Walter Hansel North Slope Chardonnay

"Open-Knit and Generous": 2019 Walter Hansel North Slope Chardonnay

"Open knit and generous" is how Antonio Galloni, my favorite wine critic, described the new release of Walter Hansel's North Slope Chardonnay. This is always my personal favorite of Hansel's Chardonnay bottlings, as it impeccably balances richness with freshness.

Furthermore, this is one of California's top premium Chardonnay values. Despite the fact that 17 vintages in a row of this wine have scored 90+ points, Stephen Hansel has not raised his prices. He honestly wants as many people to enjoy his wines as possible. Thanks Stephen! Trust me folks, this is in the same class as Paul Hobbs, Kistler, and Rochioli, and it comes to you at half the price.

Walter Hansel North Slope Chardonnay

2019 Walter Hansel Chardonnay 'North Slope'

94 points Vinous Media, 95 points Team Table Wine 

ORDER NOW in our online store. 

I snagged pretty much every bottle that made its way to North Carolina on this one folks. Just 874 cases were produced, and Hansel's Chardonnays always capture the essence of the Russian River Valley and are reference points for what Wente clone Chardonnay should taste like. This is a compelling wine and one of the finest RRV Chardonnays out there....period!

The Walter Hansel story could honestly be made into a movie. It's quite an endearing tale. Walter Hansel started out growing exotic fruits on his property in the 1960's, but in the mid-1970's, he enlisted the help of his son Stephen to help him plant 250 Chardonnay vines. For the next 20 years, the family would harvest their half acre of vines, and Walter and Stephen would make about 50 cases of wine each year. In the words of Stephen, initially "these wines were hard to drink, but with the help of my friend, Tom Rochioli, I developed a passion to understand everything about the vineyards and the process of making wine." The rest, as they say, is history, and in 1996, Stephen put out his first commercial release.

Hansel's wines were immediately noticed by the likes of Robert Parker, who said their "1997 Chardonnay reveals a Meursault-like nose of roasted, buttery hazelnuts, smoke, and toast." Keep in mind this was their "entry-level" Chardonnay, and this was their first commercial release! I have always found Stephen's Chardonnays to possess a Burgundy-like sophistication and nuance, and that is definitely the case with his 2019 North Slope.

This honestly reminds me of Corton-Charlemagne....I know that sounds like a stretch, but over the years, many of the best tasters and critics have voiced similar opinions. I don't know if you've checked prices on Corton-Charlemagne lately, but trust me, you will not find one for less than $30.....typo, I meant to say less than $100. This is always the most powerful and intense of Stephen's Chardonnays, and like his others, he ferments and ages this one in French oak with full malolactic fermentation.

The resulting wine is absolutely delicious this vintage. Deep and rich notes of poached pear, white peach, nectarine, tangerine oil, and caramelized citrus are present in the nose and flavor profile of this world-class Chardonnay. Even more impressive is the way the oak is perfectly integrated into this wine -- it's there, but it's there to enhance the natural righteousness of the fruit, not to dominate the bouquet and the palate. Bravo!

Just in case you need more assurance, here is what Mr. Galloni had to say about this one. "The 2019 Chardonnay The North Slope Vineyard is creamy, open-knit and generous, as these wines tend to be. Apricot, mint, pineapple and passion fruit flesh out nicely, framed by soft, plush contours that add considerable appeal. The 2019 has softened quite a bit since I tasted it last year. Drink now - 2034."

Based on our past success with Walter Hansel Chardonnays, I would not wait to long to place your order on this one. Once those 10 cases are gone, we won't see this one again for some time. 

ORDER NOW in our online store. 

Josh Spurling
Owner, Operator, Wine Monger
Table Wine Asheville