95 & 94 pt. Sonoma Pinot from a Living Legend

Posted on: 10/17/18 12:00 PM

Walter Hansel

Since their first vintage in 1996, Walter Hansel Winery has been a member of an extremely short list of top quality Russian River producers – alongside icons like Kistler, Williams Selyem, Dehlinger and Rochioli. Winemaker Stephen Hansel’s wines are stunning: perfumed, classic and sublimely balanced with nary a hint of overt oak, overripe fruit or manipulation.

These wines grace the top of our list each and every vintage and fortunately still remain a bit of an insider’s secret since production is miniscule compared to others in their quality class. With a classicist’s sense of restraint, and a sensible amount of fruit, these Pinots please as much as they offer an answer to the overexuberant producers in the region.

We’ve been offering the wines for years now, and, frankly, they seem to go from strength to strength, as the consistency of quality never seems to wane, nor does our interest in these exceptional wines. Sonoma Pinot is always offered as a sensualist’s kind of wine – rich and raucous, luxurious fruit and a sense of aplomb in its presentation. Too bad, then, that so many of them seem to veer too close to the sort of sensuality you might find at a fairground – cotton candy and caramel – or sugar and nothing more.

Now, I know, as the resident Burgundy snob, many of you will say I am being unfair. But, rather, I would offer this to consider: I would happily drink these wines, fruit-forward and rich as they are, and I know many Sonoma fans would (and do) also. That speaks to something very special here – balance.

Seriously, these are just outrageously good. Buy some. Drink them. Enjoy them. I know I have!

Walter Hansel

2015 Walter Hansel Pinor Noir Cuvee Alyce RRV

94 pts: “Just as it was last year, 2015 Pinot Noir Cuvée Alyce is decidedly flamboyant. There is not a ton of subtlety here, but I am not sure that really matters much at all. The Alyce expresses all of the intensity and raciness that are such signatures of Russian River Pinots. Plush fruit and soft contours add to the wine’s undeniable allure.” – Antonio Galloni

Walter Hansel

2015 Walter Hansel Pinot Noir Cahill Lane RRV

95 pts: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Cahill Lane Vineyard is a bit more closed than the other wines in this range, but it also offers greater subtlety finesse and nuance. I expect the 2015 will need at least a few years to be at its best, but all the elements are in place for that to happen. Blood orange, white pepper, chalk and mint give the 2015 an attractive upper register that is beguiling. This is a superb showing from Steve Hansel.” – Antonio Galloni

Posted in Reserve List By Ian Halbert