Welcome to the Hyde Estate blog, here is where we will be highlighting events and news from around the winery.
We live in an age in which sourcing wine has never been easier. Looking for a wine from Crete? The wine shop in your town will likely carry it, and if not, you can easily find a wine retailer online. It’s in the hands of the consumer to shop for the best deal or for the most elusive, rare bottle, which can often be shipped to your doorstep.
Savvy shoppers will stay on top of ever-changing wine shipping laws based on interstate policies. Some states cannot have wine shipped to them, while others have more relaxed laws.
Before you can start investing in a full collection, you’ll need to discover your palate by embracing opportunities to taste and determine what you like. When dining out with friends or at a party, be open minded! A rich Cabernet Sauvignon might woo you initially, but you may also take a liking to exoticRieslings depending on your mood. There is no better way to discover wine than by tasting everything. We have plenty of tools that will help: Best Buy Cheat Sheet, Making the Purchase and Bargain-Friendly Bordeaux will all help guide you on your path to wine bliss.
Reading a Wine Label
At first glance, a wine label can be confusing to those just getting started. Luckily, New World wine producers have made it easier on wine beginners by listing the grape(s) directly on the label. Old World regions have typically relied on the wine consumer to be familiar enough with the region to know, for example, that Red Burgundy is Pinot Noir.
Old World Wines might read like this:
Château Moulin de Grenet 2009 Lussac Saint-Émilion
New World wines might read like this:
Cakebread 2006 Merlot, Napa Valley
The French wine lists “Saint-Émilion,” assuming the consumer realizes that wines from Saint-Émilionare mostly Merlot. The wine from Napa, California, on the other hand, lists both the region and the grape variety. As you study more about wine, you’ll become more and more accustomed to all the wine varietals and the Old World regions that produce them.
Old World wine producers are slowly realizing that in order to compete on the global market, they need to make it easy on the consumer. But as much as times may change, a deep understanding of how to read a wine label will always be a useful skill.
“Good Wine” for Beginners
You have probably heard from both friends and experts many times that any wine you like is a good wine. This is true if simply enjoying wine is your goal. You don’t have to do more than take a sip, give it a swallow and let your inner geek decide “yes” or “no.” The end.
It’s true that figuring out what you like is an important component of wine tasting, but it’s not the only component. Quickly passing judgment about a wine is not the same as truly understanding and evaluating it. If you’re tasting properly, you will be able to identify the main flavor and scent components in every wine you try; you will know the basic characteristics for all of the most important varietal grapes, and beyond that, for the blended wines from the world’s best wine-producing regions. You will also be able to quickly point out specific flaws in bad wines.
Wine Tasting - Getting Started
The ability to sniff out and untangle the subtle threads that weave into complex wine aromas is essential for tasting. Try holding your nose while you swallow a mouthful of wine; you will find that most of the flavor is muted. Your nose is the key to your palate. Once you learn how to give wine a good sniff, you’ll begin to develop the ability to isolate flavors—to notice the way they unfold and interact—and, to some degree, assign language to describe them.
This is exactly what wine professionals—those who make, sell, buy, and write about wine—are able to do. For any wine enthusiast, it’s the pay-off for all the effort.
While there is no one right or wrong way to learn how to taste, some “rules” do apply.
First and foremost, you need to be methodical and focused. Find your own approach and consistently follow it. Not every single glass or bottle of wine must be analyzed in this way, of course. But if you really want to learn about wine, a certain amount of dedication is required. Whenever you have a glass of wine in your hand, make it a habit to take a minute to stop all conversation, shut out all distraction and focus your attention on the wine’s appearance, scents, flavors and finish.
You can run through this mental checklist in a minute or less, and it will quickly help you to plot out the compass points of your palate. Of course, sipping a chilled rosé from a paper cup at a garden party doesn’t require the same effort as diving into a well-aged Bordeaux served from a Riedel Sommelier Series glass. But those are the extreme ends of the spectrum. Just about everything you are likely to encounter falls somewhere in between.
