Hartford Family Winery: Russian River Superstar
This impressive estate in the heart of Russian River is part of the treasure trove of great estates owned by Jess Jackson's boutique operation, often referred to as Artisans & Estates. The property is managed by Jackson's son-in-law, Don Hartford, who has an impressive track record of hiring top winemakers, and producing superb zinfandels, pinot noirs, and chardonnays. I first became excited by the Hartford wines when the talented Mike Sullivan was there, and he has been replaced by another terrific winemaker, Jeff Mangahas. Of course, the most important aspect is terroir, and this winery owns some of the finest cool climate sites in the Russian River, Green Valley, and Sonoma Coast. Here are some of their current and up-coming releases, all of which are sensational wines that, by North Coast standards, remain realistically priced.
90 points 2005 Pinot Noir Hailey's Block Arrendell Vineyard (Green Valley, Russian River)
The 2005 Pinot Noir Hailey's Block comes from Green Valley's Arrendell Vineyard, one of the coolest places for growing fruit in Northern California. This vineyard, which is at a modest elevation of 100-140 feet, has produced a wine with medium ruby color, notes of cranberries, strawberries, and red currants with hints of pomegranate and earth. The wine has tart acidity, beautiful fruit purity, and a fragrant bouquet. It is definitely a cool-climate pinot, but an impeccably well-made one. Drink it over the next four to five years. $55
90 points 2005 Pinot Noir Jennifer's Marshall Vineyard (Russian River)
This vineyard is situated in the well-known Petaluma Wind Gap, which is a funnel for winds coming off the Pacific and churning into the Russian River Valley. It is a very cold area, and this wine reflects that in its hints of sassafras, pomegranate, cherry, and strawberry. The wine is dark ruby, medium-bodied, with zesty acidity, and a heady finish. $65
91 points 2006 Chardonnay Four Hearts (Russian River)
This multiple-vineyard blend exhibits loads of tropical fruit, poached pear, and apple marmalade notes followed by full-bodied flavors with a subtle wood note, a leesy, chewy texture, and a good finish with fresh acidity and depth. Enjoy it over the next several years. $40
91 points 2005 Pinot Noir Sevens Bench Vineyard (Carneros)
This is a rich, fleshy pinot noir revealing hints of spring flowers intermixed with black cherry and forest floor. Medium to full-bodied with good acidity, outstanding ripeness, and a long, layered finish, it is a beautiful Pinot for drinking over the next four to six years. $50
92 points 2005 Pinot Noir Velvet Sisters (Anderson Valley)
The 2005 Pinot Noir Velvet Sisters, from the Savoy and Falk Vineyards in Anderson Valley, is a classic example of this area. Bluer fruit characteristics along with copious notes of flowers jump from the glass of this dark ruby-colored wine. It is nuanced and elegant, with plenty of stuffing, lovely balance, and a feminine personality. Drink this wine over the next four to five years. $55
93 points 2005 Pinot Noir Arrendell Vineyard (Green Valley, Russian River)
Made from the estate's oldest pinot noir vines (32-year-old heritage Martini clone), this cuvée exhibits a grenache-like kirsch liqueur and raspberry fruitiness. Elegant, with medium to full-bodied flavors, great fruit on the attack and mid-palate, and a savory, medium to full-bodied finish, this wine should drink nicely for five to six years. $75
93 points 2005 Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard (Sonoma Coast)
This is an exceptional pinot noir. Dark ruby in color, with a beautiful nose of rose petals, strawberry and cherry jam, forest floor, and peat moss, the wine also has an undeniable minerality about its character, with great fruit, terrific texture, and a long finish. This is a superb Pinot that should drink nicely for five to six years. $65
94 points 2006 Zinfandel Dina's Vineyard (Russian River)
From a 100-year-old parcel of seven acres of head-trained, dry-farmed vines, the superb 2006 Zinfandel Dina's Vineyard (15.8% alcohol) offers copious quantities of raspberry and blueberry fruit, a full-bodied, peppery, spicy personality, and oodles of glycerin and depth. $50
94 points 2006 Zinfandel Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard (Russian River)
A stunning effort is the 2006 Zinfandel Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard, from 100-year-old vines planted in sandy/loam soils. This dense ruby/purple-colored wine shows notes of black raspberry, sweet cherry, roasted herbs, pepper, and soil notes. It is full-bodied, powerful, with head-spinning levels of alcohol (15.8%). The wine has terrific purity and should drink nicely for four to six years. $50
96 points 2006 Chardonnay Stone Côte (Sonoma Coast)
A compelling chardonnay offering glorious notes of crushed rocks, white currants, nectarine, and white peach, this superbly nuanced, full-bodied wine has restraint, but effortless concentration and richness as well as impeccable balance. It is best drunk over the next two to three years. $50
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