It's just a family winery, but the style of Hoffman Mountain Ranch -- like the distinctive black labels with the initials HMR -- is California modern. In fact it possesses all the ingredients for a hit TV series.
Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a tall, handsome Beverley Hills cardiologist (born in Terre Haute, Indiana, of course), leaves his practice and his saiboat to move to this small town in the central coastal mountains just east of Nowhere. With him come his wife, Teressa (his childhood sweetheart) and their two sons, David And Michael.
The countryside is rolling and rough with lots of shale, but they are determined to farm it. David becomes an expert at vineyard management while his wife, Susan, manages the winery's retail outlet. Young Michael takes over as winemaker at age 22, daring -- with advice from the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff -- to attempt to make a great pinot noir. The elder Hoffman works full time at doctoring and his wife, whom he describes affectionately as "the Perle Mesta of Pasa Robles," calmly arranges meals and entertainment for an almost constant stream of visitors in the handsome ranch house they built.
However, the HMR Family Show is no fantasy, Stanley Hoffman insists. "This is not a short term haul for us," he said at luncheon one day last month. "I left my practice in 1972 (he was chief of medicine at Daniel Freeman Hospital and on the faculty at UCLA). My two sons are making their lifetime career out of this." Two daughers are away in school.
One trait the Hoffmans brought with them was a penchant for going first class. They began growing grapes on the ranch as a hobby. When they decided the quality was good enough to produce great wines, they took the plunge and began construction of a streamlined, beautifully equipped winery that will allow a yearly output in the 25,000 to 30,000 case range. A professional marketing and promotional effort has carried HMR products into 15 states and the District of Columbia. According to Stanley Hoffman, a sharp escalation in the value of their land -- purchased in 1964 -- gave them the "borrowing power" to expand. "We're mortgaged to the hilt," he said, "but we should turn the corner in 1979."
Their first wines, rieslings and chenin blancs, have been stylish. They are about to release a cabernet sauvignon and a pinot noir from the 1975 vintage. A bottle of each, plus the late harvest 1977 johannisburg riesling, has been packaged in a gift box with a $30 price tag. Special bottlings of the best vintage. Special bottlings of the best vintages will be called "Doctor's Reserve" and will sell for more than $10 each.
The Hoffmans are enthusiastic believers in serving wine with food. Fellow escapees from Los Angeles who live nearby, movie director King Vidor, baseball great Sandy Koufax, actors Coleen Moore Hargrave and Wayne Rogers, come for Terry Hoffman's meals, as do patients of Dr. Hoffman and fellow winemakers.
"It's a steady stream, but she enjoys it so much," her husband said. "That's probably the trick of doing it well." For her part, Mrs. Hoffman is equally at east talking about a spaghetti recipe she learned as a girl in Indiana or French provincial cooking. She experiments with Oriental and Indian recipes as well, grows herbs and vegetables in a small garden outside their home and has made up a recipe scrapbook for her daughters.
Asked for a favorite recipe, she suggested bouillabaisse. Her son Michael quickly nominated cheesecake and her duaghter-in-law chimed in borscht. But none of those dishes were present at the luncheon she served, though they were scarcely missed. Instead, she had prepared a hearty chicken pot pie, bread flavored with dill and tarragon, salad with a dressing that is compatible with wine and a mild, coffee-flavored custard, also conceived with a wine accompaniment in mind.
The wines that were served during the meal included 1977 franken and johannisberg rieslings and a well balanced chardonnay from the 1975 vintage. Later a fruity, brightly colored 1977 zinfandel had no need to apologize, even in company with two big wines with lots of bouquet, the '75 cabernet and pinot noir.
Sadly, those bottles are gone and only a trickle of the wine will reach Washington. But, thanks to Mrs. Hoffman, the recipes linger on.
TERRY HOFFMAN'S CHICKEN-VEGETABLE PIE
(8 to 10 servings) 2 pounds puff pastry of flaky pie dough 2 containers (8 ounces each) plain yogurt 1 cup sour cream 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese 5 ounces grated Swiss cheese Salt and pepper 6 eggs 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed dry 8 small onions, peeled and cooked 6 small potatoes, peeled and cooked 8 whole chichen breasts, poached and cooled 8 to 10 small mushrooms, cleaned 1 cup goat's milk cheese (or ricotta or cottage cheese)
Prepare pastry and refrigerate. Mix yogurt, sour cream, 2 tablespoons parmesan, half the Swiss cheese, salt and pepper and 3 eggs. Set aside. If you haven't prepared ahead, cook the spinach, onions, potatoes and chicken breasts. Skin and bone the breasts and cut the meat into bite-size pieces.
Roll out the pastry into three pieces about 1/4-inch thick. Two should be the size of a deep, oval casserole dish. The third should be straight and wide enough to cover the sides of the dish. Place one oval on the bottom and line the sides.
Layer ingredients in casserole. Begin with half the spinach, add half the yogurt mixture, half the chicken, potatoes, onions, mushrooms and goat cheese.Repeat. Sprinkle on remaining parmesan. Place second oval dough piece over casserole and seal to sides. Beat remaining eggs and Swiss cheese together. Punch fork holes in pastry topping and brush egg-cheese mixture on top. Place casserole in a preheated, 400-degree oven and cook for 15 minutes, brushing with the egg-cheese mixture several times. When the top is golden brown turn the heat down to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.
BUTTER SALAD DRESSING
(Enough for 6 portions) 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon sugar Large pinch nutmeg 6 tablespoons sweet butter 1 clove garlic, peeled
In a small bowl combine lemon juice, salt, sugar and nutmeg. Melt butter in a small saucepan with garlic. Do not let butter brown. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Stir in lemon juice mixture. Pour over chilled lettuce and toss.
(1 loaf) 1 package yeast 1/4 cup warm water (100 to 120 degrees) 1 cup cottage cheese, at room temperature 2 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons day, minced onions 1 tablespoon butter 3 tablespoons dried dill weed 1 tablespoon dired tarragon 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 egg 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Proof yeast in water. Combine all ingredients except flour. And flour to form a stiff dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size. Stir dough down and form into a round or two small loaves. Place in a greased round casserole or two greased loaf pans. Return to worm place for second rising. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry or the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
PETITE COFFEE CUSTARD
(6 servings) 3 tablespoons ground coffee 2 cups half-and-half 1 cup sugar 6 egg yolks, slightly beaten 1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur 6 egg whites
Place ground coffee in a paper filter and hold the filter over a saucepan. Pour in the half-and-half. When it has drained through, discard filter. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the saucepan and heat helf-and-half to scalding. Pour mixture into a bowl with the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Mix in liqueur. Pour through a strainer into individual custard cups.
Cover each cup with a lid or foil wrap and place in a baking pan. Transfer pan to a preheated, 350-degree oven and pour in boiling water to half way up sides of the cups. Bake for 25 minutes, or until only the center will jiggle slightly if a cup is shaken. Remove from oven and remove covers from cups. Drain water from baking pan. Turn up oven heat to 450 degrees.
Beat egg whites until stiff, adding remaining sugar gradually. When whites form firm peaks, put a hat of meringue on each cup. Return cups to the pan and place the pan in the (450-degree) oven until meringue has browned. Refrigerate until serving time.