Paul Hobbs Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir California Carneros 2018
(91 - 93)
A barrel sample, the 2018 Pinot Noir Hyde Vineyard is pale to medium ruby-purple and opens with classy allspice and clove over tar, crushed black cherries, wild blackberries and marionberry with touches of underbrush, fern and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, it offers great fruit intensity and a spicy vein, with a grainy frame and seamless freshness, finishing long. 621 cases are expected to be made and released in March 2020.
Paul Hobbs was in a unique position to reflect on the heat spike in 2017, as he makes Burgundy and Bordeaux varietal wines in Napa and Sonoma counties. “For the most part, we didn’t jump to pick,” Hobbs says. “Cabernet Sauvignon was still four to six weeks away from harvest. It was early enough that the vines and the berries were able to resist the heat. Pinot Noir was approaching the harvest window. But we were shocked after the heat at how well things came through without damage. I think we lost just a little bit of freshness in the Pinot Noir. It was the ‘hardest’ hit, but it added some sweetness and voluptuousness to the wines that will make them very consumer friendly. For those of us whose standard is Burgundy, that’s frowned upon. But that’s what we deal with in California. We’re going to have vintages like 2017. It’s the style we produce and it’s part of our terroir. As we tasted through barrel samples of the 2018, I asked for Hobbs’s thoughts. “2018 was a monster vintage,” he says. “In over 40 years, I’ve never seen plants produce like that. There’s a bumper crop and then there’s the king of all bumper crops, and that’s what this was. The amount of fruit on the vines was almost surreal. The low yields in 2017 and the late season rains had a lot to do with it. We told growers, you have seven or eight tons per acre out there, you have to drop half. And they couldn’t believe it. We moved from weight to area for payment so that they would drop fruit.” “2018 was so benign weather wise,” Hobbs continues. “There were no heat spikes, and the vines had plenty of water from late winter and early spring rains. Spring conditions were about as good as you could get. No millerandage, coulure, shot berries, etc. And no hens and chicks—they were all hens! We had to do several thinning passes to get yields down to a reasonable level, and yet we had to leave fruit on the vine to keep the vigor down. So, we had to thin in waves, which was very expensive. And yet the quality, particularly for Burgundy varieties, was spectacular because there really was no hot weather. They have great vibrant flavors, natural acidity, lower sugars and plenty of concentration. This vintage has precision—beautiful ripe, bright fruit. And the intensity, the volume, is turned up. The wines are beautifully faceted. I think it’s a stunning vintage, particularly for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.” Annual production here is about 20,000 cases. More than half of production is sold direct to consumer. Although they still purchase some fruit, Hobbs says they are moving toward all estate fruit in the future. “In 2017, we were about 60% to 65% estate,” he says. “In 2018 and 2019, we were 95% estate. The goal is to be all estate.”