Wines That Would Make Dad Proud

By Robert Parker

Car dealer Walter Hansel planted wine grapes on his property in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley back in 1978, and over the years he expanded his vineyards with the help of his son, Stephen. Walter died in 1996, the same year the winery produced its first vintage. Now, the Walter Hansel Winery, run by Stephen, makes fine Burgundian-style chardonnay and pinot noir and sells it at prices that are unbelievable for wines of such quality.

2003 Pinot Noir Estate

88 points.

A gamy pinot noir that reveals sweet blue and red fruits, a tasty midsection, medium body, and noticeable elegance. It should drink well for three to four years. $29

2003 Pinot Noir Cahill Lane

91 points.

This outstanding wine (of which just 523 cases were produced) reveals a dark ruby color along with a big, meaty, spicy nose of pomegranates, black cherry liqueur, crushed rocks, flowers, beautiful fruit, medium to full body, that ethereal sweetness that pinot noir can offer, and a long finish. It should drink nicely for a decade. $30

2003 Pinot Noir The North Slope

90+ points.

The North Slope reveals attractive berry fruit intermixed with earth, smoke, cherry, flower, spice, and subtle wood notes. Fruit-forward and ripe, it is ideal for drinking over the next four to five years. $30

2004 Chardonnay Cuvée Alyce

92 points.

Named after Stephen Hansel's mother, the exotic 2004 Cuvée Alyce (only 832 cases produced) possesses a honeysuckle, peach, apricot, and orange marmalade-scented perfume. This gorgeous chadonnay has wonderful fruit and acidity, and a full-bodied, powerful finish that saturates the palate. Consume this wine over the next seven to eight years. $32

2004 Chardonnay Cahill Lane

90 points.

Exuberant, rich, and light-gold-colored, this chardonnay (about 1,100 cases produced) reveals flamboyant honeyed aromatics of smoked nuts and ripe pineapple. The wine should drink well for four to five years. $32

2003 Pinot Noir Cuvée Alyce

92+ points.

Tight and tannic, this wine's saturated ruby/purple color is accompanied by a distinctive crushed-rock, sassafras, Asian spice, raspberry, and cherry-scented perfume. Big and rich, with high levels of acidity giving it a leaner, more austere style than its siblings, it should be enjoyable for five to eight years. $39

2003 Pinot Noir Hirsch Block Three

90 points.

Floral and underbrush notes intermix with pomegranate, clove, and cherry characteristics. It offers a pleasant combination of red and black fruits as well as good acidity, but there's also a distinctive, terroir-driven earthiness that is much stronger in this wine than in the other cuvées. Drink this wine over the next seven to eight years. $45

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

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