Picturesque ranch boasts farmhouse inn, barn and tasting room
HammerSky Vineyards & Winery is set amidst the pastoral landscape of Paso Robles’ west side. Age-old oak trees, meadows, rolling hills and the vineyard itself surround the farmhouse inn, barn and tasting room.
Owners Douglas and Kim Hauck bought this picturesque ranch in 2007 from Jane and Dave Bender who planted vineyards in 1997. Douglas, a dentist in Orange County, once ran a successful practice in Beverly Hills, taught dental courses at USC and, in side careers, got involved as a film producer and Internet entrepreneur. Passionate about wine, the couple was keen to purchase vineyard property and create wines.
“We looked all over California and nothing came up with the criteria we had,” says Kim. That is until they saw this 50-acre ranch on Vineyard Drive on Paso Robles’ west side.
While most Paso wineries focus on Rhône varietals, the Haucks are Bordeaux-centric. Their production is mostly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varietal bottlings or blends. This being Paso, Zinfandel joins the winery’s portfolio as well. For the winery’s name, Douglas and Kim combined those of their sons, Hamilton and Skylar – thus the catchy HammerSky.
The popular Inn is very much a part of the HammerSky experience. It’s a sought-after venue for vineyard wedding getaways. The Haucks spent some years restoring the 1904 farmhouse that was once home to a Mennonite pastor and his family. Adjacent to the Inn is the post-and-beam barn that was constructed in New Hampshire and shipped here. The streamlined tasting room building with smooth steel-trowelled walls adds a bold impact to the rural setting of this ranch.
Of the property’s 50 acres located in the Templeton Gap region, 23 are planted to Merlot, Cabernet and Zinfandel on linne calodo (limestone and calcareous) soil. Vineyard manager Mindy Allen at times sources grapes for the Bordeaux-style blends — varietals such as Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Although Douglas keeps busy with his dental practice, he is very much hands-on when it comes to harvest and blending. He works closely with winemaker Rich Hartenberger in producing small lots of hand-crafted wines.
“He’s the mechanic, I’m the creator,” remarks Douglas. Currently the annual production is 2,100 cases and will grow to around 3,000. “We want to stay a boutique winery.”
Integrated tannins, balanced fruit & acidity
The wines show integrated tannins and balanced fruit and acidity. While most tasting rooms offer a long list of wines, at HammerSky the lineup is limited to four to five wines. It’s well worth it.
The current estate releases being offered are all 2010 vintages. The Party of Four is indeed a party in a bottle — a Merlot-based wine blended with Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The ruby red wine exudes aromas of black fruits and spice with well-rounded tannins.
A perfect wine for smoky bar-b-cue meats, the Estate Zinfandel is loaded with ripe raspberries and shows traces of toasty vanilla that come from aging in French oak barrels. The Estate Red Handed is a deep garnet Merlot with complex flavors of allspice, herbs and blackberries. This wine can stand up to a spicy Cajun blackened fish or grilled rib eye.
The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is a riot of cinnamon and cherries with smooth tannins. This wine is available to wine club members only. “But when I’m in the tasting room, we’ll pour this Cab,” notes Douglas.
HammerSky is launching a second label called Naughty Princess priced at $24-$28. “It’s edgier, for the young at heart,” says Douglas. The three wines in this portfolio include “Innocent” Sauvignon Blanc, “Detained” sparkling wine and “Guilty” Cabernet Sauvignon. Of the risqué label, Doug reveals that the images are actual mug shots given to him by a friend who is the curator of crime photos at the Los Angeles Police Department.
HammerSky Winery tasting room is located 7725 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles. Their hours are Thursday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, visit hammersky.com or call (805)239-0930.
— Mira Advani Honeycutt