Making wine around the world with Paul Hobbs

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival seminars are always engaging, hosted by well-known wine personalities, featuring the presence of principals from the featured wineries as well as pioneering individuals from the global wine industry. One such individual is Paul Hobbs, renowned global consultant, and owner/winemaker at Paul Hobbs Winery in California and Viña Cobos in Argentina, .


Paul Hobbs grew up on a farm in upstate New York, one of 11 children in a family that produced fruit from its orchards but drank no wine. His first wine tasting experience occurred when his father brought home a bottle of  1962 Château d’Yquem, which he served in paper cups around the dinner table. Paul’s path was cast. In 1969, his father put him in charge of a section of apple orchard which he planted with vines. He then went on to complete a degree in viticulture at Notre Dame, where he attended the weekly wine–tasting seminars of one of his professors, a former winemaker. He pursued further studies in oenology at UC-Davis in California, where he completed a thesis on oak extraction.


 An inspired speaker and great storyteller, Paul recounted his experiences working with Mondavi in California, including as head oenologist for Opus One, at Simi Winery, and at Catena Zapata in Argentina, where he was involved with the creation of Catena Alta. In 1991, he established Paul Hobbs Winery in California. Says Paul, “I set out to produce small lot, hand-crafted, vineyard designate wines.” In 1999, he and his 2 Argentine partners, Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud, created Viña Cobos. In addition, Paul is in demand as a consulting winemaker around the world, from established regions such as Chile, France and Canada, to ancient emerging areas such as Armenia.


We had an opportunity to taste a range of premium wines from his properties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River as well as Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Viña Cobos. In addition, we were introduced to some of the wineries with whom he has consulted:  Pascual Toso (Magdalena 06), Viña San Pedro (Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 09), Chåteau Haute-Serre (Cahors 09) and Stratus (Red 05).


Tasting Paul’s wines, whether from his own wineries or from those with whom he has consulted, you are struck by the consistently true pure quality of the fruit flavours. Paul discussed his philosophy of wine making: only native yeasts are used in a spontaneous fermentation; fruit is tested to ensure it achieves natural and optimal ripeness; grapes are harvested at night and quickly moved to the winery to ensure purity and freshness; wines are not filtered; barrel fermentation and aging is used to optimize the integration of oak and fruit, catalysed by yeast and bacteria. This approach—ensuring the true expression of the varietal in the context of its unique terroir–characterizes his wines.


Paul Hobbs and Viña Cobos wines are available in the LCBO, through Vintages releases.


Paul Hobbs Winery Russian River Chardonnay 2006 (Vintages #119073, $79.95)

The 2008 vintage featured at the Festival was a bright gold with lifted aromas of sweet tree fruits, toasty oak and floral notes. Rich and complex, with a full smooth texture, it displayed flavours of ripe pear and toffee apple with a balancing citrusy acidity. The finish was extended and reflected the great balance of the wine.


Paul Hobbs Winery Russian River Pinot Noir 2006 (Vintages #119081, $79.95)

The 2008 vintage featured at the Festival was fragrant with spicy floral and berry notes. On the palate, it’s fresh but rich with sweet red and black berry flavours, overlaid with earthy spicy notes. A fine complex wine, it’s well balanced with ripe tannins and fresh acidity. The finish is long and satisfying.


Paul Hobbs Winery Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (118695, $69.95)

The 2006 vintage featured at the Festival was opaque and inky, with intense aromas of cassis, cedar and vanilla . It’s dry, full-bodied, structured and layered with flavours of black berries, cassis jam, spice and pepper. Fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity complement the ripe fruit flavours. The extended finish replays the dark fruit flavours and offers a tantalizing note of dark chocolate.


The Stratus Red 2005 is available in magnum format from Vintages Online Exclusives (Vintages #90498, $113.00).
The Festival sample was a semi-opaque mahogany with complex aromas of red and black fruit, spice box, mint and cedar. The wine is structured with firm tannins and crisp acidity. Red and black berry flavours are underlaid with notes of dark chocolate, smoke and herbs that carry through on the lengthy finish. With this worthy cellar candidate, decanting is recommended if you wish to savour the wine now.

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