Monday, January 25, 2010

New does not mean bad

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

So many wineries point to their long heritage as a reason to buy their wines. It is as if hundreds of years of doing things the same way makes a better wine. For some wineries that is true, and I cannot fault them for their inflexibility. When you make damn good wine, why change what you do? But when the wine is not truly amazing, why not tinker with the recipe?

Then there are the hundreds of wineries that spring up every year. There is new land being put to vine, new juice being crushed from young berries, and new wines hitting the market every year. It is impossible to keep track of it all, and plenty of the wine you really do not want to keep track of.

But then there are the gems that appear each year. Hop Kiln Winery, certainly not new to the winemaking game, is making some delicious wine. I was sent some samples and was really impressed, enough so that I send their PR rep an e-mail with questions for the winemaker. I really loved the 2007 HK Generations Pinot Noir. It started off with just a fantastic strawberry red color and continued from there. The nose had delicate red fruits, rich in raspberry and strawberry. Then the taste was ripe and balanced, with a bit of jamy fruit and great vibrant minerality.

From the 24 year old winemaker, Chuck Mansfield:

The HK Generations (HKG) wines are exclusive productions meant to highlight the Hop Kiln Ranch's affinity to produce excellent Pinot Noir. I currently make both the HKG line as well as the wines of Hop Kiln, which total just under 10,000 cases. The vast majority of that production is the Thousand Flowers blend and the Big Red blend. These grapes are sourced from Mendocino, Sonoma, and El Dorado county.

HKG has been produced since 2005. My philosophy is pretty simple, you cannot make a great wine without truly great grapes. So my winemaking begins in the vineyard. I am blessed to have a site where the soil profile ranges from only 18 inches deep near the Russian River's banks, to a hillside made of thick fractured sandstone. We strive to keep each clone ripening evenly, so when we harvest there is little need for additions or manipulations on the crush pad. Pinot Noir clones really show their site specific characteristics, and I try to blend wines that highlight these differences.

I also tasted the 2007 Hop Kiln Big Red. Definitely not as impressive as the HKG Pinot Noir, but was still nice. This wine had sweet plum and black pepper combined with juicy berry notes. The taste had plenty of jammy red fruit with good bright cranberry on a backbone of easy tannins.

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