By Jessica Yadegaran
Friday, December 4th, 2009 at 10:27 am in Corkheads.
It feels like eons ago that I was talking to Hannah Nicole Vineyards proprietor Neil Cohn about opening a winery. He and his wife Glenda had been making wine from Brentwood grapes since 1999, but getting the appropriate permits with the city seemed impossible.
Well, lo and behold, I’m hanging out with olive guru David Navarette yesterday in Brentwood for a story on olive oil, and he says to me, “Do you want to stop by Hannah Nicole winery?” I almost swallowed the olive pit in my mouth. The Cohns made it happen.
Open a little over a month, Hannah Nicole Vineyards winery is fully-functioning and open for tastings on Balfour Road. The winery itself is huge – 18,000 square feet with a double tasting bar, outdoor fountain, and enough space for dream weddings, and, I hear, a phat New Year’s Eve party.
They grow Bordeaux and Rhone varietals – you might recognize their rose-covered label for the aromatic and lively viognier they’ve made since their inception – but even though almost all of the grapes that go into their 10 wines come from the estate, they can’t put “estate grown” on their bottles because Contra Costa County isn’t an AVA. Screw that.
Anyway, Neil was kind of enough to sneak me in the back to taste a few wines out of barrel with winemaker John Sotelo – hehe, sorry Dave – and I was super impressed with what will be the 2009 chardonnay. I know, right? Jessica and chard? Yes! It’s Russian River Valley fruit and had been in American (and a dash of French) oak for a few month, and it was gorgeous.
It had a crystal clear nose of tropical fruits, and when I say tropical, I mean you could pluck out the guava and pineapple and a super clean finish with just the slightest hint of coconut cream. I liked it more than the 2008 chardonnay, which I tasted afterwards in the tasting room. It had too much residual sugar for me.
The 2009 viognier will be a stunner too, as will two spry sauvignon blancs I tasted out of tank. Despite the stress they endured to make the winery a reality, time has been good to the Cohns. Their wines have improved in quality and elegance. I’m anxious to taste a petit verdot softened with cabernet franc that Neil was kind enough to give me on my way out. Question is, what do I eat with it? If you have any pairing suggestions for petit verdot, let me know.
In the meantime, make a trip out to Hannah Nicole Vineyards. You won’t be sorry. The tasting room hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Or check the Events section of their web site.