Hyde Wines. In 2006 long time Napa grower Larry Hyde acquired a 25 acre piece of property on Los Carneros Ave a very short drive off of busy Highway 121 (almost across from the Carneros Inn). At the time this parcel was not planted to vines; it was an old pear and apple orchard. Hyde had nearly all the remaining fruit trees removed and planted both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He had the foresight to plant around a patch of land roughly in the center of the vineyard. This was left for a future winery – construction began on the winery in 2014 and was finished in summer of 2017.
Larry Hyde has a long history of farming grapes in the Napa Valley dating back to 1979 when his father Richard first purchased property in what is now the Napa side of Carneros. Prior to becoming a grape grower Larry spent several years working at select wineries including at Ridge Vineyards and then Joseph Phelps. Larry also has an interesting connection to Burgundy – he met his wife Beta (originally from Poland) while working a harvest at one of the world’s most storied wineries, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy. And this is not his only connection to DRC – his first cousin, Pamela is the wife of Aubert de Villaine, the co-owner and director of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. In fact, Larry is also a partner with Aubert in Napa’s HDV Vineyards (producing premium Chardonnay among other wines). And in 2020, he was awarded the prestigious Napa Grape Grower of Year by the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association.
Larry’s family history in California dates back to the late 1700’s. He is a descendant of José de la Guerra a prominent rancher and Spanish Military Officer who spent time in San Diego, Monterey and Santa Barbara in the early to mid 1800s. His namesake is on several Santa Barbara locations including the De La Guerra Plaza. This is a very historical part of town; it where the first Santa Barbara city council met in 1850 and is one of the Santa Barbara’s original parks. And of course, one of the border streets is called de le Guerra Street. Incidentally the offices for the Santa Barbara Press newspaper are here, the oldest daily newspaper in Southern California (first published in 1855).
And the old 13-room family adobe home (with a sizable courtyard), Casa De La Guerra dates back to the 1828 and is where José de la Guerra lived until his passing in 1858 – although de la Guerra heirs lived here until 1943. His old house which survived several bad earthquakes including sustaining significant damage in the Fort Tejon earthquake of 1857, and surviving the terrible Santa Barbara earthquake in 1925 – this quake leveled much of the town which was rebuilt with old Spanish style architecture) is now a museum, a tribute this family, their contributions to California and an interior that represents how life would have looked like during those decades.
Casa De La Guerra, Santa Barbara
Larry’s client lists reads like a whose who of some of Sonoma and Napa’spremium producers including Dumol, Kistler, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs (one of his earliest winery clients), Ramey, Duckhorn, Joseph Phelps and Schramsberg, among others. And some make a vineyard designate from Hyde Vineyards including Duckhorn and Domain Carneros.
And it is not just Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that Larry grows (although these are two of his most produced varieties based on his southern Napa vineyard locations). His vineyards in Carneros are now spread across three locations – the original property and main ranch (between Highway 121 and Old Sonoma Road) – one can see part of this property from the winery (look for the vineyard covered knoll just peaking above the highway), the 25 acres where the winery is now located and approximately 15 acres where he and Betta live.
Despite being so close to this very busy highway and well within visual distance of its often backed up traffic – pulling into the winery brings a sense of calm and quiet. A small reservoir is adjacent to the winery and is home to a number of wildlife – including at times river otters, various birds and turtles.
Note the rustic looking barn as you pull into their short driveway; this was used for drying fruit from when the property was planted to fruit trees. Eventually they plan on remodeling this and potentially offering it as a place mailing club members can stay when in town – or offering selective private tastings. Tastings are often private for your party – either at their wine bar or in a private room. And Larry often stops by the winery as he makes the rounds checking on his various vineyards.
The winery itself is larger then what is needed for their own production (currently around 2,000 cases annually) – they do have space for custom crush clients or those needing barrel storage. And note the impressive Europress – this is so big it took a crane to unload it at the winery upon delivery.
The Hyde family had been making home wine for many years, however their first commercial release under Hyde Wines was in 2009. Larry’s son Peter made the wines from 2009 until 2016. In early 2017, longtime winemaker Alberto Rodriguez was hired (formerly Assistant Winemaker at Patz & Hall and worked at Honig Winery). Alberto has been familiar with fruit from the Hyde Vineyards since 1990 (the first vintage he helped make at Patz & Hall). Their wines are typically produced in very limited quantities – almost always under 500 cases.
The 2014 Merlot was only 80 cases. This wine is elegant yet ripe on the bouquet at the same time. Reveals aromas of red cherries, dried rose petal and cedar box. Medium bodied on the palate there are flavors of red currant and red cherry. The tannins show young (still a bit tight), are slightly dusty but are fairly well integrated. Also lingers with a tartness. Good acidity, a good food wine.
The 2014 Hyde Chardonnay shows big aromatics – lively in the glass it reveals citrus blossom, yellow pineapple and perhaps white peach aromatics along with dessert spices. Great acidity, balance and weight. Lingering notes of lime and lemongrass show on a satisfying finish.
The 2012 Hyde Pinot Noir is from the Hyde’s primary ranch across the highway from the winery. One notices the bouquet immediately with its earthy aromas, mushroom – almost forest floor like at times. The spice is there as soon as this wine was opened but takes a bit more time for the fruit to evolve on the nose. The earthy characteristics of the bouquet do not carry over onto the palate. Very well balanced with flavors of dark raspberry and blackberry. Also fairly robust (for a Pinot Noir) – shows noticeable lingering tannins on the finish.
The 2014 Hyde Pinot Noir is remarkably a much different wine then the 2012 Pinot Noir. This vintage is from the grapes that surround the winery. Bright fruit (blackberry, black currant and black licorice) with a noticeable white pepper spice. Becomes somewhat floral as the wine continues to open with a subtle note of chocolate and mocha in the background. Very balanced – with flavors of plum. Plenty of depth in this wine; drinks well young with good fruit, acidity and tannin development.
The wines are very selectively distributed as one might expect when your production is under 2,000 cases. They have elected to distribute mostly through restaurants rather then retail outlets. Locally, the wines are found at numerous restaurants including Bottega, Bistro Jeanty, Goose & Gander, Torc and Morimotos. And their ‘neighbor’ Carneros Inn also carries some of their wine at the restaurant on site, FARM at Carneros. For more information and to join their mailing list, visit: www.hydewines.com