Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Wines of Hyde de Villaine: A Slice of Burgundy in the Heart of Napa!

de Villaine, Hyde & Vivier
During our trip to California last month, we had the pleasure of discovering a very special yet easily overlooked gem nestled among a landscape of grand entrances and impressive architecture in the Napa Valley.

Hyde de Villaine, or HdV, is an unassuming winery with a very impressive pedigree. It is first and foremost a family affair, representing a collaboration between Hyde Vineyards of Napa Valley and Aubert and Pamela de Villaine of Burgundy. The connection? Aubert de Villaine's wife, Pamela happens to be Larry Hyde's first cousin.

Larry Hyde was born into one of California's oldest farming families and brought his love of wine and soil to the Napa Valley over thirty years ago. In 1979 he made the decision to purchase the land in Carneros that would later become Hyde Vineyards, and his career has been devoted to the expression of Carneros terroir. Aubert de Villaine is one of Burgundy's most well-known and respected individuals. He is proprietor of one of the world's most legendary wine estates, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, also referred to as DRC, which produces some of the world's most renowned wines, which also happen to be some of the most expensive. In addition to DRC and HdV, he also owns and operates A & P de Villaine with his wife Pamela in Bouzeron. To their partnership in the Napa Valley, de Villaine brings the foundation upon which HdV bases its theory and practices.

Stéphane Vivier & Moi
During our visit to the winery we had the pleasure of meeting Stéphane Vivier, winemaker for HdV since 2002. The charming and affable Vivier was born and raised in France and has studied winemaking and viticulture in Burgundy a number of other countries around the world including Switzerland, New Zealand and California. His goal as winemaker is to channel the nuance and elegance of Burgundy through the prism of exceptional California fruit and Carneros terroir. HdV was established in 2000 and definitely falls into the category of a boutique winery. The winery's total yearly production is just 3,000 cases with all of the fruit being sourced from Hyde Vineyards. Vivier shared much about the history of the winery and guided us through a delightful tasting of the HdV wines. 

The Lineup!
There is a rich historic legacy behind the wines of HdV. Featured prominently on the bottles is a coat of arms representing the de la Guerra family, one of the oldest documented families in California. Pamela de Villaine and the Hydes are descendants of this family and the presence of the coat of arms is meant to symbolize the sense of tradition, family and winemaking history embodied in this endeavor.

Our tasting of the HdV wines began with the 2010 De La Guerra Chardonnay ($45). On the nose were inviting aromas of citrus and minerals followed by a fresh and focused palate featuring subtle nuances of oak that beautifully highlighted the wine's floral and citrus notes. Made from from 15-17 year old vines this wine was aged in  a combination of neutral oak, concrete egg and stainless steel for eight months. Vivier eschews the use of batonnage or lees stirring and has refrained from using it since 2005. His reason? To truly capture the Carneros terroir in the glass, not the winemaking. He likens battonage to makeup used to conceal flaws and stressed the importance of doing the work in the vineyard in order to avoid compensating through various winemaking techniques. This wine demonstrated a delightful integration of Burgundian elegance and California opulence.

Next was the 2009 HdV Chardonnay ($60) crafted from 20-30 year old vines. A study in restrained elegance, this wine had subtle notes of citrus, stone fruit and spice with a lovely mineral character. It was aged for 15 months, 12 months in oak (20% new) as well as stainless steel. Vivier stressed the importance of stainless steel in the production of his Chardonnays explaining how it, "brings focus to the wines." The '09 Chardonnay is also unfiltered and unfined further demonstrating his "hands-off" approach to winemaking that truly lets the exceptional Hyde vineyard terroir shine through. Like the '10 De La Guerra, this wine was beautifully balanced although with more complexity.

Our first red wine of the tasting was the 2007 HdV "Californio" Hyde Vineyard Syrah ($50) whose name refers to the early California settlers or "Californios" who brought Old World sophistication to the Western shores of the US. This lovely Rhone-inspired selection was crafted from 12-15 year old vines and was rife with notes of black currant, roasted herbs and black pepper as well as a lovely minerality. As with each wine before it, it was well-balanced and very approachable although it could benefit from some bottle age as well. When asked what dish he would recommend pairing with this wine, Vivier had two different yet delicious suggestions: Ahi Tuna with soy sauce and sesame oil, or the French classic Blanquette de Veau.

Our final wine of the tasting was the 2007 HdV Belle Cousine ($60) which translates to "beautiful cousin," so named for Pamela de Villaine, Larry Hyde's first cousin. A Bordeaux-inspired blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon this wine exhibited enticing notes of black currant, sweet cedar and spice along with firm, chewy tannins. Much like the Syrah the '07 Belle Cousine was approachable yet would also benefit from some additional time in the bottle. As with all the other wine we sampled, the Belle Cousine was deliciously food friendly and had me instantly craving roasted lamb.

If you are a fan of Burgundy or enjoy a more restrained, elegant style of wine, the wines of Hyde de Villaine are a definite must! A big thank you to Stéphane for taking the time to meet with us and if you happen to be out in the Napa Valley be sure to add a stop to HdV to your itinerary.



  1. Glad you had such a wonderful time. Very informative article. I am a fan of HdV and A et P de Villaine. Thank you.

  2. Glad you had such a wonderful time. Very informative article. I am a fan of HdV and A et P de Villaine. Thank you.


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