Visitors are taken by the pastoral beauty of HammerSky Vineyards & Inn. Surrounded by rolling hills and peppered with age-old oak trees, the contemporary-style tasting room adds a bold impact to the rural setting and the century old farmhouse turned inn.
HammerSky is located along Vineyard Drive on Paso Robles’ westside, and the focus here is on Bordeaux style wines. “We are Cab-centric,” said proprietor Douglas Hauck. “We are trying to keep true to the terroir.”
Douglas and Kim Hauck acquired this picturesque 50-acre property in 2007. “The deal was done at the mail box,” Douglas recalled of the day he met the owner and purchased the ranch.
The couple had looked around other regions in Central Coast but decided to settle here. “Because of the Paso vibe,” commented Hauck. “It had all the parameters, water source, vines and the house on the property.” For the winery’s name the couple combined those of their sons, Hamilton and Skylar; thus the catchy HammerSky.
The farmhouse was once home to a Mennonite pastor and his family as there was a church nearby which burnt down in the late 1970s, Hauck explained of the historical property. “Jesse James had a house across,” he points to the area behind his ranch. There was a creek nearby where James, the 19th century outlaw, liked to swim and so that house came to be known as his ‘swim house.’
Of the 50-acre property, 25 acres are under vine planted to red grape varieties including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and zinfandel. Red wine production is done from all estate fruit and for white wines grapes are sourced from the Santa Ynez Valley wine region.
Located in the cooler Templeton Gap section, HammerSky straddles Paso Robles’ two sub-appellations – Willow Creek and Adelaida. The breeze from the ocean softens the tannins, Hauck noted. “They cook all day and cool down at night.”
HammerSky’s winemaker is Rich Hartenberger but the blender-master is Hauck. “I grow it and blend it.” A dentist by profession, with an Orange County practice, Hauck has also dabbled in film production and Internet start-ups. But he’s very much hands on when it comes to wine production.
Small lots of hand-crafted wines here have finesse and elegance. Annual production of 5,000 cases focuses on quality not quantity. Current tasting lineup includes all 2012 vintages. The Red Handed Merlot is rich with plums notes and the Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon has a lush mouthfeel with complex black raspberry and cinnamon flavors.
Party of Four is a well balanced blend of merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet sauvignon and the estate grown zinfandel sings with bracing acidity and hints of burnt caramel. The Open Invite is a blend of zinfandel and merlot and packed with strawberry notes, a perfect pasta and barbecue wine.
HammerSky’s new edgier label called Naughty Princess sports risqué labels such as hand cuffs and (actual) mug shots. Fruit for this label is sourced from Lodi and Santa Ynez Valley. Detained is a fresh sparkling wine that’s ideal as an aperitif, Innocent is a crisp chardonnay laced with pineapple notes while Guilty Cabernet Sauvignon shows hints of cloves and black pepper.
HammerSky practices sustainable farming. Vineyards are pesticide-free and cover crops are used for weed control and once ground sheep manure as compost, explained vineyard manager Mindy Allen. “We are trying to be good stewards of the land,”
The HammerSky Inn is a popular romantic wine country getaway, and the Haucks spent some years restoring the old farmhouse into a charming inn. The vintage farmhouse exterior belies the luxurious contemporary furnishings interior. “There’s a Scarlett O’Hara feeling,” commented Hauck. “Architecture is different but the palette is the same.”
Adjacent to the inn, the post-and-beam barn was constructed in New Hampshire and shipped here to the ranch. Both the inn and barn are popular wedding venues.
“The house and the environment have good vibes,” Hauck said proudly of his property, and so do Hauck’s HammerSky wines.
HammerSky Winery tasting room is open 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