Vines of distinction
Carneros — LARRY HYDE surveys his vineyard from the front seat of his "mule," a beat-up green truck small enough to drive down narrow vineyard rows, each vine within easy reach of the 61-year-old farmer's calloused fingers. One after the other, he tells the stories behind each of his 52 vineyard plots as he passes. The angle of each row, the soils and the genetics of each vine are puzzle pieces that he works to match. After 28 years, he says, the 180-acre Hyde Vineyard is still revealing itself. Perhaps his sons, now 23 and 21, will live long enough to learn its true character.
Though his words might sound like viticultural grandiosity, Hyde considers his long view simply practical. Vineyard experiments take years, sometimes decades, to show results. His vine-by-vine tinkering has required planting and replanting plots to discover the types and varieties of vines that work best in each section of Hyde Vineyard.
The winemakers who produce wines with grapes from Hyde Vineyard, an all-star lineup that includes Kistler Vineyards, Kongsgaard Wine, Paul Hobbs, Mia Klein's Selene Wines, Ramey Wine Cellars and Patz & Hall agree with him. And in 1999, the elite club expanded to include international wine celebrity Aubert de Villaine, codirector of Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Hyde's cousin by marriage, Villaine has partnered with Hyde in HdV Wines, a winery using Hyde Vineyard fruit.
It's not just grapes that Hyde supplies to other winemakers. The vine stock he's cultivated is just as sought-after as his fruit. Cuttings he has shared with his friends are the backbone of a new generation of vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma.
At the pinnacle of the California wine industry is a handful of vineyards such as Hyde, operated by growers who cater to prestigious winemakers. The fruit is sold by the acre instead of by weight. Each winemaker controls his or her particular parcels, dictating farming methods and the amount of fruit produced as well as harvest dates.
Hyde Vineyard is so prestigious it's often designated on the wine bottle label. Paul Hobbs has a Hyde Vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Pinot Noir. Patz & Hall has both a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir labeled "Hyde Vineyard." Selene produces a Hyde Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.
"Larry invented the concept of the custom grower 20 years ago," says John Kongsgaard, who uses Hyde grapes in his Napa Valley Chardonnay. "I'd ask for no leaves on the morning side of the row except for one leaf fluttering above the grape cluster, and he did it. The guy next to me in the vineyard wanted exactly the opposite thing, and he'd do what that guy wanted. Every few acres are farmed completely differently."
"Larry knows every vine in his vineyard," says David Ramey with Ramey Wine Cellars, who along with many of the other winemakers asks Hyde to farm organically, which he prefers.
Over the years, the individual relationships between Hyde and his winemakers have become more like partnerships, extending into perpetuity with no need to renegotiate contracts. It's a club no one wants to leave, they say, with a long list of winemakers waiting to get in. "Larry is creative; he takes risks. What winemaker wouldn't want to be a part of that?" Selene Wines' Klein asks.
The uncommonly patient touch of the man who first planted wine grapes here in 1979 makes this slice of Carneros a viticultural hot spot, say the winemakers. The challenge of Hyde's partial paralysis, the result of a stroke when he was still in his 30s that forces him to rely on the mechanical "mule," only adds intensity to his viticultural mission, they say.
Not everyone saw greatness in Carneros. When Hyde bought the original 100-acre plot with his brother Richard and sister Diana, the most appealing characteristic was its low price. "In 1979, you could count on your hands the number of vineyards down here," Hyde says.
A flourishing vineyard
CARNEROS developed as a viticultural afterthought to Napa and Sonoma. Stretching across the southern end of those two counties, the region's southern border is the flatlands above San Pablo Bay. The towns of Napa and Sonoma define its northern limits. Chilly fog from the bay blankets the land in the morning; ocean winds sweep in from the Pacific in the afternoon. The relatively light clay soils are shallow, extending only a few feet before hitting a layer of impenetrable clay. French Champagne house Taittinger defined it as a sparkling wine region when it established Domaine Carneros in 1987.
The bottom of the long, narrow Hyde Vineyard at Carneros Highway is only 20 feet above sea level. Tucked in a warm, northeast corner of Carneros, it is protected from the often-brutal Sonoma winds. Soils extend 3 feet before giving way to cement-like clay subsoils. A mile and a half away at the northern end of the vineyard, the elevation rises to 200 feet and the top layer of clay soils mixed with sand and rocks is somewhat deeper.