AWG Correspondent

Sherrie Perkovich

Hanzell Vineyards Photos

Hanzell Vineyards Review

Regions: Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley AVA, Moon Mountain AVA, California

Reviewed: April 9, 2013 by Sherrie Perkovich
Published: April 12, 2013

Hanzell is literally a hidden gem in the town of Sonoma. One would think since they’ve been making wine since 1957 that everyone in the wine world would know Hanzell, but that just is not the case. They are greatly respected in the industry and hardly known to the average wine consumer. Hanzell has been making wine for over fifty years, and their accumulated knowledge of viticulture and winemaking really shows through in not only their wines, but also in their general approach to life and all things wine. In those years, they’ve only had a handful of winemakers, most currently Michael McNeill. Hanzell has been known for its innovation in winemaking over the years, most notably, they were the first to create and use custom designed temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks. When you go on the tour, you will get an opportunity to see these tanks for yourselves. Visiting Hanzell is like visiting family. It is an intimate setting that is warm and inviting.

The Winery:  Hanzell is tucked away in the steep hills of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, just north of downtown Sonoma. You are still in the town of Sonoma when you turn to head up the winding mountain road that leads to the winery. Hanzell is at the end of a long, single lane, narrow road, so take your time getting there. Allow an extra 10-15 minutes from what your GPS tells you. With every turn you take, more and more of the mountainous scenery reveals itself to you. Upon arrival you will see Sonoma Valley at your feet.

The Hanzell Estate comprises 200 acres, twelve of which are planted with Pinot Noir and 32 with Chardonnay, and there are six historical vineyards: Zellerbach, Ambassador’s, Day, Ramos, de Brye and Sessions. The remainder of the property is comprised of 150 acres of oak woodland and six acres of residences with gardens. Look around and take in the quiet elegance of Hanzell as you overlook Sonoma Valley, and then head into the main tasting room where you will be greeted by your Estate Educator to begin your tour and tasting experience.

The Tour:  Your tasting experience is accompanied by a tour of the Estate and is hosted by one of Hanzell’s Estate Educators. You will be led through the original Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard, the 1976 de Brye Vineyard, and the more recently planted 2001 Ramos Vineyard. You will learn about their farming practices and how their unique terroir contributes to their wines. Bob Sessions is quoted as saying “to plant in this area, the pickaxe is used more than the shovel…” The rocky terrain helps give the wines depth and richness. If it is a clear day, you will be able to see Sonoma Mountain and much of Sonoma Valley. In the spring the mustard seed is in bloom and makes for excellent photos. Next you will be walked through the Heritage Winery Building and their barrel-aging caves. Your tour concludes with a seated tasting of their current releases.

The Wines:  Hanzell focuses on Burgundian-style wines, specifically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Tasting typically consist of two estate Chardonnays and one estate Pinot Noir.

• 2011 “Sebella” Chardonnay: 100% stainless steel fermentation, and finished in one to four-year French oak for six months. This is a very light and crisp wine. Lightly acidic with hints of green apple. With no malolactic fermentation as well as aging in aged barrels, this wine goes down nice and easy. This would be the perfect warm weather wine. $36 per bottle, 2,023 cases bottled.

• 2010 Chardonnay: 30% barrel fermentation, 18 months total élevage, 12 months in 30% new French oak. Due to its barrel fermentation and oak barrel aging, this is a much creamier and nuttier wine. It still has a lightly acidic finish and is extremely smooth. There are light aromas of lemon and chamomile mixed with a lovely floral bouquet. I liked all aspects of this wine: the nose, the initial taste, the mid-palate and the finish. $75 per bottle, 2,329 cases bottled.

• 2010 Pinot Noir: 50% new and 50% once-filled French oak barrels, with 18 months of total élevage. This wine is silky smooth. Bright red fruit aromas show through nicely. I tasted caramel-covered cherries dipped in chocolate, with almost a watermelon nose, and a finish with baking spices. $95 per bottle, 1,287 cases bottled.

NOTE: Hanzell recommends decanting all their wines, including their Chardonnays, for at least an hour before serving.

If you’d like to dive deeper into their history, Hanzell offers a Library Tasting where you will have the opportunity to taste rare vintages. Four wines are tasted in total, two from the current release and one of each from vintages at least a decade older. I did not experience this tasting option, but the Library Wine room was spectacular. The walls are lined with vintages dating back to the first one in 1957.

Insider Information:  If you would like to arrange for something a bit different and really make the most of your time at Hanzell, just reach out to them in advance and have a discussion about what you are looking for. With advance notice, experiences such as cheese pairings can be arranged. Please contact them at least two weeks before your arrival to make arrangements.

Wine Tasting Details:  There are two tours with tastings that you can schedule. The first, as noted above in my wine notes, is the Heritage Winery and Estate Vineyard tour and tasting. The fee for this experience is $45 per person. You should allow 90 minutes for this tour. The fee is waived for two guests upon enrollment in the Ambassador’s Circle wine club. The second option is the Hanzell Vineyards Wine Library tour & tasting. The fee for this tour is $150 and includes the tour mentioned above, two current release wines, plus two library wines. Please allow 2.5 hours for this experience. All tours and tastings must be booked in advance. All tours and tastings are available 7 days a week from 10am – 4pm, excluding major holidays.

Address & Contact Information: 18596 Lomita Avenue Sonoma, California 95476. Telephone: 707-996-3860, email:, website: Tasting Hours: By appt. 10:00-4:00.

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