Monday, April 03, 2006

Annette Hoff, Cima Collina Vineyards

Have you ever heard of Mega Purple? Me neither, but I just read about it on Annette Hoff's wineblog. It's a color additive that some winemakers add to jack up the hue and body of their wines. Now, that's just nasty. What if you found out that your porterhouse had been soaked in Mega Brown or your allegedly fresh 'n' healthy broccoli in Mega Green? Yack. That is some serious cheating, people. If you can't make a lovely wine without adding a bunch of stupid stuff, perhaps you should go work for Coca-Cola.

Winemaker Annette Hoff not only refrains from using this kind of added crap, but advocates truth in advertising for those who do. She believes consumers have the right to know what's in that bottle just as much as they have the right to know what they're eating. She's tinkering with the idea of putting that information on her own label, along with a disclosure of every varietal used.

As you may know, California only requires that 75% of a certain varietal be used to place the name of that varietal on the label. Way more often than not, that "Pinot Noir" consumers buy has 25% syrah or some other grape in it. Annette doesn't do things that way: if her Cima Collina label says 'Pinot Noir' than that's what it is, 100%.

Interview with Annette Hoff, Cima Collina Vineyards

C&D: Can you give me some background?

I started in 1994, took my first job at a wine laboratory at Rodney Strong vineyards, worked there for eight months, it was an internship position. I've always been interested in wine...I ended up going to UC Davis, but I have an international economics degree. They have an onology and viticultural school there, and I took a few classes, sort of fell into hanging out with the onology/viticulture crowd, and really got interested...

Are they a wild set?

Yeah, but you know, for college students they had access to some really interesting and unusual wines and it was all very compelling and a lot of fun. And a lot of was like a second career, basically, they were in their late thirties and had been out in the world quite a while and had developed gourmet tastes. So it was college students eating truffles, and I'm thinking, I like this life, this is very cool. And in the early nineties the economy was still kind of slow, and it was hard for a college student to find a job, but the wine industry was really starting to boom, so I got a job pretty easily at a wine laboratory, and fell in love.

Talk about what style of wine you like, what you'd put on your own table.

Well, it seems so trendy to say, but I'm so tired of oak...

I think there's a reason it's "trendy" to say that. Because everyone's tired of it.

(Laughs) That's exactly it. But I want a wine that has more subtle flavors, that's intriguing and interesting, and not so, "Here I am!" fruit forward, that type of thing. I love Pinot Noir, I love making Pinot Noir.

Can you think of a wine that really blew your mind, crystalized for you the style you like?

There's a wine that Saintsbury made in 1996, it was their very first vintage of their own estate vineyard called Brown Ranch, up in Carneros. I tasted that bottle a number of years later, and really had no expectations of what it would be like. I had been there when we made it, but it had been a while, and I had no idea what it would be, and it absolutely blew my mind, in terms of Pinot. And there were a few New Zealand wines when I was there that suprised me...

Pinot as well?

Pinot, from little vineyards...I said yeah, this is where I want to be. I want to acheive this in my own winemaking style.

What does the word 'terroir' mean to you?

Here in Monterey, it doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot yet...ask me that in five years, I might be able to tell you. The vineyards are so know, I could say, well, Pinot planted on glacial soil is very fruity and full bodied, as opposed to Pinot grown on decomposed granite, which tends to have a more mineral characteristic. But most of the vineyards I'm getting fruit from are still relatively new and it really takes, I think, eight to ten years for the fruit to really start to express what that site and microclimate can produce. So ask me in five years.

2004 Cima Collina Chardonnay (100%), Chula Vina Vineyards--This is an unfiltered golden colored wine that is ever so slightly cloudy. Rich and creamy tropical nose, with full tangy pineapple...but here's the good part: minerality. There's a smooth minerality that adds a great note to the fruit. It's a big one, but it's balanced and tasty.

2004 Pinot Noir, Salinas Valley--again, unfined and unfiltered, yet it doesn't look like it. It's surprisingly bright and clear. Annette acheives this with a very careful racking process. Big again, but well balanced with all the floral and tealike characteristics I hope to sniff when I've got my nose in some Pinot. Soft tannins.

Alrighty. Wow. I'm halfway up the damn coast now. And a month into it. What do you guys think?

If you've got half a sec, leave me a comment and tell me what you think of my journey so far...what you'd like more of, less of, you know, all that kinda stuff. Ta very much.

I'll do a wrapup of my short visit to the Carmel Valley next, then I'm off to Bonny Doon, and from there, a couple days respite in The City.



Anonymous johng said...

Good stuff! (except that nasty deep purple stuff)

I believe you mean 75%, not 85%.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous wineguy said...

I think you are doing just fine! Of course, this trip is not for us -- it's for you. We're just along for the ride. And what a ride it's been!

7:45 AM  
Blogger Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

You are doing an awesome job. Don't change a thing. I like the interviews and getting a hint at the personalities behind the wine. They all seem content and happy, if not a little quirky in their own ways, and always willing to talk about their wine, even in the midst of the chaos of a winery.

10:25 AM  
Blogger GoodTasteReport said...

You can already feel the stride getting steady and stronger. I'm digging "traveling through you"!
I want to drink wine...
Keep up the good work...

5:10 PM  
Blogger berly said...

It's good. I'm living vicariously
through both blogs. Can I just meet you in Oregon? Got to get to the bottom of this Pinot Noir issue.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, knowing you, you'd like to hear some ideas. So . . . ask 'em who they imagine drinking their wine, what do they hope people will get out of it (you sort of do this already). Or is it "wine for wine's sake?" Lovin' it. Wish I were drinkin' it with you.


3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't change anything. I have enjoyed reading everything, including the pictures.

Everything is very uniform and accessable.

Congrats on the hard work too. The words just don't appear on the screen and I know that.

6:06 PM  
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