Visit to Hourglass Winery – Calistoga

On May 10th, 2016 I got the privilege to visit and taste wines at Hourglass Winery.

I was at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in Saint Helena enjoying happy hour at the bar.  As always, I was perusing their ever-changing wines by the glass when I asked about the Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot. Normally I would never drink a 2013 Merlot due to the huge amount of tannins, but I figured at 18 dollars a glass (which is fairly high) why not try a sip.

I asked the bartender about the Hourglass merlot and he said that the owner had been in and brought some that they could sell. He said it was really hard to get which, of course, peaked my interest. He gave me about an ounce in a glass. I could tell just by smelling it that it was no ordinary merlot. It had a nice oak hint on the nose that you would usually find in a cabernet. At first taste, it was a nice fruity balance with hints of oak and dark fruit.  The texture was smooth with enough tannins to add structure but still nice and velvety.

I immediately ordered a glass (or two) and started plotting on how I was going to get on this list to buy wine. First I went on the Hourglass website and filled out a form to get on their waiting list for allocation. If you don’t know about allocation, it is when a winery that makes low quantities of wine put people on a list and assign you a certain amount of wine every release. They don’t have a standard wine club you can join. Normally there is a wait list and basically you can wait for years until someone leaves. I have a few that I have been on for 2 years now and still no word.

After going to Cindy’s Backstreet a couple more times and drinking/buying all the bottles I could get my hands on, I figured the standard waiting list wasn’t going to work for me. I wanted more Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot and I also wanted to try their cabernet sauvignon. I mean if a merlot tasted this good, imagine what the cab would be like.

I, by no means, hold a grudge over merlot like most people. Just because Paul Giamatti said he hated merlot in Sideways doesn’t mean I abandoned all hope like everyone else. (By the way, that was merlot he drank out of a paper cup at the end of the movie). I find that I like old merlots because the newer ones are always so tannic. That is until I tried the 2013 Hourglass Merlot.

I few weeks later I was visiting a friend who works at Elyse Winery, another small boutique winery with some very nice wines. I was telling her about the Hourglass and how badly I wanted it. She piped up and said, “I know someone that works there.” She immediately sent an email and copied me saying that we lived in Saint Helena and that we really wanted to visit to the winery to taste some wine. After emailing a few times back and forth, I had a date set for the 10th of May. I was IN!

My friend Kim, that got me in, gave me a couple pointers. She said don’t be late and buy a lot of wine. This is not the sort of tasting where you walk in, try some wine, and tip 5 dollars. This is a serious, intimate wine tasting with the purpose of getting as much wine as possible. When we walked in, we were greeted by Marybeth who also lives in Saint Helena (and lived on our street). She took us into the winery where we talked about the wine a little and did some barrel tastings of the cab and merlot. Then we walked into this:

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Our lineup of wines we would be tasting
The tasting cave at Hourglass Winery
The tasting cave at Hourglass Winery
  • 2013 Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot
  • 2014 Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot
  • 2014 Hourglass Blueline Estate Malbec
  • 2013 Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

We sat down in this amazing cave for our private tasting of ALL the releases. I was thrilled to start the tasting. We started with the merlots and cabs.  I had already had the 2013 several times and again it didn’t disappoint. Still smooth and silky with the right amount of oak. What I wasn’t expecting was that I would love the 2014 even more.

The 2014 was even more delicious than the 2013. I figured having just being released, it was not going to be as good as the merlot a year older. Apparently a famous wine critic (I won’t name names) had apparently thought the same thing a few weeks earlier.

Moving onto the cabs and the malbec, every single wine was fabulous. Even their flagship Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing but I was stuck on the Merlot. It’s hard to find a drink now and drink later merlot with the exception of my short list. We ended up walking out with 13 bottles of wine (my husband talked her into an extra estate cab). I received my wine, my allocation and my private tasting and my ticket to private events. Marybeth was a gracious host. I can’t think of a better tasting I have had so far. But I still go to Cindy’s to drink their Hourglass, just so I don’t run out of mine 😉

Enjoy.. Wine Ho

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