2014 Hanzell Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Valley.
With loads of black cherry, plum and wild raspberry fruit and hints of toast, spice and mocha the latest estate Hanzell Pinot Noir is a compelling wine of pedigreed stature, it is delicious in the glass with a seductive aromas of shaved vanilla, rose petals and earl grey tea as well as its deep ruby/garnet color making the 2014 vintage hard to resist. This was a year that went to perfect with early bud break and early harvest giving warm ripe complexity of flavors along with a touch of red peach and candied citrus zestiness that highlights the balance found here. The mouth feel is opulent and creamy and while at first the oak intrudes that impression fades as the wine opens with time in the glass until everything folds together with harmonic grace, reminding me why I absolutely love these wines. Sometimes overlooked in modern times Hanzell is still a treasured wine, with both their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir showing massive potential, delivering world class performances.
One of the classics of California Pinot Noir, Hanzell Vineyards, which dates back to 1953, when Ambassador James D. Zellerbach planted this historic vineyard on the southern tip of the Mayacamas mountain range with a vision to compete with the world’s best wines. After extensive time spent in Burgundy, Zellerbach focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for his Sonoma Valley estate, which he planted, and it’s worth noting that these two varieties at the time accounted for less than a few hundred acres (of each) in all of North America. Hanzelll, which has been since 1975, owned by the de Brye family who have kept its heritage and tradition alive and well with what they call a progressive and holistic approach in which they hope ensures the sustainability for generations to come, along with helping Hanzell become among the California greats like Rochioli, Williams Selyem, Joseph Swan, Mount Eden and Chalone that all gained international fame durning the 1970s and 1980s and still are legends today. One of the most important events in Hanzell’s rise to stardom was when, in 1973, Bob Sessions hired as Winemaker with his name being intertwined with Hanzell for decades and crafted some of the greatest Chardonnay and Pinot the state has ever seen. Now the team at Hanzell, led by owner Alexander de Brye has got the talented Jason Jardine, who was hired as President and Director of Winemaking in 2014, taking over from Michael McNeill and Lynda Hanson that had guided the wines here after Sessions retired in the later part of the 2000s.
The luxurious 2014 Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir, made by the mentioned Michael McNeill, is an all 100% estate grown blend, sourced from twelve acres of our Ambassador’s 1953, de Brye and Sessions vineyard blocks, all set on the farm’s rocky clay-loam soils, with an average vine age of nearly 30 years. McNeill chose a five day cold soak to extract just the right amount of color and tannin from the skins and fermented it with selected yeasts with about 10% whole cluster and an 18 month evevage in French oak with close to 60% new barrique, ending with a mastic and powerful Pinot Noir that come in at 13.8% natural alcohol. The site catches sea breezes that come off the San Pablo Bay and the elevation allows for cool nights that aid in retaining vibrant acidity, while getting ripe fruit intensity, this site produces some of the most age worthy wines you can hope to find in America. This 2014 is lush, lavish and silken in texture, but with good vigor and underlying structure, appealing for it’s overt youthful fruit and the layering it should age wonderfully well for another decade and a half, it’s a treat now and should be even better in 3 to 5 years.
($90 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive