jeff hinchliffe

Jeff Hinchliffe winemaker at Hanna Winery

Jeff Hinchliffe, winemaker at Hanna Winery, is our guest, and Rene Byck from Paradise Ridge is also here.

Jeff Hinchliffe

Jeff brought grapes!

Today’s Wines Tasted:

  • 2015 Hanna Red Ranch Malbec
  • 2017 Hanna Bismark Mtn. Vineyard Riesling
  • 2017 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2016 Paradise Ridge Pinot Noir
  • 2017 Paradise Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

Steve asks how the harvest is going. Jeff says you don’t really know until after it’s over. You can only look into the crystal ball so much, and you only know how well you’ve done afterwards.

2011 was the most difficult small harvest and 1989 was the most difficult ever. The weather has been perfect for ripening for the last week, but it was hot earlier. This has been an unpredictable year, with no consistency in terms of yield. So far they have been picking Sauvignon Blanc so far and it’s keeping him busy.

Jeff found his way to UC Davis and worked as an enologist even if he had dreams of producing beer, not wine. He was a beer guy and went to school to become a brewer. His professor told him there was no future in microbreweries. He started at Christian Brothers in 1983 and discovered wine after he tasted a Dry Creek 1979 Sauvignon Blanc. After a while he met Chris Hanna, President of Hanna Winery, and he started a 20-plus year relationship. They are a small independent family-owned winery. Hanna was started in 1985. Chris’ dad is a retired heart surgeon. They are a small, nimble company that can react quickly to new ideas. Today they grow most of their own Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Dan says Hanna is a major producer in terms of quality, even with a smaller volume of production.

They taste two Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blancs of 2017, from Hanna and Paradise Ridge. They won three gold medals for their Sauvignon Blanc at the Harvest Fair.

Jeff refers to growing Sauvignon Blanc as “taming the green monster.” He grows his grapes in shade, which lets more aromas and flavors develop. He prefers to create the conditions that make his wine special in the vineyard, rather than in the winery.

Rene Byck says they lost their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc in the fire, and this vintage is made from acquired grapes, not their own from the estate. They compare the flavors of both wines.

They are tasting a Riesling. Steve detects pear in the nose, Dan Berger gets kiwi. Not floral, not honey. It has good minerality that holds the wine for a couple of years. He knows that in a couple of years those flavors will open up and it will be superb. Jeff says he has many vintages that are “really tightly wound” at first that benefit from some years of cellaring.

This is a 2017 Riesling, and they have some grapes including some Riesling grapes that Jeff picked today. All they use to make their Sauvignon Blanc are the grapes. The Cab are the small grapes, the St. Vicaire are a rare Bordeaux variety. They will pick their Sauvignon Blanc on Friday. The red varieties, the Malbec, St. Vicaire and Cab Sauv are several weeks away from harvest. Dan says this Riesling is one that you could put away. Not all of them are like that but this one is. Last week he opened a 2002 Riesling from Michigan that was astounding!

Rene Byck talks about a party being held on Sept. 22, a fund raising auction for the revival of the county after the fires. They end up tasting a Hanna 2015 Malbec with Alexander Valley fruit. Dan says this is also a polished wine, pure fruit, blueberries and chocolate. It’s a very sophisticated wine, says Dan. Jeff notes that there is very little Malbec grown here and lots in Argentina. He went there to learn about it and everyone had a different secret. Malbec is easy to make, not easy to grow but it’s forgiving to make.

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