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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Hanna Winery - Santa Rosa - California

Wines from the Heat

In 1975, world renowned heart surgeon, Dr. Elias Hanna, was simply looking for a piece of land in the country—an escape away from the crowds of San Francisco. He discovered a rustic 25-acre parcel of land in Sonoma county’s Russian River Valley area, complete with a dilapidated farmhouse, an old barn, some skinny cattle and a chicken coop!

During the next ten years, the Hannas took long weekends and vacations to their hideaway in the country to refurbish the run-down buildings. “We ate a lot of beef during those years,” laughs daughter Chris Hanna. They also made a lot of homemade wine. Dr. Hanna developed a passion for wine during his medical school years where he mingled with other wine-loving physicians. “I made a few really decent vintages of Chateau St. Elias,” Dr. Elias proudly recalls. During that time, the proverbial wine bug hit him.

“All the elements were right—the timing, the location, and the desire,” says Chris. “By 1985 we had converted the old barn into a winery, and part of the house into a tasting room,” she says. Then they proceeded to make a thousand cases of their first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Not one to do things halfheartedly, Dr. Hanna soon after purchased 100 acres of vineyard land in nearby Alexander Valley. This vineyard, which they named, Hanna Hillside, is a spectacular site rising from the flat and fertile valley floor, to the lean and terraced hillsides, an ideal vineyard location with numerous and diverse growing conditions.

During the next two years Hanna introduced a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, while building the production level up to 5,000 cases. In 1989, a friend of Dr. Hanna’s took him to look at a dramatic 440 acre piece of land situated in the upper reaches of the Mayacamas mountains—the highest point in Sonoma county. “It was completely covered with brush and rock, with wild boars, and turkeys running around—lots of rattlesnakes too,” recalls Chris. “The potential for high quality vineyards was obvious. But no one before us had wanted to spend the time or money to clear it,” she states.

The Hannas took two years to develop the vineyards on the mountainside which now consists of 70 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and several other varietals. With its series of unique, terraced micro-vineyards it is the steepest continuous vineyard site in all of Sonoma or Napa counties.

Still not finished, Dr. Hanna acquired another 55 acres of land in the Russian River Valley later the same year. There they planted Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and more Chardonnay. This Hanna Valley site is cooler, with more of a coastal influence thus more suited for those varietals.

“The vineyard locations are diverse and appropriately planted which makes my situation as winemaker ideal,” insists veteran winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe. Hanna now owns 620 acres overall, including 250 acres of superb vineyard land in Sonoma county’s finest appellations—Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and the rugged Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma Valley. Total production at the winery is currently about 37,000 cases a year. Their flagship wines continue to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. However, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah also play important roles.

Hanna Winery has made a big statement on how to develop a world class winery. As further testament to their success, Hanna Winery opened a second tasting room and hospitality center on their Hanna Hillside vineyard location, on Highway 128 near Healdsburg. And a new winery facility, roughly ten times the size of their current one is currently on the drawing board.