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Hanzell Vineyards

Owner(s) Alexander de Brye
Web site www.hanzell.com
 
Link to this site
Hanzell Vineyards

Hanzell is California’s first ‘boutique’ wine estate. Diplomat James D. Zellerbach and his wife, Hana, became fond of Burgundy and its wines while he served as an American ambassador to Italy. Zellerbach was president of Crown Zellerbach, a large forest products company at the time. The Zellerbachs were so inspired that they purchased land on Sonoma Mountain just one mile north of Sonoma Plaza and set to building a winery of redwood and local stone fashioned after Burgundy’s Clos de Vougeot.

They planted their first vines in 1953: Chardonnay using the Wente clone and Pinot Noir using the Martin Ray clone. The Martin Ray clonal material was reputedly from a clandestine late night raid on a Napa Valley vineyard by Hanzell’s initial winemaker, Brad Webb. Over the years, the vines have mutated and new vines propagated from them creating a distinct Hanzell selection. Sessions planted or re-planted all the vineyards until 2008 except the historic Ambassador's Vineyard. The Ambassador's Vineyard, planted in 1953, is the oldest continually producing vineyard of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the New World.

Winemaking at Hanzell was very Burgundian from the beginning and Zellerbach was among the first in California to utilize French oak barrels. In addition, Zellerbach designed the first temperature controlled stainless-steel fermentation tanks used in conjunction with the traditional French oak barrels. He was also was the first to use nitrogen in bottling. Small amounts of wine were sold starting in 1957, but 1965 was the first full-scale commercial vintage.

Bob Sessions followed Brad Webb and was the general manager and head winemaker at Hanzell for 33 years until 2002. He was diagnosed with dementia and retired in 2005. His replacement was Michael Terrien. The current winemaker, who joined Hanzell in 2008, is Michael McNeill.

The house style has remained consistent. Today, Hanzell’s vineyards have increased to 46 acres (27.5 acres of Chardonnay and 14.5 acres of Pinot Noir) which produce 4,500 cases of 100% estate-bottled wine from the estate vineyards. For the past 30 years, Alexander de Brye has owned Hanzell. The President is Jean Arnold-Sessions.

The Chardonnays have been the star at this winery and often hold up beautifully 20 years and beyond. The Pinot Noirs have had their advocates as well. Annual production is 2,500 cases of Chardonnay and 1,500 cases of Pinot Noir. The wines are expensive but worth it and are sold to a faithful mailing list with limited retail distribution.

Reviewed Wines

2012 Hanzell “Sebella” Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.72, 3,564 cases, $36. Sourced from younger estate vines. Bottled April 2-10, 2013. 100% stainless steel fermented with no malolactic fermentation. Finished and aged for 3 to 6 months in 1 to 4-year-old French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. An array of aromas leap out of the glass, including white peach, lemon zest, fresh cut apple, and a hint of just-baked croissant. The nose never wavers over a one hour period in the glass. Fruit is front and center with flavors of white grapefruit, green apple and lemon. Slightly steely, yet soft and smooth, ending with a good snap of acidity. Very satisfying and friendly for early drinking. Score: 90. Reviewed October 11, 2013 ARTICLE »

2011 Hanzell “Sebella” Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.81, 2,023 cases, $36. The Hanzell Chardonnay companion label. Individual vineyard blocks have been identified that form the core of this wine, particularly younger blocks that provide the forward and youthful fruit expression for Sebella. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, then racked to seasoned French oak barrels where it finished fermentation and aged sur lie for six months. Malolactic fermentation was inhibited to preserve the fresh, floral qualities and lively acidity. · Light straw color and clear in the glass. A very complex wine that is quite forward. The nose offers an array of aromas including baked apple, mango, lemon, Irish butter, vanilla, nuts, cut flowers and ocean air. Crisp and refreshing, with pleasing flavors of lemon, green apple and white peach, leading to a lemon drop finish exhibiting racy acidity. I am not usually a fan of unoaked Chardonnay, but this wine caught my attention, and will certainly please fans of Chardonnay vinified in this fashion. Score: 90. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2011 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.68, 1,782 cases, $75. Bottled April 22-25, 2013. Heritage clones, rigorous pruning. Aged 18 months total with 12 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon curd, honey, buttery brioche, hazelnut and ocean breeze. Attention-grabbing intensity on the mid palate with energetic flavors of lemon, apple and spice, finishing with power, focus and razor sharp, palate cleansing acidity. The wine offers impressive harmony that bodes well for longevity. Score: 93. Reviewed October 11, 2013 ARTICLE »

