In this first of a series of posts introducing you to the winemakers of the Downtown Paso Robles Wineries, we present a Q&A with Carol Hoyt of Hoyt Family Vineyards. Carol, an actress perhaps best know for her role as the Villainus Divatox on the Power Rangers, now prefers life as a mom, wife and winemaker.
Q. What inspired you and your husband to grow grapes and make wine?
A. We fell in love with the concept of growing grapes and making wine when we first got married. We lived in San Francisco and would go up to Napa on weekends. One time we stayed at a working vineyard and got the bug! We placed a picture of grapes from the vineyard in our kitchen as inspiration. People wold ask about it and we would say “one day we are going to have a vineyard”, and now we do! While I love the winemaking, Stephen’s passion lies in the farming.
Q. Where is your vineyard located and which grapes do you grow?
A. Our vineyard, in Malibu, California was planted in 2001. At the time, with no idea what we were doing, we decided to plant what we liked to drink - Merlot, Malbec and Chardonnay. After our first harvest we realized the climate in the area was most conducive to Chardonnay, so we planted more of that and grafted over the other vines. We also now source fruit from Santa Inez and Paso Robles. Our desire is to keep all of our wines from the southern and central coast of California. We recently purchased an 86 acre ranch in Paso Robles on the west side and have added Tempranillo, Cabernet, Grenache and Petit Verdot to our line up of grapes.
Q. How did you learn to make wine and what style of wines to you produce?
A. Prior to our first harvest, in 2003 I bought my first 100 pounds of Cabernet and made my first wine in the kitchen, figuring I should learn what I was doing. After our first harvest in 2004 we moved our fruit to a custom crush facility where I helped out. There I learned to drive a fork lift and about the chemistry of winemaking, bottling process, etc. We love big bold wines. All our wines have a full mouth feel and are fruit forward with well balanced acid. The mouthfeel in our reds is almost velvety.
Q. What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
A. It is very important to me that the pick is called correctly and that the fruit is at its peak for my style of wine making. I look at the skin, seeds as well as brix. The biggest challenge happens when the fruit doesn’t come in as I hoped and I have to figure out how to get the wine stylistically where I would like it. Sometimes that comes with blending. When I first started making wines I wanted to keep the wines at 100% varietal. Now I find that by adding even just 3% of another varietal can give the wine a bit more character - a better version of itself. It’s like cooking and adding a pinch of spice.
Q. Do you like to cook? What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings?
A. I love to cook - I think the best wine makers do. Someone once told me that if you can’t make a good soup, you can’t be a good winemaker. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do make a mean soup! As far as pairing goes, I don’t think you have to follow the rules - white with fish, red with meat. I think if there is a wine you enjoy, drink it with whatever you like. But you still can’t beat a good port and chocolate or a cold beer on a really hot day.