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Paul Hobbs unveils the fresher side of Napa

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By venturing into the unique Coombsville AVA, the renowned Californian producer introduced a new, singular expression of Cabernet Sauvignon to his portfolio.

Nestled in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains, east of the City of Napa, the Coombsville AVA is a relatively undiscovered sub-appellation of Napa Valley, that is only now beginning to be appreciated for the unique identity of its terroir and wines. Volcanic soils, topography, and a cooler climate, influenced by the proximity to the San Pablo Bay, make this appellation an outlier in the region.

A unique expression of Cabernet

The volcanic make-up of the soils, in tandem with the long, slow ripening season, yield a particular expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with a filigreed tannic structure and finely etched aromatic profile. It was this fruit, as well as the singularity of the Coombsville terroir, that seduced Paul Hobbs when he first started sourcing grapes in the area in 1996. ‘Vines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, love these well-drained rocky sites,’ he explains. ‘The fruit from Coombsville is distinctive. It has a unique flavour and texture profile. It has structure and direction.’

Taken with the overlooked charm of the bay-influenced region, Hobbs eventually purchased the Nathan Coombs Estate in 2012, in what he calls ‘a turning point’ for his eponymous winery. ‘It gave us our first Cabernet property in Napa Valley,’ he notes. These were the first holdings of Paul Hobbs beyond Sonoma, adding another string to the winemaker’s bow.

Owner and Winemaker Paul Hobbs | Credit: Wildly Simple Productions

With average daily high temperatures as much as 12°C cooler than most other Napa Valley AVAs, and a frequent maritime air-infused fog during the growing season, the fruit reaches an incredible level of phenolic complexity at a lower alcohol content. ‘What I love about Coombsville is the freshness, brightness and energy of the wines. That’s something unique in the Napa Valley,’ concludes Hobbs.

Nathan Coombs Estate | Credit: Wildly Simple Productions

On the world’s stage

With the acquisition of the Nathan Coombs site, Paul Hobbs added an estate wine to the already renowned regional Napa Valley appellation blend, which was later updated to reflect the Coombsville sub-AVA. The winemaking approach for both labels is the same, with an uncompromising focus on purity and terroir expressiveness. The grapes are harvested at night, strictly by hand and brought to the winery before sunrise. A careful, gentle selection process follows, after which the destemmed fruit is fed by gravity to the fermenters. The grapes are spontaneously fermented in stainless steel, aged in oak barrels for 20 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered. This precise yet hands-off philosophy acts as a mere vehicle for both the Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon and Nathan Coombs Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to shine in the glass.

2020 Cristina’s Signature, released exclusively on La Place de Bordeaux in 2023 | Credit: Paul Hobbs Winery

Cristina’s Signature, a new single vineyard blend from the Napa Valley Estate was chosen as Paul Hobbs’ first release on the renowned La Place de Bordeaux in September 2023. This echoes the winemaker’s belief in the appellation’s potential, present and future, to yield wines that set a benchmark of their own.

Paul Hobbs’ Coombsville AVA wines: 

Both wines are available in the UK via Alliance Wines

Paul Hobbs Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

100% Cabernet Sauvignon
20 months in French oak barrels, 71% new
The nose is pure, fresh and inviting, with dark black fruits, cedar and spices. On the palate, silken waves of deep purple and black fruits are intermixed with a panoply of dried herbs. Refreshing, upfront acidity creates balance and tension throughout. Showing incredible mouthfeel and tension at the time of writing, this will be a wine to enjoy over the next couple of decades.
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Paul Hobbs Nathan Coombs Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 

100% Cabernet Sauvignon
20 months in French oak barrels, 96% new
Paul Hobbs decided to name his estate vineyard in Coombsville after the founder of the City of Napa, Nathan Coombs, who played a decisive role in the region’s early development. The vineyard is located inside the crater of the ancient volcano that formed the region’s geology, and the soil’s unique composition is showcased in the fine mineral textural and filigreed aromas of this estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The exceptional 2019 vintage yielded a particularly expressive wine, with a generous and diverse bouquet of blackcurrant, black cherry, crème de cassis and tobacco leaf. Graceful yet elegant, with a posed yet focused backbone, it fills the mouth with a luscious fruit core, lifted by pulsing acidity and graphite and thyme nuances. The soft tannins carry the wine through to its long finish.
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