Weekday dentist, weekend vintner: Newport Beach’s Doug Hauck runs a winery in Paso Robles when he’s not caring for teeth

Four hours’ drive from his dental practice in Newport Beach, Dr. Douglas Hauck moonlights living every wine lover’s fantasy: He runs his own winery.

He plunked down $2 million eight years ago to buy the rolling acreage on the prime western flank of Paso Robles. Grapes there, cooled by nightly sea breezes, are considered ideal for producing what Hauck calls “chewy” or “inky” red varietals – dense cabernets, merlots and zinfandels.

His label, HammerSky, is named after his two teenage sons, Hamilton and Skyler, and is emblazoned across Hauck’s black T-shirt. He wears combat-fatigue cargo shorts. A straw fedora shields his shaved head against a sweltering sun.

Hauck is, by most accounts, a mile-a-minute thinker tirelessly devoted to creating and marketing a high-end boutique line – he sells about 5,000 cases a year – while monetizing complementary uses of the property. He operates a four-bedroom inn, for example, in a refurbished, century-old farmhouse. Nearby stands a stately white barn, with a loft bedroom and garlands of white lights, that is rented out for weddings.

Stepping from the inn’s kitchen, where he has been asking visitors to compare two zinfandel prototypes, Hauck trudges past the barn and up a dirt road that crests amid the vines. The view, with dense rows of grape leaves rising and dipping all around, is stunning. A massive oak known as Uncle Dan is thought to be more than 300 years old. Hauck pauses under the canopy of its thick limbs to discourse on one of the many challenges of wine-making – achieving the proper brix, or sugar content, ideally 25 percent or so for his reds.

“If it only gets to 22 percent, you have to try to fix it in the winemaking, but it’s usually not as good,” he says. Brix is a function of hot sunlight, which ripens the grapes, and the harvesting schedule. The numbers can be tweaked by blending in juice from other grapes, though the result, he says, is “never quite the same wine.”

Two deer suddenly dart among vines in the distance, near the tasting room. Hauck scowls. Inn guests enjoy the deer, “and I did too in the beginning,” he says, “but they ate $10,000 worth of fruit last year.” Hauck tried scaring them off with propane cannons, but the deer got used to the noise faster than the neighbors did, so Hauck has been installing 8-foot fencing across the rear of the vineyard, fronting a creek, to keep them out.

That’s not the only frustration that comes with running the vineyard.

“Every week there’s a disaster,” Hauck says, perhaps exaggerating slightly. A water main ruptures. The tractor gets a flat. Rodents steal what the deer don’t, requiring Hauck to erect, in strategic places, box-like nests for barn owls. There are constant worries about whether daytime temperatures will stay hot enough to mature the grapes, or whether it might hail. Mildew. “You can easily get some bunch rot, they call it – mold in between the berries.”

If there’s anything harder than pulling teeth, Hauck has found, it just might be operating a successful winery, especially when many top labels are hundred-million-dollar operations.

“Everybody who comes up here says, ‘Oh, my God, you’re living the dream – an American dream,’” Hauck says. “My response is, ‘Holy crap!’ You really have to be half insane to do it. You have to have one screw loose.”

Don’t get him wrong – he loves it. The bluster is partly just Hauck being Hauck. He is crisp on the palate, a man with ample acidity, wry top notes of humor and deep complexity. “Doug is eccentric,” says Mindy Allen, a longtime vine manager whose company helps grow and harvest grapes at nearly 50 vineyards, including Hauck’s. She chuckles comparing him to other winery people in their drab farm clothing; the lean Hauck often cuts a rakish figure in his fedora and red skinny jeans.

Brash is one word Allen uses in describing him. “Doug is very outspoken,” she says. “He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t have a filter.”

Hauck, who is cagey only about his age – he admits only to being in his 50s – seems to relish the struggle of keeping his winery going, even while he grouses about it. He enjoys finding angles, being a provocateur. “He has fun blending,” says his wife, Kim, who oversees the vendors who help on the property as well as the 30 or so weddings that take place at HammerSky each year. “He has fun choosing the barrels, designing the labels.” He gets so into it, in fact, “he can get out of hand,” she says. “He can end up doing 20 different designs.”

