Paul Hobbs Crossbarn 2009

paulSome winemakers are easy to spot. I don’t mean on the street, or in a Napa Valley watering hole.

I’m talking about their wines. Some winemakers have a style that speaks so loudly, and is expressed so consistently throughout their wines, that you can easily pick their wines out of a crowd.

I tasted a wine recently at Red Fish (an amazing, and amazingly wine-friendly restaurant in Hilton Head, South Carolina) that might as well have stood up and shouted, “Paul Hobbs!” We were drinking Pinot Noir with our fabulous seafood meals, which in my case was Seared Jumbo Scallops with Lobster Mac and Cheese. Yes, Lobster Mac and Cheese — imagine!¬† On the label of this Pinot Noir I saw the name Crossbarn Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2009, which was a new name to me.crossbarn

But when I tasted it (stay tuned for details), I thought — “I know this style. This is the style of Paul Hobbs.” And sure enough, Crossbarn is Hobbs second label.

Except there isn’t anything second-rate about it.

Let’s talk first about Paul Hobbs. He came to California from the East (upstate New York and then Notre Dame) after he was bitten by the wine bug. Not content with ripping out part of his father’s apple orchard to plant grape vines, he decided to follow his muse to northern California. After UC Davis he ended up at Simi in Sonoma County, and created the style of wine he’s known for today. He used extended maceration (soaking the juice with the skins) and gentle handling (such as letting gravity do the racking instead of pumping) to produce wines that were rich in flavor but soft and supple in their tannins.

He eventually created his own label, after years of consulting for other premium California wineries, and that style is still his hallmark. Under the Paul Hobbs label, the wines are single-vineyard bottlings dedicated to expressing¬† terrior , the unique sense of that place. He’s done this well enough to have earned boatloads of awards from every respected wine magazine and critic.

The happy surprise is that his second label, while blending juice from across an appellation, still expresses that style.

So back to Crossbarn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009. Fruit for this wine came from a variety of vineyards in this cool-climate growing region, and they were blessed with near-perfect growing conditions in 2009. After a cool and wet spring, mild temperatures and a long season allowed sugars and acid to develop slowly and completely. This created intense flavors with good acid and structure.

The opaque purple/garnet color suggested an unfiltered wine, and the nose hit me with big fruit. There were ripe strawberries and cherries with a touch or earth to tone it down.

The palate was juicy and lush, and made me think, “Cherry Parfait!” (That’s a good thing.) Some complexity from herbal and floral notes waltzed around the outside, and it all finished firm but velvety.

This is a great effort at the price it’s offered: somewhere around $35. The Crossbarn line also includes Chardonnay and Cabernet that have gotten good reviews, too. Keep your eye out for them and also for Paul Hobbs’ Argentine partnership, Vina Cobos. Cheers!

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