Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Lunch with Hourglass Vineyards

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

At the end of March, I sat down with Jeff Smith, the owner of Hourglass Wine Company. Jeff's father, Ned Smith, purchased six acres of land in 1976 and created a bed and breakfast along Lodi Lane, which Jeff claims was one of the first in Napa. Ned was not particularly interested in biting into the wine industry at the time, but decided to plant his favorite varietal Zinfandel, in hopes of trading grapes for finished wines. The Zinfandel vineyards were decimated by phylloxera in the early 1990's, at which time Jeff took over management.

"It was close," explained Jeff. "We were thinking of selling the land. But first I wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing. My friend Kelley Maher put me in touch with Dr. Mark Kliewer and said if we would host him for a weekend, he would evaluate our site."

Dr. Kliewer was the Dean of the viticulture program at UC Davis and one of the world's premier experts in grape growing climates. He concluded that the Smith property had the potential to produce some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. This high praise from such a prestigious source had Jeff planting Cabernet Sauvignon as fast as he could. By enlisting Bob Foley, already a noted winemaker, Jeff propelled the Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon to cult status starting with the very first vintage in 1997.

My favorite part during my talk with Jeff was when he described the land. Besides having fantastic visions of sunsets and cooling winds that come through the vineyards in the summertime, a newer property that Jeff recently purchased with several business partners has two blue-line streams (streams that run for most or part of each year) that run through the vines, creating a winery with a branded namesake "Blueline." Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc are currently planted in the Blueline Vineyards, with plans to add plots of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Each year an interesting occurrence takes place on the Blueline Vineyards:  Steelhead's (a type of Rainbow Trout) run up the river to hatch their young upstream. I would love to be there to watch it happen, but it is somewhat unpredictable and only lasts for a short period of time.

After talking about the vineyards for a while, we tasted the 2007 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. There are some wines that are like meeting a cheerful, bubbly friend of a friend. Some wines are like meeting someone who asks awkward questions at inappropriate times and you just have to smile and suddenly remember that you had to be somewhere else. This wine was like meeting an old friend on a porch while the sun is setting. The nose was silky, with blackberry and raspberry up front, moving to that pleasant smell I associate with walking into a tea shop. The taste was delicious: smooth with soft currant, blackberry, with a pleasant hit of black pepper and eucalyptus that stretched on and on and on...

After talking about the wine and the winery, Jeff wanted to ask me about my blog and what I do. I found this extremely interesting because the more I spoke to him, the more I understood that he did not quite get it but really wanted to learn more about social media. He put his trust in his PR agency to help him, which I always think is a good idea. Jeff was fascinated by my views on twitter and Facebook and bloggers. After the lunch, I think he was starting to understand that most bloggers have other day jobs and that the reason they blog is for the passion of writing about something they love, wine. Jeff could definitely relate to that.

Disclosure: This post resulted from a press lunch. 

I am also going to add an additional disclosure to my blog posts. Now that I am working for Blue Streak Wines & Spirits I am going to further disclose whether or not the store carries the wine or wines that I talk about. Discussing a wine on my blog will not automatically mean that the store carries them. That said, there may be some wines in the store that I will talk about here. As in everything, I will attempt to be as honest and transparent as possible.

The store does not currently carry any of the wines discussed in this article.

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