Articles Tagged Hidden Ridge
The steep slopes at Hidden Ridge, back in 2010
Sometimes, the wine business is a very, very small place. Also, I am about to talk about jellyfish. You’ve been warned…
While in San Francisco recently for the SF International Wine Competition (more on the results of that in a couple of weeks), I caught up with wine marketing maven Tim Martin. Longtime 1WD readers might recognize Tim’s name from way back in 2012, when apparently (according to Tim, anyway) I was the first person to write about Tim’s Napa Valley project, Tusk. “We’ve got a ten year waiting list on Tusk now,” Tim mentioned, which I suppose is much more a tribute to that brand’s cult status, and the prowess of winemaker Philippe Melka than it is to my influence. I mean, as far as I know, even my mom doesn’t read 1WD.
The late Lynn Hofacket (photographed in 2010)
It turns out that in the five-plus years since we last met, Martin has been busy lining up another potential cult classic, and this one already has some connection to previous 1WD coverage – it happens to be the next iteration of Hidden Ridge, which even longer-time 1WD readers might recall from when I visited that stunning Sonoma estate, on the very edge of the Napa Valley border, back in 2010. At the time, I marveled at why the prices for their reds were so low.
After Hidden Ridge patriarch Lynn Hofacket – who planted the vineyards on the steep hills of that estate (some of which literally match the great pyramids in slope percentage) – passed away, his wife Casidy ward eventually (though not without some trepidation, as I’ve been told) sold the vineyards to what would become the team behind what would become Immortal Estate (Hidden Ridge winemaker Timothy Milos remains a part of the team).
It was Hofacket’s passing, which nearly coincided with the death of Martin’s father, that became the genesis of Immortal’s brand name. “I started to think about legacy, and what we leave behind” Martin told me, and he noticed that Wine Advocate’s 100-point review of the 2013 Hidden Ridge Impassable Mountain Cabernet included the phrase “This wine is nearly Immortal.” And thus, a brand (or, at least, the idea of one) was born.
Which brings us to the jellyfish…
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Remember how the Northern California 2010 vintage was kind of “difficult?”
Oh, right, it’s impossible to avoid that news lately… not that I’m complaining, mind you (it’s better to have a bit too much wine coverage than too little!), nor am I trying to minimize or make light of the plight and hardship faced by those in N. CA whose grapes didn’t fare the strange growing season well.
Further developments on the harvest have been trickling into my (poor, overworked and overburdened) e-mail Inbox,and one note in particular regarding the 2010 vintage situation caught my eye: that at Hidden Ridge, whose wines, you may remember, I quite enjoy.
The title of the email was “Sonoma County’s Hidden Ridge Vineyard Will Not Harvest This Year Due to Inconsistent Growing Season” which I suppose just about sums it up, but here’s an excerpt from the dispatch for the curious:
“Hidden Ridge Vineyard Proprietors Casidy Ward and Lynn Hofacket, along with Winemaking Team Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos, today announced that they will not harvest any fruit from the Hidden Ridge Vineyard in 2010 season because of this year’s inconsistent growing season… This year’s late season, followed by recent rains in Northern California, resulted in fruit that was not up to Ward and Hofacket’s standards for their vineyard’s eponymous wine label. While it was difficult decision to go without a 2010 vintage wine for Hidden Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $40, the choice is in keeping with the proprietors’ commitment to produce only the best wines possible from their vineyard.”
This got me wondering… since Hidden Ridge recently took the bold (but successful) maneuver of reducing their prices (without impacting quality one iota), are they in a good position to weather (sorry…) the financial storm of not producing a 2010 bottling? Given the limping state of the economy, is anyone?
I, for one, sure hope so.
But there’s a more insidious side to this crazy vintage coin. Actually, there’s three other sides (this is a very oddly-shaped coin):
- It’s a chilling indicator of the areas that didn’t fare well over the past growing season in Northern CA.
- It’s an obnoxiously powerful reminder from Mother Nature that she still rules the roost, and when she wants to take her ball and go home, well, dammit, she’s just gonna take her f*cking ball and go the f*ck home.
- It’s a timely warning to us consumers that while it’s very likely that there will be other N. CA producers who come to similar conclusions as HR about the state of their fruit, they just might decide to bottle it anyway…
In the immortal words of Mr. Mike Brady, “Caveat emptor…”
Hidden Ridge Vineyard is technically in Sonoma County, though it’s a stone’s throw from Pride Mountain Winery and is pretty close to Napa, as the crow flies.
But in order to actually get to Hidden Ridge’s insanely, almost Mosel-esque steep vineyards in any reasonable amount of time, you’d need to travel as the crow flies. As in, by helicopter (not that I’ve seen any crows flying helicopters… but it could happen, right?). Or, you can do what I did on a recent press trip, which is visit Hidden Ridge Vineyards by way of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck.
Which is to say, you can be tossed around like a rag doll in the back seat of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck while traversing the rocky, twisting and winding “roads” that lead you to the vineyard owned by Lynn & Casidy Ward. I’d love to provide directions, but I’m pretty sure my memory of the trip was compromised by the multiple concussions I endured during the drive.
The vineyards at Hidden Ridge might be elevated (some as high as 1700 feet), but the winemaking approach of consulting winemakers Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos is fairly down to earth. Several years ago, Lynn was advised to “throw that damn thing away” when he tried to produce a refractometer in the vineyard to measure grape ripeness. Now, he and the winemaking team simply taste the grapes to determine the best time to pick. “Brix aren’t measured until the wine is in the tank” Timothy told me when we toured the ridiculously steep (on up to 55 degree slopes) rows of vines on the Hidden Ridge property.
Lynn is fond of telling stories, most of which are about California wine industry types and aren’t really fit for “printing” here, but the most interesting story when it comes to Hidden Ridge, for me, is the wine itself – most notably, it’s price. Or I should say, its prices…
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