WHAT: Even in the searing heat we have been experiencing, you can drink red wine. I believe there are not really seasons for wine, that you can drink red in summer and white in winter.
Of course, some particular wines might be better at one time of year than another, and cool white wine usually does hit the spot in summer. But in general we shouldn’t restrict our wine selections based on the temperature outside.
So one night last week when I grilled boneless pork chops, I reached for the CrossBarn pinot noir instead of a chardonnay. It was a wise choice.
This pinot has intense flavors without overwhelming the palate with too much oak or dense, overripe fruit. It is a nice balance of fruit and structure to bring out the best in food.
In the glass, it is a deep ruby color with aromas of dark berries and herbs. The tastes are just complex enough to make the wine interesting, featuring ripe cherries, white pepper and spices. Good acidity gives the wine some backbone as it slides into a smooth, elegant finish.
The 2013 vintage was one of three great vintages in a row (2012, 2013, 2014) for CrossBarn and many other wineries in northern California, with a warm dry spring leading to early, sustained growth. With only one heat spike and uniform ripening, flavor development in the grapes was even and balanced. You will see many high quality wines from the 2013 and 2014 vintages.
The grapes were hand harvested and spent 15 days in open-top tanks during maceration. After fermentation with native yeast, the wine went through malolactic fermentation to add creaminess and to smooth out all the flavors. It was then aged 10 months in oak barrels, 14 percent new.
CrossBarn was established by famed winemaker Paul Hobbs to capture a younger market who don’t want to pay higher prices and scramble to try to find the Hobbs wines. The wines are all very approachable, priced from $18 to $35 and come in bottles with screw caps.
I would chill this wine slightly and open it about 30 minutes before drinking.
WINERY: The Paul Hobbs Winery may be the flagship, but ever since its first vintage in 2000, CrossBarn has been very popular. Younger drinkers especially have flocked to these wines.
Hobbs named the winery after the central barn and hub of the family farm he knew as a youngster. He grew up on a working farm in upstate New York with 10 brothers and sisters. He later helped his father turn some apple, nut and peach orchards into vineyards.
The winery produces about 15,000 cases a year.
Starting with cabernet sauvignon from estate vineyards, CrossBarn followed with chardonnay, pinot noir, rosé and now a sauvignon blanc. All are well made and affordable.
Generally, the cabs come from Napa and Sonoma, the pinot noir from the Anderson Valley and Sonoma, and the rest from Sonoma.
The Paul Hobbs winery opened in Sebastopol in 1991. Those wines usually sell out quickly, with demand far outstripping supply. To help satisfy that demand, and specifically to reach younger drinkers, Hobbs opened CrossBarn with a separate facility in a former apple packing warehouse, also in Sebastapol.
Both Paul Hobbs and CrossBarn use sustainable vineyard practices and gentle, non-intrusive winemaking.
After graduating from UC Davis, Hobbs gained valuable experience with Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Simi, Lewis Cellars, Bodegas Catena and others.
In addition to Paul Hobbs Winery and Crossbarn, Hobbs co-owns Viña Cobos in Argentina, and through Paul Hobbs Imports he brings to the United States some of the wines he has helped create. He also consults with winemakers around the world.
Especially known for his ability to find and develop great vineyards, Hobbs was called the Steve Jobs of wine by Forbes Magazine.
The gorgeous CrossBarn winery in Sebastopol is open to visitors, but you must make an appointment. You also can have a 90-minute tasting experience of the current releases and library wines with a tour of the estate for $45.
The spectacular tasting room designed by architect Howard Backen combines with incredible food and first-rate wines to create a memorable event. The winery is one of a handful that is showing visitors the benefits of proper food and wine pairings.
GOES WITH: We had this pleasant wine with boneless pork chops cooked on the grill, and it was a great match. The lively, fruity taste of pinot noir seems to match with all kinds of pork.
I started with a boneless pork loin and then cut thick slices so the meat would stay juicy while grilling. I used two different rubs on the meat. One was a Hawaiian spice blend that added wonderful flavors. The other rub was a commercial barbecue blend with a colorful name that a friend gave to me, and it added tangy, spicy flavors. Both batches also had a healthy dose of Morton’s Natures Seasons.
I cooked the pork on a medium grill, about 5 minutes on each side, and the meat came out juicy and tasty. We added mashed potatoes, creamed corn, corn on the cob and a salad to complete the feast.
This is a versatile wine, and will pair well with many kinds of food, including roast duck, roast chicken, flavorful beef and veal stews and even hamburgers on the grill. With the handy screw cap closure, the wine is a natural for picnics or boat rides.