HammerSky wines, sold mainly to restaurants, are priced up to $76 a bottle and carry elegant, understated labels – Kim’s suggestion – that feature a discreet lion’s crest. Posters are more eye-popping: In one, a woman teasingly covers a man’s eyes while grabbing for his bottle. Another shows a woman in a bare-back gown. Hauck says he did a whole campaign.

“My wife complained it was ‘a little bit slutty,’” he says, smiling. The whole point is to get people talking. He wants a “big-city” feel to the marketing, “as if Prada made wine.”

After HammerSky began hosting weddings about five years ago, Hauck realized wedding parties wanted Champagne and white wine, not the reds he was growing. He introduced a less expensive brand, Naughty Princess, using an old LAPD mug shot for the label.

His big problem, he says, is that he bought the vineyard in 2007 thinking he was taking on just one more job. He and Kim, who met in the 1980s while she was a television set designer in Los Angeles, used to date by traveling to the wine country. They had a romantic notion about someday owning a winery – only to discover it was far more work than they ever imagined.

“It’s really five jobs,” Hauck says, reeling off the list: grower, winemaker, salesman, marketer, event planner. “And when the toilet breaks, I do that too.”

Fixing up the property made the first several years especially arduous. Hauck slept in a tent while the farmhouse was being renovated. He chopped away the front of the house with a chainsaw and remade the entry with a second-floor balcony. He replaced old wiring. “You’d open up the walls and there would be newspaper articles inside,” he recalls.

The tasting room got built only after nearly five years of red tape, he says. Vines were already there. He ordered the barn from New Hampshire, where the timbers were cut and numbered and shipped west, then laboriously assembled. Some pieces didn’t fit, Hauck says. “The electrical and plumbing were not included. The pad was not included. All the doors were not included, and I thought they were.”

Wedding duties require Kim to visit the winery three times a month. Hauck, who still operates his dental office, specializing in implant and cosmetic dentistry, on Pacific Coast Highway near Fashion Island, drives to Paso Robles about every other weekend. Hours are long; he prunes vines at 6 a.m., opens the tasting room at 10. He converses with people who shamble in from cars and wine tour buses.

“I’m like the dancing clown,” he says. “They all want to meet the winemaker; they all want to have a drink with the winemaker.”

Hauck has mastered wine’s peculiar vernacular, where the subtlest flavors inspire grandiloquence. Reviews in publications such as The Somm Journal, a voice of industry insiders, wax poetic about tannins and minerality and structure. The “big” wines that Hauck prizes are inky, too dense to see through.

An enormous fossilized whalebone in his tasting room is evidence that the land here was once under water. Limestone soils cause wines to “chalk up,” a taste distinctly different and, to some, preferable to wines from the rival Napa and Sonoma regions. “I can now taste not only my place, but I can actually taste the slope,” Hauck says. “If it’s a south-facing zin, the zins tend to be more ripe, more raisin-y than if it’s a north-facing slope.”

He can hold forth at length about the science of phenolics, how flavor is influenced by skins, seeds and other non-juice material. He expounds on variables in fermenting, the effect of using different barrels – French oak barrels, with their tight wood grains, versus Hungarian oak versus American oak; new barrels versus old; flame-treated “toasted” barrel heads.

“He’s educated himself tremendously,” says Rich Hartenberger, owner and winemaker at nearby Midnight Cellars Winery, in describing Hauck, who rents facilities at Midnight to sort and process grapes. “He’s here all the time. He stands at the sorting table – he’s right in it. A lot of guys” from Southern California, “who own wineries up here, they phone it in. He doesn’t.”

Hauck has a vision for what his wines should be. He’s after a certain bouquet that he’s still striving to get. “A certain profile in the nose,” he says. “This floral, punchy nose. And then, for the big cabs, you’re looking for that silky mid-body, a full-mouth feel and then a soft, long finish.”

He’s tasted it in Napa, even in Paso. Even in his own wines, but it’s a fickle thing. Can it be tamed? “It depends on the year and the rainfall and when you pick, and what does the weather do.”

