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MEMBER PRESS: PASO ROBLES WINE COUNTRY ALLIANCE MEMBER PRESS

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2011-08-23
Media Contact: W. BLAKE GRAY
Website: http://WINEREVIEWONLINE.COM

NEWSFLASH: EMPIRE MAKES WINE

NEWSFLASH:
EMPIRE
MAKES
WINE
By
W.
Blake
Gray
For
a
powerful
family
company,
particularly
one
whose
founders
are
legends
of
the
silver
screen,
Hearst
has
not
recently
been
a
brand
name
seen
often.
Example:
did
you
know
Hearst
is
America's
leading
source
of
tips
that
“He's
cheating
on
you,”
or
“ways
to
spice
up
your
love
life?”
Hearst
owns
(and
makes
a
great
deal
of
money
from)
Cosmopolitan
magazine,
which
is
not
a
secret,
but
the
company
doesn't
feel
the
need
to
put
its
name
in
the
title.
Thus
it's
a
little
surprising
that
last
year,
Steve
Hearst
-­‐-­‐
great-­‐grandson
of
newspaper
baron
William
Randolph
Hearst
-­‐-­‐
entered
into
a
joint
venture
to
put
the
family
name
on
wine
bottles.
I
was
a
little
surprised
to
be
invited
to
San
Simeon
to
write
about
it
because
I
used
to
work
for
Hearst
at
the
San
Francisco
Chronicle,
but
took
a
buyout
in
2007.
Hearst
Corp.
could
order
Jon
Bonné
to
cover
the
story;
me
they
had
to
entice
down
the
coast
with
a
trail
of
Hearst
Ranch
steaks.
Will
work
for
meat!
Hearst
Ranch
Winery
released
its
first
wines
last
year
under
the
direction
of
partner
Jim
Saunders,
who
got
into
the
industry
20
years
ago
as
a
construction
guy,
building
wineries
and
winery
additions
for
Wild
Horse,
Treana
and
Liberty
School.
Saunders
planted
vines
on
his
own
ranch
because
he
thought
it
would
be
fun
to
have
grapes
to
sell
to
his
construction
clients,
and
soon
found
himself
in
the
bulk
wine
business.
But
when
business
soured
for
unbranded
wines,
Saunders
started
looking
around
for
a
partner.
It's
hard
to
imagine
a
better
one:
Not
only
do
the
Hearsts
have
more
money
than
some
countries;
they
also
have
all
that
untapped
brand
equity.
In
1957,
the
Hearst
family
gave
the
unfinished
but
still
awe-­‐inspiring
Hearst
castle
to
the
state
of
California.
With
the
launch
of
the
wines,
a
tasting
room
across
the
street
from
the
castle's
visitor
center,
and
Hearst
Ranch
grass-­‐fed
beef
for
sale
in
said
visitor
center
(which
is
on
Hearst
land),
that
gift
suddenly
looks
like
a
brilliant
long-­‐term
investment.
Going
to
San
Simeon
now
means
complete
brand
immersion.
We
came,
we
saw
Hearst,
we
ate
Hearst,
we
drank
Hearst,
we
bought
the
Hearst
t-­‐shirt.
If
you're
there,
don't
miss
the
French
dip
sandwich
made
with
Hearst
ranch
beef
at
the
150-­‐year-­‐old
Sebastian's
food
store
that
shares
a
building
with
the
tasting
room.
I'd
blather
on
about
sustainably
grass-­‐fed
cattle
if
this
site
were
Meat
Review
Online,
but
let's
stick
to
the
grape,
shall
we?
While
the
Hearst
family
has
secured
permission
to
plant
vineyards
on
its
80,000-­‐acre
ranch
-­‐-­‐
not
a
given
since
they
entered
into
a
perpetual
conservation
agreement
with
the
state
-­‐-­‐
they
haven't
done
so
yet,
and
indeed
the
ranch
is
so
far
west,
abutting
the
Pacific
Ocean,
that
even
Pinot
Noir
might
not
make
it.
So
Hearst
Ranch
is
a
bit
of
a
misnomer
on
the
bottles,
because
the
bulk
of
the
grapes
come
from
Saunders'
100-­‐acre
ranch
north
of
Paso
Robles,
where
temperatures
