Walter Hansel was a farmer who loved growing fruit above just about all other endeavors. Kiwis, cherries, pears, you name it. Eventually, that love led him to grapes and in 1978 he and his son Steve planted 257 vines of Chardonnay on the estate.
The vineyard was a true family affair. The family harvested together and made the wine together. That half acre was just enough for two barrels. Throughout the 80s, the family even drank the wine themselves.
But that would all change when Steve took over the ‘winery’. Steve was good friends with the famous winemaker Tom Rochioli, who let him work a few harvests at Rochioli Vineyards to cut his teeth at winemaking. Then in 1996 – Steve made his first commercial vintage – in his garage.
The following 25 years saw the wines skyrocket in quality and achieve near cult status among the few people lucky enough to stumble across the winery and then inevitably get a personal walking tour by Steve.
You’d think that success would change things but Walter Hansel is still a family affair. There are no specialized roles and no full time workers. Everyone just pitches in with whatever needs to get done, whether its the hand harvesting, bottling, or shipping the wine club.
Steve has become known for his Burgundian style of winemaking and similar to Burgundy, he manages each block individually. The wines are made in tiny lots are pretty hard to find outside of California.
Today’s wine is no exception, but I did manage to grab 12 cases for our list. The 2018 Cuvee Alyce Pinot Noir is a bombshell. With Steve’s emphasis on low yields (a miniscule range from 1.5 to 2.5 tons/acre) this wine is super concentrated and bursting from the seams with layers of fresh fruit. It’s silky and wonderfully structured and the kind of wine that’s hard to put down.
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96 Points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2018 Pinot Noir Cuvée Alyce opens slowly to alluring aromas of smoked cranberries, red cherries and black raspberries laced with licorice, bergamot and dried lavender. The palate is medium-bodied and super silky with addicting freshness, absolutely packed with layered, detailed flavors, and it finishes very long and elegant. Wow!
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