Larson Family Winery – A Tale of Rodeos, Race Horses and $4 Million Dollars

 (Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) The SSU Winesense Club was honored to host Larson Family Winery at one of our recent tastings. We were all entranced to learn their amazing history, and then very pleased to taste such delicious wines.

imgres

Picnic Tables at Larsen Family Winery

The Colorful History of Larson Family Winery

The 100-acre winery has been around since 1899 when the Millericks purchased the property. They began to hold the rodeo on the property in the 1920’s until the 1950’s, and it became the largest rodeo in the west.  The rodeo attracted many people as well as a few famous horses, including Seabiscuit who was trained at the facility on site for about 6 weeks in between races.  Another great horse that was reared at the property was Native Diver, the first horse to win a million dollars.

The family started to make wine in the 90’s under the label Sonoma Creek. The brand grew so large and became so popular that the Larson’s sold it in 2004 for $4.1 million and started a mobile bottle company. They also decided to focus on a small production of high-quality wines, which are only sold Direct to Consumer (DTC) at the winery or online. They have also created a few new wine brands, including Three Labs, Millerick Roads, and jug wines with interesting names, such as Wingo White.

Tasting Larson Family Wines

We were allowed to taste four wines at the SSU Wine Sense Club meeting. These included a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon Blend:

  1. The Pinot Grigio was a blend of Pinot Grigio, a little Chardonnay and a very small amount of Gewürztraminer to bring in a little sweetness.
  2. The Chardonnay was steel tank fermentation and then was transferred to neutral oak for 8 months to soften up the wine but not contribute flavor.
  3. The Pinot Noir was a very light Pinot, good for the summer and was only a few shades darker than a Rose.
  4. Finally, the blend was 75% Cab, 20% Merlot and 5% Tempranillo. Being a blend, the wine was very smooth and very easy to drink for a Cabernet. It is also their best selling wine.

Favorites of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious and well made, but the favorites of the evening were:

Millerick Road Chardonnay

Larson Family Red Blend

MRCHSC13 145

 

Kenwood Kicks Off SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Kenwood Winery was kind enough to kick off the first SSU WineSense meeting of the semester. Based in Sonoma Valley, Kenwood has a long reputation for high-quality wines, and is the home of the famous Jack London brand to honor the writer who wrote so many wonderful stories, including Call of the Wild and Valley of the Moon. Kenwood Winery also donates money to support the Jack London State Historic Park.

images

Photo Courtesy of Kenwood.com

About Kenwood Winery

Kenwood Winery was originally started in 1906 by the Pagani Brothers, in an old barn near the site of Jack London’s property. Later the winery was purchased by the Lees Brothers who introduced a French style of wine making, and began to separate varietals by vineyard to create a more organized business. Cuvee style wine making was used to create the new vintages, enabling them to focus on boutique wines.

Eventually Kenwood was purchased by Gary Heck of Korbel, and slowly grew in size until it gained its current excellent national reputation for high quality Sonoma Valley wines. Today Kenwood is owned by Pernod Ricard, who has insured that the wines continued to be distributed nationally and appear in well-known restaurants. Kenwood has become somewhat of a household name and we were very lucky to have been able to have them come present at SSU.

Kenwood Wines We Tasted

We were presented with six different varietals, starting with three whites and finishing with three reds. Highlights included a Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc that was very light and crisp with nice floral notes to it. It was the favorite white of the evening. When beginning with the reds we tried a Jack London Zinfandel that was very nicely balanced with the perfect amount of spice. We finished with a Cab that had a nice smoky finish as well as a good amount of tannins that many people appreciated.

The Favorite of the Evening

Everyone unanimously agreed that the 2013 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite wine of the evening.

bottleshot_2013_jack_london_cs

A Magical Field Trip to Hanna Winery in Sonoma

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) In October the SSU Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip to Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway, everyone was very impressed with the Spanish style architecture of Hanna Winery and the sweeping views of the valley. Our tasting took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room, and was facilitated by Shelby Lozinto, an intern at Hanna and also our Wine Sense Club president.

imgres

Hanna Winery – Photo Credit: Hanna.com

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Then Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery in 1996.  At that time, the annual production was less than 10,000 cases per year, but now the winery produces up to 55,000 cases annually and is growing steadily.  Out of the 55,000 case production, 35,000 cases are solely Sauvignon Blanc, which has become the signature wine of Hanna. This is primarily because they consistently win best of show medals on this delicious wine with notes of grapefruit, grass, and a refreshing acidity.

Wine Tasting at Hanna

It was only fitting that we started with the 2015 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

The second wine presented to the club was the 2014 Hanna Rosé, which was produced in more of a French fashion meaning it was light, crisp, and not very sweet; a dry taste of the wine was emphasized. The Hanna Rosé is almost a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec. The Malbec is produced in Alexander Valley, whereas the Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley. A fun fact about this wine is to achieve the beautiful light pink color, the skins of the grapes are only in contact with the juices for at most 4 hours.

The third wine the club tasted was the 2014 Elias Chardonnay.  The Elias brand name is derived from Dr. Hanna’s first name, he is also a renowned heart surgeon.  During Dr. Hanna’s career, he was known for having the “Quickest hands in the West.” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are some of his favorite varietals to grow and consume.  This Chardonnay is grown in the Russian River Valley near the Santa Rosa tasting room. It is also barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak which gives the wine its smooth texture.

unnamed-3.jpg

SSU WineSense Club Members at Hanna Winery

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the 2014 Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronical. The Malbec came across as the perfect Fall wine as it resembles pumpkin pie spice, “jammy” cranberry sauce and an essence of sage; the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving meal. Overall the wine was very lively on the palate.

The last wine the group experienced was the 2013 Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker and retails for $62. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

Big John’s Market, Grape Tasting in the Vineyard & Horse Carriage Ride

During the Wine tasting the Wine Sense Club enjoyed refreshing and delicious sandwiches and goodies from Big Johns Market in Healdsburg. At the end of the tasting Shelby escorted the group into the vineyards where everyone was able to sample a few grapes straight off the vine. In the area, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available to taste. The group was astonished with how sweet the grapes actually tasted and were amazed at the transformation they go through to transform into wine.

To continue with the tour of the property, Brett Roland, a local wine tourist guide was kind enough to take the wine club on a horse and carriage ride down to the ponds. To end the tour of the property, Shelby took the group into the cellar room below the tasting room to show off the barrels and tanks.

unnamed-2

Horse Carriage Ride Through the Vineyards at Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery – a Truly Magical Place

Enjoying the wines, the education, the beautiful scenery and clear blue sky above, the group was enamored by the wonderful experience. Overall, Hanna Winery had been a great destination to take in the beauty that Alexander Valley has to offer and enjoy some premium wines of Sonoma County.

unnamed-1.jpg

A Toast to Hanna Winery for a Great Field Trip