Sometimes he hits. The Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide singles out HammerSky’s 2009 “Party of Four,” a blend of cabernet, merlot, petite bordeaux and cab-franc, calling it “frankly delicious. It’s dry and balanced, with firm tannins framing black and red currant flavors that are deep and long in the finish.” An even higher rating, 93 points, is bestowed on Hauck’s 2010 cabernet sauvignon, outstanding for its “jammy aromas of strawberry preserves, cherry pie, brown sugar, hot licorice and smoked meats.”

Such praise makes the business fun, Hauck says. Or at least more fun than, say, trading in the stock market. And the best news is, HammerSky is in the black. “We’re there,” he says. “We keep the books tight. We’re growing at about 28 percent annually the last six years.”

“We don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars behind us,” adds Kim Hauck. “We are hands-on. Doug is out on his tractor. He is tending his vineyard. He does still live and breathe it, and he loves to share it. He has a lot of fun sharing it with people.”

Contact the writer: dferrell@ocregister.com

Want to lose weight? Give extra pounds the cold shoulder, UCI researcher says

New research into weight loss is showing that lowering the number on the thermostat may help drive down the number on the scale.

Instead of only focusing on diet and exercise, some doctors have suggested exposure to cold temperatures as a way to activate fat-burning cells as they work to warm up the body.

Of course, dieters will have to decide what’s more unpleasant: feeling chilly or losing weight through conventional ways.

A 2013 Japanese study exposed participants to 63-degree temperatures for two hours a day over six weeks and found that their body fat decreased and they burned more calories than a control group. In a similar study, Dutch researchers wrote that there might be health benefits from variant temperatures rather than the climate-controlled indoor environments most Westerners have become accustomed to.

“It’s a provocative idea in the sense that, can we actually make a dent in this obesity epidemic by doing something very simple?” said Dr. Ajay Chawla, a professor at UC San Francisco, who has published research on temperature and fat burning. “I think there’s some level of data in human subjects to suggest that when they are exposed to mild cold environments over a period of time, they do burn more energy and lose weight.”

Wayne Hayes, a computer science professor at UC Irvine, became intrigued with the possibility after reading “The Four Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss.

“Tim recommends ice baths and cold showers and wearing a bag of frozen peas on the back of your neck,” Hayes said. “All of those are either horrifically uncomfortable or just inconvenient. I figured instead of use a bag of ice, why not just put it in a piece of clothing?”

Hayes developed the Cold Shoulder, a vest lined with packs of ice to cover the back and shoulders – those regions have the fewest nerve endings, so discomfort would be minimized. He said people have a thermal neutral zone where they feel comfortable, somewhere between 68 and 80 degrees, depending on the person.

“As you get below the thermal neutral zone, there’s a sharp increase in the number of calories you need to burn to stay warm,” he said.

The vest is to be worn when a user is already at a comfortable temperature and at rest – for instance, sitting in the office or driving to work.

“On a hot day, it will help keep you cool but it won’t help you burn calories. In order to burn calories, you need to feel the chill,” Hayes said.

He started a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign and sold nearly 2,000 vests. The product sells for $199.99, which he said in the long run is more affordable than setting the air conditioner lower.

Lisa Plant, 55, bought a Cold Shoulder vest this year and says she has lost 20 pounds without making any other lifestyle changes. She learned about the product through Facebook.

“I consider myself a professional dieter and I was always looking for things that are new when it comes to weight loss,” said Plant, who grew up in New Jersey but now lives in Australia. “Exercise is not my thing. I knew I needed to do something to burn more calories.”

In the morning, Plant takes the vest out of the freezer and wears it in bed while she reads. She puts it back in the freezer after about 45 minutes and gets ready for work. At the end of the day, she wears the vest again while making dinner. She describes the cold as pleasant.

“It doesn’t hurt and it’s not uncomfortable,” she said. “I like wearing it. It’s just really easy.”

Chawla of UCSF turned the thermostat down in his office to 65 degrees. He was uncomfortable at first, but over time he became acclimated, and now other offices and public places feel too warm to him.

“If you’re living all the time at 72 degrees and all of a sudden you go down to 65 and don’t put any sweaters on, you’re not going to like it,” Chawla said, adding that he’s not sure if he’s lost any weight.

