Beverly Hills cardiologist helped put Paso wines on the map
Orange County Register interview with Dr. Stanley Hoffman
By Paul Hodgins
–Last year, while researching my upcoming book on the winemakers of Paso Robles, I interviewed Dr. Stanley Hoffman, one of the visionaries of the Central Coast wine industry. Now in his mid-90s, Hoffman is frail but still amazingly sharp.
Paso Robles has always been celebrated for its mavericks and visionaries: men and women who saw the vast potential of the place and tapped it, sometimes against overwhelming odds.
Dr. Stanley Hoffman falls squarely into that mold. More than half a century ago, he sensed that the hills west of town could produce world-class wine – a time when the area’s grape production was focused on quantity, not quality, and winemakers stuck to the flatlands.
Hoffman was not a winemaker by trade. A successful Los Angeles cardiologist, his lifelong love of the grape began in childhood.
“I grew up with wine,” said Hoffman. “My father made wine in the basement. We lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, then. He bought his grapes from Michigan and had them shipped in. This was during Prohibition, so we could only make enough for ourselves.” He remembers sampling his first glass at five or six, “mixed with a little bit of water.”
Soon after he planted his first Paso Robles vineyards in 1963, he hired Napa’s legendary André Tchelistcheff, one of the pioneering giants of California winemaking, to serve as a consultant.
“There were some zinfandel growers in Paso, but nobody that I know of who wanted to grow French varietals like I did. We were the first.” He laughed. “People were not encouraging. They said we were crazy, crazy.”
“We went to Romanée Conti in France,” Terry recalled. (The Côte de Nuits subregion is world-famous for its pinot noir.) “They were very gracious. Stan noticed that the soil there was exactly the same as on our land: chalky limestone. That was what made him decide.”
Hoffman Mountain Ranch, which released its first wine in 1972, produced pinot at first from a 10-acre vineyard, then added cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Hoffman’s sons were both involved: David was the vineyard manager and Michael was the winemaker.
“Our pinot was surprisingly great right away,” Hoffman said. “Everything seemed to thrive here.”
The ranch benefited from a diverse geological and climate profile, Hoffman said, producing good results for pinot, cabernet and chardonnay.
Hoffman’s name lives on even if his label doesn’t. His influence is acknowledged by the two wineries that now occupy his former vineyards, Daou and Adelaida. In 2012, Georges and Daniel Daou purchased much of the Hoffman Mountain Ranch property and restored his original winery to preserve a vital part of winemaking history on the Central Coast.