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Hanzell Pinot Noir 2008
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Zellerbach hired Ralph Bradford Webb in 1956 to be his winemaker and Webb would be integral to the winemaking for the first two decades of Hanzell. Webb introduced four significant advances in enology that would subsequently be adopted by many other wineries, predicating consistency and quality for the entire industry -temperature-controlled fermentation, the use of French Oak barrels, the practice of "blanketing" young wines in tank with inert gas and the practice of induced malolactic fermentation.
The original 6 acre vineyard has grown to 42 acres today, allowing Hanzell to produce 6,000 cases annually: three-quarters Chardonnay and one-quarter Pinot Noir, retaining its identity as a very small winery dedicated to making the Burgundian varietals at the Grand Cru level. Through five decades, Hanzell has pursued empirical winemaking and established traditions on which great cellar-worthy winemaking is predicated.
Perhaps the most historically significant appellation in Sonoma County, the Sonoma Valley is home to both Buena Vista winery, California's oldest commercial winery, and Gundlach Bundschu winery, California's oldest family-run winery.
It is also one of the more geologically and climactically diverse districts. The valley includes and overlaps four distinct Sonoma County sub-appellations, including Carneros, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Mountain and Bennett Valley. With mountains, benchlands, plains, abundant sunshine and the cooling effects of the nearby Pacific, this appellation can successfully produce a wide range of grape varieties. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, and most notably, Zinfandel all thrive here. Ancient Zinfandel vines over 100 years old produce small crops of concentrated, spicy fruit, which in turn make some of the Valley's most unique wines. These can also be made as “field blends” (wines made from a mix of grape varieties grown in the same vineyard) along with Petite Sirah, Carignan and Alicante Bouschet.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.