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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Sundays Are Tasting Days, Too!

Sunday started with friends at Zazu Restaurant & Farm. A novel take on a Bellini and a bacon donut started things out.

A bacon donut!

The donut was okay, but not especially remarkable. I had a decent pizza as well. I loved the setting and it was good to get a full belly before another heavy tasting day!


We were going to check out some wineries near Zazu, but we gave Hanzell a call after lunch on the off chance that a tasting appointment was available. Lo and behold, there was one available, which was great except we needed to be there instantly, and were 45 minutes away! We made it work.

Gate to Hanzell

Hanzell focuses on making two wines, a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. There’s a few odd variations of that pattern, but the core portfolio is just two wines a vintage. All the fruit is estate grown, fermented, and bottled.

We started with a rather extensive vineyard tour, given the weather (with extreme rains, the soil was quite soft and not passable via vehicle (nor recommended via foot)). Hanzell’s vineyards are up in the hills overlooking downtown Sonoma and the Petaluma wind gap. It’s a pretty spectacular vantage point. There’s a lot of nice history about the folks that have owned and operated the vineyard over the years that I’m not going to rehash here.

View fron Hanzell's viineyards

The original kiln used to make tiles for the property was even on display!


After touring the property outdoors, we went through the barrel cellar, which was pretty fun. Hanzell has about a 6000-case annual production, so there was a decent spread.


We talked a bit about where the barrels were sourced, and about Hanzell’s TCA problems and the steps the winery took to combat them.

Chandalier in the barrel cave

After the cave tour, we went through the contemporary production facilities, and then got to tour some of the old equipment and facilities (no longer located in their original home). In specific, it was fun to see the first commercial chilled fementers:


As well as one of the first inerters (used for laying a blanket of inert gas on top of the wine in the bottle so that it is better preserved).


Tank 21 was where the first controlled malolactic fermentation in winemaking occurred!

Malolactic fermentation

So yeah, that’s pretty cool. This is also one of the oldest winemaking laboratories (and I want to say it was said it’s the oldest one still in use in the US), which is pretty cool.


So yeah, lots of great history and a nice tour and story, but I guess it’s all about the wine in the end, right?


The wines we tasted were the 2011 Sebella (a second bottling made of fruit that used to be sold), the 2010 Chardonnay, and the 2009 Pinot. All were rather nice and clearly had the stuffing (if not the outright requirement) to age. I appreciated that all three wines were decanted hours before our arrival and served near cellar temperature. Fantastic wines to taste, fantastic experience. The only thing I’m a little concerned about is that the alcohol level keeps creeping up; these wines are seriously big now, and I’m not convinced the long history of aging the winery has focused on will hold as they keep creeping up.

The tasting made it clear that the winery prides itself on a long and deep library of wines. Sadly access to them is controlled only via people who buy into the club, which is not cheap. Oh well.

Tasting setup

Wall of bottles

The tasting and tour is $45 and ninety minutes, though our visit was well over two hours, and worth it. Hanzell offers a library tasting as well at $150 per person, requiring at least 4 guests. Worth it if you’re into high end Burgundy, Sonoma style.

The Sunset

Tastings in Sonoma

We headed back to downtown Sonoma for the evening and tried wine at a few places. Kamen’s Wines were huge, well-made but too big for my tastes. Hawkes made wines that showed far more restraint; the blends didn’t do much for me, but the single estate cabs showed promise.

La Salette

We’d worked up some appetite by this point, so it was time for dinner. We’d heard good things around town about La Salette, a Portuguese restaurant in the Sonoma Square. Sold!

We started with three small plates and flights of Portugese red wines. The pig feet terrine, tripe stew, and blood sausage were absurdly good.


Our seats were at the bar in front of the oven, which was fantastic, beyond being a little bit warm! We got to watch all of the cooking in the oven for the evening, including one of our later entrees and side dishes!


Starters were salted codfish beignets and typical Portugese stew. Both were really fantastic.

salted codfish


Dinner was a whole branzini and stewed meats, also all fantastic.



So good. Cannot recommend this restaurant enough. We finished up with a vintage port tasting, and since they were low on the 1970s white port, they through in a pour of Madeira from 1968 too (!!). Also a unique and nice experience.


Day Five

So that was that, our last day we shipped off our spoils, went to Scribe as aforementioned, so here are some more photos of that again:

palm trees?

the hacienda

The winery