Walter Hansel Winery is in Sonoma County near the southern end of the Russian River. The 80-acre estate was established in 1978 when Walter Hansel planted 250 vines on the property. His son Stephen planted more vines in the 1980s. The winery’s first commercial vintage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was in 1996. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay remain the estate’s primary offerings, and all grapes are estate grown. Some are vineyard designated. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that the estate “is a terrific source for sensational Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, made very much in the style of wines proprietor Stephen Hansel loves the most, white and red Burgundies….the estate has built a brilliant track record…”
Russian River Valley AVA is named for the river that meanders from Mendocino County in the north until it finally runs into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. The AVA is cool thanks to its proximity to the northern California coast and the river, and grape growers must learn to deal with regular fog. Nevertheless in recent decades the AVA has become one of the best in the state, meaning that its wines often earn excellent reviews and have considerable cachet. The AVA status was awarded in 1983 and today the appellation has 15,000 vineyard acres. Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape though Pinot Noir has also been very successful in recent decades. Russian River Valley Pinot Noir are known for being rich, lush and filled with concentrated fruit and berry flavors. Russian River Pinot Noirs are today considered some of the best domestic Pinot Noirs.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.