Swirl 'n' Spit
Tasting Room of the Week
By Heather Irwin
Lowdown: There seems to be a little sibling rivalry going on between the twin Healdsburg and Santa Rosa tasting rooms of Hanna Winery. It may be said that the younger Healdsburg tasting room is a bit grander, with sweeping vineyard views and room for lovely weddings. But Santa Rosa? We're the home ranch, boasts the tasting-room staff of, uh, one.
Hidden down Occidental Road between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol (they figure you'll find it), the original Hanna Winery tasting room is a quiet, inconspicuous affair that looks a lot like a private home among the vines and agricultural charm of the area. With an annual production of about 37,000 cases, Hanna isn't one of the larger wineries in the area. However, for the past three years, its wines have swept gold at the annual Sonoma Harvest Fair, this year taking the whites category with its Sauvignon Blanc. Rivalry or not, Hanna is producing some stellar wines.
Mouth value: Inside the Santa Rosa tasting room, the two-page selection of wines to taste is a little overwhelming. OK, not really. Just set aside some time to sip and ponder the wide range of wines that Hanna produces. The winery is definitely known for its whites, and the 2003 Sauvignon Blanc ($17) is what you've come to taste. What makes it different from other similar wines is the malolactic fermentation (giving it a buttery, creamier feel) and its complex layering of fruit. You get melon, peach and pineapple, with a lot of depth and character.
The 2002 Chardonnay ($20) is a deep, oaky affair that stands up remarkably well next to the pricier single vineyard 2002 Elias Chardonnay ($30). Named for the heart-surgeon founder of the winery, the Elias is a more thoughtful wine, with stronger oak and an almost bacon-y quality--not necessarily a bad thing in your wine.
The 2001 Two Ranch Red ($20) is a decent table wine, but the fact that these grapes are pretty much the castoffs isn't lost on me. It's loud and a little brash with the Merlot asserting itself most noticeably. The 1999 Bismark Ranch Cabernet ($62) is a pricey bottle, but a lush and complex Cab with tons of herbaceous spice, black pepper and sage and some mouth-puckering tannins. The best of the reds was the 1999 Bismark Ranch Syrah ($48) with a chewy, deep cherry taste and lots of chocolate.
Don't miss: Take a quick jaunt to nearby Sebastopol's Stone Elephant wine tasting room and--ta-dah!--Mastodon Museum. The combination restaurant, wine bar and science venue is still working out some kinks, though it promises to be unique if nothing else.
Five-second snob: Hanna president Mary Hanna is married to Flying Goat cofounder Jake Whiteley.
Spot: Hanna Winery, 5353 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa. Open daily, 10am-4pm. No tasting fee. 707.575.3371.
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From the October 6-12, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.