Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines was in Dallas a few weeks ago and I had an opportunity to grab a quick lunch with him and taste some of the fantastic wine he is producing in the Paso Robles region of California.
Pretty quickly after meeting him you can tell Austin is a pretty laid back guy. Quick to laugh and enjoys telling a good story about his adventures in wine. This is equally matched with the obvious dedication and love he has for his wife and two daughters, made evident early in the converstation. If you are going to be passionate about anything, wine and family are two good places to start.
Over a casual lunch at Truluck’s on McKinney we tasted his extensive portfolio. A little overwhelming at first, as Austin has created several distinct brands within his portfolio, including the Treana Red and White that I have written about before (and tasted just as good this time). Though different, each brand marries well together while maintaining their individuality.
While tasting his Liberty School Chardonnay I asked why Central Coast? What was it about Paso Robles that was so special?
Since 1978 the Hope family has been farming grapes in the region, one of the first families t, and sold much of what they grew to other wineries, many in Napa Valley including Caymus.
There is something special about Paso Robles, Austin explains. Perfectly situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco the region, and with neighbors that include Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, the Paso Robles region has everything needed to create distinct, expressive wine especially when each stage of the grape growing and wine making process is carefully managed, as Austin does. The region has multiple terrains, allowing for identical varietals to be planted on either side of the Salinas River to produce very different flavors in the wine. Add in coastal breezes and temperature shifts up to 50 degree throughout any given day and you have a region that, when tended properly, can produce beautiful wine.
This is evident in the Liberty School Chardonnay. I do like a good Chardonnay, and for the price, this is a great one. Clean flavors with bright acidity. Lots of apple, pear on the palate. The wine undergoes zero malolactic fermentation keeping it crisp, young and perfect with Truluck’s Ahi Tuna salad. This is a great bargain Chardonnay, as you can usually find it for around $12-$15 a bottle, though I think it can stand up to $25 Chardonnay easily.
We tasted the two wines Austin makes under the Candor brand next. A Merlot and a Zinfandel. I was more partial to the Merlot, which tasted much richer than the $20 price tag. An elegant wine filled with blackberry, plum and currant flavors with a bit of a spicy, smokey finish.
Austin has also recentrly reintroduced his Westside Red. Nicknamed the “Troublemaker” it is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, it is not a typical Rhone style blend. Big, bold and juicy with lots of character made from a blend of multi vintage wine from 2007, 2008 and 2009. Blending the three years of wine creates texture, body and elegance in the wine, while maintaining lush fruit. A very special wine from hand selected grapes in the Hope Family Vineyard.
Probably my favorite wine besides the Treana is the Austin Hope Syrah. A beautifully balanced, approachable wine with lots of cherry, blueberry and spice. Very Northern Rhone in style, it has some of the smoked meat and bacon aromas that I love in a Syrah, balanced with bright fruit and structured elegance.