His own research in mice has found that molecules secreted by cells of the immune system trigger the conversion of fat-storing cells to fat-burning cells, raising the possibility that one day a medication could achieve the same result without cold temperatures.

He referred to a study in which participants who wore bathing suits in a 66-degree room lost an average of 15 pounds in a year without any lifestyle changes.

“Pharmacology has not quite gotten there yet,” he said.

Chawla said Hayes’ premise is sound, although he can’t verify the results of the vest.

“From a simple conceptual point of view, it seems like a reasonable thing,” he said. “It has to be tested.”

Hayes said he hopes to collaborate with UCI’s medical school for a clinical trial. He emphasizes that diet and exercise are essential, but he does believe intermittent cold exposure should become an accepted complement.

“Someone who eats an entire bag of cookies and wears the vest is not going to lose weight,” Hayes said. “It’s not a miracle worker. It can accelerate your weight loss but you have to have all three pillars.

“There’s science behind this. It really does work. It’s not a gimmick. My hope is that 10 years from now the medical establishment will realize that cold exposure is good for you. It’s novel and it works.”

Contact the writer: cperkes@ocregister.com 714-796-3686

‘Happy Trails’ estate in Trabuco Canyon for sale at $3.45 million

A Craftsman-style house on nearly nine acres in Trabuco Canyon is on the market for $3.45 million.

The estate, dubbed “Happy Trails,” is entered via a long, winding drive leading to a motor court. The main residence, post-and-beam construction with timbers and a stone facade, has 5,500 square feet and five bedrooms. There’s also a separate, three-bedroom guest house.

A four-stall barn, pastures and a riding corral, a farm-to-table garden and 50 fruit and nut trees fill the grounds. The sellers are organic gardners who harvest and store water for irrigation, said Mark Nix of Surterre Properties, the listing agent.

Inside the main house, an assortment of textured, reclaimed wood, fireplaces built with boulders, beamed, cathedral ceilings and bathrooms with slate floors extend the rustic setting. A deck on one side of the home conjures up a tree house.

The home at 31101 Hamilton Trail, one of 26 properties in the gated Hamilton Oaks community, is set in the hills above Orange County’s historic vineyard and winery of the same name. The estate is surrounded on three sides by the Cleveland National Forest.

Nix said the owner goes horseback riding every morning through the nearby trails.

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Teen charged in crash that killed 5 others denies allegations; attorney says DA seeks to try him as adult

A Laguna Niguel teen charged with manslaughter in connection with a fiery crash that killed five other teens last year denied the allegations in a petition in juvenile court Monday, his attorney said.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has also petitioned to charge Bradley Morales as an adult, said his attorney, Michael Khouri. OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder said the office is unable to comment on juvenile matters until the defendant is determined to be an adult by the court.

Authorities say Morales was 16 and driving without a license on Oct. 4, 2014, when he crashed a relative’s 1995 BMW sedan on the southbound I-5 in Irvine, killing all five of his passengers. The carload of teens was heading home at about 2 a.m. after a night at Knott’s Scary Farm when the crash occurred.

After a year-long investigation, authorities on Saturday arrested Morales, now 17, on five felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, driving a vehicle without a license and failure to show proof of financial responsibility.

Morales is due back in court on Nov. 16, when a judge will consider a report from the probation department that will recommend whether the case should proceed in juvenile or adult court.

A judge can decide whether a defendant is fit for juvenile court in what is called a fitness hearing. In California, the minimum age a juvenile can be transferred to adult court is 14 for some major crimes, like rape and murder, and 16 for any crime.

Khouri said the teen has no prior criminal record, and a blood analysis after the crash showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol. The case, he said, should remain in juvenile court.

“We do not believe there is any credible evidence that he was the driver of the vehicle,“ Khouri said. “The allegations, even taken as true, present the case of a 16-year-old speeding on the freeway, with no evidence of drugs, weapons or gang affiliation.”

“This is a horrific accident, but it’s an accident nonetheless,” he added.

Authorities have not released an official cause of the accident, but the California Highway Patrol said Morales crashed into an embankment wall at high speed.

