On my way back to the Bay Area from my SoCal wine journey, I was set up with a timely visit with Augie Hug, of Hug Cellars in Paso Robles. Timely because it both fit my schedule and because his 2006s were ready to be tasted in barrel. If you read no further, know that I couldn't leave without buying a half a case of their expressive, carefully made Pinot Noir and Syrahs.
Hug's output is around 1200 cases a year, which makes it likely that the winery has flown under your radar, but I hope I can change that. Hug works with some of the finest fruit from Ontiveros Ranch, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo along with getting guidance from some of the areas best; Paul Wilkins of Native9/Alta Maria, and John Alban of Alban Vineyards. Augie made a name for himself early on with Syrahs, but his Pinots are also really special. If you're lucky enough to see a Hug wine on a wine list, or in your favorite wine boutique shelf, grab it. Chances are you'll find it full of character and a great sense of terroir.
2006 Hug Cellars Cedar Lane Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir (barrel taste)
Remarkable wines come from this old granite riverbed property in Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. The '06 Pinot is still tight, with a pretty closed nose, but the dark fruit finish goes on and on. This is a lighter style Pinot, so don't mistake it for a chewy blockbuster. This should be a winner though, like the sold-out 2005.
2006 Hug Cellars Rancho Ontiveros Pinot Noir (barrel taste)
This is made in a very elegant style, a little lighter than the Native9 treatment of the same fruit, but still has the burst of red fruits and earthy minerality that marks Santa Maria Valley Pinots. Highly recommended.
2006 Hug Cellars El Pape - Central Coast Blend (barrel taste)
Augie's homage to the Rhone Valley. Grenache, Mouvedre, and Syrah. Like a big and fruity Chateauneuf. I'm not sure what the price of this will be, but it should be a very good value.
2006 Hug Cellars Cedar Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Arroyo Seco
Big, grassy and a bit tart. Done in New Zealand style, but with fruit that got more heat. Not my favorite, but still a quality SB. I think this is only available locally and at the tasting room.
2006 Hug Cellars Cedar Lane Viognier, Arroyo Seco
I immediately said "creamsickle" when I tasted this, and apparently this is exactly what Augie's wife, Raquel said too. Unfiltered and 100% mild new oak, the wine shines with huge perfume of citrus and cream along with mineral qualities. Recommended.
2005 Hug Cellars Cedar Lane Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco (Sold out)
Fresh raspbeiires, a little dried citrus, and a beautiful balance and roundness that the 2006 didn't have quite yet. It makes me think everyone should get their hands on the 2006s as soon as they come out if they transform into this after a year more bottle age.
2005 Hug Cellars Syrah Paso Robles
A bit of the Paso jammyness on this one, mostly reminiscent of boyesenberries. Ripe and pretty tanic.
2005 Hug Cellars Syrah Cedar Lane, Arroyo Seco
The cooler clime of Monterey County brings out more pepper than jam, with nice floral undertones. Recommended.
2003 Hug Cellars Syrah Bassetti Vineyards, San Luis Obispo (Cambria)
Cocoa, licorice, and white pepper with a little dried fruit. Smells a little like the sea (in a good way). Great to see what some age does for Augie's bigger wines. Age mellows out the tannins and brings out more earthy chewiness.
2005 Hug Cellars Bassetti Vineyard "Rena Block" Syrah
This is the blockbuster, 50% whole cluster syrah that is meant to age. New, it's a huge mouthful and very heady. Grippy tannins give it a wild feel to it that begs for 5 more years in the cellar to round everything off. So glad I left with one to age! Recommended.