under the Lucienne label, to the exclusive “tasting-room-only” Smith and Hook Cabernet — and this, supermarket staple Hahn Monterey County Chardonnay.
Hahn is a household name. And it should be, as the Hahn family were basically the founding vintners of Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highland AVA. Nicolaus (Nicky) and Gaby Hahn purchased their plot of SLH and planted their first vines in the 1970s, celebrating their first vintage in 1980, and in 1991 “Nicky led the charge to establish SLH as an American Viticultural Area.” Today the Hahn estate includes 650 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards.
Though you may find these wines at your local shops, you should know that Hahn is still a family owned and operated winery, with Nicky and Gaby’s son Philip at the helm. And it’s that personal, familial touch that makes these oh-so-accessible wines oh-so-special.
A wine for all seasons — that’s what the Hahn Family Wines 2016 Pinot Noir is. Though quite hearty in both flavors and textures, there’s a certain versatility that spans from summer’s BBQs and backyard parties to winter’s slow-roasted suppers next to the fire. And that’s what I expect from Hahn Family Wines’ ‘Hahn’ line of wines — an easily accessible Pinot Noir I can either drink now or save for later and not worry about seasonality when it comes to my food pairing.
The Santa Lucia Highlands can create some interesting wines — from almost meaty Pinot Noir, to downright angry Syrah. The Hahn SLH Chardonnay hails from higher elevation vineyards that reach, at top level, 1,200 feet and are planted atop sandy loam soils. Sitting neatly above the fog line and amongst the well-draining soil, the Chardonnay receives ample amount of sunlight and receive just enough water to force the vines to work. The result is good, fully ripened fruit bursting at the seams to become wine. But the expression in that wine, well, that depends on the winemaker…
Known for their cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays harvested predominantly from Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Hahn Family Wines is probably most commonly associated with their casual, supermarket-find wines — the ‘SLH’ and eponymous ‘Hahn’ labeled wines. But what many don’t know is that the still family-owned vineyard and winery takes great care to sustainably manage their four SLH estate vineyards — and with Paul Clifton at the winemaking helm, also produce limited releases of beautifully refined single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Monterey County, diving deep into the unique terroir of the Santa Lucia Highlands, and getting to know more about the Hahn family legacy and — of course — their wines.