A Heavenly Visit to Hanna Winery in Sonoma County

In October the Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip out to Hanna winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway of Hanna Winery, the Wine Sense club was able to take in the picturesque views of the valley. The club’s wine tasting excursion took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room. Shelby Lozinto, the President of the Wine Sense club arranged a private tasting for the club and presented a selection of the Hanna wines to the club members.

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Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.  Photo Credit: Hanna

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery back in 1996.  When she took over the operations the company’s production was less than 10,000 cases per year; 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.

Tasting Hanna Wines

The first wine the club experienced was Hanna’s renowned 2015 vintage of Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. This wine is also produced in the Russian River Valley. Hanna Winery has secured long term grape contracts to supplement their growth pattern.

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.

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronicle. 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 Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Big John’s Market

Great Food from Big Johns Market

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.

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.

Best Wine Tasting Experience at Serego Alighieri Winery in Italy

(Contributed by Gabriele Brusamarello) – My best tasting room experience was at the Serego Alighieri Estate, in the heart of the Valpolicella wine region in Italy. Located just a few miles away from the historic and magical city of Verona and beautiful Lake Garda, the winery estate was establish in 1353. It was a sunny and warm day in spring 2012, and I went to visit the winery with some basketball teammates since we were playing for the Verona basketball team. When we first arrived, we were surrounded by nature, astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, and our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole Serego Alighieri estate and vineyards.

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Serego Alighieri Estate in Italy

When we first arrived, we were astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, surrounded by nature. Our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole estate and vineyards.

Tasting the Amarone Wine

After the tour, Massimilla escorted us to the cellar, where grapes used to make Amarone were left to rest during the winter months for hundreds of years. We were welcomed by Massimilla’s family inside the cellar who made us feel like family the moment we walked in. A place with centuries of history immediately became an extremely friendly environment, which made the whole experience even more pleasant and memorable.

Inside the cellar we were offered many red wines that Serego Alighieri produced, including Valpolicella Classico Superiore, the Recioto Della Valpolicella, and delicious Amarone Della Valpolicella of different years. They were complemented by a variety of salame, prosciutto crudo, and porchetta, as well as different cheeses. Pairing wine and food helped wine to release its best flavors and aromas –it was absolutely perfect.

History and Family Linked to Dante

What made this so special is the history and family. In fact, Massimilla’s father told us that the estate was bought in 1353 by the son of the Supreme Poet Dante Alighieri. The fact that we were able to walk around made the whole experience surreal, magical, and breathtaking. I will always remember that special day and to be the experience that made me love wine even more than before.

Grapes Still Stomped by Foot at Pax Wines in Sebastopol, CA

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – Have you ever felt the soft squishy feel of grapes underneath your bare feet?  Well, this is the way they still make some of the wine at Pax Winery in Sebastopol, California. That’s because owners Pax and Pam Mahle believe in making wine the old-fashioned way. Not only do they stomp their wine grapes by foot, but they refrain from using chemicals or any unnatural additions to their wines. Pax Winery also leaves the skins on the grape for as long as possible to allow for natural fermentation as well as getting maximum flavor.

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Pax Wine Tasting at Sonoma State University Winesense Club

The result is very delicious tasting wines that are fermented by natural yeast, and have achieved high scores from wine critics. They are best known for their red Syrah wine, achieving a perfect 100-point score from Vinous Antonio Galloni for their 2016 vintage.

Falling in Love with Syrah

Owners Pax and Pam fell in love with the Syrah grape after taking a trip through the California wine regions. They especially enjoy cool climate Syrahs, which have higher acidity and complex inky blackberry and anise notes. Therefore, Pax chose vineyards in the cooler climates of Sonoma County and Mendocino. While Syrah is what Pax is known for, they also produce other varietals including Gamey, Chenin Blanc and Carignane.

Visiting Pax Tasting Room in Sebastopol or Online

The Pax tasting room is located in downtown Sebastopol, and is open to walk-ins. They even offer wine on tap! Their welcoming and knowledgeable staff are sure to be able to answer any questions you may have, and you can take home some delicious bottles of Pax wine, or shop online at their wine store.

Elephant Motif and Farm-Stay Wine Experience at Zo Winery

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – This month we had a great educational wine-tasting on the campus of Sonoma State University with Zo Winery. They are located in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma County, just three miles outside of the town of Healdsburg.  What is unique about Zo Winery is that they not only offer wine-tasting, but a farm-stay wine experience. They also have a very special focus on elephants, with every wine label graced by an elephant motif.

