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Midnight Cellars - Paso Robles - California Centra


Family dream comes true for award-winning winery.

OK, raise your hands, how many of you have ever fantasized about quitting your job and- starting a winery?? You and your family, and maybe some extended family too, would move to the wine country, buy a piece of land, refurbish the old house, convert the barn into a winery, plant some vines and you�re living your dream.

Although it s not even remotely close to being that- simple, you can now live vicariously through members of the Hartenberger family who are-experiencing your dream at this very moment. I would not have started this winery without the help of my kids, assures owner and founder Bob Hartenberger. I did it for the lifestyle but I knew the task was too great without their help and besides I wanted them there.

To Bob and family it seems longer than the thirteen years that have flown by since buying their 150 acre plot of land in the heart of Central California s wine country. Bob�s due diligence took him to every section of California�s wine producing regions before choosing to locate in the Paso Robles area. With a world class reputation for grape growing and relatively affordable land prices, the Paso Robles area was the logical spot. What�s appealing too, Bob notes, is that the area still has the unspoiled beauty and charm of real wine country and a feeling of close-knit cooperation among our friends and neighbors.

Not surprisingly, it didn�t take a lot of convincing for family members to exchange their briefcases and commutes in the car for shovels and rides on the tractor. In fact if anything, it was Bob�s sons Rich and Mike who encouraged Dad to take the plunge.

�Years ago, I made a half serious comment to my Dad when we were visiting Napa that he should start a winery when he retired and my wife, Michelle, and I would run it! recalls Rich Hartenberger. That must have been a catalyst of sorts because it was only a year or so later that things were rolling and the kids got the call. Rich promptly quit his job in Chicago as a product manager for a medical supply company and his wife Michelle gave up her job as a biochemist. Eldest son Mike not only followed suit by leaving his career as a salesman for an electronics firm, but also paid the ultimate price by relinquishing his Chicago Bulls season tickets!

The first order of business was to turn the old horse barn into a winery and the barley field into a vineyard. Easier said than done, the barn required extensive refurbishing to retrofit the stainless steel tanks, French and American oak barrels, water treatment systems and hundreds of other devices.

Then after planting just 450 vines of the planned 11,000, it didn�t take a rocket scientist to figure out they were in for a long haul. �Sure, it�s was expensive and it�s hard work too!� says Bob Hartenberger. �But we started this with one idea in mind: to create the best wines possible and wines we can be proud of. We�re not about to cut any corners.�

In 1996, they planted about 18 acres of the potential 100+ suitable acres. Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were the first varietals to be planted. Additional acreage of each along with Cabernet Franc will be added eventually. And while these vines are maturing, the Hartenbergers secured first class grapes from other local area well-known vineyards to begin the winemaking process.

As a home winemaker in Chicago for many years, Bob knew the fundamentals. To help ensure success with their first commercial releases, though, they called upon the expert guidance of Nick Martin of nearby Martin Brothers Winery. With Nick�s help and the assistance of a handful of neighboring wineries, the first releases of Midnight Cellars wine have been a hit all have earned medals at wine competitions throughout the state and country. With over thirteen years in the vineyards and winery, today, Rich Hartenberger enjoys the role of family winemaker.

With over 990 wineries when they started and with over 2000 competing wineries today in California alone the Hartenbergers know full well the importance of maintaining a high quality reputation. �We have to have the very best wine�, says Rich Hartenberger.

So far so good. Year after year Midnight Cellar wines have all won competitive awards: in the State as well as across the Nation.



It wasn�t until Bob Hartenberger began traveling extensively in the 1980s that he became interested in wine. �It was a gradual appreciation that grew out of many business dinners and meeting people with varying degrees of wine knowledge,� recalls Bob. �I became more and more intrigued with not only wine itself, but with the scientific aspect and finally started making wine in the basement of our home in the Chicago area.�

The Hartenberger family was living in Chicago by way of St. Louis where Bob grew up. He attended St. Louis University in the 1950s, earning degrees in both Chemistry and Law. A brief and dissatisfying stint at Shell Oil immediately after college led to locally headquartered Monsanto Corporation where Bob found his career niche. Using his educational background in both chemistry and law Bob was hired as a Patent Attorney in 1962.

Bob stayed at Monsanto for 11 years before moving to Chicago to become Chief Patent Lawyer for American Hospital Supply Corporation. For 17 years the Hartenbergers lived in Chicago, during which time the company was bought by another company, Baxter Corporation. Then in 1990 Bob was transferred to Glendale California to become General Counsel at a new corporate location.

Four years later, Bob retired the corporate life and decided to take on a completely new challenge. Even though he was already keenly interested in wines and was still making wine on a very small scale at home, something must have hit a chord during a trip to Napa that year. Bob and Mary Jane met son Rich and his wife Michele in the northern wine country for weekend of wine tasting. As millions of people do each year, the Hartenbergers thought of how great a lifestyle it would be to own and operate their own winery. �The thought grew on me for an entire year before finally taking the plunge,� recalls Bob.

That dream is now a reality for Bob, Mary Jane, Rich, Michele, and Mike Hartenberger.


Potato Crusted Snapper with Beurre Blanc Sauce


Ingredients

Serves four

Potato Crusted Snapper ingredients:
2 Idaho Potatoes, peeled
4 (5-once) Snapper filets
1 Cup Butter, warmed, clarified
Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Lemon herb seasoning.

Beurre Blanc Sauce ingredients:
2 Cups of heavy cream
1 Cup Chardonnay
12 Whole Black peppercorns
1/4 Cup Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Shallots, diced
1 Pound Butter, cut into pieces, softened


Instructions

For the Potato Crusted Snapper - Finely julienne the potatoes and immediately put them into cold water and rinse thoroughly. Repeat 2 or 3 times, or until water is clear. The purpose of this is to rinse off all of the starches and sugars so the potatoes do not burn while cooking. Drain the water from potatoes and towel dry thoroughly. In a mixing bowl, add potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/2 cup of the warm clarified butter, or enough to coat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Season snapper fillets well with salt and pepper. Take the julienne potatoes and put thin layer on the top-side of the fish only. In a large saute pan, heat about 1/4 inch of clarified butter over medium heat. Carefully lay fillets in the hot butter, potato side down, and pan-fry until the potato crust turns golden brown. Remove from heat, turn the fish over, and finish cooking in the pan in the oven. Place one Snapper fillet on each of the 4 dinner plates and top with Buerre Blanc Sauce. Garnish with lemon herb seasoning.

For Beurre Blanc Sauce: Heat cream in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup. Reserve. In a large skillet, reduce wine, peppercorns, lemon juice, and shallots over a high heat until almost dry (only a little liquid remains). Add reduced cream, whipping constantly. Remove from heat, and slowly whip in butter until thickened and smooth. Serve over Snapper



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