James David Zellerbach was US ambassador to Italy, instrumental to implementing the Marshall plan following WWII. As ambassador, he traveled across France, learning about the culture of French wine and food. In 1948, he purchased his first parcel of Sonoma land. His goal? To produce wines as fine as those he tasted in France. The name “Hanzell” combines his wife’s name, Hana, and his surname, Zellerbach.
Ambassador Zellerbach hired viticulturist Ivan Schoch and winemaker Brad Webb to help his dream take flight. In the 20 years that followed, Hanzell became recognized as one of California’s premier wineries.
Hanzell Vineyards’ 44 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are planted high on the mountain slopes of the Mayacamas Range overlooking the town of Sonoma. The property saddles this ridge with vineyards planted on west-facing and east-facing slopes, as well as along the ridge line. Originally called Hanzell Farm, the Estate is comprised of the following vineyards: Ambassador’s 1953, Zellerbach, Day, de Brye, Sessions and Ramos. The original planting, the Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard, continues to produce today. It is now the oldest Pinot Noir vineyard and the oldest continuously-producing Chardonnay vineyard in North America. The Hanzell Clone Pinot Noir and Hanzell Clone Chardonnay are important heritage clones in California, and the bud wood has been propagated to establish other vineyards around the state and in Oregon.
With the goal of producing the finest wines available, Hanzell has always forged ahead with research and development. In addition to grape breeding, Hanzell was the first winery to perfect temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel, the first winery in California to adopt French oak for barrel maturation and the first winery to use inert gas during the bottling process. In 1959, the winery was first to isolate and propagate malolactic bacteria, then re-inoculate young wines to stabilize the wine in-barrel. The winery also designed “tankitos” the first portable one-ton stainless steel fermentation tanks.
Hanzell recommends cellaring and decanting their wines. For older vintages, standing the bottle upright for a for some time to precipitate sediment.