A small group of friends and I got together for a tasting of Hug Cellars library wines. While there were a couple of folks who had been to Paso Robles before, most had not. Maybe Napa, Sonoma, or Santa Barbara, but not to Paso.
When I went to Paso Robles in March to attend the Vintage Paso Zin Fest, I had the opportunity to buy several different types of Pinot Noir library wines from Hug Cellars. I also had the opportunity to purchase some of the Syrah as well, all library. Because I had come home with well over 120 bottles of wine, I thought it would be a good idea to share. However, I wanted to do it on a small scale with friends I have known for well over a decade. Small and low key, it turned out to be quite wonderful.
I brought several wines including a bottle of 2005 Hunt Cellars Moonlight Sonata Reserve Chardonnay (which I reviewed here). All of the others were Hug Cellars including 2003 Bassetti Vineyard Rena Block Syrah, 2004 Bassetti Vineyard Syrah, 2007 Rancho Ontiveros Pinot Noir, 2007 Boulder Ridge Pinot Noir (I had whined and tantrumed my way into a case of this glorious wine, and this is the one wine that I’m very, very stingy about), and 2010 Rancho Ontiveros Pinot Noir. Except for the Boulder Ridge and the Chardonnay, I had two bottles of each to share.
The response was spectacular.
The Chardonnay was a real revelation to all of the tasters there. They didn’t initially believe that it was a current release; they looked closely at the bottle and had a hard time wrapping their brains around the fact that they were tasting a ten-year-old, delicious American Chardonnay. The winemaker and owner, David Hunt, is partially blind, a sufferer of a hereditary genetic disease, and the way he assesses the readiness of a wine to be released is by his own senses. The Hunt Chardonnay was gorgeously golden in the glass, had wonderful acidity, and was layered and complex. The fact that it was a Paso Robles Chardonnay absolutely blew a couple of the people away. I just smiled.
The first red that I opened was the 2007 Boulder Ridge Pinot Noir. This was easily the wine of the night. Layered, complex, luscious, and silky on the tongue, it was a hit. It was stunning. As one person said, “This is probably the best Pinot Noir that I have ever tasted.”
The second hit of the evening was the 2003 Bassetti Vineyard Rena Block Syrah. Age had softened it somewhat, yet the color, complexity, and flavor of the wine spoke volumes about its quality. This was always my favorite Hug Cellars Syrah. I reviewed the 2005 Rena Block a few years ago, and at that time, I felt it was pretty close to a perfect Syrah. My memory tells me that with few exceptions, I still do. I haven’t retrieved that review from the archives that were lost when my site was hacked about five-ish years ago, and if my aging brain will remind me, I’ll do so.
I explained to everyone Augie’s philosophy when it comes to making wine. Give the vines the toughest environment in which they can survive, ferment them on whatever natural yeast is available on their skins, filter them, bottle them. This is as an unmessed-with a wine-making process as you can expect in California. No additives and no laboratory gymnastics to get the wines to fit a certain “profile,” just fermented grapes in a bottle. What more could you ask for.
Afterwards, I received several emails thanking me for sharing the gorgeous wines. A couple of people appreciated the information about ‘library” wines. There’s a reason why winemakers often keep their best wines “back” from being sold at the time of the initial release which these wines displayed perfectly. They all had aged beautifully, they were all very typical of the grape, all were complex, and all were incredibly delicious.
Although Augie has always flown under the wine radar and has been missed by the “great tasters” (said only slightly facetiously), he has never failed to craft a great wine. He will be retiring soon, and I am sure that Edgar will be able to continue this legacy of outstanding wines.
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