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The Elephant Connection

The 11-acre vineyard was purchased by David Eckert in 1999 and named after his son Enzo. Enzo’s name is unique in that the first half of his name, “En”, is Japanese for perfect balance and endless, while “zo” translates to elephant; thus, leading to the natural progression of the elephant motif on their wine bottles and their merchandise.

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The Farm-Stay at Zo Winery

Zo Winery boasts a farm stay experience that focuses on the environmental and agricultural impact of their vineyards. Guests can reserve a room in one of the three historical buildings on the premise and explore the grounds. They have wine tasting available on site, as well as a blind tasting experience and an aromatherapy tasting session.

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Zo Wines Giving Back to Elephants and the Planet

A great variety of nine different types of wine is offered at Zo Winery, including the very popular zinfandel – signature grape of Dry Creek AVA, along with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, viognier, rose of zinfandel and many other favorites.

The team’s passion for their products are reflected in their passion for giving back, with Zo Wines donating 1% of its time to local charities, 1% of net sales to Save Elephants, and 1% of sales to Save the Planet. With the unique experiences they offer, everyone will find something to love about Zo Wines. You can visit their website to see what they have to offer or schedule a visit.

Photos courtesy of Zo Wines website

How I Fell in Love with Wine – A Great Role Model and Exceptional Customer Service at Gloria Ferrer Winery

(Contributed by Brenna Machek) – I fell in love with wine through two memorable experiences. The first time was with my parents, and the second time was when I landed my first big job in the wine industry.

My Dad – The Role Model

I remember every summer coming to Northern California for a vacation with my family. In exchange for some fun boating time with my brother, my parents would make us stop by a couple wineries so they could have their “fun adult time”. I would watch how my dad carefully eyed the wine in the glass, stuck his nose deep in the rim of it and closed his eyes to fully inhale the esters that came from the wine he was about to taste. He would then sip a little, swish it around and make the pitter patter sound with his mouth to embrace the tannins all surrounding his taste buds. I would pretend to copy my dad with a glass of sparkling apple cider and he would just laugh and say, “Soon enough little one”.

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Brenna Waiting Outside a Tasting Room Door

My First Job in the Wine Industry

Well, “Soon enough” came earlier in the year when I FINALLY turned 21! A couple months after that big celebration I attained an internship over the summer as a Wine Marketing Manager with Brown-Forman. During the internship, I was required to do two wine independent study days where I went on a private tour and tasting of two top competitors for our company.

Visiting Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma Valley

The winery I chose was Gloria Ferrer. I was with a group of people for the main tour of the winery but then brought into a private room for my own tasting and pairing with the manager of the Tasting room. Gloria Ferrer is located in Sonoma County, California and is gorgeous to visit during the spring and summer time, which is when I visited. It has a beautiful view of the vineyards and of the Sonoma region. The tasting room is occupied by a bar area where customers can stand and taste, or indoor and outdoor seating, where waiters attend to you and can bring food or desserts to pair with your sparkling wines.

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Gloria Ferrer Winery.  Photo Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

The Best Customer Service Ever – and Some Amazing Wines!

When I attended Gloria Ferrer, it was the best customer service I have experienced. The tasting room manager personally went over the sparkling wines and food pairing with me in a private room and patiently answered all my interview questions. I was given a complimentary tasting and even sent home with my favorite bottle for an extremely discounted price.

Gloria Ferrer is known for their sparkling wines, but they also carry still wines in their line of products. I was able to taste their Demi-Sec, Royal Cuvee and Blanc De Noirs alongside some food pairings such as a spicy salami, lemon sprinkled crackers, and sweet almonds with a cheese plate. I was lucky enough to taste a variety of their still wines such as the Estate Pinot Blanc, the Pinot Noir Rose, and the Jose S. Ferrer Selection Chardonnay. For being so popular in the sparkling wine category, they acquire some beautifully crafted still wines. My favorite overall was the Estate Pinot Blanc.

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Sparkling Wine at Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma County, CA

Why a First Tasting Room Experience Can Be So Memorable

I have visited a wide range of wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions of California, and have to select Gloria Ferrer as my favorite and most memorable experience, because it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve encountered before. The hospitality of the employees, the breath taking views, the wines, and the history made it the complete package. Gloria Ferrer made my experience one that was unforgettable and made that summer a top ten favorite moments in my year. I highly recommend it to friends and family and visitors in the area and can’t wait to go back soon.

