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Dornfelder…All Other Wines Pale by Comparison!

Each year, Huber Dornfelder continues to amaze. It speaks to terroir, and also speaks of vintage and of winemaking. A local favorite, Dornfelder is still a rather unusual wine to find in California – or even in the United States!

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When friends from their native Germany visited Norman and Traudl Huber at their young vineyard home, they were impressed with the quality of the vines and the precise planting of the vineyard. The cool climate was reminiscent of the vineyards back in Germany and upon their return they decided that the Hubers needed a bit of “the old country” in their new world vineyard. They sent over four Dornfelder vines as a gift – a grape that was bred to produce an early ripening, climate hardy red wine. A few vines didn’t make it, but the surviving ones thrived and produced big, dark and loose clusters of delicious grapes. Over the years, Dornfelder has been grafted and now comprises its own block of vines – enough to produce the unique and intriguing Huber Dornfelder wines. The comparison to Germany’s Dornfelder vines and wines stops at the entrance to the Huber estate vineyard, though. Here, rather than an early ripening grape that produces soft wines, the Dornfelder is the last block to be harvested. The wines are big and bold, full of dark fruit and earthy notes, and wines that benefit with cellaring. The best of both worlds in the glass!

We produce two styles of Dornfelder wines:

  • The Estate Dornfelder wine
  • A barrel-select wine named Charlotte's Reserve.

      Estate Dornfelder, 2006--SOLD OUT

      Little rain throughout 2006 and a temperate and cool summer with few spikes or lows resulted in an extended growing season and almost leisurely harvest. The longer time on the vine, the reduced yields and the more petite berries produced a wine that is reflective of vintage, vineyard and varietal. The grapes were de-stemmed into open top fermenters and punched down gently twice each day during the early days of fermentation. Racked off the skins in order to keep the tannic structure of the wine under control, the young wine was racked to French oak barrels (20% of which were new oak) after the completion of primary fermentation in tank. The wine completed malo-lactic fermentation in barrel and aged for 11 months prior to a light filtration and bottling in August of 2007. Twenty months of bottle aging in perfect cellar conditions allowed the tannins to soften and the wine to integrate.

      The first impression is the astounding dark, inky color of the wine – its signature trait! Almost black, the dark indigo wine sports reddish-purple edges. A swirl produces glycerin-like “legs” as the wine cascades its deep color down the sides of the glass and unleashes a perfumed nose of violets mingling with sweet tobacco leaf, camphor and rich earth. The velvety texture glides the wine across the palate with framboise, pepper spice and red plum skin mingling with blueberry and dried fig, along with a hit of black strap molasses at the finish. Beautiful, bright acidity and superb balance make this a wine that will pair beautifully with grilled meats and rich, ripe soft cheeses. Will continue to improve with 3-5 years of additional cellaring. Guten Apetit and Enjoy!

      Charlotte's Reserve, Barrel-Select Dornfelder, 2006--SOLD OUT

      Dogs are as much a part of vineyard and winery life as grapes or barrels. Around Santa Ynez Valley, it’s almost expected to see a dog in the back of a pickup, accompanying a winegrower through the vines or hanging out in the cool cellar on a hot summer day. And so it was with Norman and Traudl Huber’s canine companion, Charlotte. The smartest puppy in a litter of 12, the Huber’s brought Charlotte home from the Buellton Farmer’s Market thirteen years ago. Not only was Charlotte an excellent guard dog and an expert “gopher hunter”, but also became multi-lingual, picking up both English and German from the Hubers. Definitely the smartest pup in the litter!

      Charlotte passed away in 2007 after a long and happy life with the Huber's.

      With a desire to not only memorialize Charlotte, but also to help other dogs find such a good life, Norman and Traudl have crafted a special wine from their vineyard, called “Charlotte’s Reserve”. They chose the two finest barrels of their Dornfelder wine – a red wine that is so dark as to be almost black. Like Charlotte, the wine is full of character and quality, is bursting with black fruit flavors and is a true representation of their Sta. Rita Hills vineyard. Ten percent of the price of each bottle is being donated to Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society which since 1979 has been providing nutritious food, needed medical care, and a clean, safe and welcoming place for homeless animals while they find them a new family.

      Charlotte’s Reserve features a hand-waxed seal and special label.

      2006 was a year characterized by little rain. Crop sizes were smaller than expected, with petite berries full of concentration and flavor. The season was long, with few weather highs or lows – a nice long time of the vine with early morning fogs, sunny days and breezy afternoons. Grapes were harvested almost leisurely, allowing the winemaking team to pick each varietal at its perfect ripeness. In the cellar, the Dornfelder grapes were de-stemmed into small open top fermenters, and then pressed off prior to dryness to capture the essence of the fruit without extracting too much tannin from the skins. A year later, the two favorite barrels were set aside, the wine blended together and then put back to barrel for an additional six months of aging before being bottled. It was officially released at the annual “Cheers for Charlotte” celebration on December 5, 2009. All proceeds from that event, as well as a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle benefits the Santa Ynez Humane Society.

      Inky dark, with glycerin like legs coating the glass, the 2006 Dornfelder is still a bit more purplish, dark amethyst hue than in past vintage. On the nose, smoky notes mix with concentrated berry and coffee bean aromas along with a hint of menthol that livens up the bouquet. A nice soft entry coats the palate prettily with high-toned notes of concentrated raspberry and “framboise” like flavors, along with a bit of blackberry jam. A nice, pleasant finish with beautifully balance, bright acids and soft tannins. Ready to enjoy now, but will age nicely for the next 3-5 years. Cheers for Charlotte!!


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