Friday, July 18, 2014

Tasting some wines of Hanna Winery & Vineyards with Chris Hanna

I had a great time meeting Chris Hanna of Hanna Winery & Vineyards last week. We met at Brennan's for dinner, some conversation and a tasting of a few of her wines. 

Chris told me that she had not expected to join the family business originally. She was an English major with her sights set on academia when her father requested that she sit in on some interviews for a new position in marketing and public relations that he was needing to fill.

She listened to the interviewees with a mix of concern and skepticism, she couldn't imagine most of these people representing her family's brand. The final interview had the opposite effect, it was so positive that she was inspired to do the job herself. When all the applicants had left, she told her father that she felt that someone with the last name of Hanna should represent the family business. He told her that he was hoping she would say that; shortly thereafter, her immersion into the family business began.


We started our meal with the 2012 Hanna Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This wine makes up about half of the 50,000 cases they produce each year. When she made the decision to focus on Sauvignon Blanc, she also started the transition from purchased grapes to an estate grown program. I really enjoyed this wine with everything from my amuse bouche to my salad to my redfish on the half shell. It had a light body with ripe peach, grapefruit citrus and herbal/lemongrass aromas and flavors; it had crisp acidity and a mineral-laced finish. This is a great summer wine that you can enjoy sipping out on the patio or with any light dinner. It is the house white at Chris' home. In addition to finding it on the wine list at Brennan's, you can find this wine at Spec's for approximately $20.

Next, we tasted the 2012 Hanna Russian River Valley Chardonnay. I loved this with both my salad and entree. It had rich aromas and flavors of baked apples, orange citrus and baking spices; a medium+ body, fresh acidity with a long creamy finish. Highly recommended, priced at approximately $25, this is a wine that will work with just about any type of food. 

Chris is a cookbook author as well as a winemaker so finding that synergy between the food and wine is always her goal. She wanted to create a Chardonnay that was a bit different than the heavy, buttery style that seemed more available; she wanted to maintain the natural acidity but she also wanted a creamier, rounder white wine than her crisp, angular Sauvignon Blanc. She achieves that with this Chardonnay through night harvests, the use of wild yeasts and light use of new oak.

Conversation flowed with the wine, in addition to our mutual love of all things wine and food, we found that we also shared: 
  • the joys of living with a sports fanatic husband
  • mothering 2 kids, one boy and one girl for each of us/ both of our college daughters are considered wine experts in their peer group 
  • we each learned a lot about cooking from the Food Network
  • we are both regular practitioners of yoga
  • and so much more.
We tasted some red wine as well. Most notably, the 2007 Hanna Bismark Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn't familiar with that vineyard designation. Chris explained that it is located on the western facing side of the Mayacamas Mountains and will be labeled with its new named appellation, Moon Mountain, on future bottles. This wine tasted surprisingly young for 2007. It was fresh and fruity with blackberry and plum with cocoa and a bit of black olive. It was full bodied with smooth, ripe tannins and a long mineral-laced finish. Highly recommended, approximately $55.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Chris and tasting her wines. She has me completely motivated to come up to Sonoma and learn more. In the meantime, we can find her wines at Spec's or enjoy them in restaurants all around town.