 

Toasting Trione Winery at Over 100 Years in Sonoma County

(Contributed by Jane HofmiesterTrione Winery was the most recent guest winery in the SSU Winesense Club educational series.  Boasting over 100 years in Sonoma County, the Trione family are true pioneers in the region.

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The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

 

About Trione Winery

Beginning as farmers and grape growers, the Trione’s own over 700 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs. They finally started making wine in 2005, and opened a winery tasting room for the public in 2008. Operated by brothers Mark and Vic Trione, along with Mark’s daughter, Denise and her husband, Kris, they opened the winery on the site of the historic Nervo winery.  Click here for a video on Trione Winery.

The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

The famous Old Stone building was part of the original Nervo winery, and was constructed in 1908.  The Trione’s carefully renovated it, and today it is a showcase for weddings, fundraisers, live music, and other community events. The venue can accommodate gatherings of up to 250 people.

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Wines Featured for the SSU Educational Tasting

A Tasting of Four Trione Wines at SSU

What really stands out at Trione are their wines, produced by winemaker, Scot Covington. They specialize in well-balanced, handcrafted wines from their estate vineyards, with an emphasis on sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. Frank Tanner from Trione was kind enough to lead the educational tasting with the following four wines:

Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) – Aromatic, floral, herbal, crisp, grapefruit, lemongrass, nice minerality. What makes this Sauvignon Blanc unique is that it is made with a yeast strain from South Africa that enhances the flavors and aromas.

Trione 2013 Primitivo a.k.a Zinfandel ($37) – Earthy, fig, currant, blackberry, cherry. Italian style Zinfandel

Trione 2013 Zinfandel ($37) – Blueberry, blackberry, cherry, black pepper, tobacco, plum, long-finish.

Trione 2012 Henry’s Blend ($56) – a blend of the 5 Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Soft, med-tanins, blackberry, cherry, cassis, cedar, vanilla, oak, tart finish. Will develop in the next 5-8 years.

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SSU WineSense Board with Frank Tanner from Trione

The Favorite of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious, but after the vote, the favorite wine of the evening was the Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Favorite of the Evening – Trione Sauvignon Blanc

 

Learning About Champagne Riddling at Field Trip to Domaine Carneros

Old wooden riddling racks were set-up around the second floor room of Domaine Carneros, overlooking the winery below.  CEO, Eileen Crane, handed everyone a glowing flute of Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut to enjoy as she explained how the riddling process works.

“The traditional method was to turn each bottle in the riddling rack by a set amount each day until all of the yeast from the second fermentation in bottle fell to the top lip of the bottle.  In this way, it could be frozen and then easily ejected.”

There were oohhs and aahhs from the thirty SSU wine business students attending the field trip, both over the delicious sparkling wine in their glass as well as the large riddling racks set up before them.

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Eileen Crane Explaining How Riddling Racks are Used

Eileen continued, “Today, however, we use gyropallets to gently rotate the wine.” She pointed  to the large picture windows with their clear view into the vast winery with its array of gyropallets – huge robotic machines that looked like large metal baskets filled with sparkling wine bottles.

About Domaine Carneros

 Established in 1987, the estate includes with their 225 acres of pinot noir and 125 acres of chardonnay in the Carneros AVA.  It is owned by the House of Tattinger in Champagne, and the beautiful chateau is modeled after the Tattinger chateau in France.

The winery is known for its environmentally friendly practices, and has one of the largest arrays of solar panels installed in a winery in the USA.  They also have multiple certifications, including the California Sustainable Wine Growing Certification and Fish Friendly Farming.

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Members of Our Class in Front of the Beautiful Domaine Carneros Chateau

 

A Taste of Sparkling Magic

In addition to the delectable 2012 Ultra Brut tasted during the winery tour, two additional wines were served in a private salon, along with generous bowls of mixed nuts. A fruity 2013 Brut Rose with bright strawberry and cherry notes, as well as the 2013 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir with notes of spice, dried cheery and subtle oak.

By the end of the tour, Domaine Carneros had made many new fans, and it was a great introduction to one of Napa Valley’s famous sparkling houses.

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Our SSU Wine Business Class at Domaine Carneros