California is the largest wine-producing state in the United States, accounting for about 81 per cent of the national production. And although Napa Valley is probably the state’s best known wine region, it represents only 4 per cent of California’s wine production.
The Golden State has more than 107 appellations, which are known as American viticultural areas (AVAs). Californian wines are typically powerful, opulent, concentrated and full-bodied. However, the diversity of terroir means that a wide range of styles is available.
If you prefer cooler-climate, lighter-bodied, restrained wines, try the ones from Santa Lucia Highlands, an AVA located south of Monterey Bay, on California’s central coast. The area’s proximity to the ocean, with fog and wind, moderates the temperature. Pinot noir and chardonnay are the most common varieties here and the style tends to be elegant with restrained fruit and structured with crisp acidity.
The area’s potential for wine has been recognised only in the past few decades and the Santa Lucia Highlands officially became an AVA only in 1991.
Vintners Nicolaus and Gaby Hahn were early pioneers in the area. The family acquired two ranches, turned them into vineyards and produced their first wine in 1980.
Hahn Pinot Gris 2017, Monterey County, HK$197
The fruit for this wine has been fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless-steel tanks.
Vibrant peach and apricot. Medium body with ripe fruit intensity balanced with soft acidity. Refreshing and fruit forward in style.
Hahn SLH Chardonnay 2016, Monterey County, HK$340
The chardonnay is sourced from the four estate vineyards located on southeast-facing slopes with exposure to the morning sun. The soils are composed of deep sandy loam providing good drainage. During the day, winds from Monterey Bay help to cool the vineyard.
The wines are 100 per cent barrel-fermented in small French barriques. Lees stirring is done every three weeks for 12 months, then the wine is aged for 12 months in barrels, of which 30 per cent are new.
Citrus and some green apples, with a spicy oak character. Medium-bodied, balanced, elegant, with a creamy mouthfeel framed by discreet oak. Medium-long finish.
Hahn SLH Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Lucia Highlands, HK$398
The year 2016 is considered a good vintage because dry, sunny weather with cooler temperatures produced small clusters of berries with highly concentrated fruit.
The fruit is sorted and de-stemmed before pressing, followed by a cold maceration to extract colours, aromatics and flavours from the skin. Fermented in open-top, stainless-steel tanks and aged for 11 months in barriques, of which 33 per cent are new oak.
Strawberry and raspberry red fruit. Elegant and well balanced on the palate with velvety, ripe tannins coupled with crisp acidity. A lovely and refined wine showing purity of fruit.
The wines are available from Golden Gate Wine.