Hanzell Vineyards

Happy Fourth of July! Yesterday I celebrated July 4th-eve with a tour of the immaculate Hanzell Vineyards.

The weather was part of the day’s allure, admittedly. I was dressed in my usual 12-year old style of pink Chucks, cut-off shorts and a tank top, thinking that it was going to be sweltering like the previous couple of days. But I was pleasantly surprised that temps were in the mid-80’s.

So the drive from the Boyes Hot Springs area of Sonoma (near the Fairmont Mission Inn) to Hanzell was just one and a half miles. Super quick and easy, although Siri had a few hiccups. Luckily there was plenty of signs (with arrows!) once near Hanzell to point me in the right direction.

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Visiting Hanzell Vineyards is by appointment only. John, their Director of Sales and Marketing, was kind enough to meet with me and show me around the property. These tours take about 60 to 90 minutes, and are filled with information. I have to admit, most of the facts didn’t stick as I was mostly looking around the property, dumbstruck by the scenery, but John was informative and personable the whole time. And if I was slack-jawed at all, he didn’t give any indication that I was being a dope. Thanks, John!

We started off with a look at the Chardonnay vineyards that are close to the main property. The Chardonnay here are the first plantings in North America.

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Check out that gnarly vine!

Baby Chard grapes.

Baby Chard grapes.

Before we go any further, I’d like to share my connection to Hanzell. When I lived in Houston, I worked at a wine bar in Houston which specialized in wines that were from smaller vineyards, hard to find, etc. That wine bar is where I first met my husband (feeling sappy? read that story here).

One day he came in to drink some wine and chat with me and I walked him around the store, pointing out my favorite wines. I showed Simon a bottle of Hanzell Pinot Noir, telling him about how these were the first Pinot plantings in Sonoma and how it was special stuff, and so on… Simon then told me “Oh, those vineyards are right behind my parents’ house. My dad actually got kicked off their property a few years ago for riding his horse through the estate.” My mind was kind of blown by that, just the proximity of it all. When I first visited Sonoma as Simon’s fiancee about 2 years ago, we toured Hanzell with my infamous Father in Law. Hanzell became a part of the story of Simon and myself.

Ok, nuff fluff. Moving on in the winery tour. We went to the original, gravity-fed winery, which now serves as a library and tasting area. Some of these bottles date back to the 60’s. One really cool thing is that the Hanzell label has barely changed over the years. John told me that he has no intention of changing the label anytime soon. It ain’t broke.

Blurry, I know. My bad.

Blurry, I know. My bad.

Upstairs we went, where the first stainless steel fermentation tanks (ever? I think?) are still hanging out. Then onwards to the Proprietor’s Office. This was the office of the original winemaker. The view is incredible, and it is where wine tastings with small groups are hosted.

View from the entrance of the Proprietor's Office.

View from the entrance of the Proprietor’s Office.

'68 Chardonnay! No big deal.

’68 Chardonnay! No big deal.

Stairway. Not recommended after wine tasting.

Stairway. Not recommended after wine tasting.

chardtube

Test tube of the first malolactic fermentation created for Chardonnay.

After the walk around the winery/buildings, off to the vineyards we went!

Vineyard view.

Vineyard view.

This looked like a fluffy green wine blanket.

This looked like a fluffy green wine blanket.

You can see that everything was really green and lush. Summer’s a great time of year to enjoy the colors and scenery in Sonoma.

Below, check out the colors of the grapes. These Pinot grapes are beginning to gain color. This is a bit early (by about 3 weeks), since Sonoma has had a hot spring and past week or so. P.S. both the previous and following photos are untouched, so these colors are the real deal.

Multi-colored grapes.

Multi-colored grapes.

Some of these vineyards are at a 38 degree angle. Yowza! My Chucks didn’t offer much traction. See the hawk the picture below? He’s making sure mice don’t nibble at your future wine.

A hawk keeping critters away.

A hawk keeping critters away.

Did you know Sonoma has a significant Tibetan population? Check out Taste of the Himalayas next time you’re in town and craving some spice and culture. Here are some pretty Tibetan flags hanging in a corner of the vineyards:

Tibetan flags.

Tibetan flags.

After the vineyards, John took me to Hanzell’s caves, which were built in 2003.

Entrance to Hanzell's caves.

Entrance to Hanzell’s caves.

The caves stay pretty much the same temperature and humidity year round.

Lots of barrels, all French.

Lots of barrels, all French.

All the barrels used for Hanzell’s wines are French, and no darker than a medium-toast. Meaning, there’s not too much “oaky” flavor imparted, which could overpower delicate varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Side note: expect a Bordeaux-style blend to make its debut around 2021! Those might take a little more oak, I would expect. 🙂

Overhead light made out of a wine barrel.

Overhead light made out of a wine barrel.

Out of the caves…

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens.

Fermentation tanks, where the actual winemaking goes down. Each clone of each variety is fermented in a separate tank.. talk about attention to detail!

That was the tour! Super in-depth, informative without dragging, and just a pleasant experience overall. I highly recommend checking out Hanzell when you visit Sonoma.

Oh, and check out their ride.

My husband's dream car! (maybe mine now, too)

My husband’s dream car! (maybe mine now, too).

Click here for more Hanzell info, or to make an appointment. 

P.S. I was not paid or given free wine to showcase this winery. They were kind enough to take me on a tour, gratis, but other than that I just want to share this fun stuff with you!

And today I will celebrate by finishing this epically long post eating veggie burgers with the fam, taking more pictures to share soon, and being a happy camper. 🙂 Happy Fourth, everyone! Enjoy!

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