Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2007 Pinot Noir Cahill Lane from Walter Hansel Winery

Car dealer and vintner Stephen Hansel runs his estate in the heartland of Russian River Valley in Sonoma with his heart. His 30 hectares of vineyards are planted to equal parts with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and in both disciplines he offers several site and clone selections (North Slope Vineyard, South Slope Vineyard, Cahill Lane Vineyard and the ripe, rich and lush Cuvée Alyce, the reserve style of the estate.
It all started when the late Walter Hansel planted his first vines in 1978 just for the love of farming. When his son Stephen later took over, he founded the Walter Hansel Winery in 1994 and begun to make wines, to his father’s surprise.

“Who are going to buy these wines, and why do the bottles carry my name”, was the question Walter threw in the face of Stephen.

“Well, I named the winery after you, dad – after all, you were the one who planted the vineyards and started this – and I put your name on the labels just because I want to honor you – and if we can’t sell the wines, we’d better drink them ourselves”, Stephen replied.

After that, Walter didn’t complain, although he still didn’t understand.

Today Walter Hansel Winery produces some of the finest pinots in Russian River Valley. They are normally benchmarks for the vintage. Also, prices are fantastic! “Even if I could sell my wines for 70 or even 100 dollars per bottle, I wouldn’t – I like to keep the prices at a fair level”, says Stephen and explains: “It’s still a hobby, and I do it to honor my late father”.
Think about that when you enjoy these fine wines.

2007 Pinot Noir Cahill Lane Vineyard / 91 p
Having said all that above, I’m not as impressed by this wine (today) that I normally am, and that only because of one single detail in this vintage – I find the oak to be just a bit to toasted and spicy at the moment. The grapes, in this case Pinot Noir of the French clones Dijon 114, Dijon 115 and Pommard (from missal selection), comes from a single block in the vineyard, and after 5-7 days of cold soak, the juice is fermented in small open top fermenters with frequent pigeage. Malolactic fermentation and upbringing is carried out in French oak barrels (from François Frères and Seguin-Moreau), of which as much as 70 percent are new. Apart from the oak – of which the most spicy notes will fade away over the next 12 months or so – there is abundant of lively, sweetish raspberry and strawberry aromas in a very true to its origin style, which is a bit seasoned with red flowers, and it’s very charming. On the palate, the first sip reveals a lovely and quite seductive sweet fruitiness, which at first seems to be lush and rich in glycerol, but within a second or two, the lively acidity an also a touch of mineral notes makes the taste drier and more structured. The tannins are silky, and a part from the youthful oak bitterness, there is no bitterness derived from the skins or the stems (all grapes are fully destemmed). I’d like to give this wine some 10-15 minutes in a decanter to soften the oak a bit, and to let the fruity and floral qualities to arise. Serve it at 16 degrees Celsius.

If it wasn't for the oaky notes, I'd give this wine a higher score. Even so, it's a very good and charming wines, and I guess it'll taste even greater within a year, or two!
Drink it 2010-2017.

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