“We were quite excited when we found out about this award,” said Carol Hoyt, winemaker and owner, with her husband Stephen, of Hoyt Family Vineyards in Malibu, California. I was in Europe when I received an email about it, so it was quite a surprise.”
Like a number of microwineries, Hoyt Family Vineyards has no winery facilities of their own. However they do have two vineyards: one acre plus in Malibu, planted in 2001 and six acres in Paso Robles, just recently planted. Their grapes are custom crushed for their hand-crafted wine at Terravant Wine Company, a state-of-the-art winemaking facility in Buellton.
“I am the winemaker,” said Hoyt, “but have two outstanding consulting winemakers helping me: Travis Proctor from Terravant and Etienne Terlinden from Summerland Winery. It is always best when you can surround yourself with great people and I have two of the greatest helping me with the wine.”
The four wines that Hoyt Family Vineyards entered in the California State Fair Commerical Wine Competition this year all received medals. One of them, their 2009 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, received a double gold medal, 98 points and, as a result, the “Best of Microwinery, Red Wine” award.
“A vineyard had been on our minds for a long time, “said Carol Hoyt in a recent interview. “For a while we lived in San Francisco and visited the Napa Valley area regularly to taste and buy wine. On our kitchen wall we posted pictures of vineyards and people often asked us why. ‘That is a reminder that we are going to have a vineyard one day,’ I would tell them.”
From there they moved to Hollywood where again the vineyard pictures were prominently displayed on the kitchen wall. Friends continued to ask the same question about them and received the same answer. The idea of having a vineyard had not been forgotten and continued to be their goal.
“I was a drama major at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, which you can tell had nothing to do with wine,” said Hoyt. “I was an actress for a number of years and had several interesting roles, including a season as the villainess on ‘Power Rangers.’ I’m retired from acting now, taking care of my family and making wine.”
Both Carol and Stephen Hoyt not only enjoy wine, but also like farming, so it was logical that they would ultimately go looking for some acreage and on which they could plant a vineyard and build their house.
“ We found what we liked in Malibu and there was already a vineyard right next door,” continued Hoyt. “It was perfect for us and 2001 we planted chardonnay, malbec and merlot.”
The property they selected was on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway, a couple of miles from the ocean. Because of its location, it is subject to cool, foggy mornings, followed by heat and then cool evenings. It was the ideal climate for chardonnay, but maybe not malbec or merlot. Once they reached that conclusion, they decided to concentrate on chardonnay by planting more of those vines and grafting over the malbec and merlot.
Because of the location and the fact that the vineyard was only a little bit over an acre in size, they decided to use the Smart-Dyson trellis system for their vines. According to some grape growers it comes the closest to attaining the often elusive balance between foliage growth and maximum premium wine grape production in the coastal areas of California.
Smart-Dyson is a single curtain system with divided foliage. In simple words, shoots from each vine are positioned both up and down and the leaf cover is modified to allow in the proper amount of sunlight. By using that system they found they were able to almost double their potential yield and also have the fruit ripen before the Fall rains arrived, the bane of some coastal vineyard owners.
While waiting for the vines to mature, Hoyt decided it was time to actually try her hand at making wine. She purchased some cabernet sauvignon grapes and turned her kitchen into a winery. “We called it ‘Carol’s Cab,’she remarked, “and it turned out great, all two cases of it.”
With their chardonnay grapes maturing and the taste of success with the cabernet grapes, the next year they became more serious about their winemaking and Hoyt Family Vineyards moved from their kitchen to the facilities at Camarillo Custom Crush. One year later they moved again, this time to Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria where Carol Hoyt had the opportunity to work with Summerland Winery’s winemaker, Etienne Terlinden.
Just two years ago both Hoyt Family Vineyards and Summerland moved to Terravant Wine Company in Buellton, which then gave her the opportunity to work with both Terlinden and Terravant Wine Company’s winemaker, Travis Proctor.
“Both my husband and I prefer big, up front fruit cabernets, the ones with blackberry and currant flavors and lots of mouth feel,” Hoyt remarked. “As people become more educated about wine that seems to be one of the things they like.”
Because of that, they wanted to start growing their own cabernet sauvignon grapes to obtain maximum control over their wine, but they knew by experience that they couldn’t do it on their Malibu property. So they went looking elsewhere for a place for their new vineyard.
Since they were very pleased with the grapes they had been getting from the Paso Robles area, that seemed the most likely place to begin their search.
“On the west side of Paso Robles was an area I really liked,” said Hoyt. “There were already vineyards there and it had the calcareous soil that I wanted. I believe it is that soil that is putting the fruit of Paso Robles on the map.”
They found what they liked and bought it. In their new vineyard they planted six acres of vines: two of cabernet sauvignon, one of petite verdot, one of grenache, one of tempranillo and one of viognier. But for them that was only a start. In time they plan on adding more cabernet vines along with grenache blanc and petite sirah.
“We love the wine made from the cabernet sauvignon grapes that grow in that area and it is our present plan to use our petite verdot, grenache, tempranillo and viognier for blending purposes,” added Hoyt. “All of those vines are only a year old, so for a while we will still have to purchase grapes to make everything but our Malibu vineyard chardonnay.”
The grapes for their award winning 2009 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon came from Bella Collina’s vineyards. “We blended in five percent petite verdot and five percent merlot,” said Hoyt. “I believe blending is a creative process and the wine got better with just that much of those two added.”
What is in the future for Hoyt Family Vineyards? They are hoping to build a small winery on their Paso Robles property, but have no intentions of becoming big. Their present production is about 750 cases a year and presently they are not looking to even triple that amount in the future. “We like being small and more of a boutique winery,” said Hoyt.
Some time ago one of Hoyt’s friends asked her a very common question, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years? “I told her that I would be living on a vineyard and making wine,” answered Hoyt. “But it didn’t take me 10 years. Only three years after I was asked the question, I was there.”
Hoyt Family Vineyards wines that received awards at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition:
- 2009 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon (Double Gold, 98 points, Best of Microwinery – Red Wine)
- 2009 Paso Robles Tempranillo (Gold, 94 points)
- 2009 California Chardonnay (Silver, 89 points)
- 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chardonnay white blend (Bronze, 87 points)