reach
triple
digits
during
the
summer.
Yet
even
saying
that,
of
the
winery's
11
initial
releases,
only
one
is
100%
estate
fruit,
and
that's
a
Tempranillo
rosé
that
sold
out
to
the
wine
club.
Such
is
the
potential
power
of
the
name
and
the
location:
most
year-­‐old
wineries
would
love
to
even
have
wine-­‐club
members.
But
Hearst
is
no
ordinary
brand
launch:
the
wine
is
already
in
distribution
in
26
states,
with
more
on
the
way.
While
the
company's
beef
strategy
is
to
vertically
integrate
and
go
all-­‐estate,
there's
no
way
it
can
maintain
the
wine
brand
without
buying
ever
more
grapes.
In
fact,
I
speculate
that
vineyard
purchases
could
be
in
the
Hearsts'
future.
For
now,
Saunders
has
five
varieties
on
his
75
planted
acres:
Petite
Sirah,
Petit
Verdot,
Syrah,
Malbec
and
Tempranillo.
He
originally
had
Cabernet
Sauvignon
but
he
grafted
it
over.
"It
must
have
been
the
soil
type;
the
Cab
came
out
vegetal,"
Saunders
says.
"I
grafted
over
to
Malbec
and
Tempranillo
on
a
whim.
I've
been
very
happy
with
it."
The
first
excellent
wine
to
bear
the
name
is
Hearst
Ranch
Paso
Robles
Malbec
2009
($30),
which
I
tasted
multiple
times
and
never
tired
of
because
it
doesn't
get
boring.
It's
a
gamy,
edgy
wine
that
opens
with
good
acidity
and
intense
cherry
fruit
and
just
when
you
think
it's
going
to
go
feral,
it
surprises
you
with
floral
notes
and
a
bit
of
leafiness
thanks
to
the
7%
Cabernet
Franc.
I
don't
think
it's
a
coincidence
that
my
favorite
wine
is
mostly
estate
fruit.
I
also
liked
the
top-­‐of-­‐the-­‐line
Hearst
Ranch
"The
Point"
Paso
Robles
Special
Reserve
2007
($70).
It's
a
mostly-­‐Bordeaux-­‐blend
with
a
touch
of
Syrah,
and
while
it
packs
a
hefty
15.5%
alcohol,
it
opens
with
sufficient
acidity
to
cut
through
a
steak,
delivers
nice
red
berry
and
cherry
flavors,
and
finishes
with
thick
tannins
and
a
darker
note.
Adam
LaZarre,
formerly
of
Monterey's
Hahn
Estates,
is
the
consulting
winemaker.
Saunders
runs
the
day-­‐to-­‐day
operations
himself
-­‐-­‐
trust
a
construction
guy
to
get
things
done
on
schedule
-­‐-­‐
with
help
from
viticulturist
Jeremy
Leffert.
How
involved
are
the
Hearsts?
"Steve
Hearst
is
very
involved,"
Saunders
says,
even
though
the
wine
business
is
like
a
gnat
buzzing
in
the
ear
of
a
$15
billion
company.
"He
really
likes
the
wine
business.
He
tells
everyone
about
it."
I
wish
I
could
have
asked
him
myself,
but
Steve
Hearst
was
on
an
annual
weeklong
family
drinking-­‐and-­‐deer
hunting
outing
on
the
ranch
with
his
84-­‐year-­‐old
father
George
Hearst
Jr.,
chairman
of
the
board
of
the
corporation.
I
confess
that,
even
though
I
don't
work
for
the
Hearsts
anymore,
I'm
enough
of
a
newspaper
history
buff
to
be
something
of
a
Hearst
groupie.
I
mean,
how
many
newspaper
publishers
can
claim
to
have
started
their
own
war?
William
Randolph
Hearst
hired
away
most
of
the
staff
from
his
rival
Joseph
Pulitzer,
who
actually
had
as
much
to
do
as
Hearst
with
the
creation
of
yellow
journalism
(a
clear
precursor
to
today's
blogosophere).
Yet
do
they
give
investigative
reporters
a
Hearst
Prize?
Fortunately,
W.
R.
Hearst
has
had
his
revenge
on
Pulitzer
from
beyond
the
grave.
There
may
not
be
a
Hearst
Prize,
but
I
haven't
yet
drunk
a
Pulitzer
Malbec.

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