2011 Hanzell de Brye Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.69, 152 cases, $78. Bottled April 25, 2013. Inaugural release. From a vineyard planted in 1976. St. George rootstock and Hanzell clone selection massale from the original Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard. Aged 18 months total with 12 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Reserved, but complex nose, offering aromas of lemon, grilled pineapple, baked apple and hazelnut. Very creamy and harmonious on the palate with the lemon and apple fruits draping the structure such that the wine feels sleek. More body and fullness than the estate bottling with added power on the finish. Remarkably silky on the finish as well, literally slipping off the back of the palate. Still superb when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle two days later. This wine is still young and will benefit from a few years of cellaring to reach its apogee. Score: 94. Reviewed October 11, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.72, 2,329 cases, $75. Cold, wet spring with rains causing a fair bit of shatter. Yields down over twenty percent. Summer temperatures were mild. Harvest extended from September 13 to 28. Select barrels were included in this final blend. · Light straw color and clear in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of lemon drop, peach, buttery brioche and chalk dust. The palate-staining flavors really pique your interest by their depth, offering notes of baked pear, green apple, grilled grapefruit and roasted nuts. Juicy and seductive with lively acidity, this wine is superb in every way. I rarely talk of finish in Chardonnay but this wine offers superb closing intensity and length . An outstanding wine that makes you want to clap. Score: 95. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Hanzell Sessions Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, 99 cases, $95. Harvest began September 14, a full three weeks later than usual. Coastal fog led to a leisure harvest and picking concluding four days later. 667, 777 and Swan clones planted on 3309 rootstock were chosen for the fruit qualities that distinguish the Sessions Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 18 months in 75% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. High-spirited aromatics of black cherries, black raspberries, cedary oak and spice lead to a mouth coating palate featuring dense flavors of black cherry infused cola, dark plum and exotic spice. The fruit is perfectly ripe and flat-out delicious, making a statement on entry and an impression on the finish which is of uncommon length. The wine is structured but not hard and the acidity is beautifully integrated. A very special wine that stands out even at this young age. Even better on the nose and palate the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, indicating it will benefit from further cellaring. One of the best Pinots California has to offer in this vintage. Score: 96. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.62, 1,287 cases, $95. Cold, wet weather in the spring. Rains through bloom caused shatter. Summer temperatures were mild with only a few days in mid-August hitting the century mark. The weeks before harvest were unusually mild. Harvest began on September 14, three weeks later than usual with the Hanzell and 777 clones. 5% whole cluster. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially shy, opening slowly even after decanting. Aromas and flavors of dark red cherries and raspberries with hints of spice and savory herbs arrive over time and reach a very flavorful level. Discreetly concentrated with bright acidity and sturdy tannins, finishing with plenty of oak-kissed fruit intensity. Spectacular the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. I would advise cellaring this wine for a few years to soften and integrate the tannins and allow the fruit to come to the forefront. This will be an exceptionally lovely wine over the long haul. Score: 95. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., $75. · Very light straw color and clear in the glass. Initially reduction aromas of struck match, resolving over time to reveal scents of straw bale, alfalfa, autumn leaves and roasted nuts. A seamless wine that enters with tasty flavors of lemon, pear and peanuts and exits with a lemony riff. Slightly crusty and salty. Very good acid backbone leads the drinker to another sip. Finishes impressively with great vigor and focus. Should age extremely well. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 2,777 cases. Dry, cool spring with even bud-break. 100ºF four days in early July. Remainder of summer was warm and sunny with foggy mornings. 38% barrel fermented. Aged 18 months in one-third new Sirugue oak barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Bright, fresh aromas and flavors featuring lemon, pear jam, citrus peel, almond and buttered brioche on the nose and lemon, green apple and honey on the palate. Very soft and smooth on entry, finishing on a high note with a zingy, lemon-driven curtain call. Drink or hold. 91. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.56, 1,361 cases. Dry, cool spring followed by early July heat spike to 100ºF four days in a row. Rest of summer was sunny and warm with morning fog. Sessions, Benny’s and de Brye vineyards. Aged 18 months in 50% new Sirugue oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics with scents of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, Asian 5-spice and ash. A big, concentrated wine with a plush core of smoky, tarry black cherry, cassis and spice flavors, wrapped in muscular tannins. Still reserved and opens reluctantly in the glass. Noticeably smooth and velvety on the palate, finishing with slight tannic astringency and a touch of heat. Hold. Score: 90. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Sebella Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., 762 cases, $36. Named after the owner’s children, Sebastian and Isabella. Selected from barrels, many from newer Chardonnay vines, and crafted for current drinking. 30% barrel fermented, 18 months total elevage, 12 months in 30% new Sirugue French oak barrels. · Pale straw color in the glass. Delicately perfumed and highly nuanced revealing aromas of poached apple, freshly toasted brioche and brown butter. Clean and bright on the palate with flavors of red apple, baking spices and citrus. A lovely drink whose bright acidity refreshes every sip. Good. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 2,777 cases, $70. Several clones including Robert Young, Dijon 76 and Wente. One-third of the wine fermented and aged in new Sirugue French oak barrels where MLF was encouraged and the balance fermented cool, in stainless steel tanks where MLF was discouraged. The new barrel component was aged 18 months and the tank-fermented portion was put into two and three-year old barrels after 6 months and kept an additional 11 months before blending and bottling. 69% of the vintage was selected for the estate bottling. · Pale straw color in the glass. Delicate, yet complex aromatic profile that picks up intensity with time in the glass to reveal scents of white peaches, crushed stones, toasted brioche and lemon tart. This high-collared wine strikes a perfect balance between welcoming finesse and impressive finishing strength and persistence. Smoothly textured with a well proportioned grip of acidity and a very appealing underlying minerality. Flavors of golden apple, white stone fruits and subtle toast develop strength and brilliance with air time. If you must open a bottle now, decant. A very classy wine that will hold its own against many Grand Crus white Burgundies. Older vintages of Hanzell Chardonnay are available on the secondary market through the internet and these will make for remarkable drinking experiences as well. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $80. 200- acre estate with 42 acres of vineyards planted to heritage clones. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of dark berry tart, cassis, dark chocolate, and anise-laced oak. Very earthy and somewhat brooding with bruising tannins. Moderately richly flavored with dark berries, black cherries and anise. Much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and especially good with beef that counteracts the tannins. This wine needs more time to integrate and soften the tannins but has a special rugged mountain character that is appealing. Very good. Reviewed February 27, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.7, 1,361 cases, $95. Aged 18 months in 50% new Sirigue barrels. · Still tight but this will be a 20 to 30 year wine. Well-scented black cherry fruit lurks behind scents of oak and underbrush. Rich and satisfying sweet berry and cherry fruit with healthy tannins and a huge, dry and fruity finish. Plenty of power but the tannins and acidity bring everything into focus. Down the road this wine has limitless potential. Lay it down for several years and then party like it was 2007. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2006 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

