A Tasting With Boutique Wineries Three Sticks and Hamel Family Vineyards


Contributed by Sophia Fish
– The SSU Wine Sense Club was honored to host two unique boutique wineries this week – Three Sticks and Hamel Family Vineyards, both located in Sonoma Valley.

20151105_191655Even better was the fact that both wineries have hired SSU wine business students. Katie Boyer now works at Three Sticks Winery and our Wine Sense President, Rachel Minor, works as an intern at Hamel Family Wines.

Overview of Three Sticks Winery

Three Sticks is a winery that succeeds with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bill Price purchased Durell Vineyard in 1998, and went on to found Three Sticks Winery in 2002. The winery began producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from it’s 111 acres.

Source of the Name: The name Three Sticks came from “Billy Three Sticks,” a nickname given to Price by surfing friends who teased him about his formal name, William S. Price III.

Winemaking: Three Sticks winemaker is Don Van Staaveren, a former winemaker for Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood. Its winemaking team has recently grown this year with the addition of Bob Cabral as the label’s director of winemaking. Cabral is a gifted winemaker who previously spent 16 years as winemaker at Williams Selyem.

Three Sticks wines are made in very small quantities and are available by allocation only – but don’t fret. If you would like to taste these exclusive wines you are welcome to visit Three Sticks tasting room called the Adobe. The winery recently restored the historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in downtown Sonoma, used for private tastings daily by appointment.

We tasted four wines from Three Sticks:

  • 2013 Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay: Aromas of ginger, citrus, roasted almonds, sandalwood, with a creamy complex finish.
  • 2013 Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley ORGIN Chardonnay: Notes of lemon blossom, fresh fig, citrus and summer peach.
  • 2013: Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Essence of blackberries, mushrooms, soft leather, dark cherries and earth.
  • 2013 Gaps Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Aromas of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry, with a wonderful balance of spice and fruit.

Hamel Family Wines – A Family Affair

HF-33-copy

Hamel Family at Winery

Hamel Family Wines was founded in 2006, when George Hamel Jr. and his wife, Pamela, looked to Wine Country as a place to escape the summers in San Francisco. It all started when the Hamels purchased a home on the Tres Palmas Vineyard in Kenwood. After that it quickly became a family affair, with John Hamel II as the winemaker and George Hamel III as the managing director.

The Lowdown on the Logo:You may be wondering about the unique label chosen for the brand. There are many reasons why this logo was chosen, but the most significant is the family’s three generations of University of Wisconsin graduates; George, George Jr. and John Hamel II. The schools mascot is a badger. Go Badgers!

The Winemaking: One thing that is special about Hamel Family Wines is that everything is grown on its estate, meaning it has full control over the quality of wine produced. The winery’s land is certified organic, and it expects to its biodynamic certificate in two to four years. It originally produced 290 cases, and increased to 4,500 this year. These wines are sold exclusively at its Sonoma Valley tasting room, as well as some upscale restaurants such as The French Laundry and The Girl & The Fig.

We tasted three wines from Hamel Family:

  • 2014 Sonoma Valley Estate Rose: Aromas of white peach, red berries, orange zest, and ginger.
  • 2012 Sonoma Valley Isthmus: Notes of tobacco, dark fruit, earth and cassis.
  • 2013 Sonoma Valley Estate Old Vine Zinfandel: Aromas of strawberries, apricots, dark berries and cocoa

Favorite Wines of the Evening

IMG_0612 (1)IMG_0613After voting for the two top favorite wines, the winners were:

  • 2013 Gaps Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Armor Plate Estate Zinfandel

SSU Wine Sense Club Students Take Field Trip to Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust ) – One of the main goals of the Wine Sense Club is to create connections between wine professionals, wineries, and students. We appreciate all of the people who have come to visit us on campus over the years but wanted to create an organic way for students to get the all-encompassing experience of a brand. In attempt to do this the Executive Board have organized fieldtrips all over Sonoma and Napa Valley during the Spring semester.

Hamel Family/ Brand History:

To kick off our series of field trips we had the honor of visiting Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma. The 124-acre Hamel property has been within the family for many generations and they began making wine in 2006. The entire Hamel operation is very much a family affair, with George II and Pam as the owners, their oldest son George III the Managing Director, John the winemaker and their daughter Casey helping with administration duties.

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

The new tasting room was completed in June and opened to the public. The beautiful tasting room blends into the environment perfectly, so much so that you can’t even see it from Highway 12. The Hamel’s wanted the tasting room to blend in and add to the natural beauty of the property which is very evident when you step on the gorgeous patio with large minimalist couches to allow the breathtaking views of Sonoma county take the main stage.

Tour Details:

A group of students were led on a tour by Kirstie Dyer, Operations Manager, a recent Sonoma State and Wine Sense Club alum. Kirstie showed us their stunning 12,000 square foot cave, where they have invested in many concrete egg-shaped tanks. These types of tanks are breathable like regular barrels but don’t give off any of the oak characteristics to the wine. The egg shape also gives a natural stirring effect during fermentation.

The Hamel’s see the environment as an extremely important, if not the most important part of their venture so they have attempted to bring organic and biodynamic styles in their wine growing and gardens. They have a large garden full of fruits and vegetables in addition to various livestock that live on the property including baby goats and cows.

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

At the end of the tour the group was treated to a tasting on the patio of their four current releases: the 2013 Rosé, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Zinfandel and 2011 Isthmus, a red wine blend.

We owe a huge thank you to the wonderful Kirstie Dyer and the Hamel Family for showing us a fantastic afternoon at their beautiful new facility. We can’t wait to go back!