At the graciousness of Hahn Family Wines, a group of bloggers got together and planted The Bloggers Block, at Hahn Family Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The good folks at Hahn dedicated 1.5 acres of prime Santa Lucia Highlands land to the Bloggers Block, proving themselves as a shining light in the dark path of new media adoption in the wine business.
Soledad is about 2.5 hours south of San Francisco, so I got myself up nice and early on a Saturday and heaviliy caffinated myself. I stopped by to pick up a Winehiker (no no not a HITCHhiker!) and we hightailed it down 101, through the rolling hills of San Benito County, and through the lettuce fields of Salinas. As we drove through the flatlands of the Salinas valley, I was struck with how litlte it has changed since East of Eden.
The cool foggy overcast was driving inland, and I wasn’t entirely convinced we’d have sunshine for our day in the vineyards. Finally, as we popped in to the Santa Lucia Highlands, the sun came out. Past veggie farms and up to the west side of the valley, we found the Hahn driveway and slowly drove up the hill. Every few feet I had to stop and say “ohhh lookie!” because it was so stunning. Finally, at the top of the hill, we found a little yellow house at the top of a vineyard, which is now the tasting room. Being the first to arrive, we stopped to breathe the fresh air and look at the view before being enthusiastically greeted by Philip Woodrow, Hahn Family Wines Director of Marketing and Communications.
Philip has only been in this role for a few months, but he has taken it on with a gusto and has made blogger a welcome and integral part of the Hahn family. Once inside the tasting room, Philip pointed out our snack of Huntington Sauvignon Blanc, one of my personal faves, and Hahn SLH Chardonay, paired with some lovely cheese and nibbles. We waited for our posse to arrive, Russ and I chatted with Andy Mitchell (Director Vineyard Operations) and Paul Clifton (adorable winemaker at Hahn Estates), as well as Philip.
From there, we went down to the Bloggers Block, which is at 720 feet, and we were planting some delicious Pinot Noir, clone 828. We even got the exact location of the block, so we can keep track of it on Google Earth! Yes, we are geeks. You can keep track too, with the flyover file here. In the dirt, the vineyard manager explained to us that the vines we were planting were on 3309C rootstock. We were given specific instructions to dig our holes 12 inches deep, where we would then drop a nutrient teabag in the bottom, and stick our vines in – with about 4 fingers left above ground. Luckily for us, the nice boys had pre-dug our holes, so we really didn’t have to work that hard ;-).
After we filled the holes back in, we had to protect our babies from critters, birds, and other elements, by covered it with what looks like a fancy milk carton, which we twist tied to the stakes to hold them down. Once all the vines were planted, the drip irrigation turned on, and we could see the vines relax in to their new homes.
After we played gardner, we gathered for a lunch under the trees near the tasting room, and enjoyed the full lineup of Hahn wines. I’d have to say, th
e 2006 SLH Syrah was amazing, as were the Lucienne Pinot Noirs. Given the price point for all of these wines, they really are excellent QPR. At lunch, we
had the chance to talk to other bloggers, and pick the brains of the Hahn folks about the wines and our block in particular. After lunch, we headed up to the winery itself to take a tour and learn about the winemaking process. There, we got to taste some barrel samples of the finished Lucienne that were able to drink with our lunch.
All in all, a totally awesome day! In a nutshell, Hahn gets it. They understand the importance of bloggers and how they can make themselves stand out from the crowd. In the words of Hahn’s President William Leigon,
I believe that the blogging community is a vital part of the future of the industry. In the many debates of what is or isn’t ethical in regards to the winery/wine blogger relationship what seems clear to me is that the best, most ethical thing we as a winery can do is provide the blogging community with quality products, quality information and quality wine experiences regardless of race, sex, color, creed or brand of wine. We are using our vineyards because that’s who we are. I believe that the more the blogging community learns about wine, the better it is for all of us.
It is a vital connection; just like the winery/wine writer connection; the winery/wine buyer connection; and of course the winery/consumer connection. It does us no good to create great wines if no one knows about it. I just can’t drink that much. The wine business is a relationship business. We must create an emotional connection to our consumers. We do that through many means and I believe Social Media is a major part of creating that connection.
The internet and Social Media allow you to do that only it accelerates the number of people you can reach to a degree that I can’t even comprehend. It allows me to establish a relationship and an emotional connection to someone in Germany that I have never met face to face. It allows me to create connections with multiple people in multiple countries simultaneously and in a very personal way.
As you can see, Liza and I were very happy campers.