15.0% alc., 3,253 cases. Severe frost in March led to limited yields. Temperatures in the second half of July soared, peaking at 114ºF. 50% of wine was barrel fermented in this vintage. Aged 18 months in one-third new Sirugue French oak barrels. Michael Terrien winemaker. · Moderately deep golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of poppyseed, lemon, vanilla, old book and flint. Modest fullness and creaminess (alcohol-driven) with good vim, offering flavors of lemon curd, honey, yellow peach and marzipan. Finishes with a hint of warmth on the finish. Drink or hold. Score: 88. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2006 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

15.3% alc., pH 3.91, TA 0.54. Plentiful crop, brutishly hot July with temperatures reach 114ºF. Fall was unseasonably cool and botrytis was a challenge. Michael Terrien winemaker. Aged 18 months in 50% new Sirugue oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Very ripe array of aromas including blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, grilled plum and brewed tea. A little alcohol shows up on the nose. Very ripe, dark red and black stone fruits and berries are featured with a noticeable underpinning of welcome baking spices. The tannins are well balanced, and the wine is very soft and smooth, but it lacks a spark of refreshing acidity. Drink or hold short term. Score: 88. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2006 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

15.3% alc., $95. The 2006 Estate Pinot Noir received a week-long cold soak. The must was macerated for nearly a month creating a firm tannin backbone ideal for extended aging. Sourced from the 10-year old Sessions Vineyard and the older de Brye and Zellerbach vineyards. · Moderate garnet color with a burnished copper rim in the glass. Enticing aromas of spiced black cherries, raspberries, dusty trail, oak and a touch of barnyard. With time, scents of currants and raisin appear. Intense and juicy, with very ripe, dark red, and soil-inflected fruits showing hints of brioche, mocha, brown spice and even root beer flavors. The mouthfeel is all velvet, and the finishing cherry and berry fruits have a memorable persistence. Picks up interest with time in the glass. There is enough fruit and tannin to buttress the generous alcohol. This wine makes a case for the affirmative in the argument over whether you can make a Pinot Noir with over 15% alcohol that is balanced. A California classic that will improve beautifully with several years in the cellar. Very good (+). Reviewed December 16, 2009 ARTICLE »