After the crash, a fire ignited with five teens still inside the car. The five were: Jennifer Bahena, 14, of Laguna Hills; Jennifer Campos, 15, of Aliso Viejo; Matthew Ivan Melo, 15, of Mission Viejo; Brandon Alejandro Moreno, 14, of Mission Viejo; and Alejandro Sotelo, 14, of San Juan Capistrano.

Morales, the lone survivor, was thrown from the car before it burst into flames. He was hospitalized and underwent surgery for a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.

“The doctors at Mission Hospital saved his life, and the quality of his life,” Khouri said.

Morales could face more than a decade in custody if he is tried as an adult, according to Khouri and William Weinberg, an Orange County criminal defense attorney who handles juvenile cases and isn’t involved in this case. Weinberg said if tried as a juvenile and convicted, Morales could be kept in custody until he’s 21.

The attorney said a judge looks at five main factors when considering whether to send a minor to adult court: degree of criminal sophistication, criminal history, the possibility of rehabilitation and the circumstances and gravity of the crime.

Weinberg said a judge could find Morales fit for adult court based solely on the severity of the case.

“The number of victims is just so compelling, and the fact that he was an unlicensed driver, and speeding obviously played a part,” he said.

Based on the charges, Morales could face roughly 12 years in custody if he is tried as an adult, Weinberg said.

Nearly 600 juveniles statewide were transferred to adult court in 2014, according to statistics from the California Attorney General. Of those, more than 60 percent were 17 at the time of arrest.

Contact the writer: kpuente@ocregister.com, 714-834-3773

Karma leaves Orange County for North Carolina wolf-dog sanctuary

ORANGE – Karma, the wolf-dog hybrid that galvanized animal rights activists worldwide and led to special meetings of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has been taken out of OC Animal Care, an agency that once had a court order to kill her.

The 4-year-old husky-mix was whisked out of the county shelter Sunday evening without the media attention that followed Superior Court Judge Corey Cramin’s Wedneday ruling in which he reversed his earlier decision to euthanize Karma.

That ruling had supported a decision by OC Animal Care that was based on the dog’s designation as a vicious animal and because a DNA test showed she was part wolf.

Instead, Cramin said Karma must be taken to the Full Moon Farm wolf-dog sanctuary in Black Mountain, N.C., which agreed to take the animal.

“We held Karma for an extended period of time after her Sept. 9 court ordered euthanasia to allow for an opportunity for a positive outcome,” Jennifer Hawkins, director of OC Animal Care and chief veterinarian, said Sunday following Karma’s release. “We are thankful Full Moon Farm was willing to take Karma after so many other sanctuaries could not.”

Since Cramin’s ruling, Animal advocates have taken to social media anxious that Karma be removed from OC Animal Care as soon as possible.

Severe weather and rainstorms in North Carolina hampered efforts for Nancy Brown, who founded Full Moon Farm, to fly to Orange County and get Karma.

Instead George Stapleton, who is an adviser to Full Moon Farm board, drove from Colorado Saturday and arrived in Orange County Sunday.

Late Sunday evening, Stapleton reported he crossed the border out of California and Karma was eating her first meal in freedom. He also took her for her first walk alongside his dog, Thor.

“What a sweet little girl,” he said. “She had her first meal then and, I swear, she said ‘thank you.’ Thank you California for allowing me the honor to see your wishes were done.”

Stapleton will enforce the requirements of the agreement signed by Full Moon Farm to take custody of Karma. He said he hopes to make it to North Carolina by week’s end.

That means Karma must be transported in a crate and wear a muzzle. She also cannot have any interaction with the public.

Once Karma gets to Full Moon Farm, she will be evaluated by a behaviorist, the sanctuary veterinarian and the county animal control agency. She will be handled solely by experienced sanctuary staff and Brown.

“She’s gong to have privileges,” Brown said. “But when we aren’t watching her, she’ll be in a six-sided kennel. We will follow the letter of the law.”

“George (Stapleton) said Karma is the ‘rescue of the century,’” Brown said. “She has united a lot of people.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-2254 oreritche@ocregister.com or Twitter:@lagunaini