Now Cork & Flame

Hearst Ranch Tasting

Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting, Aug. 3

Reprinted with permission from
Jim Saunders has a good reason to be smiling. Taste the wines produced by his Hearst Ranch Winery and his smile will become your smile.
Saunders was at the Vineyard Wine Market Wednesday evening meeting tasters who stopped by for a drop-in tasting of 8 of his handcrafted wines.

Jim Saunders and Roger

Jim Saunders and Roger

Originally this was going to be a seminar style tasting. Roger changed it to a drop-in because of the response for those wanting to attend. Why limit the tasting to only 30 people when this style tasting opens tasting some great wines to so many more people.
Saunders owns the winery and vineyard located in Paso Robles but the name comes from his business partner, Steve Hearst, great grandson of media barron William Randolph Hearst. Their tasting room is located across from the legendary Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, where they frequently have private wine events that raise money for the upkeep of the castle (the Castle was deeded to the State of California where it is the most visited of the state’s parks) and most notably, for local charities.
He was in Augusta a day after attending the Prime Wine and Spirits Trade Show in Atlanta. He says he was “amazed” at the response to their wines at the show especially their newly released Malbec.
“It’s a funny thing because we had planted [a block] in Cabernet and I wasn’t that happy with it. Rather than tear it out and not use the block, which is a multiple year project, we grafted on Malbec. I was so nervous. Everyone was saying ‘Are you crazy. Why did you do a Malbec?’ After it went through fermentation and got it in the barrel I knew it was good.”
This was their first Malbec, a grape he says he really likes though he adds “Some of the Argentinian Malbecs are a litttle rough. They are a little too earthy for me. This was so much fun because [the grapes produced] were such a fruit ball.”

This wasn’t their only venture with a grape that is seldom seen in California. At the same time they were grafting the Malbec they also grafted Tempranillo, a grape commonly found in Spain.
(This taster tried both the Malbec and the Tempranillo and they have taken two grapes, that I agree are often too earthy for the American palate and produced wines that would please anyone who enjoys fine California wines).
He’s also excited about the Petite Sirah they plan to bottle next week. They are bottling it as standalone varietal, something different for them as they have primarily used their Petite Sirah for blending. “This is so nice we decided to do it as a standalone.” He hopes this wine that has been barrel aging for two years will be available in Georgia.
History is important to Saunders. The Hearst Ranch dates back to 1865. The label features the original branding symbol of the Hearst Ranch, a capital H with a slight slant on the top that mimics a horse or cow head. Its copper color pays homage to the Hearst Family’s copper mining ventures a 150 years ago.
The wines are named for something located at the Hearst properties or something related to its history.
Even a special sticker that his wife Debi designed has a bit of history tied to it. It features the Hearst Ranch symbol with a zebra stripped background. According to Saunders, William Randolph Hearst had an active zoo that included exotic animals from around the world. Lions, bears, elk, sandbar deer, wild antelope from South Africa and zebras. When Hearst left the estate in 1947* for the last time the caretakers took care of the animals for as long as they could. But with the decline of Hearst’s health and his eventual death in 1951*, the upkeep of this huge estate was difficult to maintain (the Castle was never completed). The caretakers decided it was better to release the animals into the wild. Many of these non-native species thrived on the vast 240,000 acres so toda,y Saunders laughs, “it isn’t unusual to be driving down Highway 1 and see a herd of 70-80 zebras on the side of the road.”

Julia Sauvignon Blanc: $13.99
Three Sisters Cuvee White: $19.99
Glacier Ridge Chardonnay: $25.99
Three Sisters Cuvee Red: $19.99
Chileano Tempranillo: $29.99
Babicora Malbec: $29.99
Lone Tree Cabernet Franc: $35.99
Bunkhouse Cabernet Sauvignon: $31.99

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