In 1974, the Smith horse ranch and the Hook cattle ranch were converted into vineyards. A good 250 acres of vines were planted there, split between Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Thus was the Smith and Hook Estate created as a Cabernet Sauvignon “chateau”.
Our selection comes from the Lone Oak Estate, a separate entity, owned and operated by these same people, the Nicholaus Hahn family. Located on the Santa Lucia Highlands, overlooking Monterey County’s fertile Salinas Valley, cooled by off-shore bay breezes, these sun-drenched vineyards enjoy a microclimate ideal for wine.
Once, returning south from a Monterey Bay weekend, I drove through this area with my wife and daughter. We took the back road, Route G-17, to try a short cut (as well as to relieve ourselves from the touristy hustle and bustle of Cannery Row). Driving through some of the most soothing agricultural countryside imaginable, we passed acre upon acre of this firm’s plush, beautiful vineyards. Our discovery was, however, that viticulture was not new to this area. A few miles down the road we stopped at “the old Soledad Mission”, a landmark of early California history (we had passed it and just had to go back). Next to the crumbling old buildings, remained just a few of what had to be the oldest grape vine stocks I have ever seen, big and thick around, almost like tree trunks! (These were, more than likely, of the so-called “Mission” variety.) When it came to matters of the vine, the mission padres obviously had their priorities straight.
This wine, on the other hand, was produced from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Originally from France’s Bordeaux region, Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape in most chateau bottled reds produced there. When transplanted to other districts, the variety maintains its ability to yield full-bodied, long-lived wines, distinguished in flavor and elegance.
This fine example sports an inky-dark red color. The nose has lots of fruit, with hints of pear, strawberry and a touch of hay, typical of the Monterey style. It is very smooth on the palate; dry, but with pleasing fruit flavors and just a hint of tannin. The finish is clean with the fruit flavors lingering on.
Serve at room temperature with roast leg of lamb, or fowl roasted in a cherry or berry sauce.
Cellaring Notes: Ready now, but will complex through 1994.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper