[Image: Jarvis Communications]
While you may not have heard of Paso Robles winemaker Austin Hope, you've more than likely tried one of his wines. For the past 15 years, Hope has run point at Hope Family Wines, producers of Treana, Troublemaker, Candor, Austin Hope, and the nearly ubiquitous Liberty School. The brands have achieved critical and commercial success by bending convention: most of their flagship wines focus on the Rhone varietals of Central California, and many experiment with blending both grape varietals and vintages.
In recent years, the commercial smash of the lineup has been the "Troublemaker" red blend. The wine is a rare blend of value and substance - it sells for about $16 at Spec's, but punches well above its weight class. To promote it, Hope has kitted out a tour bus that is pouring the wine at numerous cultural events around the country this year. As the bus pulls into Austin for F1 this weekend, Eater talked to Hope about the tour, his wines, and what to eat with a hearty red.
What inspired the Troublemaker bus?
Since launching Troublemaker in 2010, we've received great feedback. The brand has really taken off - sales grew from 4,000 cases to 30,000. It's our fastest growing brand, and we decided to do this tour to not only continue building trade relationships, but also to build buzz via word-of-mouth and social media. We're up to nearly 2,000 followers on Instagram and we're aiming for 10,000 by the time we finish.
Troublemaker is an unconventional wine - it doesn't all come from a single vintage. What advantage does that give you as a winemaker?
I've always believed that wine is best when you can take full advantage of a varietal. When we conceptualized Troublemaker, as well as Candor, our other multi-vintage brand, we were inspired to do exactly this, without being restricted by a vintage. We were aiming to prove that multi-vintage wines can compete with the best vintage wines in the world. By blending vintages, we can create better wine. Blend 7, for example, has a majority of wine from the 2012 vintage, with portions coming from 2011 and 2010. The younger wine brings forth a youthful vibrancy and freshness, while the base vintages add complexity and structure that truly completes the wine.
What grapes are in the current Troublemaker blend?
We've just released Blend 7 and it's a blend of 54% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, and 11% Zinfandel.
Where will it turn up in Austin this week?
We love Austin. We're so excited for this leg. We're here for the Formula 1 events. We'll be having a tailgating party on both Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8PM at Circuit Of The Americas. There'll be catered food and we'll be mixing our signature red and white wine cocktails: the Troublemaker Kalimotxo, a wine and cola drink, and the Treana Rush, which uses our Treana White with St. Germain and tonic. It's going to be great.
Are these tour events open to the public?
Most of them are. This weekend's Formula 1 race requires ticketing, since we'll be inside the venue. But the majority of the tour events are pop-up wine tastings that are free and open to the public. All of these are listed on the tour website, TroublemakerTour.com. It allows anyone to RSVP and share with friends on Facebook.
Does the bus only pour Troublemaker, or are some of Hope Family's other wines (Liberty School, Treana) onboard?
We definitely pour the rest of our portfolio. We're really excited for visitors to try all of our new releases. For Liberty School, we just introduced a Pinot Noir and a Merlot, and we're extremely proud of those. We also just released a new Candor Merlot. Visitors will have a lot to sample – we're excited.
We see Troublemaker often at restaurants - it's a house red pour at Sway, among others - do you have a favorite food pairing for it?
I love Sway. I especially enjoy Troublemaker with grilling. We actually have a burger named after it. Bryan Flannery, of San Francisco's Flannery Beef, and I created the blend. We were looking for a beef blend with enough flavor and fat to hold up to a grill. Bryan named it the Troublemaker Blend because the burger's rich flavors really pair perfectly with the dark, juicy flavors of the wine. So when it comes to pairing food with Troublemaker, my go-to is always the grill and an excellent burger blend or cut of steak.