Hour 1 - 3
David Hunt Owner of Hunt Wine Cellars in Paso Robles, CA
Despite being blind from 1990, David Hunt knows how to see. His.story is both fascinating and inspirational. Hunt redefines multitasking: he’s a renowned and widely celebrated cult winemaker, accomplished musician, lyricist, author, successful entrepreneur, inventor, developer, pioneer “smart homes”, carpenter, contractor, husband, father, author, and recording artist in the key of genius. These are a few of the many titles he has on his curriculum vitae...so far.
Not deterred by losing his vision, half of his total accomplishments were completed after he lost his sight, David is humble, gracious, confident, focused and openly expresses his inner vision that can see a God-made world, not a manmade world .It seems negativity is not in his DNA. Indeed, Hunt Cellars in Paso Robles has made a habit of grabbing top honors at wine contests and earning 90-plus scores from wine publications, such as Wine Enthusiast, Food and Beverage World.. Hunt, the owner and winemaker, proudly pointed out that virtually every wine sold at Hunt Cellars From Cabernet sauvignon, and sangiovese or merlot has won multiple gold, best of class, or scored 90 points or better. Putting his peers on an equally footing, Hunt has blindfolded friends to taste test after taste test, with Hunt wines always coming out first, even over much more expensive vintages. Unfortunately, Hunt has never been able to see the rapt expressions on his guests’ face as they drink the wine.
To tackle adversity with courage and love, David Hunt has created a light inside of him so alive, so large, and so near that his eyes. his physical eyes, aren’t an impediment to living life to its fullest.
For instance, after discussing how he rebuilt his home after a fire in 2009, Hunt animatedly describes in detail how he redesigned his 16,,000 square foot, 30 room, 2 acre antebellum home in Chatsworth, California, it’s easy to forget one important thing –while Hunt walks around his home with complete ease, the man in question is totally blind. A lesson learned here: how you look at life is how you see it. What others see in his magnificent mansion is a massive ballroom, solarium, extensive wine cellar, indoor hot tub, three putting greens, tennis, badminton and basketball courts, and a 1000 foot fitness trail. His command of his home automation scene is a wonder to behold as he does everything by memory.
Born to a poor family in North Carolina over 6 decades ago as one of seven children, David began working at six in his father's lumber business. Always a lover of popular music and a keyboardist, David remained an active musician in California with a show band while simultaneously building a very successful enterprise in home and business security systems. The home security and residential building boom of the 70's offered the opportunity for David to contract with developers to install up to 500 home security units at a time in mega developments in southern California. His own home has such a sophisticated automation system by his own design, Hunt “sees” everything in it. As the enterprise grew and accumulated wealth which opened up new opportunities including real estate development.
Life was good for David and his wife Debbie but then he began losing his eyesight in the early 1980s. A progressive degenerative retinal disease was robbing him of his sight. He has not been able to drive since the early 80's and has not been able to read a book since 1989. Never one to feel sorry for himself and with two sons (Chris and Derek) already on board, David and Debbie continued to move forward with their dream of someday owning a vineyard and making wine . In the mid 90's they began in earnest to search for a property to purchase. Scouring the west coast of the United States, they finally settled on an dry barley farm near Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.
David located the property in 1996, 10 years after his blindness had progressed to the point where he could only slightly see the soil. The soil was white calcareous/chalky and unquestionably perfect for ultra-premium grape growing. The property had been dry farmed so finding adequate water on the property to support vineyards would be like finding gold and could have caused the entire deal to collapse. Without the participation of Debbie who was pregnant and virtually bed-ridden with their 3rd child, he made a contingent offer. David found water and they subsequently closed the deal and named the future vineyard 'Destiny' after their daughter who was born that same year.
Early on, David took courses at UC Davis to learn the technical basics of vineyard management, grape growing and wine making. Knowing the basics, he still needed to adapt for his blindness if he was going to be successful as a vigneron and winemaker. How is he able to farm and make wine without seeing the vineyards, grapes or juice, he believes that his other senses have indeed heightened and help him compensate. He said he smells the ripeness and, of course tastes and feels the grapes to decide when to harvest. He also asks his assistant to describe the color of the leaves to help him determine the stage of ripeness. With that depth of insight he does all the blending, employs all of his enhanced senses and his educated palate to produce memorable wines.
His 550 acres range in elevation from 1550 ft to 2200 ft above sea level. Hunt specializes in mountain fruit for its intensity and because of his vineyard elevations. He produces Cabernet Sauvignon (~45%) and lesser amounts of Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc in declining order. He also purchases Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to complete his portfolio. He believes passionately that 'memorable wine' begins in the vineyard. The 2006 'Thriller' (note the music reference). This is a memorable blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc all from Destiny Vineyard. It is full bodied, well balanced, approachable and great with food. The flavors of tobacco, leather and licorice are complemented by the earthy aromas and cola notes. enjoyed the 2007 'CabOvation', a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Paso Robles, Destiny Vineyard Mt. Christo Block which was awarded 96 points and tied for Best Cabernet Sauvignon in the World Food and Beverage California Bordeaux Tour 2012. This medium bodied Cabernet has intense tannins with dark cherry and coffee notes. It is multi-layered and can remain in the cellar for many years. You may have noted the interesting naming convention David uses. In addition to Thriller and CabOvation, he bottles a Chardonnay “Moonlight Sonata”, Sangiovese “Rhapsody”, a Merlot “Unforgettable” and a Tawny Port "Oldie but Goodie" (received 93 points from the Wine Enthusiast.) among others. The wines dictate the specific time vintage to vintage and varietal to varietal. It usually takes 4-5 years from vine to market for his reds. He focuses on mountain fruit because of the intensity of flavors the environmental stress produces. Perhaps he is stressed with the same outcome - intensity and character. His winemaking style seeks balance: tannin, acid, alcohol, sweetness and oak all in harmony. He has most certainly achieved that with. his wines.
Consistent with Hunt’s personal values of self reliance, David encouraged his sons (Christopher now 28 and Derek 25) to start their own business when they were 11 and 14 respectively. That work ethic must be passed through the Hunt DNA as they have teamed up to form their own business and are successful in their own right. Hunt hopes and believes that someday they will return to run the winery with their sister.