One of California’s pioneering vintners, Nicolaus ‘Nicky’ Hahn, who did much to establish the Santa Lucia Highlands and make Pinot Noir its main grape, has died at the age of 81.
by Rupert Millar
https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/20...t-pioneer-dies

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Born in Switzerland in 1936, the son of a German-Jewish father and Christian mother who fled Germany as the Nazis rose to power, Hahn’s family eventually immigrated to New York where he grew up.

His path to wine was not an immediate one. Beginning with a project in South Africa to try and grow hybrid tomatoes, he then worked as a businessman in Paris, New York and London, becoming chairman of multinational software corporation, Computer Associates, in the process.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that Hahn turned his attention to winemaking but rather than pile into the quickly growing Napa Valley scene he instead purchased a cattle ranch with two small vineyards in the Santa Lucia mountain range of Monterey County in 1979.

Initially focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon he produced his first wine in 1980. As his son Philip told the SF Chronicle, it took his father, “14 years to figure out that this was the next big Burgundian region,” and, at great cost and risk, he ripped out his Cabernet in the late 1990s and early 2000s and replanted with Pinot Noir.

It was a gamble that paid off, however, and the Santa Lucia Highlands is predominantly planted with Pinot today and considered one of the US’s top Pinot-producing regions.

He was also heavily involved in leading the effort to have Santa Lucia Highlands recognised as an American Viticultural Region (AVA), which it was in 1991.

As well as his vineyards, in 1997 Hahn also bought a 50,000 acre wildlife preserve in Kenya’s Laikipia region, as a sanctuary not only for the local wildlife but its people as well.

Philip told Wine Spectator: “My father left me with one indelible lesson: There are many dreamers, but it is not enough to dream. We must also do.”

Hahn died aged 81 in Zurich on 2 March. He is survived by his wife, Gaby, and their children, Philip and Caroline.

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