The big time

Drove two and a half hours in nasty traffic to a wine release party in LA. I had to be there because I didn’t want to miss out on anything HammerSky. The winery is owned by Doug and Kim Hauck of Newport Beach and with Paso on fire they are really coming into their own: building a tasting room, tending to reservations at the gorgeous farmhouse surrounded by vineyards, and hosting this swizzy event at BLT Steak in West Hollywood. 
The scene was so LA. Right on Sunset, valet the only  parking option, tray-passed hors d’oeuvres, Urban Decay goodie bags, and a password required to get into the reserve part of the tasting. I half expected to see a room full of wine writers, maybe even Anthony Dias Blue who was at the last tasting I attended there.
Instead it was a lively party of Doug and Kim’s friend. Loads of interesting people: writers who weren’t journalists, a foodie who bought the Sierra Nevada Lodge in Mammoth and is setting up three gourmet restaurants there, a jazz pianist/studio musician coming out of retirement who is also some kind of long distance swimmer. Chef Steve Samson, who opened Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa for David Myers, was also schmoozing, talking about his latest soon-to-open resto.
The hearty wines fueled the conversation, of course. I love their Estate Rosé, right, and so did a lot of other tasters who kept returning to that table. It’s full of deep fruit flavors, not a flowery, delicate French saignée. Their “Red Handed” Merlot 2008 ($39) is no delicate creature either, you could drink it with steak but it paired well with mini pork belly paninis and spicy chorizo with mussels served on Chinese spoons.
The red blends are the backbone of HammerSky Vineyard’s portfolio.  Their outstanding zin blends were poured including “Open Invitation,” a merlot, zin, petite sirah mix ($39) and the 2008 Zinfandel Estate Reserve which is 90 percent zin with a 10 percent splash of petite sirah ($39). In “Invitation” the zin really sings through and you’ve got to try it back-to-back with the estate reserve to see the beauty of that fruit, so make sure you buy both bottles. I like the touch of petite that gives it a brambly backbone and keeps it from being jammy.
Of course the biggest thrill was talking our way into the inner sanctum–we didn’t know the password so go ahead and laugh at a middle-aged couple that still doesn’t get that whole prohibition hipster movement. That’s where we tasted their powerful “Party of Four”  ($45) and “Limited Resource” ($45) Bordeaux blends. Here the wines were decanted—which I would recommend with any of HammerSky’s reds, they really open up. “Party” has merlot, malbec, petite verdot and cab franc and it will knock your socks off. “Limited” has cab, merlot, and cab franc and it will bowl you over, too. A 2007 “Limited Resources” cabernet blend was one of  our favorites, showy and tasting very elegant right now.
What fun to be in that private dining room, sipping Paso wine from an O.C. vintner, alternately looking at the lights of the city through a picture window and gazing through a glass wall into a “library” that included everything from Ramey to Romanée Conti. We felt we were keeping great company and so were HammerSky’s wines.—Anne Valdespino

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