Hanzell Vineyards in California’s Sonoma Valley was founded in 1957 by James David Zellerbach, a member of the family that owned the paper products manufacturing company Crown Zellerbach Corp. Zellerbach had been a diplomat in Europe where he developed a taste for the wines of Burgundy, and his idea was to make similar wines in California. He bought 25 acres in Sonoma Valley and combined his wife Hanna’s name with his to come up with “Hanzell.” Some wine historians say Hanzell’s 1956 Chardonnay may have been the first in California to be made with new French oak barrels. After Zellerbach’s death the winery was sold several times, and it is now owned by the de Brye family. The winery is still best known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noir.
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.