Walter Hansel Winery
Walter Hansel and his son, Stephen, planted their first vines in the Russian River Valley in the 1970s. Although their brand has become a benchmark today, their operation remains resolutely hands-on and family-run.
Over the years, the Hansel vineyard holdings—all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—have grown to 80 acres. All these vineyards are contiguous to one another, with the winery plopped right in the middle.
Stephen Hansel leads the estate’s small team in both the vineyards and cellar. Well-known Pinot/Chardonnay producer Tom Rochioli offers invaluable consultation, and has been a source of budwood for new vineyard plantings on the estate. In all, Hansel incorporates some 11 different clones in its assorted vineyard blocks.
Since their first commercial vintage in 1996, they have learned with every harvest that you must listen to vine; react to Mother Nature and ALWAYS compromise quantity for quality.
Processes are done so that each wine is allowed to express its unique character; never compromising the wine's freshness, finesse or texture.
Hand harvest and manually sort; once in the vineyard and once in the winery. The Pinot Noir is destemmed and gravity guides the whole berries into open topped fermenters.
The Chardonnay is whole-cluster pressed into French oak for fermentation. The primary fermentation lasts 2-3 weeks and the malolactic fermentation can last until early spring of the next year.
Every vineyard block is traced from the harvest bins to the barrel to the settling tank before bottling.
Although they started with just 257 vines, Walter Hansel currently farm 80 acres consisting of a total of 11 different clones. All of their vineyards are contigous to each other with the winery facility situated in the center, making farming, harvesting and processing more efficient and easier to control quality.
They farm about 80 acres consisting of 6 pinot noir clones and 7 chardonnay clones, planted to 2 varieites of rootstock and trellisted in a 7 wire system that provides for a 4 to 5 foot canopy. They offer single clone and blended clone vineyard designated wines; all crafted to provide a variety of flavors.
Vineyard practices vary each year as they attempt to spar with Mother Nature, however, in general:
- Pull leaves on the Eastern side and allow a full canopy on the Western side; this provides the clusters direct cool morning sun with afternoon shade.
- Employ numerous weather stations and soil probes, which provide data to minimize organic spray routines and monitor the use of water.
- Control the yields by cluster thinning; typically thin to 10-15 clusters per vine for pinot noir and 18-22 for chardonnay.
- Net the vines in the middle of August to protect from bird damage.
- Make 12 to 15 passes each year through the vineyard touching each and every vine.