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james laube's wine flights

Hanzell Is Back, in a Big Way

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Dec 14, 2006 6:37pm ET

I've long been a fan of Hanzell. What's not to like?

This Sonoma Valley winery has a rich history filled with many brilliant wines, thanks in large part to winemaker Bob Sessions, who's now retired.

On several occasions, Sessions and I tasted complete verticals of the winery's Chardonnay and its Pinot Noir, and for the most part, all of the wines dating to the 1960s aged extremely well.

A couple of years ago, Hanzell became a victim of systemic TCA.

Low yet detectable levels of the chemical compound tainted several vintages of Hanzell's wines, which I could no longer recommend. And for a while, the winery suspended sales of its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Stories like that are never fun to write. And to Hanzell's credit, its owner, Alexander de Brye, and president, Jean Arnold, took action to remedy the situation.

Essentially, it became clear that the old cellar couldn't be sufficiently cleaned up, and they opted to build a new one.

Now, after tasting the two newest releases, the 2003 Pinot Noir ($87) and the 2004 Chardonnay ($65), I'm happy to say that at least for me, the winery is back on track, with two classy wines, both in the tradition of what this vineyard and winery can do at its best.

I'm hard-pressed to think of a winery that makes more age-worthy wines, so if you're looking for a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to stick in the cellar for enjoyment in a few years, these wines are two great bets.

Both are intense, concentrated and able to do what many wines can't—improve with age.

Greg Malcolm
St. Louis, Missouri —  December 14, 2006 11:58pm ET
James, This is good news. I have thoroughly enjoyed the 1998 Hanzell Pinot Noir and have 2 more bottles sleeping.
Dale Johnson
Steamboat Springs —  December 15, 2006 9:08am ET
James,I've long been a fan as well. I'm enjoying my 96 and 97 Chards and agree that they are much better now than they were at release.Dale
Tim Adcock
Gilbert, Az —  December 15, 2006 11:09am ET
James, glad to hear the above...what did you rate these? Tim

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