Hanzell Vineyards: A Historic Sonoma Mainstay

Learning the Hanzell house style with Michael McNeill


For our next video installment from this summer's Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, where I joined thousands of winelovers and wine producers, I grabbed Michael McNeill, the director of Winemaking for Hanzell Vineyards and chatted with him for a bit.

In case you aren't familiar with Hanzell, it is a historic Sonoma property, founded in 1957 with a mission to produce exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style. The vineyards were created out of oak forest on the Mayacamas mountains overlooking Sonoma, and were leased by the dynamic and visionary James David Zellerbach.

These were times when almost all wine was sold in jugs and was modestly sweet at a minimum, though there were a handful of producers playing the premium field.

Those players pretty much focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and the like, so setting out to produce Burgundian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, wines that stayed on the fringes for several decades before the mainstream audience of drinkers finally recognized what they were, was a bold proposition.

Today, with decades of wines under their belts, it is no surprise to find many people in love with and fully understanding the Hanzell style. To this day, the production of the wines has changed awfully little. A whole industry has grown up around the Hanzell wines, and what was once visionary has become almost commonplace. This is not to say that the Hanzell wines are of common quality. Michael McNeil is carrying on a long tradition of only bottling dynamic, complex, yet subtle wines under the Hanzell label.

Some of the details I discussed with Michael include the techniques used for the production of what is undoubtedly one of California's most age-worthy Chardonnays, the house style at Hanzell. We also spoke about how the most recent vintages are shaping up for the Hanzell wine making team.

Check out the full interview here!

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