The Hope family came to Paso Robles in 1978 and established themselves as grapegrowers. From the beginning, they’ve been committed to the concept of giving consumers a quality product at a reasonable price.
They are probably best known for Liberty School, which began as the second label of Caymus in the 1980s. The Hope family bought the label back in 1995, and have taken the brand to new heights. Austin Hope, the second generation, is making an interesting range of wines with a sure and steady hand.
Liberty School remains one of California’s outstanding values. The Chardonnay ($11) is nicely balanced, with ripe flavors of citrus and melon balanced against good acidity. The smooth, ripe Syrah ($11) is filled with flavors of dark plums and berries accented by pepper, anise and minerals. The Cabernet ($13) is easily the best of the group—full-bodied and beautifully made, brimming with blackberry essence, crushed fresh herbs, and bright acidity that makes you want to take another sip and another glass.
Paso Robles is known for Rhone-style blends. The Hope family’s Treana label made its debut in 1996, around the same time as their neighbor Tablas Creek. The white blend ($21) is rich and unctuous, displaying a good balance between the minerality of the Marsanne (55%) and the lush texture of the Viognier (45%). The Treana red ($38), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, is fresh and bright, displaying luscious blackberry fruit and supple tannins.
Hope is spending a great deal of time studying tannins, with a focus on how to get them to exhibit denseness and richness on the palate. He is also experimenting with several non-vintage blends. Westside Red ($15), a combination of Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre, contains barrel-aged wine from 2007 and 2008 along with neweer wine from the 2009 vintage. He follows a similar course with his Candor Merlot ($20). In both cases, the multi-vintage blending allows him to produce a wine with a lower alcohol level, and his tannin research has resulted in big reds that are soft and drinkable.
Anyone lucky enough to snap a bottle of the Austin Hope Grenache or Syrah ($42) is in for a treat. These low-production wines are made from grapes farmed on the west side of Paso. For the Syrah, Hope uses four clones from France, and has set the goal of emulating Cote-Rotie. He’s well on his way.