2005 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.56. A rainy spring required shoot-thinning and leaf-pulling into August. First days of September very hot caused rising sugars. First Pinot Noir made in new winery by Michael Terrien. New gentle de-stemmer diminished tannin extraction so fermentation temperature was allowed to climb to its natural peak and after fermentation, the young wine experienced an extended maceration. Aged 18 months in 50% new Sirugue oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. The nose offers a ripe fruit profile with aromas of dark berries, game, and smoky oak. The core of blackberry, black currant and raisin fruits is very tasty, although veering to the very ripe side. Still sporting firm tannins that are evident but not hard. Very soft on the palate, maybe too soft, and lacking in acidity. Finishes a little hot. Drink or hold short term. Score: 88. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2004 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.57, 1,400 cases. Some head in late April but the vintage was gentle from May to the end of August. Grapes were harvested before a brutally hot September. Yields 1.9 tons per acre. Aged 16 months in 62% new Sirugue oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color with no bricking in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, dried oak and old books. Very fresh mid weight flavors of black cherry cola backed by sinewy tannins and good acidity which strikes a mineral note. Silky in the mouth with a cherry-driven finish of uncommon intensity. Beautifully balanced for the long haul. Will hold for at least another ten years, but hard to resist now. Score: 90. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2003 Hanzell Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc.. · Aromas of fresh black cherries amped to a high level. Bright and opulent on the nose with an interesting mineral edge. My notes say, “Remarkable!” Intensely flavored but light on its feet, with a discreetly concentrated core of cherry and berry fruit set off by notes of bark, peat and spice. Well-structured with the ripe, soft tannins seemingly caressing the fruit in velvet. A remarkable wine that I felt honored to drink and one of the greatest California Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2003 Hanzell Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 1,507 bottles. · Medium reddish-purple color with no bricking in the glass (unfiltered). Slight wet dog (Brettanomyces) aroma fades over time. Bouquet of an aged wine with scents of black cherry, briar and worn leather. Relatively fresh flavors of dark cherries, black raspberries, anise and spice with soft tannins in the background creating a creamy texture. The finish is striking for its tenacity. A remarkable ten-year-old wine that will go another ten years, but I would enjoy it for its purity of fruit now. Score: 90. Reviewed July 21, 2013 ARTICLE »

2003 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.. Crushed before de-stemming. Aged in 57% new French oak. · Very savory with aromas of dark berry jam and herbs. Earthy and spicy black raspberry and black cherry flavors wrapped in moderately firm, dry tannins, finishing with an herbal note. Good. Reviewed August 23, 2012 ARTICLE »

2001 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc.. · A complex perfume of fresh black cherries, red anise, rock, berries and rose petals. Medium weighted with more structure and fruit than the 1995 version offering flavors of slightly tart dried cherries, cherry skins, and berry jam. Delicious with noticeable persistence on the bright finish. An impressive wine with a lovely sensual modesty. Very good. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

1997 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc.. · Gorgeous garnet color. Noteworthy heat on the nose and finish. Heady cherry fruit flavors. Soft in texture with fine-grained tannins persisting. Admirable for a ten-year-old California Pinot Noir but rather one-dimensional. Reviewed September 2, 2007 ARTICLE »

1995 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc.. · The nose struck me as very “Burgundian,” sporting fresh aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, underbrush and exotic woods. A chameleon in the glass offering many layered flavors of dried cherries, macerated berries, loamy earth, and savory herbs. The tannins have melted and the well-proportioned acidity brings everything into balance. A treat. Very good. Reviewed May 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

1994 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

Whole cluster fermentation started in the late 1980s and continued until 2005. Current winemaker, Michael McNeill is bringing back some whole cluster as he feels it adds an interesting floral and spice box character to the wines. The winery tries to make changes in winemaking very slowly over time to maintain a consistent style. This wine has 20% whole cluster. · Aromas of grass and straw, showing a medium weight core of dark red fruit backed by firm, dry tannins, finishing very dry, even slightly astringent. Good. Reviewed August 23, 2012 ARTICLE »

1986 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

Warm vintage. 20% stems were added back. Aged 24 months in oak. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Still vibrant on the nose with aromas of dark stone fruit and berries with a hint of chocolate mint. Plenty of fruit remains backed by persistent, firm tannins. Dark, ripe fruit is accented by notes of earth and mushroom. Amazing! Reviewed August 23, 2012 ARTICLE »